Thursday, May 7, 2009

Economies of Small Scale in Agriculture: A lesson for Congo

I post this recent story as case study for sustainable development pertaining to South Africa. The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has decided to deal with food shortages and poverty by giving free 99 year leases on 10 million hectares of land to South African farmers to produce maize, soybeans, poultry and dairy farms. It raises serious questions such as:

• How many local people will be displaced in this process of giving land away to foreigners?

• What will be the environmental cost of destroying rain forest up to twice the size of Switzerland to make way for genetically modified maize, soybeans and poultry and cattle farms?

Here at Ezemvelo, natural wildlife habitats have been restored by removing cattle farms, and poultry and pig raising buildings in order to create a nature reserve over 10,000 hectares (Ezemvelo adjoins the private Telperion Nature Reserve).

Research at Ecology Action in the USA has shown that with GROW BIOINTENSIVE agriculture farmers can approximately double the output per unit area of land of conventional agriculture, and sometimes up to four times the yield. These biointensive food raising principles are based on a foundation of traditional forms of agriculture that are thousands of years old. Moreover, unlike with modern conventional agriculture, soil is not diminished in the process but is increased. The conclusions are clear: there are significant “economies of small scale” in food production.

The Government of Congo could serve it’s people far better by improving food production on currently farmed land with biointensive farming methods. These methods, combined with a better understanding of crop calorie efficiency of predominantly vegetarian diet versus a meat-based diet could enable up to half of the world’s present farmland to be returned to wild areas to preserve the plant and and animal biodiversity that is essential to promote balance in the global ecosystem.

There is no need to destroy more rain forest to feed the world.

Congo Republic Offers Huge Land Area to South African Farmers News 04/16/2009

The Republic of Congo has offered South African farmers 10 million hectares of farm land in an effort to increase the country's food security.

The area of land is twice the size of Switzerland and is to be used for growing maize and soy beans as well as poultry and dairy farming.

South Africa has one of the most developed agriculture sectors on the continent, and is Africa's top maize producer and No.3 wheat grower.

"They've given us 10 million hectares, and that's quite big when you consider that in South Africa we have about 6 million hectares of land that is arable," said Theo de Jager, deputy president of the farmers union Agriculture South Africa.

The deal, which is to be finalized next month, will be a 99-year, no cost lease.

Source: Reuters

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