Organic farm in Benin, an example for Africa


Porto-Novo – With his pilgrim’s staff and panama hat, Father Godfrey Nzamujo nips up and down the paths of Songhai, the organic farm he created nearly 30 years ago to fight poverty and rural migration in Africa.The small farm covered barely a hectare when it was set up in Porto Novo in 1985 but has since become a pilot project for the rest of the continent badly in need of new ideas to maximise yields.

The centre, in Benin’s capital now stretches over 24Ha and employs an army of workers and apprentices, who toil from sunrise to sunset growing fruit, vegetables and rice, as well as rearing fish, pigs, poultry.

“Nothing is wasted, everything is transformed” according to Nzamujo’s principle, with even chicken droppings turned into the bio-gas that powers the centre’s kitchens.

Big plans

Songhai in tiny Benin has big plans for Africa. It already has similar operations in Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone and wants to set up shop in 13 more west and central African countries.

Nzamujo’s main aim is to help Africans increase yields through simple techniques, without using pesticides or fertilisers, and while cutting production costs and protecting the environment.

The Nigeria-born priest, who was raised in California on the US west coast, said he was shocked by the appalling images of famine in Africa on television at the start of the 1980s.

He then left to discover the continent to see how he could put to good use his university training in agronomics, economics and information technology and fight against poverty on his own terms.

After visiting a number of countries, he ended up in Benin where the country’s then-Marxist government gave him a small plot.

“It was abandoned land, killed by chemical fertiliser and conventional agricultural practices. It didn’t work”. he told AFP.

“There were seven of us. We dug wells and watered with our own hands. And during the main dry season, this grey surface became green”, he recalled with a smile.

Increased yields

Nzamujo’s secret is in imitating nature, encouraging “good bacteria” present in the soil to maximise production without having to rely on chemicals.

Yields at Songhai speak for themselves: the farm produces seven tons of rice per hectare three times a year, up from one ton per hectare once a year at the beginning of the project.

“Songhai is facing up to the triple challenge of Africa today: poverty, environment and youth employment”, said Nzamujo proudly.

The cleric’s system centres on local production and distribution, creating economic activity to tackle poverty head on.At Songhai, jam simmers in large pots while chickens are roasted and soya oil, rice and fruit juice are packaged for sale in the centre’s shop or served at its restaurant.

Discarded parts of agricultural machinery are reused to create ingenious contraptions and used water is filtered using water hyacinths.

The centre also has an internet point and even a bank so that local people can avoid going into the city centre.

Youth employment is encouraged and some 400 farm apprentices, selected by competition and are trained every year. The 18-month course is entirely free.

Paul Okou is one of them. The 25-year-old from Parakou, northern Benin, would like to follow his parents into farming but is hoping to work in a more profitable way.

“My parents use traditional, archaic methods while at Songhai we learn the modern way, albeit makeshift”, he said.

“What we used to do in two days now we do in two hours.”

The apprentices are sent into villages where they apply what they have learned. Once in charge of a farm, they join the Songhai network and are checked regularly.

Songhai also welcomes interns who are paying for their own training.

They include Abua Eucharia Nchinor, a Nigerian in his 30s, and Kemajou Nathanael, a 39-year-old former salesman from Cameroon, who both want to open an organic farm in their respective countries.

According to Nzamujo, Songhai is not a cure-all for Africa’s problems but tackles their root causes.

“Imagine if all the young people who hang around big cities did their training here and we equip them. Imagine the productivity of Africa today”, he said.

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Organic: Buy the Numbers!



Off The Grid News » 5 Reasons EVERYONE Should Have a Garden » Print

Off The Grid News » 5 Reasons EVERYONE Should Have a Garden » Print.

5 Reasons EVERYONE Should Have a Garden

Posted By Samara On May 20, 2011 @ 5:00 pm In Food,Gardening | 2 Comments

But I don’t have a green thumb, there are gross worms, and I don’t like getting dirty anyway! I have heard so many reasons from people why they don’t have a garden. Here are five reasons that everyone should have one—even if you think your thumb is as black as dirt.  Namely:   Self-sufficiencyStress Relief,  Awareness,  Connection,  Health (Read more)

Restoring the world’s forests while feeding the poor | Nigel Sizer and Lars Laestadius | Environment |

Restoring the world’s forests while feeding the poor | Nigel Sizer and Lars Laestadius | Environment |

Restoring the world’s forests while feeding the poor

Trees are being cut down for farming, but a new study shows that a lot of land already cleared could be used instead

Cleared forest, Borneo

Cleared virgin forest on land given over to palm oil plantations in Borneo. Photograph: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images

“We are one shock away from a full-blown crisis,” stated Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, at a recent meeting of the bank and the IMF. He was referring to a critical increase in poverty, resulting from the escalating cost of food. The UN’s food price index has risen 37% since March 2010. Basic cereal prices are up 60% over this period. Wheat is up 63%, and maize 83%.

