What happens when there is no longer arable land to plant on or livestock to rear because of all the harmful agricultural practices that have been practiced over the years? We experience pollution, land degradation, food shortages, and devastating climate change.
Sadly, that’s where we are headed if we don’t nip some of those practices in the bud.
Presently, earth has lost about ⅓ of its arable land in the last 40 years. Erosion is one of the leading causes of this and there are some harmful farm practices which result in erosion. As global food demand soars, we need to make sure some of those practices are minimized, if not eradicated completely.
1. Use of Harmful Pesticides:
In agriculture, farmers use pesticides to control pest and disease carriers which could be harmful to crop and animal production. The pesticides come in forms of herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides. However, pesticides are usually poisonous and sometimes, they end up being harmful to unintended targets.
For instance, neonicotinoids are agricultural insecticides which affect the central nervous system of insects. While they’re efficient in wiping out unwanted insects, they’re considered a huge threat to honey bees.
Keith Delaplane, a professor of entomology and director of the Honey Bee Program at the University of Georgia says that neonicotinoids are one of the most serious causes of negative pressure on pollinators.
There are also other harmful pesticides such as Metam Sodium and Telone II. Although these are some of the most widely used compounds in America, they are considered dangerous to not just animals, but to humans.
Metam Sodium is an organosulfur compound which is used as a pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide, while Telone II is a liquid soil fumigant, used to control plant parasitic nematodes in the soil.
Metam Sodium can be toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that the fumes released from Telone II can cause cancer when inhaled over long periods.
There are some organic alternatives to using pesticides to control pests on the farm. Some of the good farming practices to replace the harmful ones are; interplanting, strip cutting, reproductive controls, and quarantines. Studies also suggest that botanic soil amendments with weeds could help fight against nematodes.
2. Slash and Burn Agriculture:
Sometimes, when farmers have to clear farmland in preparation for planting, they do so by setting fire to the forests, weeds, and grasses. Slash and burn agriculture, also called fire-fallow cultivation, involves cutting and burning plants in a forest to pave way for farming.
Aside from the obvious environmental pollution and potential health hazards of this method of farm clearing, there are many other adverse effects. It alters the soil nutrient cycle and sometimes irreversibly breaks down some mineral constituents by excessive drying after burning. This greatly affects the quality of the soil.
It also exposes the top soil to one of the leading causes of arable land destruction; erosion. Slash and burn agriculture also produces harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen oxides, and other oxidants.
It could also lead to loss of reserves. FAO warns that indiscriminate bush burning and cutting of trees could lead to loss of forest reserves in communities.
One of the common alternatives to slash and burn agriculture is Inga Alley Cropping. This involves planting agricultural crops between rows of Inga trees. Inga is a nitrogen-fixing plant. When the trees develop, they are pruned at chest height and their branches are stripped of leaves and used as mulch.
The mulch fertilizes the soil, thus removing the need for chemical fertilizers and they use the larger branches for firewood, creating an alternative to cutting down trees. Inga trees regrow quickly to repeat the cycle of pruning and planting crops.
Overgrazing is eating up soil fertility – literally. It occurs when livestock continuously grazes on a particular land area for a long period of time, without giving the area enough recovery time. Some of the reasons for this are improper land use, poor livestock management, and many others.
As you can imagine, exposing a specific land area to intensive grazing will reduce fertility, soil organic matter, and productivity of that land. Erosion can also take place as a result of it. Overgrazing creates loss of habitat for wildlife or other livestock which feeds on grass.
One of the long term effects of overgrazing is food shortage. It destroys land fertility, which makes it difficult for planting to take place. It also makes it difficult for grazing livestock to feed and thus, we could lose both land and livestock to overgrazing.
Nonetheless, we can put certain practices in place to avoid overgrazing. Proper land assessment, maintaining proper pasture residuals, monitoring grass growth and creating a balance between livestock feeding habits and pasture could go a long way to control overgrazing.
Are we missing any harmful agricultural practices? Spread the word by letting us know in the comments section below.
