57, May/June 2005
Water efficiency II: Rural areas and agriculture
Managing agrodiversity the traditional way: Lessons
from West Africa in sustainable use of biodiversity and related natural
by Edwin A. Gyasi et al. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2004.
ISBN 92-808-1098-7. 320 pp. USD $32.00.
This book reports on nearly 10 years of multidisciplinary, participatory research, centered primarily in Ghana, carried out under the auspices the UNU Project on People, Land Management and Environment Change (PLEC). The core of the book is the 12 chapters in part II, "Cropping systems and related case studies;" these are preceded by a general discussion of methodologies and knowledge systems (Part I, "Methodological approaches and knowledge systems") and followed by case studies on resource tenure and women's roles (Part III, "Social dimensions of resource management.") and a synopsis of lessons learned for sustainable management of agrodiversity and of possible directions for future research (Part IV, "Conclusion"). The research presented is placed into the larger context of international PLEC objectives, Ghanaian government policies, and international agreements, specifically the Convention on Biological Diversity. A major emphasis of the book is the degree to which traditional farmer's practices, innovations, and overall knowledge about conserving agrodiversity while producing food crops can inform resource management for development. With its blend of academic research and on-the-ground knowledge, this book will be useful to policy makers, practitioners, and university-level students and teachers in fields relating to natural resources management and sustainable development.
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Chia: Rediscovering a forgotten crop of the Aztecs. By Ricardo
Ayerza Jr. and Wayne Coates. Tucson, Ariz.: Univ. of Arizona Press, 2005.
ISBN 0-8165-2588-2 pb. 216 pp. US $14.95.
Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) was one of the main crops of both the Aztec and the Mayan civilizations at the time Columbus arrived in the Americas; today, it is largely a forgotten species. Author Coates aims to change that by promoting the potential of chia as a commercial crop. The advantages of chia are manifold. Currently, humans depend on barely 20 species of plants for the bulk of the plant-based foods in their diets. This is a precarious situation both culturally (if diseases or pests threatens one of these species) and individually (since medical and nutritional research has shown that diversified diets are important in maintaining good health). Chia, as this book thoroughly documents, is extremely nutritious, providing high levels of antioxidants, dietary fiber, and perhaps even more important, omega-3 fatty acids. As global consumer demand for a healthier and more diverse diet increases, so too does the opportunity for chia to become one of the world's important crops. The extensive and up-to-date information presented herein will be of interest to anyone wishing to learn more about chia's nutritional and commercial potential.
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The western confluence: A guide to natural resource
use. By Matthew
McKinney and William Harmon. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2004. ISBN
1-55963-963-6 (pb). 297 pp. US $30.00.
The history of the western United States has long been characterized by conflicts over natural resources. The many strategies that have arisen to resolve these conflicts have had limited success and in fact have themselves become a source of gridlock and further conflict. The western confluence aims at helping Westerners negotiate these complexities, by reframing both the disputes and the methods of resolving them. It reviews the available strategies, their historical development, and how they continue to affect current decisions regarding natural resources. It delineates the nature of resource disputes in the West and how they are affected by two of the region's most salient aspects: low average annual precipitation and high percentages of lands owned by the federal government. Most important, it outlines emerging strategies of collaboration and consensus building that offer real hope for mitigating these complex resource disputes. The audience for this information includes public decision-makes and others involved in natural resource management, environment law and policy, and conflict management.
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23 Degrees South: Archaeology and environmental
history of the southern deserts. Edited by Mike Smith and Paul
Hesse. Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press, 2005. ISBN: 1-876944-30-7
(pb). 448 pp. AU $42.95.
The title of this book arises from the fact that the bulk of the great deserts of the southern hemisphere can be connected by a line drawn along the Tropic of Capricorn at 23°S latitude. The contents arise from presentations made at 2003's international congress Understanding Future Dryland Environmental Changes from Past Dynamics, held at the National Museum of Australia to explore the humane and environmental histories of these deserts. These essays highlight the diversity of the southern deserts, from the hyperarid Namib and Atacama and the arid grasslands of the Kalahari to the high-altitude Argentinian Puna and the extensive dunes of Australia. Thematically, the book moves from large-scale environment and climatic perspectives to historical studies of individual deserts and peoples' relationships to them. Part 1 compares the deserts' Quaternary environmental histories; Part 2 examines the dynamics of settlements. Part 3 considers rock art and its links to cosmology and land use, Part 4 considers interactions between hunters and herders, and Part 5 considers both interactions between desert peoples and outsiders and the response of people to the desert landscape. The editors' intent is to foster cross-fertilization of ideas about deserts and their human and environmental histories, methods for reconstructing these histories, and new bases for further interdisciplinary and comparative research in the southern deserts.
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Peopling the Cleland Hills:
Aboriginal history in western Central Australia, 1850-1980. By
M. A. Smith. Canberra: Aboriginal History Inc., 2005. Aboriginal History
Monograph 12. ISBN 0-9585637-8-0 (Pb).
In this monograph, archeologist Mike Smith has written a history of
some 150 years of contacts between Aboriginal inhabitants and settlers
in the Cleland Hills of western central Australia. Throughout, the author's
aim is "...to fix the locality and allow the people and events to
become the variables," enabling a perspective in which pre-eminence
is given to place as a "vast zone of flux and encounter" and
which is in accordance with the centrality of place to Aboriginal culture.
Smith's account rescues Aboriginal inhabitants from the obscurity to
which historical accounts have generally relegated them, acknowledging
them both as individuals and as members of families and cultural traditions
that extend back over centuries. At the same time, the longer, cross-generational
time perspective allows examination that goes beyond the merely biographical
to encompass historical processes that may take more than a century to
play out. Thus, the interest of this work lies not only in its immediate
content but also in its presentation of a new kind of historiographical
approach and model of archeological practice.
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