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The Workshop was held in the Department of Renewable Natural Resources of the ''Antonio Narro'' Autonomous Agricultural University (UAAAN ) at Saltillo, Coahuila Province, in semiarid northern Mexico. On behalf of the participants and the United Nations University we express deep appreciation to the head of the department, Dr Roberto Nava, and to his colleagues, for the arrangements for the meeting and for administrative support. The co-operative assistance of the secretarial and administrative staff of the department is warmly acknowledged. The success of the Workshop owed much to the friendly spirit engendered by our Mexican hosts, and we express our thanks, on behalf of all who attended, to Roberto Nava and his colleagues for their warm hospitality and never-failing kindness.
The Workshop was opened by the Vice-Chancellor of UAAAN, Dr Humberto Alvarado-Sánchez, who welcomed the delegates on behalf of his university. The support of UAAAN in hosting the Workshop and in providing facilities and transport is gratefully acknowledged.
The 37 participants included specialists in arid lands problems from five countries in Latin America with extensive dry areas: Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru. In addition there were consultants from Australia, Israel, and the United States, and a representative of the UN University from its headquarters in Tokyo. A list of participants is given in Appendix III of this report.
The objectives of the Workshop were:
- to identify environmental, social, economic, technological, and organizational obstacles to the development and conservational management of the drylands of Latin America;
- to review existing training programmes and research strategies for the improved management of Latin American drylands;
- to consider the scope for research and training activities in Latin America under the Arid Lands Sub-programme of the United Nations University, with its theme "Assessment of obstacles to the Application of Existing Knowledge to Arid Lands Problems."
The activities of the Workshop consisted of two days of concurrent working commission sessions and plenaries, followed by a one-day field visit to the UAAAN Experimental Station at Noria de Guadalupe, Zacatecas, and concluded with two more days of plenary sessions. The programme is given in Appendix II.
In his opening address Dr Alvarado-Sánchez stressed the impact of population pressure and associated social and technological changes which were causing serious problems for management of drylands in Latin American countries. In Mexico, improvements in this area were of particular importance because of the rapidly growing need to produce greater quantities of basic foodstuffs in the areas of rain-fed agriculture. As a major academic institution concerned with these problems, UAAAN was involved in research, training, and extension aimed at improved management of drylands. Dr Alvarado-Sanchez expressed his hopes that the Workshop would contribute to furthering these activities, and that in turn it would benefit from the experience of UAAAN.
Replying on behalf of the United Nations University, Dr Richard Odingo, Senior Programme Officer, Natural Resources Programme, thanked the ViceRector for his support. Dr Odingo briefly explained the philosophy, aims, and operation of the UN University, and described some of its activities, particularly within the Natural Resources Programme.
In an introductory account of teaching and research at UAAAN, Dr F. Rodriguez Cano traced the history of the institution from its foundation as a regional school of agriculture in 1923 to its separation from the University of Coahuila as an autonomous university in 1975. Arid lands studies had a long history in the university, and were strengthened with the establishment in 1971 of a National Centre for Research for the Development of Arid Zones.
The university has four divisions-Agronomy, Agricultural Engineering, Socio-economics, and Animal Science-within which the Department of Renewable Natural Resources is situated. At the graduate level of teaching there are Master's programmes in plant improvement, animal science, irrigation, and soils. and there is also a Doctoral programme in plant improvement. The main lines o research have been into improved technology for food production in arid zones, and into the utilization of natural resources in the arid zone. These investigations are carried out at a number of field stations in arid and semi-arid environments (see Appendix 1).
Professor Jack A. Mabbutt, Co-ordinator of the Arid Lands Sub-programme, concluded the Introductory Session by explaining the aims and operations of the Workshop to the participants. Its main object was to provide guidance to the UN University in its decisions as to what activities it should sponsor in Latin America under the Arid Lands Sub-programme. It was not expected that formal resolutions would be passed, but in their presentations and discussions participants should strive towards consensus on major problems, principles, and needs relevant to the theme of the sub-programme. Chairmen were asked to guide the discussions of their commissions towards the formulation of a few important points which could be carried to the plenary sessions for more general discussion. Rapporteurs were asked to hand in their summaries promptly, so that a record of the Workshop proceedings could be built up.
In this and in the following sessions of the Workshop, proceedings were in Spanish or in English, with interspersed translation into the other language by various helpers. The assistance of Dr Hans Schneider in providing these translations was warmly appreciated by all participants. The organizers are grateful to those who helped overcome the barrier of language, and to all participants for their tolerance in light of the problems involved.
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