Coach House Geography

Interesting Geography stuff for InterHigh

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 13 other followers

Archive for the ‘Food supply’ Category

Climate change will be good for Britain’s growers says Met Office but not for everyone else

Posted by Lindy on December 5, 2011

From an article by Louise Gray

05 Dec 2011

The report, which brings together for the first time climate change projections for 24 different countries, found that farmers in the UK, Germany and Canada could all benefit from global warming.  In these temperate climates, the increase in temperature will not kill plants but can make it easier to grow crops like wheat. The UK could benefit the most with an estimated 96 per cent of agricultural land becoming more suitable for crops by 2100.

However Australia, Spain and South Africa will all see their crop production fall as the plants die in the hotter climate. More than 90 per cent of the land in these countries will become less suitable for agriculture. The report estimated that the production of staple food crops will decrease in parts of Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India Russia, Turkey and the USA. A recent Oxfam have warned that food prices are already rising as a result of reduced crop yield around the world due to climate change and warned the problem could drive malnutrition in future.

The report also estimated the likelihood of water shortages and floods in different countries across the world. In the UK the number of households under ‘water stress’ will increase to almost a quarter of the population as the average temperature rises by up to 3C in the south. This means that by 2100 18 million people will be at risk of ‘not having enough water to meet their daily needs’.

Water stress will be worse in South and South East, where there is already a problem providing the growing population with enough water. This winter water companies in Anglia, South East Water and Severn Trent have declared themselves in drought and are asking consumers to limit water use. It is expected the South East and Midlands will face a hosepipe ban next summer following the driest 12 months on record in some areas.

At the other end of the scale the risk of costal and river flooding will also increase because of rising sea levels and more heavy bursts of rainfall. The Met Office estimated that there will be a “general increase in flood risk for the UK”, although this will not apply everywhere. The projections ranged from a three and a half times greater risk of flooding to a decrease in flooding by a fifth.

Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said that overall the impact of climate change could be extremely damaging for the UK and the world.

“This report highlights some of the very real dangers we face if we don’t limit emissions to combat the rise in global temperature. Life for millions of people could change forever, with water and food supplies being placed in jeopardy and homes and livelihoods under threat. This makes the challenge of reducing emissions even more urgent,” he said.

The report warned that if the world does not limit temperature rise to 2C by cutting carbon emissions then the majority of countries are projected to see an increase in river and coastal flooding, putting 49 million more people in danger by 2100.

The Lib Dem minister arrived at the United Nations talks in Durban yesterday (Monday) to try and persuade the rest of the world to sign up to ambitious carbon emissions, despite the fact that his own Government is being criticised for rowing back from climate change back home.

Mr Huhne wants the world to agree to work towards a legally binding deal by 2015 that would commit all countries to cutting emissions. But at the moment the US, China and India are refusing to sign up, raising fears that the talks could collapse.

“The UK wants a legally binding global agreement to keep the global temperature rise below 2C,” he said. “If this is achieved this study shows that some of the most significant impacts from climate change could be reduced significantly. By the end of the week we need to see progress to move towards this goal.”


Posted in Climate change, Food supply, Water, Weather | Leave a Comment »

Women helped to recover degraded land

Posted by Lindy on October 28, 2011


Preventing irreversible degradation should be a global fight tackled with local, national and regional solutions. One-third of the world’s population lives in drylands where land degradation is reducing food supplies, biodiversity, water quality and soil fertility. Many of the poorest and most food-insecure people live off these lands as small-scale farmers and herders. Because they have no fallback options if this land deteriorates, they are the worst hit by desertification.

Solutions exist to help communities living in harsh environments to improve their livelihoods. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) is working with local, national and international partners on initiatives that revitalise soils and conserve water, enabling communities to reap the health benefits and incomes from otherwise degraded or soon to become degraded lands.

The approach of bioreclamation of degraded lands shows how women’s groups could revitalise barren lands by using simple water and soil conservation techniques, such as zai pits (small holes enriched with compost), to plant drought-tolerant trees and crops, and applying small amounts of fertiliser to the plant root, a technique known as microdosing.

In west Africa, most women have no or few rights to agricultural land, so Icrisat has been working with local NGOs to help them form associations and gain access to communal village wasteland. Scientists showed the women how to plant a range of crops, nutritious trees and high-value vegetables using zai pits and demi lunes (semi-permanent planting basins) to harvest rainwater and concentrate nutrients for the plants.

