Africa and Peak Food

July 23, 2009 · Filed Under Uncategorized · 2 Comments 

Yesterday at the Driffield show, I had the good fortune to meet David A. Murden, the founder of And Albert Foundation. Looking at the website,, it appears they are doing a wonderful job with their policy of helping with the sustainable development of village life through projects such as the provision of clean water, the planting of fruit trees, and the ethical trading of craft products.In our conversation, it was clear that David is against aid that just results in the transfer of unsuitable and unsustainable western methods.

In my opinion, it is madness to encourage Africans to adopt our modern farming which is no more than a way to convert cheap fossil energy in to food energy at the rate of about 10 calories of fossil energy to deliver each calorie of food energy. That’s clearly unsustainable for us all and in any case, unaffordable for most Africans,

Instead, it would surely be better to spend money on research in to more efficient methods of collecting abundant solar energy , mainly by photosynthesis, and using it for food , fibre and fuel. Villagers could then be taught about the most suitable crop rotations using legumes to fix nitrogen, the recycling of soil nutrients and the safe storage of harvested crops.

Most of the rest of the world has followed us in the West to become dependent for our food on the undependable and finite resources of oil and gas. When a fuel supply crisis inevitably hits, Africa would then survive better than the rest of us.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-12

July 12, 2009 · Filed Under news · 1 Comment 

Investors know about Peak Food

July 11, 2009 · Filed Under loss of crop land · Comment 

In the last few years investors have poured millions of dollars in to farmland, farming businesses, commodities and companies supplying farmers with machinery, fertiliser, seeds and pesticides.

In Fortune magazine, Shonda Warner explains why she launched an investment firm to buy farmland.

She says “…..The simplest metric to consider is the amount of farmland per person worldwide: In 1960 there were 1.1 acres of arable farmland per capita globally, according to data from the United Nations, By 2000 that had fallen to 0.6 acres. And over the next 40 years the population of the world is projected to grow from 6 billion to 9 billion.

“Land is scarce and will become scarcer as the world has to double food output to satisfy increased demand by 2050. With limited land and water resources, this will automatically lead to increased valuations of productive land. And it goes hand in hand with water. Water scarcity will probably increase even more than land.”

The article goes on to say that the biggest investors in farmland over the next decade will probably be sovereign wealth funds and governments of crop-starved countries eager to secure food supplies for their rapidly growing populations. In 2008, China announced a $5 billion plan to develop agricultural assets in Africa. That’s just the start. Given that it has 20% of the world’s population but only 7% of its arable land and 7% of its freshwater resources, China has no choice but to look beyond it’s borders. And the global recession has hardly slowed it’s appetite for crops. In the first four months of 2009, China imported a record 13.0 million tons of soybeans.

Energy and Fertilizer from Waste

July 7, 2009 · Filed Under solutions · Comment 

When the world realises that there is a limit to the natural resources that the earth can provide, we will have to stop wasting energy and nutrient rich “waste” such as animal manure and waste food.

In Europe, anaerobic digestion is widely used to deal with these materials and is now catching on here in the UK.

At Biogen Greenfinch, managing director Andrew Needham uses 12,000 tonnes of pig slurry plus 30,000 tonnes of food waste from Waitrose, Sainsbury and local authorities each year to generate renewable energy with the digestate being used as a fertiliser across 600 acres of arable land.

On Owen Yeatman’s farm in North Devon, 8,000 tonnes of manure and 3,500 tonnes of maize every year goes in to his digester to power a 270KW generator. By using the digestate as a fertiliser, Mr Yeatman has stopped buying nitrogen fertiliser. He estimates that his digester unit will have paid for itself in 5 years.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-05

July 5, 2009 · Filed Under news · Comment