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Book reviews and notices

Chemistry of tropical root crops: Significance for nutrition and agriculture in the Pacific. J. Howard Bradbury and Warren D. Holloway. ACIAR monograph no. 6. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra, 1988. 201 pages. A$39 (including postage).

This book begins with a concise descriptions, history, and summary of the nutritional value of the principal root crops of the Pacific region: the sweet potato, yam, cassava, and several kinds of tarot The bulk of the book is devoted to their chemical composition, the effects of cooking and storage, and the presence of antinutritional factors. The effects of environmental constraints on yield and composition are discussed in the final chapter. Because these root crops are important not only for the Pacific region but also for Africa and many parts of Latin America, this book should be widely useful.

The book may be ordered from: Inkata Press Pty Ltd, 13/170 Forster Road, Mt. Waverley, VIC 3149, Australia.

ACIAR gives special consideration to research institutions in developing countries. If you believe your institution would qualify for a complimentary copy, please write directly to: Communications Coordinator, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, GPO Box 1571, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

Food aid in disasters. 2nd rev. ed. P. Glasauer and C. Leitzmann. Stuttgart/Giessen, Federal Republic of Germany: Diakonisches Werk of the Evangelical Church in Germany e.V., 1988. 118 pages. US$20.

This book was compiled to assist those responsible for the planning and implementation of food-aid programmes and to stimulate those active in disaster aid to an exchange of ideas in developing disaster-aid planning for joint action. Comments and suggestions from readers are encouraged.

It discusses the causes of disasters and their influence on food supplies, the objectives and implementation of food aid programmes, and the physiological, cultural, and economic aspects of selecting food supplies for distribution as well as the effect of disaster on nutritional status. The need for an early warning system and the fast assessment of the type and quantity of aid commodities needed are stressed.

Six useful appendices are included, one of which lists popular staples in various countries and regions along with suitable alternatives that could be provided in times of disasters.

Rapid assessment procedures for nutrition and primary health care: Anthropological approaches to improving programme effectiveness. Susan C. M. Scrimshaw and Elena Hurtado. United Nations University, Tokyo, and UCLA Latin American Center, Los Angeles. 80 pages, paper-bound. Available from the UCLA Latin American Center, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA.

Procedimientos de asesoría rápida pare programas de nutrición y atención primaria de salud: Enfoques antropológicos pare mejorar la efectividad de los programas. Spanish edition of the above, also available from the UCLA Latin American Center.

"Rapid assessment procedures" (RAP) refers to a set of procedures and guidelines which enable health workers and social scientists in fields other than anthropology to carry out rapid assessments of health-related behaviour. The procedure was developed for the UN University research programme in order to improve understanding of programme implementation, its success and problems. It has to date been used primarily for nutrition and primary health care programmes, but can be adapted to suit many other areas.

RAP is a simplified method of collecting data using anthropological techniques for assessment and evaluation. It has a specific function and is by no means a substitute for more classical anthropological approaches and surveys. It is not meant to be comprehensive but to provide a systematic way to assess specific cultural aspects and behaviour. It can be used at various community levels and with individuals, households, and other community groupings. The method is especially concerned with beliefs and perceptions regarding health, illness and its treatment, and utilization of traditional and biomedical health resources.

RAP is designed primarily for short periods of data collection, ranging from four to eight weeks. It therefore involves a very brief period in the field and focuses on a few specific topics involving human behaviour. Small population samples are selected. The procedure allows detailed recording of the sociocultural context in which health-related behaviour occurs. The methods used consist of:

(a) formal and informal interviews, with open-ended questions on specific topics allowing the respondents to explain their beliefs, views, and experiences;

(b) careful observation of non-verbal events and behaviour providing valuable clues to the sociocultural context;

(c) focus-group discussions to help check the information collected with a larger number of people.

Thus, by using a variety of social science techniques, which include participant observation, structured interviews, guided conversation, focus groups, etc., RAP attempts to elicit the views of the people and health-care providers about their attitudes and opinions regarding a particular project or health service.

This book is intended as a guide to be used by persons trained or familiar with field data collection methods, but one does not need a degree in anthropology. Data collection outlines are presented on each topic, providing a variety of sample questions, outlines, checklists, grids to complete, and other data.

In short, RAP is a very useful tool to gather information in a relatively short period of time, and feedback can be provided immediately to evaluate and guide programme improvement. It provides qualitative information through direct observation and individual or group interviews to supplement quantitative information which is best obtained through questionnaires and other survey techniques. RAP was not designed to generate theory but to assess needs and evaluate and improve programmes.

Animal by-product processing. H. W. Ockerman and C. L. Hansen. VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, Weinheim, Federal Republic of Germany, 1988. 366 pages, hardcover. DM 250.

Egg and poultry-meat processing. W. J. Stadelman, V. M. Olson, G. A. Shemwell, and S. Pasch. VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, Weinheim, Federal Republic of Germany, 1988. 211 pages, hardcover. DM 150.

These two books are detailed, authoritative guides to use of the products indicated in their titles by the food industry.


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