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Carbon Credits Can Benefit African Farmers Thanks to New System

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The global carbon credit trading schemes emanating from the Kyoto Protocol are now creating a multi-billion dollar market – the European carbon market was worth €14.6 billion in 2006 – and represents one of the fastest growing business opportunities in the world. Being green has finally come of age. Yet all the benefits of this are largely bypassing Africa despite more than 70 percent of the continent’s inhabitants earning a living off the land.

The World Agroforestry Centre – whose mission is to advance the science and practice of agroforestry to transform the lives and landscapes of the rural poor in developing countries – in partnership with Michigan State University has developed a method using satellite imagery and infrared sensing that measures carbon storage in African farmland. They have completed a pilot programme in western Kenya and are ready to encourage poor farmers to plant trees as soon as the European Union allows carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol to be awarded for this kind of scheme. Further pilot projects will be rolled out in 2007 in partnership with CARE International and the WWF.

But European Union policies on carbon credits are holding back this significant opportunity to enhance African livelihoods. Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is at present not willing to recognize the new method of verifying carbon storage in farmland. The ETS is the largest multi-country, multi-sector greenhouse gas emission trading scheme in the world. The issue of carbon storage, or carbon “sinks” as they are known, is very controversial in the world of Kyoto agreement implementation. Non-government organizations that advocate for forests and indigenous people have worked hard to exclude the use of forestry credits to offset fossil fuel burning, arguing that forestry offsets to date have been for big monoculture plantations of fast-growing eucalyptus or pine trees. It is claimed they are net carbon emitters over their lifetimes and also cause additional environmental and social problems.

But the World Agroforestry Centre’s approach is very different from a monoculture plantation. Their scheme is to help rural Africans to integrate more trees into their agricultural production systems, with benefits besides storing carbon. They argue that the right kinds of trees can increase the productivity and resilience of the land. Trees provide food, fuel, fertilizer, and medicine – medicinal trees are the main source of medication for 80 percent of Africa’s population.

Louis Verchon, the lead scientist for climate change at the World Agroforestry Centre, believes that if the EU would put in place a new scheme to credit farmers who capture carbon in their land, “millions of dollars in carbon credits could begin flowing to the world’s rural poor.” At present, Verchon says two-thirds of the carbon credit business is being captured by Asian countries who are mostly offering industrial solutions. “Africa has something to offer on this – it can’t compete with the likes of South Korea on industrial solutions, but it has plenty of land.”

In order to make the scheme work, two things will need to be improved: Africa’s institutional weakness and the paucity of qualified carbon credit verifiers. A network of verifiers would be required to inspect farm sites and make the calculations required to allocate carbon credits to poor farmers. At present, there are no qualified African-born verifiers in Africa according to Verchon.

The WAC are working with WWF and CARE to build up NGO capacity and start demonstration projects to prove it can work – two pilot projects are already up and running in Kenya. They are also automating much of the process by building a web portal.

Verchon says the WAC “are in it for the long-haul and we will see this grow over the next ten years.”

Resources

  • More on emissions trading: Click here
  • Kenya’s Greenbelt Movement: Founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, it provides income and sustenance to millions of people in Kenya through the planting of trees.
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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Insects Can Help in Food Crisis

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

For many years it was a given that the world’s problem was not a lack of food, but that it was unfairly shared. But as the switch to biofuels gathers pace, farmland is being diverted away from growing food for people, to food for fuel. On top of this, growing prosperity in many countries in the South has boosted demand for better quality food, including grain-devouring meat diets – it takes 10 kilograms of grain to get one kilogram of meat from a cow. The crisis has deeply alarmed the UN’s World Food Programme and the World Bank. In the economic battle for food, the poor are the most vulnerable.

So-called agflation (agricultural inflation) has seen spiraling food prices, which in turn are causing food shortages, hunger and malnutrition around the world. For example, rice in Thailand has jumped from US $400 per 100 kilograms in January, to US $760. World grain stocks are at their lowest level in four decades.

But where can new sources of food be found? And what would be a more efficient use of the world’s resources to feed the growing population? One answer, surprisingly, is insects.

In February this year the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization held a conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand to devour the dietary value of insects as food and discuss how to harvest more of them. The working group of three dozen scientists from 15 countries probed the role of edible forest insects in food security. They explored insect protein as a contributor to better nutrition, the economics of collecting edible forest insects, methods of harvesting, processing and marketing edible forest insects, and ways of promoting insect eating with snacks, dishes, condiments — even recipes.

