Next Green Revolution 2

The Next Green Revolution

Science prevented the last food crisis. Can it save us again?

 

Africa’s cropland biome occupies ~38% of the photo synthetically active land area of the African continent (~19.8 M km2) and encompasses more than 90% of its rural population living in 54 countries.

Next Green RevolutionRegion of Interest

We must concentrate on the biomes of Africa that include forests and rangelands, but exclude deserts

Next Green Revolution

Overall Region of Interest

A big, risky decision for small holder farmers is what type and how much fertilizer to apply to their crops. There is lot of uncertainty about how the crops will respond, with a risk that the farmers will even lose when they harvest and sell the produce. Testing the soil beforehand and knowing how plants will respond can play an important role in reducing this risk. But the high cost and lack of access to testing services have been major bottlenecks for farmers in developing countries.

Low-Cost Soil AnalysisNext Green Revolution

Similarly, planners in governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations who are working out what to supply to small holder farmers are also faced with large uncertainties on what types and combinations of inputs to supply and where, in relation to the local soils. For example, a number of agencies in Africa are designing fertilizer blending and liming programs and so need to know how strongly acid soils are and what soil micro nutrients may be limiting in different areas. Existing soil maps do not provide up-to-date information on specific soil properties that are needed to guide such decisions.

New advances in rapid, low-cost soil analytical techniques in the laboratory that simply measure light reflecting from a soil sample are reducing the cost of measuring soil properties. Soil infrared spectroscopy allows a soil sample to be scanned in just 30 seconds and the resulting fingerprint used to predict a number of soil properties based on calibration databases. And this costs just $1 compared with at least $100 using conventional soil testing methods. With the availability of satellite imagery and from space and now unmanned aerial vehicles at ever increasing spatial resolution (250 metres to sub-metre), it is becoming possible to make high resolution soil property maps at low cost.

Next Green Revolution

To successfully close the gap, we’ll need to adopt a variety of innovative strategies. We must produce more crops, while more efficiently using the food we already grow.

What are we to do?

Continue reading Next Green Revolution 2

SUBSISTENCE FARMERS in AFRICA 2

 SUBSISTENCE FARMERS NEED HOPE
Subsistence Farmers

Consider the livelihoods of the tens of millions of vulnerable subsistence small-holder farmers around the world. In 20 to 25 years we will get to a point in some places that either it will be too hot, too dry, too wet, or too cold for the crops we are planting and you, which will be incredibly disruptive at best.

Over the last two decades, either early or late on set of rainy seasons, unexpected rainfall, declining rainfall, and extreme day and night temperature are common.

According to The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 75% of the world’s 1.2 billion poor (defined as consuming less than one purchasing-power adjusted dollar per day) live and work in rural areas. 50% of the developing-country rural population were smallholders (farming 3 ha or less of crop land), and ≈25% were landless. The proportion of smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa was higher at 73%. 

Environmental degradation in such tropical dry land areas is widespread, irreversible or appropriately referred to as “desertification”. All this, and other stressors, are seen as contributing to an increased vulnerability to drought, which in turn feeds back in to environmental degradation and conflict. There will be eventual impacts on human development indicators such as health and education.

There is a bright side: increasingly unstable weather in recent years has left many farmers more willing to try new ideas. Many are now open to adapting of using practices like crop diversification, planting date adjustment, soil and water conservation and management, increasing the intensity of input use, integrating crop with livestock and rabbits, and tree planting. Subsistence Farmers

  • ·         Small-holder farmers can shift to irrigated farming in the face of climate variability.
  • ·         Small-holder farmers can hold some wealth in bank accounts, and others use micro finance credit to expand.
  • ·         Small-holder farmers can use supplementary feed for livestock, purchased or lopped from trees in their orchards.
  • ·         Small-holder farmers can engage in rabbit accumulation as a rational form of insurance against drought. 