Their work shows that degraded lands can be made productive by plants such as the hardy Pommes du Sahel, which have 10 times the vitamin C of ordinary apples and are rich in calcium, iron, and phosphorus, and Moringa trees, the leaves of which contain four times the vitamin A in carrots, four times the calcium and double the protein in milk and three times the potassium in bananas. Drought-tolerant pigeon pea was found to help soil fertility by fixing nitrogen in the soil. It also traps pests that would otherwise attack and damage the okra that the women plant in the zai pits, and gives harvests even when rainfall is scarce.

However, most crucially, we must look at how we can prevent soils becoming degraded in the first place. By involving farmers in sustainable water and soil management, Kothapalli, a village in Andhra Pradesh, India, which was previously below the poverty line due to recurrent drought, is now prosperous and serving as a model for other villages in Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa. Farmers have been shown how to carry out a healthcheck and feed it the nutrients that are missing so that the soil recovers before it is too late. By adding nutrients such as zinc and boron to exhausted soil, farmers are getting better and more nutritious harvests.

• William Dar is director general of the Icrisat in Andhra Pradesh, India

Posted in Appropriate technology, Food supply, Fragile environments, Sahel, Solution to problems | Leave a Comment »

FRW Malawi Farmers combat climate change with mulch

Posted by Lindy on October 20, 2011 Date Posted: October 17th, 2011

Anthony Kapesa has stopped tilling his land. But this farmer from Zombwe village in Malawi still expects a good harvest of maize this year. Faced with worsening dry spells, Mr. Kapesa now spreads moisture-preserving mulch over the surface of his untilled field. Lack of rainfall during the growing season is an increasing concern for farmers in Malawi. Many people believe this problem is due to climate change. In the past, Mr. Kapesa’s crops wilted whenever there was a dry spell. He hoed his fields every season. He made ridges on which he planted his maize. But he learned that soil loosened by tilling is more easily dried by the sun. Now, Mr. Kapesa uses wild grass to mulch his fields. He cuts the grass and leaves it to dry before spreading it. To plant his seeds, he pulls aside a little mulch, digs a small hole, drops in a seed, and buries it. Mulch protects the soil against the impact of raindrops. It allows rain to soak slowly into the ground. When the rains don’t come, the mulch keeps the soil cool and reduces the rate of moisture loss.

Mr. Kapesa points to a granary full of harvested maize. He says, “Since I started using this system, my crop no longer wilts … as a result, my yields have been more than what they used to be when I planted my crops on ridges.” Before he began mulching, Mr. Kapesa harvested 16 50-kilogram bags of maize. Now the same land produces 43 bags, nearly triple the yield.

Tilling the soil and making planting ridges are traditional farming techniques in Malawi. Chakalipa Kanyenda is program manager for Find Your Feet, a UK-based non-governmental organization. Find Your Feet teaches farmers how to adapt to the effects of climate change. According to Mr. Kanyenda, tilling and ridging can increase moisture loss from the soil. He says that mulching has successfully cushioned farmers against the increasingly erratic rainfall in Malawi. Farmers have eagerly adopted the practice.

Posted in Appropriate technology, Climate change, Food supply, Fragile environments, Solution to problems, Water | Leave a Comment »

What is Inga alley cropping?

Posted by Lindy on May 17, 2011

Alley cropping is the growing of crops between rows of trees.  Inga alley cropping consists of growing crops between rows of Inga trees.  This has been found to increase yields. It is sustainable as it enables the same plot to be cultivated over and over, thus eliminating the need for the continual burning of the rainforest to get new fertile plots  (slash and burn or shifting cultivation). Rainforest Saver is supporting Inga projects in Honduras and Cameroon.

The inga tree is native to many parts of Central and South America, but has been found to grow well in other parts of the world in the tropical rainforest belt.

The Inga is suitable because

  • it grows well on the acid soils of the tropical rainforest and former rainforest soils,
  •  is a leguminous tree that fixes nitrogen (converts nitrogen into a form usable by plants), has mycorrhizae  (special fungi that grow with its roots) that take up phosphorus allowing it to be recycled instead of being washed out from the soil,
  • grows fast,
  • has thick leaves that when left on the ground after pruning form a thick cover that protects both soil and roots from the sun and heavy rain,
  • branches out to a thick canopy so as to cut off light from the weeds below,
  • and  withstands careful pruning year after year.

