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

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

Enough Food for the Future? 2

Is There Enough Food for the Future?world food crisis

The new UN climate report shows that crop yields already are being adversely affected by a changing climate, and how we respond globally in creating a more resilient food system is very important now. But we also recognize that food is central to our culture and is a source of great pleasure and comfort to people. We want to ensure we tackle all aspects so that we have enough food for the future.

world food crisis

The estimate of more than 9 billion people in less than 40 years highlights a stark challenge for the global food system.

We have enough food for the roughly 7 billion people alive today, but nearly a billion are hungry or malnourished, mostly due to poverty and unequal distribution. To feed those who are currently hungry—and the additional 2 billion-plus people who will live on the planet by 2050—our best projections are that crop production will need to increase between 60 and 100 percent. “Business as usual” could lead to a doubling of demand for agricultural production.

If the population is growing by less than one-third, why would the overall demand double? Simply stated: more people have more money.

Meeting the problem through production alone won’t be enough, and we should explore many alternatives that focus on reducing demand for food, like changing our diets and reducing food waste and loss. Increasing crop production can be part of the solution.

What drives the demand?

Continue reading Enough Food for the Future? 2

Age of Consequences 2

Climate Security: Building National Security

Climate change presents the greatest challenge of our time. It is a national security threat that America’s military, and militaries around the world are taking seriously. We are entering into the Age of Consequences.

Age of Consequences

Climate change alone will not cause wars, but it serves as an “Accelerant of Instability” or a “Threat Multiplier” that makes already existing threats worse. The threat of global warming for security will manifest through a range of effects: resource scarcity, extreme weather, food scarcity, water insecurity, and sea level rise will all threaten societies around the world. Too many governments are not prepared for these threats, either because they do not have the resources or because they have not planned ahead. How societies and governments respond to the increase in instability will determine whether climate change will lead to war. We’re really talking about violent events that require less organization like protests, riots and strikes.

  • The science is definitive enough for action. We cannot wait until you have 100% certainty before acting.
  • Climate change alone will not cause war, but it serves as an “accelerant of instability” that makes already existing threats worse.
  • Global threats include: migration, conflict over scarce resources, reduced food production, water insecurity, and others.
  • The military is preparing for climate change by, studying potential threats, and preparing to deploy when needed.

A perfect example of a national security treat was the Arab Spring. The terrific drought that struck that entire region in 2010 had global ramifications. It was especially disastrous for Egypt. The drought caused Russia and other exporters to end wheat exports.  Somewhat unexpected, it made a major contribution to the blossoming of the Arab Spring. The country has only been able to sustain about half its needs True, there was also a desire to embrace democracy, but that wasn’t what really drove the masses: it was the lack of wheat.

Sahel Africa

Traditionally, most of the people in the Sahel have been semi-nomads, farming and raising livestock in a system of transhumance, which is probably the most sustainable way of utilizing the Sahel. The Sahel, home to some 232 million people, comprising portions of ten (10) African countries, from left to right: [northern] Senegal, [southern] Mauritania, [central] Mali, [northern] Burkina Faso, [southern] Algeria, [southwestern] Niger, [northern] Nigeria, [central] Chad, [central] Sudan and [northern] Eritrea.

Sahel Africa

Contrast the situation in Ethiopia where these conditions are almost identical to Somali and South Sudan, which both have very poor governance. Ethiopia on the other hand is an active participant in the international climate change process of the UNFCCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change involved with risk mitigation and farmer adaptation. Generally, Ethiopia has not suffered in the same way as both South Sudan and Somali.

WHAT TO DO?

Continue reading Age of Consequences 2

WATER CRISIS: A CATASTROPHE 2

  • TODAY’S CRISIS WILL BECOME A CATASTROPHE.

water crisisIf water is not managed better…water OUR THIRSTY WORLD

As water becomes ever more scant the world needs to conserve it, use it more efficiently. Researchers from MIT predict that by 2050, more than half of humanity will live in water-stressed areas, where people are now extracting unsustainable amounts from available freshwater sources.  We can expect a water crisis that will go viral into a catastrophe if we continue with business as usual.

Many people have a strong moral aversion to paying for the life-sustaining liquid. Some feel that water is a right, and should therefore be free. Others lobby governments to subsidize its distribution to favored groups. This results in vast, but preventable waste.

To make matters worse, few places price water properly. Usually, it is artificially cheap, because politicians are scared to charge much for something essential that falls from the sky. This means that consumers have little incentive to conserve it and investors have little incentive to build pipes and other infrastructure to bring it to where it is needed most.

water scarcity

In many countries people can pump as much water as they like from underground aquifers, because rules are either lax or not enforced. But it is unsustainable: around a fifth of the world’s aquifers are over-exploited.

.water crisis

India appears to be headed for a very great water crisis because of the inexpensive available pumps together with a large population:
GROUND WATER USAGE

People do not drink much water—only a few liters a day. But putting food on their tables requires floods of the stuff. Growing 1 lb of wheat takes 125 gallons of water; fattening a cow to produce the same weight of beef involves 12 times more. Overall, agriculture accounts for more than 70% of global freshwater withdrawals. Farmers in parched places grow thirsty cash crops such as avocados, which could easily be imported from somewhere wetter.

THE COMING CRISIS

Continue reading WATER CRISIS: A CATASTROPHE 2

Decentralized Tree Nurseries in Africa 2

DECENTRALIZED TREE NURSERIES

More than 92 percent of all nurseries catering for villages are still located at regional and district levels. As a result, seedlings have to be transported long distances, sometimes even beyond 50 km. The inadequacy of transport is one of the major setbacks in tree-planting, in terms of both availability and cost. All efforts must be made to decentralize nurseries as much as conditions allow.

To bridge this energy supply-demand gap, a massive amount of tree-planting is needed. The natural forest is shrinking very fast, and most alternative energy sources have had no significant impact so far.

One of the main reasons tree-planting is failing among some African communities is that they are often given species only for firewood, like eucalyptus. 

 Weak village leadership contributes directly to delays over deciding whether to plant trees or not; and then, even if trees are planted, it can retard or neglect maintenance.

THE NEXT STEP: ORCHARDS AND BIOCHAR

Each woman farmer and their family will begin the task of preparing to plant 300 fruit and nut trees on their leased 1.5 acre farms, Every tree will need a 2- 3 feet diameter excavation, where a biochar earth mound will be built of branches.

nursery layout2

EARTH MOUND KILN

biochar mound

The earth mound kiln is built in the following manner:

The bottom of the base is covered with logs forming a grate or crib on which the wood is piled vertically. The grate forms a free space between the bottom and the wood charge through which the air necessary for the carbonization process passes. The piled wood is covered with leaves and grass and then earth about 20 cm (8”) thick.

The pile has an outside stack made of steel drums, which is connected to the pile through a flue cut into the ground, running under the pile and covered with round logs. The pile has a number of air vents located around the circular base.

biochar soil management

The carbonization process is started by introducing a torch into the firing flue opposite the stack. This type of pile is reported to be easy to operate to produce good charcoal quality with a yield of 55% charcoal to wood by volume. The pile’s volume varies from 100 to 250 m³ of wood. The whole cycle takes 24 days; four days for charging, six days for carbonization, ten days for cooling and four days for discharge.

 Carbon Emission to be Solved

Continue reading Decentralized Tree Nurseries in Africa 2

DEFORESTATION PREVENTION 2

 PREVENTING DEFORESTATION

Preventing deforestation is our best chance to conserve wildlife and defend the rights of forest communities. It’s one of the quickest and most cost effective ways to curb global warming.

Worldwide, two billion hectares of land are currently degraded – an area larger than South America. Of this, 500 million hectares are abandoned agricultural land.

The amount of under-utilized and degraded land available in the region to accommodate for future agricultural expansion is estimated at 0.7-1 million hectares.

The Suitability Mapper enables users to identify potentially suitable sites for sustainable palm oil production in the following area:

degraded land

How do we prevent further deforestation?

It is still economically valuable to clear the forest for plantations. As current agricultural land becomes more and more degraded, producers move on to pristine, more productive land, with often harmful consequences such as the loss of forest cover.

If we’re going to stop deforestation, we need governments to do their part. That starts with cracking down on corruption and ensuring fair enforcement of forest conservation rules. Corruption fuels illegal logging and unsustainable forest management.

What is behind DEFORESTATION?

Continue reading DEFORESTATION PREVENTION 2

MITIGATION OF EMISSIONS 2

MITIGATION OF EMISSIONS

water dry facts

The seriousness of carbon emissions and the resulting impacts of those emissions are starting to have a strong effect on our global environment. From the melting of glacial systems around the world to the increasing intensity of storms and droughts, never has humanity faced a greater challenge than what lies before us today. One only has to observe the historic CO2 levels over the last 800,000 years and compare those numbers to where we are today at 400 ppm to get a clear picture. We need mitigation of emissions.

ONE SMALL STEP

Replacing “three stone” stoves with pyrolytic stoves provides a health dividend equal the eradication of malaria & AIDs combined. Mitigation of the emissions is the primary aim of these innovative cook stoves.

THE COOK STOVE

* About 30% biochar production
* 3 to 4 days for a batch of charcoal production
* Continuous hot water access (pot 1)
* Highly suitable for institutional cooking and as well making biochar
* Additional heat generated by flaring the pyrolysis gases, used for cooking
* Mitigation of the emissions during the pyrolysis by flaring
* Costs about Rs. 3000 (US$45)

 biochar8

 

biochar7Mwoto TLUD Cookstove is made of sheet metal: fabricated by skilled tinsmiths. Price approx. US$20 (Kenya: $22). The primary air control permits significant turn-down of fire intensity.  (Mwoto Factories Ltd., Kampala)

degraded-land22a mwoto-stove

The Progress Ahead Dr TLUD estimates that only about 20% of what can be known about TLUD gasifiers has been discovered. 80% awaits our efforts. By 2020 there needs to be 30 million TLUD micro-gasifier istoves into the developing societies. Currently there are fewer than one million. www.Mwotostove.com

This is a good example of Mitigation of Emissions:

degraded-land27-a

Carbon Emission to be Solved

Continue reading MITIGATION OF EMISSIONS 2

To be the best in the world in MicroFinance