 FOOD AID: EARLY SOLUTIONS NOW

Why in a “world of plenty” are 20 million people face famine? Continue reading SUBSISTENCE FARMERS in AFRICA 2

Reforesting the Tropics 2

Saving Humanity: Reforest the Tropics

Buying Time to develop alternative technologiesReforesting the Tropics

Planting trees remains one of the most cost-effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Therefore, reforesting the tropics will act as carbon sinks, alleviating the greenhouse effect. There are millions of acres of tropical pastures available. When given proper care, orchard tropical trees bear fruit up to 50 years or more.

Reforesting the TropicsPLANT MORE TREES around the world — because… trees are carbon storage (sequestration) experts.

The United States has cut down over 50% of its original forests in the last 400 years, which would have absorbed 50% of its carbon emissions. Once carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere it stays there for a long time. About 33% continues to cause damage after 100 years.

 It is estimated by the U.S. Forest Service that all the forests in the United States, combined, sequestered approximately 309 million tons of carbon each year from 1952 – 1992, offsetting approximately 25 percent of human-caused emissions of carbon during that period in the United States.

The world’s forests remove over one quarter (27%) of current annual human carbon emissions from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of about 2.4 billion tons of carbon according to the latest published scientific research.

Reforesting the TropicsThe tropical zones of the world seem particularly attractive for forestation because of the high rates of productivity that can potentially be attained there, and because there appear to be large areas of land that would benefit from tree planting.

Reforesting the Tropics

TREE MATH

Young trees absorb CO2 at a rate of 13 pounds per tree each year. Trees reach their most productive stage of carbon storage at about 10 years at which point they are estimated to absorb 48 pounds of CO2 per year and one acre of trees absorbs 2.6 tons of CO2 every year.

 For every ton of new-wood growth, about 1.5 tons of CO2 are removed from the air and 1.07 tons of life-giving oxygen is produced.

POSITIVE GROWTH OF TREES IN THE TROPICS

Borial zone trees absorb 0.5 Pg C/yr compared to Temperate zone trees at 0.7 while tropical trees grow at the rate of 1.3 or 185% more efficiently year-round than trees in a temperate zone

Younger and faster growing orchards generally have higher annual sequestration rates and they are given higher personal care of proper fertilizer and water: add a further 25% increase. We conclude there is an additional (185% + 25%) or 210% increase in the value of CO2 absorption.

Reforesting the TropicsThis map shows solar-induced fluorescence, a plant process that occurs during photosynthesis, from Aug. through Oct. 2014 as measured by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. This period is springtime in the Southern Hemisphere and fall in the Northern Hemisphere. Photosynthesis is highest over the tropical forests of the Southern Hemisphere but still occurs in much of the U.S. Grain Belt. The northern forests have shut down for the winter.

 Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Australia), CSIRO forests researcher Dr Canadell estimate that tropical forest re-growth is removing an average of 1.6 billion tons of carbon per year. Combining the uptake by established and forest re-growth plus emissions from deforestation, the world’s forests have a net effect on atmospheric CO2 equivalent to the removal of 1.1 billion tons of carbon every year. Reforesting the TropicsReforesting the Tropics

In terms of cutting emissions a 53% reduction in 2010 emissions is equal to almost 20 Gt of CO2 emissions. For some perspective, global emissions from coal fired electricity generation were about 9 Gt CO2 in 2010.

Reforesting the TropicsThe larger predictions from climate models are due to the fact that, within these models, the more important greenhouse substances, water vapor and clouds, act to greatly amplify whatever CO2 does. This is referred to as a positive feedback. It means that increases in surface temperature are accompanied by reductions in the net outgoing radiation – thus enhancing the greenhouse warming. … Satellite observations of the earth’s radiation budget verify this fact.

VALUE OF TROPICAL TREES

Moisture created by the rain forests travel around the world. America’s Midwest is affected by the forests in the Congo which is roughly a distance of 6000 miles. Moisture from the Amazon falls as far away as Texas.

The Benefits of Tropical Trees:

Continue reading Reforesting the Tropics 2

Charity and Corporate Aid 2

A growing share of aid is spent by private firms, not charities

“THE gold rush is on!” That is how a cable from the American ambassador to Haiti described the descent of foreign firms upon Port-Au-Prince in early 2010. An earthquake had flattened the city and killed hundreds of thousands. This becomes a bonanza for charity services and corporate aid offered by private firms.

Charity Corporate aid

A deluge of aid presented an opportunity. The message, released by WikiLeaks, noted that AshBritt, a Florida-based disaster-recovery firm, was trying to sell a scheme to restore government buildings, and that other firms were also pitching proposals in a “veritable free-for-all”.

During the following two years $6 billion in aid flooded into a country of 10 million people, for everything from rebuilding homes to supporting pro-American political parties. Of $500 million or so in aid contracts from the American agency for international development (USAID), roughly 70% passed through the hands of private companies.

Haiti is one example of a trend of non-profit foundations, where aid is funneled through consultancies and other private-sector contractors that profit from the work. Nearly a quarter of USAID spending in 2016 went to for-profit firms, a share that was two-thirds higher than in 2008.

Charity Corporate aid

Think-tanks are still trying to work out where all the Haitian disaster-relief funding ended up. Private-sector involvement can further obscure the picture, because the winners of bids may use a host of subcontractors, or insist that some information is kept confidential for commercial reasons.

Even as aid budgets have grown, governments have sought to make aid departments smaller and more nimble. USAID have around the same number of employees now as they did when their budgets were just half as large in real terms. As aid agencies struggle to manage contracts, they have turned to the private sector.

Typically, firms win aid contracts at auction, rather than receiving grants, as charities do. Some have become global players. Chemonics, an American firm founded in 1975, is active in 70 countries. In 2015 it won a contract for health-care services with USAID worth up to $10.5 billion over eight years.

Together with the high cost of preparing bids—as much as $100,000—this has led to market concentration. Only large bidders can stomach the risks. A smaller firm’s best chance to pick up some of this work is to join a consortium led by a larger firm.

Charity Corporate aid

Private firms do seem to pay higher salaries than charities to their top executives. The bosses of the private firms earn on average more than $500,000 a year—more than twice as much as their non-profit peers. The total personnel costs proposed by non-profit firms were on average just two-fifths those proposed by private firms. What is more, the contracts won by for-profit outfits were more likely to bust their budgets and miss deadlines.

One reason for the shift towards the private sector is the changing nature of aid. A smaller share now is made up of traditional projects, such as building schools or handing out food parcels, and more is “technical assistance”, for example to streamline a country’s tax code and strengthen tax collection, or to set up an insurance scheme to help farmers when crops fail. Private firms may be best-placed to advise on, or even run, these schemes.

What is known, though, is that for-profit and non-profit groups work differently. A non-profit body typically has large bureaus in the countries where it works, or forms long-standing partnerships with local charities that do. It will consider whether a proposed project fits with its charitable purpose, and whether it has suitable in-house expertise; only then will it decide whether to bid. Firms, by contrast, tend to have fewer staff, and to rely on subcontractors and freelance experts who can be flown in for as long as a project lasts. This model means that firms may be less likely to understand local cultures, build relationships with governments and monitor long-term results. But it can also be more flexible, with firms matching expertise and staffing to each contract.

Cool aidCharity Corporate aid

One estimate puts the total value to firms of such “aid-like” work in developing countries at around $20 billion a year, a figure that is expected to rise. Having built their businesses on contracts with Western governments, private aid firms may need to diversify if they are to continue to thrive.

To shed light on the shift towards private-sector aid delivery, The Economist has analyzed 4,500 subcontracts from USAID worth more than $25,000 each. (All were granted since 2010. Those for which data were not available were excluded.) A third went to for-profit firms, and the rest to charities, NGOs or other governments. For contracts where a firm was the primary contractor, on average 41% of subcontracts went to other firms.

How to be the Change

Continue reading Charity and Corporate Aid 2