Climate change report shines spotlight on Africa’s agriculture potential
It seems almost incongruous to talk about the opportunity that exists in ensuring the world’s food security by bolstering Africa’s agricultural output when the very pressing and public crisis of climate change could be its undoing.
Particularly in the run up to COP26 and the “reality check” that came with this week’s release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Six Assessment Report, it is clear the entire African continent is “highly exposed” to climate extremes, at a relatively “high level of vulnerability”.
With over two thirds of Africans deriving their livelihood off agriculture, climate change-led crises like droughts, floods and cyclones continue to threaten the continent’s economic growth, employment, and food security. And yet, ensuring Africa’s agricultural resilience would not just help Africa. It’s essential for ensuring global food security.
What’s more, these climate-led natural disasters have the greatest and most disproportionate impact on small- to medium-scale farmers, comprising as much as 80% of Africa’s agricultural output, from maize and wheat to rice, cassava, and sorghum.
“The UN Report confirmed that climate change is intensifying the water cycle and affecting rainfall patterns, bringing more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions,” says Malvern Chirume, African Risk Capacity Limited Chief Underwriting Officer.
“These African farmers are the heart of the continent’s agriculture and are at the mercy of climate change events completely out of their control,” Chirume adds.
Established in 2014, ARC Limited provides natural disaster insurance relief to African countries which have joined the sovereign risk pool.
Along with its partners, which provide premium support, the insurer has already paid over US$65m to seven African countries to provide drought relief and address the economic concerns these countries’ most vulnerable citizens face.
Responding to the climate crisis
Traditionally, countries have responded to climate change-led disasters such as droughts or floods by raising funds for emergency relief. This approach is time-consuming and inefficient.
“It takes far too long for African countries to mobilise the immediate resources they need for relief efforts, to save lives and livelihoods. Our role at ARC Limited is to work with countries to prepare them for the risk exposure they have and how to respond swiftly to climate-related food security emergencies. This includes helping them to establish a rainy-day fund which pays out swiftly, before the problem has become worse, and more funding is needed.”
The ARC Limited model, built on parametric insurance (pre-specified pay-outs based upon a trigger event), has been highly successful, says Chirume.
“We have to date paid out close to $65 million dollars in claims. When one considers that every dollar in insurance pay-outs saves US$4 dollars, this makes the cumulative economic impact around US$240 million. With those funds, we’ve helped more than 5.9 million people whose livelihoods have been affected by climate change impacts,” Chirume explains.
While parametric insurance against natural disasters has enormous potential for the agricultural sector, it has a further economic impact. Because agriculture makes up such a significant portion of the continent’s economy, a downturn caused by a climate shock will echo through the broader economy of any nation affected.
This can bring an economic downturn, a lack of funding for key infrastructure and services at government level, and a loss of jobs as farmers struggle to recover. There is also evidence of migration away from areas experiencing drought, which can have a long-term impact on the regional economy.
Organisations such as ARC Limited have an essential role to play in this way in protecting agricultural value chains and the economies of and employment in Africa. “Our role is to help mitigate and manage the risk, building resilience and ensuring the African country is able to bounce back sooner after a natural disaster,” says Chirume.
With the negative impacts of climate change increasing and their potential to devastate the agricultural sectors and food security of African countries, it has become more important than ever to put sustainability at the heart of interventions.
“Creating an environment that limits the impact of climate shocks on the agricultural sector is about more than just securing economic transformation. At the heart of this investment is the need to ensure basic food security for the continent and the world,” says Chirume.
In its Sustainable Development Series, the World Bank says the African continent could play a leading role in ensuring food security for the earth’s estimated 9 billion people by 2050.
According to McKinsey, Africa’s full agricultural potential remains untapped. It determines that Africa could produce two to three times more cereals and grains, which would add 20% more cereals and grains to the world’s current output of 2.6 billion tons.
