Jerome Harrington, President
P.O. Box 1276, Stamford, CT. 06904-1276
169 Greenwich Avenue, Stamford, Ct. 06904-1276
Telephone: 203-327-5985 Fax: 203-359-1595
IRI Research Institute (IRI) is an Agricultural and Agribusiness Development Organization. It was founded in 1950 as a not-for-profit entity by Nelson and David Rockefeller and their associates. Although the Rockefeller family is no longer active in the operations, IRI’s basic thrust continues to be the improvement of living standards in developing countries throughout the world.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL
Philosophically, it has been IRI’s approach that economic development must precede really meaningful advances in social conditions in developing countries. Increased economic activity is needed to generate the funds required to provide a social safety net for those at the bottom of the economic and social ladder. This includes schools and education, upgrading health services and other related actives.
Production is considered the key element to emphasize in implementing any field program. It is an irrefutable fact that it is impossible to divide up more than is being produced irrespective of the countries’ political, social, religious or economic orientation.
World experience has shown that at “free enterprise” approach with a “profit motive” will generally result in the maximum production of goods and services. However, this does require a positive economic climate within a country and a market driven economy in order for entrepreneurs to flourish and be successful.
The constraints to production are manifold. These include government policies, bureaucratic delays, overall economic problems such as inflation, lack of transportation and others. IRI has worked to solve many of these problems but the major thrust of the efforts has been on the technical aspects related to production. This includes studies and field plot research to identify constraints to production and correcting these constrains on an economic basis. As a result, IRI has worked on a broad range of production problems related to soils, plants, animals, processing, transportation, marketing, financing, organization, training, human resource development among others. A brief synopsis of some of these activities follows.
One of IRI’s most difficult - - and eventually most successful projects was a “sustainable agriculture problem” related to the decline in coffee production. Traditionally in Brazil, coffee was planted on land cleared from the virgin forest. Over a period of about twenty to thirty years, the production levels declined to the “break-even” point. The coffee area was abandoned and new virgin forest was cut down. This resulted in the disruption of life in towns surrounding the coffee areas as well as displacing many field and processing workers as coffee is a relatively labor intensive crop.
Through a series of laboratory analyses, greenhouse pot trials and replicated field plot experiments, lime was identified as the key input needed to recuperate the soils for coffee production. The decline in production was due to aluminum toxicity and other soil imbalances that developed as the soil organic matter deteriorated. With proper levels of lime, very positive economic responses were obtained from NPK fertilizers and micronutrients.
Interestingly, production responses similar to those obtained with the recuperation of the old coffee land were also obtained on the “Campo Cerrado” areas. These are regions where the climax vegetation is scrub brush to low second-grade forest lands. Generally, these areas were not farmed and their use was limited to extensive animal grazing activities with little economic impact compared to coffee or intensive row crop production.
Soybeans were one of the crops that responded dramatically to the lime and fertilizer technology developed by IRI. When IRI first published the technical results on the “Campo Cerrados”, the production of soybeans in Brazil was about 250,000 MT/yr. Currently, soybean production is about 40,000,000 MT/yr and Brazil is second only to the USA in terms of world production. Most of this expansion was on the “Campo Cerrado” areas. Soybeans have surpassed coffee as the primary export crop from Brazil.
The economic and social impact of this work by IRI has been tremendous. Jobs have been created in the lime and fertilizer industries. Jobs and economic activities have been created in soybean crushing mills and the export of soybeans to the world markets. The soybean crushed cake from the local mills was used to expand the animal feed business. This resulted in Brazil being a major exporter of frozen chickens to the world markets.
This example of using technical know-how to increase production on an economic basis is a classic case of how to increase production and generate economic activity. The resulting jobs and increased taxes from the businesses that were created have made possible many essential improvements in education, health and other social services required improving the standard of living of the people in the country.
IRI’s work to economically maximize the production of crops has covered many aspects. For example, it is essential to identify the specific crop varieties best adapted to the local climate and soils conditions. Proper nutrition, as indicated above, is needed for the plants. Pest control is necessary. Optimum water conditions for the plant roots to enable the roots to absorb the needed nutrients and water is also essential to successful plant production.
The plant cultivars need to be field tested under the local environmental conditions. The most meaningful results are obtained when a large number of cultivars are field tested with replicated field plots and the results statistically analyzed. IRI has extensive experience with this approach with a wide variety of crops in a number of different countries ranging from desert areas such as the Sultanate of Oman to the wet, humid tropics of Brazil’s Amazon region. Some of the food crops field-tested include wheat, corn, and safflower among others. Industrial crops include cotton and other fiber crops as well as guar and a variety of medicinal crops including rawolfia. Forage plants have been one of IRI’s specialties and, at one time, IRI was the largest producer, processor and marketer of tropical legume seeds for pastures in Brazil. In Guyana, assistance was given to the rice industry through the expansion of the production and distribution of improved, high yielding rice seeds. This included plant breeding, development of breeders’ seed, expansion of high producing varieties through private, Registered Seed Producers, monitoring quality as well as assistance in establishing efficient distribution channels.
IRI’s animal production projects have included a wide range of projects in a number of countries. In Brazil, with assistance from the Ford Foundation, IRI established the first Animal Nutrition Center in Latin America. Human nutrition studies showed that there was a deficiency of animal protein in the diet of the poor people. The objective of the project was to improve the efficiency of animal production. Through practical, applied research and demonstrations it was possible to lower the cost of production and provide higher quality meat, milk and eggs to the population. Project work included the development of “least cost rations” for poultry using locally available raw materials such as cassava leaves as a substitute for more expensive alfalfa.
