Agriculture

AGRICULTURE

Men from Africa come to Europe to learn farming. There are two snags with this. Women are the primary farmers and large areas of Europe, North America, and Asia are relatively easy to farm.

Rain in most of Africa occurs in inconvenient and potentially destructive ways. One sixth is too wet, fostering pests and disease. Half is too dry and 8% too variable. The rain is often too hard, washing all the seeds and soil away. The peasant farmers, primarily women, are superbly skilled and professional at coping with the chaos of Africa. Our experts should possibly learn from them, not their men from us (Harrison 1987).

Rain and sunshine in the temperate zones is reasonably regular. Western methods still get things seriously wrong, with soil erosion in East Anglia, pollution from slurries, fertilisers and pesticides, and disasters like the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.

The reductionist scientific method leads to subjects being taught separately. This causes problems. Farming and forestry are taught separately with the result that the interactions are ignored, as were the solitary wave, and turbulence. As reductionist linear mathematics is unable to deal with nonlinearity, so is much reductionist theory unable to deal with the complexity of farming in Africa. There are more appropriate methods.

Permaculture is a means of growing that integrates agriculture, forestry and husbandry and achieves far higher yields than Western, scientific monocultures (Mollinson 1978).

Traditional methods prove the validity of the concept of ethno-science. In Sudan and Senegal, Acacia Senegal has been used for centuries in an organised twenty year rotation of crops. Millet is grown amongst the young trees for the first five years. Over the following fifteen years, controlled cutting of fodder and grazing is allowed. The trees are tapped at the same time for gum arabic, a valuable product used in medicines, sweets, soft drinks and printing. In the final years , the mature trees are felled for fuelwood and charcoal. The taproot is used for tool handles and weaving shuttles, the long surface roots provide strong fibre. Seedlings and millet are planted on the cleared land, and the rotation every generation starts again. (Harrison).

This is believed to be uneconomic according to Western economic theory.

Production is achieved through human and animal, rather than mechanical, power. Most agriculture is unproductive; human or animal manure may be used but chemical fertilisers and pesticides are unknown ….. For the masses, these conditions mean poverty (Foster 1973).

Hardin (1968) discusses the tragedy of the commons (Dobson 1991).

Several farmers are keeping goats on a piece of land. The more goats they keep, the wealthier they become. They put more goats on. Sustainability does not seem to be part of the equation.

In Brazil, 6.7% of all farms are larger than 120 hectares, yet these occupy 70% of the land. 65% of all farms are less than 20 hectares, yet these occupy 9.4% of the land. It has been estimated that 100 million hectares of the large farms is unproductive, yet 5 million landless peasants live in the countryside, and twice that number in city slums, in poverty (Ekins 1992).

The children of the wealthier farmers are now thought to be one of the main destroyers of the rainforest, not the landless peasants. The Amazon is seen as the last frontier, for young middle and upper class people to conquer and subdue.

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