Given Africa’s productive potential, the continent could be a key contributor to feeding the world in the future. But to fully realise that potential will require overcoming many obstacles, including how it deals with the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security.
“We need broader collaboration between private and public sector to solve the climate change disaster response problem our continent faces. The problem is so big, that all of us have a role to play,” says Lesley Ndlovu, ARC Limited CEO.
With the support of the United Kingdom and German Government, ARC Limited has been equipped to help the member states of the African Union reduce the risk of loss and damage caused by extreme weather events affecting African populations.
“But there’s so much more work that still needs to go into reaching as many people as possible to help build the resilience of local communities and ensure they have the means to bounce back whenever they are impacted by a natural disaster,” concludes Ndlovu.
World Poultry Foundation (WPF) launches video series to help Africa’s farmers improve poultry production
With poultry increasingly a focus for emerging farmers across Africa, the US-based World Poultry Foundation (WPF) has released a series of training videos to help farmers reduce waste and optimise profits.
Feed accounts for up to 70% of the costs of raising poultry, so proper feeding techniques enable farmers to reduce waste, cut production costs and raise healthier birds, says WPF. Water is equally important in poultry farming, with proper water management crucial for healthy birds.
WPF’s training series, with four videos dedicated to production, explains how farmers should store feed, proper feeding of poultry and how to prepare and manage zones of comfort to encourage proper brooding for chicks. The videos also explain the importance of litter in helping to prevent common diseases to improve production and returns.
World Poultry Foundation CEO Randall Ennis says the video series has been developed to address the most common challenges faced by emerging poultry farmers across Africa. “By applying best practice poultry farming methods, farmers can significantly increase their production, their incomes, and the nutrition available to their families and communities,” he says.
The training videos, as well as free checklists and worksheets, are available here
AFEX Raises $50Million for Agri-SMEs, Africa’s First Warehouse Receipt Backed Commercial Paper
AFEX CEO, Ayodeji Balogun (Source: AFEX)
AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited (AFEX), Nigeria’s leading private commodities exchange company, has announced the first Warehouse Receipt Backed Commercial Paper in Africa, with tech-enabled operations and a 24-hour fast cash turnaround for borrowers. With over $50 million raised for Agri-SMEs, this bridges the funding gap between lenders and borrowers in the Nigerian agricultural sector with a commodity-backed instrument – for the first time.
The AFEX financing deal will help eradicate the high cost of procurement incurred by processors by deploying a discounted value of a warehouse receipt distributed among five leading players in the Food and Beverage, Trading Poultry and Animal Feed segments in Nigeria. The receiving companies are top 10 players in their respective segments. They have now been enabled access to a tool for managing price volatility, enabling up to 30% direct savings on prices.
“With our vision to reach a cumulative total of over $5 Billion in investment to the agriculture sector over the next five years, this financing deal is right on track to achieve this goal’’ – said Ayodeji Balogun, CEO, AFEX Commodities Exchange. “As we move towards building a derivatives market in Africa, we want to be able to reduce exposure to price risk for stakeholders, by enabling them to hedge their positions and trade in commodity derivatives.”
The warehouse receipts, which can then be transferred from commodities to a financial asset and listed under the borrower’s portfolio on the AFEX trading platform, will create a sustainable funding structure and address underfunding in the Nigerian agricultural sector. With the warehouse receipt system linked to financiers, the system allows financiers value and marks the commodities’ price to market on a real-time basis.
“Our mission is to provide low-risk working capital facility for stakeholders in the Agro sector, in a way that is transparent and has a very high viable investment return’’ – said Akinyinka Akintunde, VP Financial Markets at AFEX. “As a licensed commodities exchange and warehouse receipt system operator, we deploy a warehouse receipt system and collateral management infrastructure to increase market confidence for both lenders and borrower.”With AFEX’s goal to support Africa’s food security while promoting a fair exchange of value among players in commodity value chains, this deal’s social impact is delivered through market access for farmers and reduced post-harvest losses. AFEX continues to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 5 and 8; no
poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, decent work, and economic growth.
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