The range of insects that can be tapped for food is huge: beetles, ants, bees, crickets, silk worms, moths, termites, larvae, spiders, tarantulas and scorpions. More than 1,400 insect species are eaten in 90 countries in the South. Known as entomophagy, insect eating is a growing industry. Entrepreneurs in the South are making insects both palatable and marketable – and in turn profitable. These innovations are adding another income source for farmers and the poor, and supplying another weapon to the battle for global food security.

Insects have one big advantage as a food source: they are efficient converters of food into protein. Based on the weight of the food required to feed them, crickets are twice as efficient as pigs and broiler chicks, four times more efficient than sheep and six times more efficient than cows. They breed at a far faster rate, and they contain essential amino acids. They are seen as an ecologically friendly alternative to traditional animal rearing.

There are downsides to insects, however. In areas where there is heavy pesticide spraying on crops, insects can retain the pesticides in their bodies. Another key issue is sustainability: insect harvesting in some places has driven species to extinction. Then there is revulsion for some: in Western diets, there is an aversion to entomophagy, although most Westerners are happy to eat honey.

Revulsion at eating of insects is misguided. Most grains and preserved food products contain large quantities of insects or insect fragments mixed in. For example, rice usually contains rice weevil larvae – and they can be an important source of vitamins.

In Africa, 250 edible insects are eaten, from termites to grasshoppers, and have helped people through many food emergencies on the continent.

In South Africa — where edible insects are a multimillion dollar industry — Botswana and Zimbabwe, the local taste for mopane worms is being harvested for profits and nutrition. The worms, which inhabit mopane tress, require only three kilograms of feed (mopane leaves) to produce one kilogram of worms. At a rural factory in Limpopo province, South Africa, the community of Giyani is working to launch a wide range of products made from mopane worms – sustainably harvesting this larvae of the mopane emperor moth, gonimbrasia belina.

The Greater Giyani Natural Resources Development Programme in partnership with scientists at the University of Pretoria, is developing mopane worm products, including essential oils. The worms are usually par-boiled and then sun dried by locals. But at the Dzumeri Mopane Manufacturing Centre, the worms are processed and made ready for market. The local people are being trained in how to harvest the worms hygienically, and how to sort and grade the worms. The products will include deep-fried snacks and seasoning spices. It is critical the worms are harvested in a sustainable way, because in some parts of southern Africa, they have been driven to extinction.

Johnathon Mndawe, the programme manager, is organizing women and youth into co-ops to make viable commercial enterprises. “We expect the product to hit supermarket shelves in 2009,” said Morewane Mampuru, coordinator for the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, another partner.

One of the women, mother of four Mthavini Khosa, is excited: “For many years, we have been harvesting worms for food. We are excited because we will soon be doing it to make money.”

In Thailand, insect harvesting is a well-established business. Thais eat more than 150 insects, including crickets, silk worms and dung beetles. Canned crickets are regularly sold in supermarkets. Bugs are easily bought in the markets of Bangkok.

Online vendor Thailand Unique, based in Udon Thani, sells and markets a wide range of edible insects. They include edible scorpions, preserved giant water bugs, roasted grasshoppers, edible big crickets, bamboo worms, crushed giant bug paste, and introducing this year, Bug Snackz and Scorpion Thai Green Curry. There is even a ‘Bug Sample Pack’, containing a mix of seven edible insects and arachnids, all slow roasted for easy snacking.

Another important centre for insect harvesting is Latin America. In Venezuala, the Pemon Indians eat fire ants during the rainy season.

In Colombia, so-called “fatass ant” or “hormiga culona” is eaten like popcorn in movie theatres. Some believe it is a defence against cancer, or a natural aphrodisiac. Eating the ants or culona, has been happening right back to the ancient Guane Indians.

In Santander province, farmers are exporting the ants for sale, some being dipped in Belgian chocolate and sold as a luxury food in London’s Harrods and Fortnum and Mason department stores. The abundant ant population brings in US $11 a pound (kilogram conversion) for the farmers, a doubling in price since 2000.

Farmers in the artist colony of Barichara harvest the ants – though concerns have been raised that they have been over-harvesting the population. Restaurants in the area offer ant-based spreads for bread and an ant-flavored lamb sauce.