Other studies included grazing trials with a number of new grasses and legumes to improve the production of beef. Under the traditional production system, pasture fed animals gained weight during the wet season and lost weight during the dry season when forage was in short supply and of poor quality. As a result, the animals spent the first part of the wet season regaining the weight lost during the dry season. As one Texas consultant described the problem, “it takes 4 or 5 years to grow a 2 year old under this system!” In addition to trials with improved grasses and legumes, a number of supplemental feeds were tried to keep the animals gaining weight. These included protein blocks, feeding of corn, molasses and urea mixtures and others. However, under the economic conditions of the cattle Industry at the time of these trials, the additional weight gains that were obtained were only marginally profitable.
In the Sultanate of Oman under a World Bank funded program, the object of one of the projects was to develop a line of twin producing animals so that the small farmers could increase their herds more rapidly and efficiently. The procedure was for the Experiment Station to offer a premium to farmers for twin animals to establish the breeding herd line. In another project, two planeloads of high producing bred heifers were imported by IRI from the USA to assist in upgrading the efficiency of milk production in that country. Artificial insemination was also used to improve the bloodlines of dairy cattle in Oman. A modern demonstration milking parlor, pasteurizing equipment, cooling equipment and packaging line were also imported and personnel trained in its operation.
Animal health was a major thrust of a UNDP funded program in Venezuela implemented by IRI. A unique aspect of this program was the development of a mobile diagnostic laboratory that was mounted on a truck and which provided instant results to the farmers and ranchers for many of their animal endo and ecto parasite problems. In particular, it served as a training vehicle for many extension workers and farmers.
The most important aspect of any foreign assistance program is the number of locally trained individuals who are left behind at the end of a project. IRI has emphasized this in all of its projects and training the local trainers is an integral part of all programs. IRI’s various training programs have ranged from practical how-to-do-it trench silo construction to preserving animal feed for dry season or winter feed shortages to sophisticated technical training projects such as Post-Doctoral training of scientist in highly specialized technical subjects.
At IRI’s Demonstration and Training Farm at Matao in Brazil, practical production techniques were provided to farmers, extension agents and others at field days, short courses and seminars. In a World Bank funded project in Spain, training was a major component of an institution building project for INIA, the National Agricultural Research Organization. Under this program, 222 graduate-level fellowships were awarded. This involved 3,141 person months of long-term and short-term training at 56 different Universities and Institutes in 17 countries. Another aspect of this World Bank funded project was the construction and refurbishing of laboratories, workshops, cattle facilities and other buildings including dormitories. IRI’s resident architect was responsible for assisting in the design of construction plans, tendering and reviewing bids, supervision of construction and financial reporting in accordance with “World Bank regulations and guidelines.
In many other projects, construction and refurbishing of facilities was an integral part of the overall program. For example, in Peru under a USAID funded project, farm to market roads were one of the constraints to increasing agricultural production. As part of this development project to improve transportation facilities, a rock crusher was purchased in the USA in accordance with USAID Procurement Procedures. It was shipped to Peru and transported over the Andes to the Upper Huallaga Valley. IRI’s staff assembled the crusher, tested its production capacity and trained local staff in its operation. IRI’s road construction engineer worked with local constractors to upgrade and construct new farm-to-market roads as well as upgrade secondary roads to an all-weather status with aggregate from the newly available crushed rock.
Earth dams were constructed in Brazil on streams to make reservoirs for farm irrigation projects. In Oman, assistance was provided in repairing the “Aflaja” irrigation systems. Assistance was also provided to repair the canals used to distribute the water to the plains areas.
Also in Oman, IRI implemented a major infrastructure project for the development of ground water needed to open new agricultural production areas. IRI’s resident geohydrologist evaluated all available data on the geohydrology of the area under consideration. Based on promising indications, a series of test wells and production wells were drilled in the area. From the pumping data of the new wells and studies of existing wells in surrounding areas, it was determined that the ground water resources of the area were about double those of previous estimates. As a result, additional wells were successfully drilled and water production was up to hydrogeological estimates, which permitted a doubling of the agricultural production area.
SOCIAL AND HEALTH SERVICES
IRI has pioneered opening and developing land in some of the more remote areas of the world. As a result, it has been necessary to provide social, health and other services for workers and to become involved in community development activities. Some of the remote pioneering activities included a 15-year project in the Jari River area of the Amazon of Brazil for D.K. Ludwig. In the Orinoco River Delta of Venezuela on Guira Island, a project was implemented for the Corporacion Venezuelano de Guyana (CVG) which was a semi-autonomous, regional development organization. In these projects, the starting point was usually bare land which required the clearing of forests or the diking of areas to control the water and prevent flooding. Additionally, it required construction of roads, houses, bunkhouses, workshops, offices, laboratories, field facilities, wells for drinking water, sewage facilities, electric generators, communications, etc. As these programs progressed and developed, it was necessary to provide health and other services for the workers. This included providing preventative health measures such as spraying for malaria control, etc.
At Matao, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where IRI operated its Demonstration and Training Farm for more than thirty years, the international and local staff worked closely with the Municipal Government, religious groups, schools and others on improved health and social welfare conditions in the town and surrounding regions. Funding for the needed Social Services was a major constraint in most of the programs. As indicated earlier, it is believed that economic development and the creation of jobs is a fundamental prerequisite to major improvements in education, health and other pressing social problems.