For Inga alley cropping the trees are planted in rows (hedges) close together, with a gap, the alley, of say 4m between the rows.  When the trees have grown, usually in about two years, the canopies close over the alley and cut off the light and so smother the weeds.

The trees are then carefully pruned.  The larger branches are used for firewood.  The smaller branches and leaves are left on the ground in the alleys. These rot down into a good mulch (compost).  If any weeds haven’t been killed off by lack of light the mulch smothers them.

The farmer then pokes holes into the mulch and plants his crops into the holes. The crops grow, fed by the mulch. The crops feed on the lower layers while the latest prunings form a protective layer over the soil and roots, shielding them from both the hot sun and heavy rain.  This makes it possible for the roots of both the crops and the trees to stay to a considerable extent in the top layer of soil and the mulch, thus benefiting from the food in the mulch, and escaping soil pests and toxic minerals lower down. Pruning the Inga also makes its roots die back, thus reducing competition with the crops.

Research found that the main reason for the soil losing its fertility with slash and burn farming was that the rain was washing out phosphorus. The special fungi that grow with the Inga roots take up spare phosphorus, which then goes to the roots and into the tree. As the crops grow, so does the Inga.  When the crops are harvested the Inga is allowed to grow back.  Once more it closes the canopy, is pruned, and the cycle is repeated, time and again. When the tree is pruned the leaves fall on the ground and rot down and phosphorus is released for the crops.  The fungi again take up spare phosphorus.  Thus the cycle is repeated time and again. An initial application of rock phosphate has kept the system going for many years.

Not only do the farmers grow their basic crops of maize and beans, but also they now grow cash crops, such as valuable vanilla, with this system.  Previously this was not possible because when the plot was a good distance from the farmer’s home he would not have been able to guard it, or give the crops all the attention they might need.  But with the same plot being used continuously it can be near his home, thus allowing his family to  help to tend and guard it, even when there are young children.

Posted in Amazon, Appropriate technology, Food supply, Fragile environments, IGCSE, Solution to problems | 2 Comments »

Interesting! And fun

Posted by Lindy on March 9, 2011

Posted in Food supply, Fun stuff | Leave a Comment »

Bangladesh Diary – letter 1

Posted by Lindy on January 23, 2011

Bangladesh Diary will appear  regularly over the coming weeks. Why? Because it is one of the remaining case studies we need to look at – an example of a country under threat from climate change

The Economics of Global Warming

Key points:

  • Need to reduce climate change
  • Need to help poor countries cope
  • Worst impact is rising sea levels
  • Most likely impact food production – especially in poor countries where more people depend on production


2 million people live on less than $2 a day – these depend on food production. If half of them  lost half their income, it would only cost the world $365 billion a year – a mere 1% of world GDP – but to them disaster

Key points:

  • In HICs agriculture makes up 5% of GDP, and many HICs may benefit from climate change.
  • World incomes will rise as will population
  • Need for meat will rise with development
  • 1 calorie of meat uses 4 -10 calories of feed – this will lead to higher feed prices, so the rich may eat a little less
  • It will also lead to rice/wheat prices rising – a disaster for the poor.
  • Glacier melt may appear to be a problem, but that is not really the issue. The precipitation is still there, but coming as rain, it is not stored for the spring melt, but falls and runs off when the crops are not in the ground. This means the spring flood is not there for irrigation, a serious problem in SE Asia for example.
  • Climate change will be primarily a threat to the poor in poor countries.
  • Understanding this may make it hard to persuade the non-poor in the developed world to take the problem seriously.

Maybe we should not be saying this!

Hasina’s call

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is calling on the developed countries to make a carbon-free world. For her climate change is no distant threat but an ever-present reality.

Bangladesh is especially vulnerable to climate change because of geographic exposure,

  • low incomes, and
  • greater reliance on climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture.
  • Climate-related disasters such as floods, droughts, and tropical storms are increasing in Bangladesh along with frequent depression in the Bay of Bengal.
Future impacts

Sea level rise is of grave concern to a developing country like Bangladesh with a vast, low-lying, densely-populated deltaic coast. One metre sea-level rise will inundate about one-fifth area of Bangladesh which will displace 25-30 million people – equivalent ot half the UK population.

Posted in Bangladesh, Climate change, Food supply, Human geography, IGCSE | Leave a Comment »

Christmas and the global market

Posted by Lindy on December 16, 2010

Never thought I would borrow from the Sun newspaper!

