More productive African farms could help both people and emissions.
Boosting the efficiency of Africa’s productive lands is not only necessary for feeding larger populations, but also a possible means of reducing emissions.
An article in the Economist, “World climate talks address agriculture” identifies the problem.
SINCE the 1960s farm production has risen fourfold in Africa. But the continent still lags far behind the gains seen in South America and Asia. The extra food has appeared largely because more land has been planted or grazed, rather than because crop yields have improved. Instead, poor farming methods progressively deplete nutrients from soils; almost all arable land in Africa lacks irrigation, for example. This is a particular problem in a continent whose population is set to double by 2050 and which faces regular droughts, floods and heat waves.
The world is already 1°C warmer than it was in pre-industrial times. As it heats further, weather cycles are set to speed up, leaving wet parts of the world wetter and dry parts drier. At either end of the scale, extreme weather events will probably intensify. By 2050, even if temperature rise is successfully limited to 2°C, crop yields could slump by a fifth.
The costs of climate change already come each year to 1.5% of the continent’s GDP, according to the European Commission, and adapting to it will cost another 3% each year until 2030. This is in spite of the fact that, overall, Africa is responsible for just 4% of global emissions annually.
Soil: potential carbon sinks
Fertilizer is extremely important. We cannot feed people if soil is degraded. The production of fertilizer in a form of biochar is absolutely huge which help to absorb carbon in the soils.
Soil in a long-term experiment appears red when depleted of carbon (left) and dark brown when carbon content is high (right).
Scientists say that more carbon resides in soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined; there are 2,500 billion tons of carbon in soil, compared with 800 billion tons in the atmosphere and 560 billion tons in plant and animal life.
Well-nourished soils are better at absorbing carbon dioxide rather than allowing it to enter the atmosphere. But the continent’s over-grazed, over-used soil currently means Africa only stores 175 gigatons of carbon each year of the 1,500 gigatons stored in the world’s soils. Smarter farming could change all that. The world’s cultivated soils have lost between 50 and 70 percent of their original carbon stock, much of which has oxidized upon exposure to air to become CO2.
If we treat soil carbon as a renewable resource, we can change the dynamics. Restoring soils of degraded and desertified ecosystems has the potential to store in world soils an additional 1 billion to 3 billion tons of carbon annually, equivalent to roughly 3.5 billion to 11 billion tons of CO2 emissions. (Annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning are roughly 32 billion tons.)
Soil carbon sequestration needs to be part of the picture. Currently deforestation takes place where vast areas are cleared for new fields because too little grows in existing ones.
Vast areas of deforested land that have been abandoned after soil degradation are excellent candidates for replanting and reforestation using biochar from the weeds now growing there. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, grasslands, which cover more than a quarter of the world’s land, hold 20 percent of the world’s soil carbon stock. Much of this land is degraded.
The biochar solution for small farms involves branches of fruit trees, which are cut every year to facilitate the harvest, weigh about 50 tons/ha. If this biomass is converted by pyrolysis to biochar, about 1/3 will revert to 16.7 tons of black carbon/ha and this can be mixed with compost. This will enhance the way biochar develops microbes.
If one third of the degraded land, 660 million ha, are used and every year 15 tons/ha biochar is mixed in the soil, this will be together 10 billion tons of Carbon (10 Gt carbon is equivalent to 3.7 Gt CO2) taken from the air and stored in the soil. This is the amount of fossil CO2 which is just released every year.
The only problem with this solution is the scale. Imagine what it means to use soil carbon sequestration techniques on 10% of all arable land: Millions of farmers must change their way of doing agriculture to make it happen. But the alternative — staying the course of ecological ruin — is not very appealing.
Hilly Land Sustainable Agriculture (HLSA) farming systems feature the establishment of single or double hedgerows of either leguminous tree species, shrubs or grasses seeded or planted along contour lines. Hedgerows, serving as barriers, will conserve surface soil by building up organic mass, increasing plant nutrient elements and improving the water holding capacity of the soil, thus conserving surface soil by slowing down erosion. Rocks,stubble, branches and other farm debris are piled at the base of the hedges to further reinforce the foundation of the hedgerows.
The densely planted hedgerows are pruned regularly to encourage the growth of a thick vegetative canopy and provide a continuous supply of green manure that is scattered on the planting strips between hedgerows.
Trees or shrubs alone used as hedges cannot control effectively soil erosion that can lead to flooding and mass destruction of hilly lands that took centuries to build.
Vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) provides high biomass production for hedgerows; they have been successfully used in some parts of Thailand, Indonesia, China, and India. The grass has the potential to markedly reduce erosion and rapidly develop natural terraces on slopes with less management attention. It stays alive for 25 to 45 years without being replanted.
AFRICA AGRICULTURAL HOPESPOTS
But new research reveals that there are also “hopespots” in drought-prone environments where there is enormous potential for expanding simple farming techniques.
Individual satellite images and other graphics can be downloaded from: www.na.unep.net/atlas
Carbon Emission to be Solved
The world leaders must find a way to absorb carbon dioxide emissions that is in our atmosphere now. Trees and soils are the only way to absorb the present glut of CO2 in your world.
Presently these funds are improperly managed because they attempt to make the tax neutral by redirecting the fund for tax rebates to working families, cutting sales tax and reducing the tax on manufacturing. All this is very admirable but it doesn’t solve the high concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which is presently causing global warming.
The Funds to Finance Rehabilitation
There are two sources of funds based on two different methods of absorbing carbon emissions: one from biochar in soils and the other from planting of trees.
On one hectare of farm land of 500 trees:
- Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Fund for BIOCHAR IN SOILS
LND Fund seeks to mobilize US$2 billion annually; they estimate that the average cost of land rehabilitation is $100- $150/ha. In Africa, five countries have voluntary committed to LND including Senegal.
- 500 trees/hectare will yield 50 tons of Carbon from branches and weeds or (50 tons x ⅓) 16.7 tons of CO2 emission absorption from the production of
- The value of the capture of carbon in the form of Biochar is $250/year at the tax rate of $15/ton. (The LDN Fund offers $150/year based on $10/ton of carbon emissions.)
- The Carbon Tax Fund for TREES: the fund can support 500 trees for a total cost of $200/year for a period of 25 years plus an initial $750:
- There will be 500 trees with a NPV of $0.50/tree: at the rate of $15/ton, the Net Present Value (NPV) is $200/year.
- Add $1.00/tree for reporting and auditing for 25 years (that’s a one-off total – not per year): $500 to be monitored by Living Water MicroFinance Inc. for 25 years.
This part of the fund will support each 1.5 acre farm that will have access to $150/year n the form of micro finance assistance complements of the Carbon Tax Fund. Each $150 will be recycled nine times for a total of $1,350.
This micro finance will be made available to women farmers and their families who need support before the orchards become productive after 18 months: they will maintain this agroforest farms by planting vegetable like yam in between the new tree seedlings. The micro finance loan will be due after the harvest.
The tree farm is supported by a Today’s Tall Tree Nursery managed by Living Water MicroFinance Inc. in order to reduce the cost of tree seedlings. The fruit and nut tree seedlings along with nitrogen fixing trees are supplied by Today’s Tall Tree Nursery.
The reporting and auditing of trees for 25 years at the rate of $1.00/tree will help finance a Today’s Tall Tree Nursery to service over 100 hectare (beginning with 50,000 tree seedlings). The estimated fixed cost is $80,000. This decentralized system is preferable to the present centralized nurseries that have costly transportation costs for very vulnerable tree seedlings.
This calculation does NOT include income streams from the fruit and nut produce, which are reserved for the women farmers and their families. Later, irrigation can be added for a remunerative 275% crop improvement.
There will be a stipulation that all biomass on the 1.5 acre farm will be converted to Biochar every year. Creating Biochar on a farm involves incentives: the women farmer and her family will receive $150 based on the carbon tax rate of $15/ton for a total of 34 tons/year of carbon sequestered.
Living Water MicroFinance Inc. will arrange partnerships with African landlords (who provide a long term lease) for woman farmers and their families.
A Full Scale Aquaponic Tree Nursery in Africa supported by:
- A Micro Hydro Electric System: no dams: HugENERGY.us
- An Irrigation System: NORTHydro.com
- A Rabbit and Fish Farm: AfriCAPITALISM.us
- An Agroforestry Intercrop System: LivingWaterIs.com
- The Charitable Arm: SunnyUp.net
- God’s Loveletters: Godloveletters.com
- Thunder of Justice: ThunderofJustice.com
- Deliverance Is: DeliveranceIs.com
Stage 1 Agricultural Mechanization of Africa
Stage 2 Today’s Tall Trees Nursery: Carbon Tax Fund
Stage 3 Micro Finance & Landlord Cooperatives
Stage 4 Irrigation in Remote Areas using kinetic energy from moving water.
Stage 5 Electricity Created in Remote Areas using moving water without the use of a dam.