Discussion On Miss Digby's Paper

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  • 254 Agricultwral Economics Society.

    Political protest against French rule in Tunisia and Morocco has recently been gathering strength, and the desire of the minority of educated Arabs to manage their own affairs is natural and inevitable. But population today is perhaps four times what it has ever been under Arab rule. I t is permissible to speculate as to what would happen should the French leave these countries before they have succeeded in raising the general technique of food production to a t least the present European level. Commenting on the Tunisian situation some months ago, the Times leader writer observed that these countries should not be allowed to fall back into the chaos and cruelty which preceded the French occupation. He might have added that they should not fall back into a state in which population is controlled by famine, disease and civil war.

    DISCUSSION O N MISS DIGBY'S PAPER. The Presidenl:

    lwst method of dealing with it would be to ask her direct questions.

    H. Whitby: I have two questions to ask, but before doing so I would like to express my appreciation

    of Miss Digby's paper. I t deals with a subject about which I know nothing, and in all probability my ignorance would have remained for a considerable time had i t not been for this pap T. Miss Digby has extended my horizon, and I am grateful to her.

    My first question is this: a t the beginning of her paper she gives the extent of the fertile arcas and shows that a large part of these areas are not a t present under cultivation, particularly in Algeria. This is clearly an important matter in view of the widespread pressure of population on food supplies, and I would like to ask how active the French are in extending the cultivated area? There is mention towards the end of the paper that a useful piece of work has been done in Morocco where 75,000 acres of new land have been brought into cultivation a t what, by French or British standards, seems comparatively a low cost of L20 an acrc.

    The paper also says that if food supplies are to be maintained in French North Africa even at their present level in relation to population an increase of 2 per cent. each year in the ordinary food crops is needed. That is about the figure, I recollect, which was reported by the Food and @iculture Organisation of the United Nations to be the world position about a year ago. My second question is whether the Point Four Programme with its provision of financial assistance to under-developed countries through the agency, not only of F.A.O. but also W.H.O. and UNESCO, has had any impact on these countries in stimulating technical improvement not only in agriculture but in housing and education and other things?

    Margaret Digby : The degree to which agriculture can be extended to uncultivated land is also a political

    question, but food production can also be increased by increasing the productivity of Arab crops and that is why so much attentio;, has been devoted to finding a method of stimulating the Arab peasant and bringing him up to a more efficient level of production. With regard to the Point Four Programme, enquiry into that was not the purpose of my journey and I may have missed some facts, but I heard nothing of it. The French use a good deal of their Marshall Aid funds to improve agriculture. Much has been done in France as a whole in mechanisation, irrigation, and so on, and a share of that has certainly gone t o Algeria. -4 great deal of American capital is going into Morocco, though much of that is concerned with. mineral resources and with roads.

    R. Turner: I think Miss Digby has given us an excellent thumbnail sketch of agriculture in

    North Africa, and she has whetted my appetite for further information. There is one point which she has not raised, which is fundamental to agriculture everywhere and is of particular importance in subtropical and tropical countries, namely, the maintenance of fertility. I should like to ask how fertility is maintained on these North African farms. I have been struck by the resemblance of North Africa, as Miss Digby has described it, to Northern Nigeria, where I spent some eighteen years. I presume, that, as in Nigeria the peasants have a particularly low income. I n Northern Nigeria the total income of

    Miss Digby has given us an extremely informative paper and it occurs to me that the

  • Proceedings of Conference. 255

    the peasant was something like L20 a year, so they could not possibly afford to purchase fertilisers. They did not make much use of animal manure and one of our biggest jobs was to teach them to use it.

    In the early part of the paper Miss Digby mentioned the land in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and said that a mainly subsistence agriculture was carried on there in terraced fields of wheat, barley and other crops. It would be interesting to know whether these were indigenous terraces made by the local inhabitants or whether their construction was stimulated by the French. In Northern Nigeria the older farms on the hills were terraced. The farmers were kept up in the hills by the more warlike tribes down below, but when conditions became more settled they came down from their hills, abandoning their terraces, and started cultivation in the valleys.

    Finally, I have one simple question: Who, exactly, were the Moors?

    Murgaret Digby : Some of the more progressive farmers use fertilisers. There is probably more animal

    manure used in these North African countries than in Nigeria, for there is so little pasture that sheep and also cattle and donkeys graze over the stubble very freely. They are not penned, and the stubble fields of the north are the summer grazing ground of the desert sheep who come up in large numbers.

    On the subject of terraces, in the Berber country the new terracing was being done by thc French mechanically, but I understand there has always been terracing of a kind.

    .As to the Moors, as far as I know, this is simply the Spanish or European name for the Moslem population of North Africa.

    Dr. G. A . Hiscocki:

    boys to go to the schools and then on to the agricultural colleges. the future or is it in actual operation?

    Margaret Digby : I t is actually in operation, although it is new. The schools in the new developed centres

    have been going for not more than four or five years. I gather that some sixty students have been sent to the residential schools for two or three years, but up to the present only two or three men have been sent to France. The scheme is in its early stages, but they seem to be quite pleased with it.

    0. Pancer (Jugoslavia) : I greatly appreciate being given the opportunity to attend this meeting and also to

    visit this country under the auspices of the British Council. I can see already that I have much to learn here. In my country agriculture is not so we11 developed. I have derived many ideas of value from the papers by Mr. Napolitan and by Mr. Basmussen given earlier in the session. I think it would be a very good idea if some of the British agricultural economists came to my country to study the agricultural methods there. Indeed, this has been done already and a very good report has been written about their circumstances, with suggestions for their further progress, particularly for mechanisation. Others have visited my country from America. Tn Jugoslavia. where at one time a knowledge of the English language was rare, English was now being taught in every school and institute.

    G. rl llan : On two points I would like to ask for further information. Miss Digby has spoken of

    various share-cropping agreements on which land was let to Arab cultivators. It would be interesting to learn what success has attended this experiment. She has also spoken of the marketing or transfer of agricultural produce. Is the centre to which the produce is transferred a particular town or a rural nucleus around which some economic society has been built up? I wonder whether the idea of agriculture tying up with these areas of remuneration has proved satisfactory?

    Margaret Digby : As to share-cropping, I understand that the conditions of the agreements vary. I did

    not go into the details of all of them. In the case of the Arab landowner, the proportion of the crop which the tenant has to hand over may be very high ; indeed, I heard of a proportion as high as four-fifths. I assume that the tenant is taking some foodstuff for himself, but he is bound to live very miserably under those conditions. In other cases land is held by religious fraternities. Small parcels of land are often in dispute among a number of heirs and it may be decided as a solution to hand the estate over to a religious body.

    Miss Digby mentioned a rather important point concerning the selection of peasant Is this a scheme for

  • 256 Agricultural Economics Society.

    As for the " cities of agriculture," these are in the main a French idea, and the expression is rather grandiloquent although the purpose behind them is excellent. I can think of one area of, I suppose, 50 acres, part of which is laid out as a public garden. I t also contains citrus fruit and tobacco packing stations, a tomato cannery, machinery pool, cotton gin and a few other installations, all built on a plan by a group of co-operatives with a large overlapping membership. There is a Provincial Farmers Co-operative Council which decides on policy. I think the advantages are partly administrative and partly the fact that the members are given a certain pride in achievement and the sense of seeing the movement as a whole. It is very possible thaf, Arab and Berber cy t res will develop successfully and become in time something like a on a small scale. These centres, however, are not called '' cities of agriculture "; they belong to the French side and to the modernised large Arab farmer, who takes an interest and works on level terms with his French colleagues.

    T. W. Fletcher: I should like to ask Miss Digby to amplify her reference to the Tunisian Seed Co-

    operative, established by a group of 100 farmers with the object of taking over certain duties from the Government's botanical service. I gather that the majority of the farmers are peasants, and I should like to know how many of these are owner-occupiers or what kind of title they have to the land, who are the landlords and who arc the cultivators? What is the basis of land tenure today?

    city of agriculture

    Margaret Digby : I do not think anybody really knows. There has been no full land survey in any of

    these countries. The French are there by right of conquest. After the wars. of conquest, particularly in Algeria, there were large unoccupied areas; unoccupied partly because people had fled from them, and partly because the plains were not cultivable until modern machinery was put in. The French land is surveyed and there is a land register. Over the greater part of the Arab land there is no land register. Some land, especially in Morocco, is held under the tribal system and some of it is feudal. If there are any documents they are not registered in any French court. I could not tell you how much is owner-occupied and I do not think even the French know. A great deal is let ou t to tenants, that is, tribesmen and adherents, on a share basis. No book I have been able to get hold of gives any clear picture of how the system works.