Arid Lands Newsletter--link to home page No. 46, Fall/Winter 1999
Tools for Small Farmers

Selected resources of interest

Annotated by Elaine Cubbins


Appropriate Farm Technologies for Cold and Dry Zones of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas
edited by Shaheena Hafeez
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, 1998. 153 pages. ISBN: 92-9115-838-0
Developed countries USD 20.00, developing countries USD 15.00, ICIMOD regional member countries USD 10.00

The Distribution Unit
P.O. Box 3226
Tel: +977 (1) 525313
Fax: +977 (1) 524509, 536747
URL for ordering:

People living in mountainous regions are often marginalized due to isolation of communities. Cultures and traditional lifeways may be vulnerable to outside influences that interfere with sustainable living in the rugged environment. This is particularly true for the over 1000 tribes who live in the highest, most fragile and most populous mountain regions in the world: the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region (HKH). Countries that participate in the HKH Region include Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, and Pakistan.

The mission of ICIMOD is to " help promote the development of an economically and environmentally sound mountain ecosystem and to improve the living standards of mountain populations in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region." This work attempts to meet one of the four activities of ICIMOD as mandated by its statutes, to document and exchange information on the HKH Region.

This book consists of a compilation of research findings for studies commissioned for researching and documenting "appropriate and indigenous farm technologies in selected sites within their respective countries":

  • Documentation of appropriate farm technology for mountain areas of China, by Wang Dasheng, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  • Appropriate indigenous farm technologies in cold deserts, by Khosla, P.K., Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Solan, H.P., India
  • Appropriate farm technologies in arid and semi-arid mountainous areas of Pakistan, by Jasra, A.W.; Hussain, A.; and Batool, N., Department of Agriculture, Balochistan; and Ghaffar, C.A., Department of Agriculture, Punjab, Pakistan

One chapter in particular focuses on pro-women technologies: "Indigenous agro-based technologies are women-specific and focus on gender-equity in the male-dominated social structures of the HKH region by strengthening the economic empowerment of women."

Other features include annexes listing well-known fruit and vegetable varieties from different agro-ecological zones within the HKH region, practical agricultural techniques, and traditional farming implements; tables and graphs, illustrations, and color photographs; a glossary of acronyms and indigenous terms; recipes for indigenous crops; and a relevant bibliography.

Ecology of Sonoran Desert Plants and Plant Communities
edited by Robert H. Robichaux
The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona, 1999. 303 pages. ISBN: 0-8165-1869-6 (cloth : acid-free paper)
USD 45.00

The University of Arizona Press
1230 North Park Avenue, Suite 102
Tucson, Arizona 85719
Tel: +1 (520) 621-3920
Fax: +1 (520) 621-8899

This collection of original essays by noted researchers and scholars introduces the ecology of the Sonoran Desert by providing an overview of ecological practices at landscape, community, and organismal levels. The essays explore the flora in this distinctive biotic region, and the ecological patterns and processes that underlie its rich diversity. An additional feature is a discussion of the history and scientific legacy of the Desert Laboratory in Tucson, which has conducted research on the Sonoran Desert since 1903.

The book covers a wide spectrum of spatial and temporal scales that focus on a broad, in-depth body of research being pursued in the Sonoran Desert, and acts as both a testament to the ongoing studies and as an authoritative introduction to the region's diverse plant life. Additionally, the text examines the ecological consequences of modern agricultural development, and speculates on how the modern biota may have been impacted by 40,000 years of change in climate, vegetation, megafauna, and ancient cultures.

Essays included in the book are:

  • Diversity and Affinities of the Flora of the Sonoran Floristic Province, by Steven P. McLaughlin and Janice E. Bowers
  • Vegetation and Habitat Diversity at the Southern Edge of the Sonoran Desert, by Alberto Burquez, Angelina Martinez Yrizar, Richard S. Felger, and David Yetman
  • The Sonoran Desert: Landscape Complexity and Ecological Diversity, by Joseph R. McAuliffe
  • Population Ecology of Sonoran Desert Annual Plants, by D. Lawrence Venable and Catherine E. Pake
  • Form and Function of Cacti, by Park S. Nobel and Michael E. Loik
  • Ecological Genetics of Cactophilic Drosophila, by William J. Etges, W.R. Johnson, G.A. Duncan, G. Huckins, and W.B. Heed
  • Ecological Consequences of Agricultural Development in a Sonoran Desert Valley, by Laura L. Jackson and Patricia W. Comus
  • Deep History and a Wilder West, by Paul S. Martin

Maps, drawings, photographs, graphs, tables, and remote sensing imagery enhance the text. Each chapter finishes with an extensive bibliography of citations. This work is academic, but is also accessible to lay people, and is important reading for anyone interested in understanding the ecology of the Sonoran Desert.

Roots in the African Dust: Sustaining the Sub-Saharan Drylands
by Michael Mortimore
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1998. 219 pages. ISBN: 0 521 45173 6 (hardback); ISBN: 0 521 45785 8 (paperback)
USD 59.95 (hardback)

Cambridge University Press
110 Midland Avenue
Port Chester, New York 10573-4930
Tel: 1-800-872-7423; +1 (914) 937-9600
Fax: +1 (914) 937-4712

"The image of Africa in the modern world has come to be shaped by perceptions of the drylands and their problems of poverty, drought, degradation and famine. Michael Mortimore offers an alternative and revisionist thesis, dismissing both on theoretical and empirical grounds the conventional view of runaway desertification, driven by population growth and inappropriate land use. In its place he suggests a more optimistic model of sustainable land use which is based on researched case studies from East and West Africa, where indigenous technological adaptation has put population growth and market opportunities to advantage. He also proposes a more appropriate set of policy priorities to support dryland peoples in their efforts to sustain land and livelihoods."

Mortimer identifies and discusses the contradictory views of "doomsday scenarios" based on global-level studies versus optimistic scenarios based on local-level studies; he links the concept of desertification to global studies while claiming an incomplete development of a paradigm from local-level studies. The global perspectives concerning Africa's drylands are characterized for aridity, variability, social and natural diversities, and desertification as a concept is deconstructed to assess indicators, policies and dilemmas.

The smallholder's perspective is the focus of the book, and includes labor, cultivated land, livestock, crops, fodder, trees, water, and technologies. Rangelands are evaluated scientifically and through using case studies of three indigenous groups in Ethiopia, the Sudan, and Niger. The struggles of farmers concerning the management of rainfall variability and pests are illustrated with groups in Nigeria, and the contribution of households risks in biological reproduction, sufficient food, sustainable incomes and persistence in instability are examined. The theory of degradation is re-examined using case studies from Mali, Botswana and Tanzania. Two farming systems are compared to test the hypothesis that population growth, rainfall variability and monetization cause increased environmental degradation, and conservation is evaluated as practiced by one African indigenous group.

A number of conclusions related to planning and policy in arid lands are suggested by Mortimer:

  • Dryland environments must be managed by local residents
  • Rights to benefits from conservation and land improvement must be guaranteed
  • Technical and economic options must be appropriate to the culture and the location
  • Adaptability is the strongest resource of drylands households
  • There is a need to include the protection of investment against unpredictable crises, particularly food availability, as a developmental objective
  • Efficient markets should be developed
  • All sectors of the household economy should be involved in helping with land improvement
  • Drylands are part of the global ecosystem that includes cities, wetlands and national markets
  • Limiting population won't solve the problems of drylands

Black and white photographs, maps, graphs, tables, charts, an extensive bibliography and index enhance the text.

Drylands: Sustainable Use of Rangelands into the Twenty-first Century
edited by Victor R. Squires and Ahmed E. Sidahmed
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rome, Italy, 1998. 480 pages. ISBN: 92-9072-006-9

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Via del Serafico, 107
00142 Rome
Tel.: +39-6-54591
Fax: +39-6-5043463

On 3-6 November 1996, Saudi Arabia's Meteorology and Environmental Protection Administration (MEPA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Water (MAW) collaborated with IFAD to present an international workshop in Jeddah concerning sustainable use of rangelands and control of desertification. The workshop focused on "the capacity and potential of satellite imagery, remote sensing and related technologies advances for monitoring trends and changes in rangelands, livestock and movements of human population...[and] how such advances in technology could provide management early warning tools responsive to the needs of the pastoralists while respecting their cultural traditions and values."

The main objective of the workshop was to familiarize researchers and administrators with relevant research from different disciplines. This book contains the proceedings of the workshop, and aims to provide analysis of the changes occurring in the sustainable use of drylands, particularly those areas where livestock management relies on natural grazing materials.

The book is divided into five sections, with three appendices that summarize the issues and recommendations, identify the recommendation committee members, and provide information on the conference papers contributors. Color maps follow the appendices, and illustrations, tables, graphs and bibliographies are included in the chapters. Below are two selected chapter titles from each part of the book:

  • Part I: Restoring ecological stability in range/livestock production systems
    • Impact of development programmes on deterioration of rangeland resources in some African and Middle Eastern countries, by M.A. El-Shorbagy
    • Monitoring dryland degradation to define and implement suitable measures toward sustainable rangeland management, by R. Geerken, M. Ilaiwi, M. Jaja, H. Kauffmann, H. Roeder, A.M. Sankary and K. Segl
  • Part 2: Modeling and other aids to rangeland management
    • A simulation model for evaluating long-term impacts of grazing practices, by E. Al-Haratani and M. Fogel
    • Meeting the needs of nomads: the usefulness of the Farming Systems Research (FSR) approach, by M.H. Andrew and J.D. Fargher
  • Part 3: Processing multitemporal imagery for natural resources estimation
    • High resolution imagery for rangelands inventory and monitoring: a case study in Morocco, by M. Ait Belaid
    • Monitoring the pastoral resources in the Sahelian zone: a case study in Senegal, by A.M. Niang
  • Part 4: Experience in sustainable rangeland development
    • The socio-economics of pastoralism: a commentary on changing techniques and strategies for livestock management, by Y. Ahmad
    • Modern Bedouins: the transformation of traditional nomad society in the Al-Tayasiyah region of Saudi Arabia, by T.J. Finan and E.R. Al-Haratani
  • Part 5: Setting the parameters for the twenty-first century
    • Maintaining the viable use of marginal resources: the Environmental Support of Nomads (ESON) Project, by A. Al-Gain
    • Setting the parameters for future generations: whither traditional range/livestock systems, by V.R. Squires and A.E. Sidahmed

About the Arid Lands Newsletter

Link to ALN home page Link to index page for back web issues Link to index page for pre-web issue archive Link to this issue's table of contents