“It’s an age-old dilemma for the farmer — should I kill it or eat it?” said Andres Santamaria to CBS News, who was given a $40,000 grant from Santander’s government to develop an environmentally sustainable, export-oriented programme for breeding the ants.

In Tijuana, Mexico, ancient Aztec, pre-Colombian insect meals are on offer at this restaurant, joining a global trend. Cien Anios (“100 Years”), specialises in pre-Colombian, Aztec insect recipes. It is proof there is money in preparing insects for food. Typical dishes include garlicky ant eggs and cactus worms in butter.

Resources

  • A network for insect collectors: Website: www.insect.net
  • Sunrise Land Shrimp: A do-it-yourself guide to raising and harvesting insects for food, with important information on health and hygiene: Website: www.slshrimp.com
  • Edible Unique: An online supermarket of gourmet insect food products. Website: www.edibleunique.com

Published: April 2008

Tijuana‘s Cien Años was the original inspiration for this story. As one of the first stories to draw attention to the insects-for-food market, it contributed to a growing awareness of this exciting food source. I had a delicious all-insect meal there in 2002.
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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Camel Ice Cream Delivering Desert Dessert

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The global food crisis is forcing people around the world to think differently about how food is produced and what new products can boost the incomes of farmers. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for food production to increase 50 percent by 2030 just to meet rising demand – and right now there are 862 million people worldwide who are undernourished (FAO).

The world’s over 19.4 million camels (FAO, 2003) are now being tapped for their highly nutritious, healing and tasty milk. Camel milk is three times as rich in Vitamin C as cow’s milk. And it has several unique properties that differ from other milks, like cow and buffalo. It contains enzymes with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties to fight diseases. The milk also contains insulin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin), a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, something that is critical to the survival of diabetics.

With more and more areas of the world suffering from severe drought or desertification, camels’ renowned ability to go without a drink of water for up to three weeks makes them ideal animals. Camels continue to lactate milk even in a dehydrated state.

The current 5.4 million tonnes of camel milk produced every year isn’t enough to meet demand. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is confident, that with the right investment and innovation, camel milk has a potential market of a minimum 200 million people in the Arab world, and many millions more in Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Fresh camel milk fetches roughly US $1 dollar a litre on African markets. A world market worth US $10 billion is entirely within the realm of possibility, the FAO says.

“The potential is massive,” said FAO dairy and meat expert Anthony Bennett. “Milk is money.”

“No one is suggesting intensive camel dairy farming,” said Bennett. “But just with improved feed, husbandry and veterinary care, daily yields could rise to 20 litres (per camel).”

An Indian NGO – the Lokhit Pashu-Pala Sansthan (LPPS), which supports landless livestock owners and means “welfare organization for livestock keepers” in Hindi – is re-inventing the business model for camel herding in India (http://www.lpps.org/). The LPPS is a canny user of publicity and has created products that are eye-catching and instant conversation starters: camel ice cream and camel-dung paper.

Produced in the Indian state of Rajasthan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajasthan), the camel milk ice cream is being sold in shops and hotels. It comes in two flavours: kesar (saffron) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffron) and strawberry vanilla.

The camel is integral to the traditional way of life in Rajasthan and is the state’s signature animal. India once boasted the third-largest population of camels in the world: over 1 million.

But that number has fallen to just 400,000. Grazing areas once just for camels are now being used by agriculture and wildlife sanctuaries. The camel breeders, the Raika people, have experienced a serious decline in income from camel herding, and many have sold their camels for slaughter.

If there was to be a future for camel herding in Rajasthan, new products had to be developed and the whole business of camel herding re-branded.

The ice cream is part of a two-year project to help camel breeders develop new products using camel milk. Camels are seen as ideal animals to raise in the drought-afflicted climate of Rajasthan, and can produce four to six litres of milk a day.

‘With groundwater levels dropping rapidly, it spells the end of water-intensive agriculture. In this scenario, camel husbandry represents a perfect solution to the chronic water woes of the state,’ said Bagdi Ram Raika, president of the Rajasthan Pastoralist Development Association.

‘We would like to see the camel breeders of Rajasthan make use of their traditional assets and avail themselves of the new marketing opportunities. Our role is to support them in this,’ said Hanwant Singh, director of LPPS.

The highly inventive people at LPPS have also come up with paper made from camel dung. Handmade, the notebooks, diaries and greeting cards are all made from the dung paper. The camel’s dung contains undigested fibre, which makes an excellent material for making paper.

Published: April 2009

Resources

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021