Posted in Economic geography, Food supply, Fun stuff, IGCSE | Leave a Comment »

Solar Cookers – a Christmas present for Haiti

Posted by Lindy on November 24, 2010

One of the major issues in Haiti is deforestation and the consequent lack of fuel for an urban society not blessed with mains electric. Clean currents , a small green energy production company in Maryland, NE USA, was looking for a Christmas project. With only 18 workers, everyone had an input. They decided green cookers for Haiti would be a great contribution and looked to Solar Cookers International, a company they have worked with in the past, to supply the goods. 150-200 families will receive a surprise Christmas gift this year.

Posted in Appropriate technology, Food supply, Haiti, Hazards, IGCSE, Tectonics | Leave a Comment »

Banking on the Harvest

Posted by Lindy on October 26, 2010

October 21st, 2010 12:32

Every week during the pre-harvest season, poor farmers receive cereal as a credit. At the end of the season, farmers can pay back the loan with their own crops with 25 percent interest—an interest rate that the villagers picked on their own.

In the Maradi area in south central Niger, where 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the months before the harvest are called “the hunger season.” From mid-July to mid-September, food supplies are at their lowest and most families only eat one meal a day.

Since the 1960’s, the entire Sahel region which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan, has been experiencing increasingly extreme drought and hunger. The Maradi region has been hit especially hard and cereal harvests have dropped by nearly a third. Strained or empty grain reserves cause many families to sell tools, seeds, and livestock in order to raise money for food and the next planting. Farmers with nothing to sell are forced to work for others to earn an income. Some even leave their homes in search of work in other villages, leaving behind their wives and children to tend to the farm and home on their own.

But with the help of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), many women are taking local food security into their own hands. In response to the food crisis in the area in 2005 when severe locust attacks compounded with drought to put 3.5 million people in the Sahel at risk of starvation, IFAD’s Project for the Promotion of Local Initiative for Development in Aguie helped to create a new kind of bank, run entirely by women, that dispenses loans in the form of cereal instead of money.

Called the soudure bank, or pre-harvest bank, IFAD’s project is based on exchange. Every week during the pre-harvest season, poor farmers receive cereal as a credit. At the end of the season, farmers can pay back the loan with their own crops with 25 percent interest—an interest rate that the villagers picked on their own.

The banks have already made a huge difference. Today there are 168 soudure banks throughout Niger, managed by over 50,000 women and storing over 2,800 tons of millet—enough to feed 350,000 people for at least a month. During the 2008 global food price crisis, when 90 percent of the population living in Niger was at risk for starvation, villages with a soudure bank were able to sustain themselves through the harshest period of the year.

And the banks help to empower women who are otherwise left out of community-wide organizations and decision making. In their new roles as bank managers, with the support of their husbands, women can now play an integral role in improving local food security, diets, and livelihoods.

Posted in Appropriate technology, Food supply, Fragile environments, IGCSE, Sahel | Leave a Comment »

A new certification scheme for sustainable cattle farms

Posted by Lindy on October 3, 2010

Cattle production is one of the main drivers of deforestation

A new standard for cattle farms that promotes sustainable production to help mitigate deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and animal cruelty has been launched by the Rainforest Alliance and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “You can combine conservation and cattle production,” explains Oliver Bach, Rainforest Alliance standards and policy manager. “Tree cover, for example, not only provides habitats for birds and insects, but it is also good at reducing heat stress for cattle and providing leaves and fruits for fodder.”

Developed during a two-year public consultation process involving stakeholders from 34 countries, the standards will be applied to farms located in tropical regions of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. However, only farms where cattle have access to pasture will be eligible for the scheme. The ‘Standard for Sustainable Cattle Production Systems’ will enable farmers to use the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ guarantee to market beef, dairy and leather products. “The Rainforest Alliance seal of approval will inform consumers that these farms are conscious about the environment and climate change,” Bach adds.

In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Rainforest Alliance is promoting three practical actions: improving cattle’s diets, treating their manure and conserving trees to capture carbon dioxide. “Selecting different fodder species that are easier to digest will reduce methane emissions and conserve the soil in the long-term,” Bach explains. Integrated management systems, sustainable pasture management, labour welfare standards, animal welfare and carbon-footprint reduction are all part of the criteria for achieving Rainforest Alliance certification.

Posted in Development, Food supply, Fragile environments, Global warming, IGCSE, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »