Greetings from a sunny Wageningen,
Amanda will arrive in Paris tomorrow morning and I will meet her sometime after 22:30 tomorrow evening. I'll leave directly after my last class and take the rail through Rotterdam and Brussels to Paris.
Lecture today was really interesting. A Phd candidate gave a lecture about his research regarding integrated pest management (ipm) (eg. biological control, crop rotations, resistant varieties, etc.) in Kazahkstan following the fall of the USSR. Before 1991 the region experienced very few pest outbrakes because of a solid infastructure of research and extension to inform farmers about pest management. Forecasts for pest infestations were provided to farmers and extension workers gave advice on their management with pesticide use as a last option. After the fall of the USSR, however, the infastructure fell apart and farmers were left to their own devices. In addition, many former industrial workers changed professions to become inexperienced farmers. Pesticide use became the first option to control pests without regard to economic injury levels, biological control, or other principles of ipm. Furthermore pesticide sales and use were unregulated, meaning that salesmen rarely knew what they were selling and farmers rarely used sanitary measures to avoid toxic levels of chemicals. Pest damage has skyrocketed and a 4 year plague of locusts brought attention from the government to pest problems (when the locusts entered the capitol city, prior to that locusts were left unnoticed by policy makers).
The solution then, developed by the researcher, is to encourage social organization to promote ipm. The knowledge of ipm principles is still present but the problem is a lack of organization to implement them. This can be done with farmer field schools, farmer cooperatives, government extension programs, etc.
An interesting note besides the effect of politics on farming techniques is the fact that soviet agriculture in Kazahkstan was much better (agro-ecologically and economically) than it was after. This idea contradicts what many Americans, myself included, assume: soviet agriculture is destructive, unproductive, and vastly inferior to western agriculture. This goes hand-in-hand with other western biases regarding the cold war. United States students learn about the Soviet invasion of Afganistan and Yugoslavia, but seldom about the American-backed overthrows in the Congo, Guatemala, Chile, etc. In fact, 9/11 was a date known in South America long before the attack on the world trade towers. September 11, 1973 is the date when General Augusto Pinochet directed a US-funded coup against newly elected socialist leader President Allende. That said, the cold war also had positive results as well: Peace Corps was formed in the US and much greater attention was given to food production and fair prices in LDC's.
Anyways, I'll be reading for awhile today then we will have a MAKS get-together tonight. I'm going to try and enjoy the weather today, each sunny day my Dutch friends say, "this is probably the last nice day for a few months" so I'm a little aprehensive about this winter. On the positive side I may be able to say I wish I was in South Dakota during the winter. Yikes.
Take care, Andrew