Roughly 1 million people slide into extreme poverty for each 1% rise in global food prices, the bank’s analysts calculate.

Availability of land for farming is a key factor in long-term food supply and prices. As the human population expands, the remaining forests, wetlands and other fragile ecosystems will come under greater threat as farmers push further into the frontiers of the Amazon, Borneo and the Congo, as well as intensifying production in North America, Europe and beyond. Feeding billions more and feeding the poor properly will be possible only if better use is made of available land.

About half the world’s forest has been cleared for farming or seriously damaged by logging, fires, drainage, pollution and other ills. But where forests once grew they can grow again.

A new analysis, carried out by the World Resources Institute, South Dakota State University, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, found that more than 1bn hectares of land where forest once stood is now degraded, and could be put to more productive uses. This is an area larger than the entire United States.

Some of this degraded and underused land could be used for food and tree crop production without cutting down another square inch of standing forest. In order to make this possible, governments and development agencies need to invest in more careful planning, incentives, investment and controls. Special care is needed to ensure that local communities that may be using parts of the land are respected and fully involved in decisions to intensify use or to restore forest.

The remainder of the 1bn hectares could be restored to forest and woodland. Once restored, it will also play a greater role in supporting nutrient cycling, reducing erosion, sequestering carbon,managing water and further supporting food production across the wider landscape downstream.

In Indonesia, the World Resources Institute, together with a local partner, Sekala, is putting these ideas to the test by working with the Indonesian government, communities and industry to shift new oil palm estates on to already cleared and burnt land instead of cutting species-rich rainforest. Indonesia has rapidly become the world’s largest producer of palm oil. The government plans to expand oil palm plantations by about a million hectares a year to meet surging global demand for vegetable oil and biofuel. Until now, it was assumed that most of this expansion would result in the clearing and burning of precious rainforest. With more careful mapping and analysis, a new vision has emerged. Top officials are proposing new plans to use degraded land for the expansion of plantations. Mapping has shown that there is more than enough such land potentially available to meet demand.

Brazilian groups are looking to the Indonesian experience as they struggle to find space for that country’s expanding beef, soya and sugar cane enterprises. Through a careful process of defining degraded land, mapping it, and consulting with existing landowners and local communities, plans and policies encourage a shift in future investment to this kind of land and away from the forests of the Amazon.

Development agencies, charities, national governments and business should transfer some of their attention to the opportunity of restoring already cleared and degraded land to more productive use. This needs to be done equitably and should be driven by the local communities, who have the most to gain from the long-term potential of these efforts to contribute to enhanced food production, ecosystem services and poverty reduction.

• Nigel Sizer is director of the World Resources Institute’s Global Forests Initiative, and Lars Laestadius is a senior associate of the WRI, both in Washington, DC.

Why Self-Sufficiency Should Replace Sustainability in the Environmental Movement | Health Freedom Alliance

Why Self-Sufficiency Should Replace Sustainability in the Environmental Movement | Health Freedom Alliance.

Home » Environment, Future of Food

Why Self-Sufficiency Should Replace Sustainability in the Environmental Movement

Submitted by Lois Rain on April 22, 2011 – 12:41 pm5 Comments

When effecting change, it becomes necessary to be that change first. Restrictive legislation on the masses has proven futile in the past and does not seem to benefit the people these actions promise to protect. One example is the phasing out of incandescent bulbs to usher in harmful CFL bulbs.

We place the oxygen mask on ourselves before we apply it to others during an airplane emergency. True sustainability and environmentalism happens at the individual level; one person, one group, one town at a time. The following are some reasons why the current sustainability moves are not helping the people we might think and some suggestions how people can promote real sustainability by first sustaining themselves. (Read more)

~Health Freedoms