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Saturday, 14 February 2009

A memo to Minister Musokotwane (Guest Blog)

Dear Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane,

I would like to comment on the 2009 Budget, and it's relevance to the present global economic crises, otherwise known as The Second Great Depression. I think the budget is not doing anywhere near enough, does not address the country's economic problems in an incisive way, and is distracted by too many side issues, such as the development of tourist attractions, in a time when the western consumer has as good as disappeared and is not coming back for many years, maybe a decade. As such, the emphasis should be on securing the food supply and creating gainful alternative employment for the thousands who are being laid off.

Agriculture

The very first priority in this budget should be increasing food production and availability. I don't see anything which addresses this issue directly, beyond fiscal policy. The government must go far beyond simply handing out fertilizer. What is needed is comprehensive agrarian reform. What is also needed is a sense of urgency, because the present global crisis can easily deteriorate into famine - the signs are there already not only in Zambia, but Malawi, Zimbabwe and many other countries - if people are not returned to the land and at least can grow their own food. At the same time, it is obvious that, rather than be at the whim of foreign investors making extortionate demands by threatening to leave and take jobs with them, miners can return to farming when copper prices are low. Let unprofitable mines close and reopen them when times are better. Agriculture would be a great way to mitigate the shock of joblosses.

Also, the dependence on chemical fertilizer should be phased out. There are many organic fertilizers which can be made inside the country. For instance, Southern Province has a strong cattle sector. Cattle bones can be ground into bonemeal and provide an organic source of phosphorus (K). Blood can be collected, dried and ground into bloodmeal, a very effective source of nitrogen (N). But beyond that, the use of nitrogen fixing crops (legumes) before nitrogen using crops (maize) can drastically reduce the need for chemical fertilizer. At a later phase, organic farmers can grow fertilizer through worm castings and large worm bins, which are easy to produce. Worm castings are a very high quality organic fertilizer, which does not burn plant roots.

Organic agriculture is more labour intensive and at the same time requires fewer off-farm inputs, which reduces both need for foreign exchange, creates jobs and helps secure the food supply, all at the same time. Because organic agriculture also creates a thick layer of humus, it can mitigate the effect of flooding by allowing more water to soak into the soil, in effect making the soil perform the same function as large reservoirs do. This is also why flooding often follows deforestation, as forests can store water on higher ground, for longer periods of time.

The government should :

  • Upscale the present subsistence farmers into becoming small scale commercial farmers : This can be done by comprehensively reforming the way agriculture is done. I would like to see the creation of thousands of (approximately) 100 hectare, organic farms, which can be the backbone of agriculture as a profession for subsistence farmers, as well as go a long way in securing the food supply, while at the same time maximizing job creation and create cashflow into the rural areas, where most people still live.
  • Secure property rights for subsistence farmers : We always hear about some investor coming in and throwing 'squatters' off the land. Even though these 'squatters' may have lived and worked on that land for generations. How is a farmer supposed to invest in anything, when their land can be taken away from them at the whim of an investor, chief, politician or just a competitor? There should be a way to create title deeds for indigenous Zambians, which have a limited saleability, so the land does not simply become subject to speculation instead of farming. Also, there should be greater legal recognition of the right of usufruct by farmers in communal areas, something nearly as strong as a title deed. These are all things the government can do through parliament, whithout incurring much cost.
  • Create works projects : With only 3% of arable land under permanent irrigation, agriculture in Zambia depends on rainfall, making the month of November a crucial deadline for farmers, extension officers, etc. This can be mitigated by creating irrigation works that make water available throughout the year. Adding to this is the fact that only 20% of arable land is in use, and 70% of the population live on less than $1/day and/or are not formally employed, and the solution seems obvious. There are roads to be upgraded, and small scale irrigation works can both create jobs and create irrigation for farms, making year-around agriculture a possibility and doubling agricultural output that way. At the same time, the annual floods which have such a high cost connected to them in terms of lives and property lost, can be completely prevented by storing water on higher ground and using it for gravity based irrigation. All this is relatively low-tech, which means it can be implemented on a large scale with limited costs.

I would urge anyone in government to take a look at the following methods:

1) Permaculture Water Harvesting

This use of swales to harvest water on high ground and let it seep into the soil has many advantages. It is low tech, all that is required is to dig ditches that are level and on the contour of the landscape. This can be done by the National Service, traditional authorities, the Army, and miners themselves as they already are experts at earth moving to begin with. The advantages are obvious - storing water in the soil prevents evaporation, it prevents erosion, prevents flooding, and it makes water available over longer periods of time for agriculture and consumption.

Zambia has massive water resources, however, much of it goes to waste because of absence of irrigation works. All the water that flows into it's rivers and lakes could be made to move across the landscape at a much slower rate, making it available for agriculture and human consumption. I would say this is the core of agricultural development.

2) Keyline Designs

Keyline Designs uses the idea of evenly distributing water across the landscape as it's main organising principle, from digging swales on contour, to plowing on contour, which also gives water the greatest amount of time to soak into the soil.

Mines, windfall tax, and the economy

With all the job creation potential in infrastructure and agriculture, the purpose of the mining industry is to capitalize the Zambian economy and development and not to 'bring jobs', as a former president used to say. Whereas mining only employs 58,000 people, agriculture already employs over 1,000,000 people out of Zambia's 5,000,000 strong workforce.

  • Instead of borrowing, why not use profits from mining to spur development?
  • Or, why doesn't the government create stocks of copper or other metals, as support for the currency? The state could mine them at a cost only basis, and sell them when prices rise. I don't understand why only foreign companies should mine Zambia's resources.
  • Why doesn't the government farm out the operating of the mines to privately owned mine management companies, while maintaining ownership of them and the minerals. These mining companies could be compensated with a small percentage of profits (say upto 10%), so the government can use most of the profits to invest in the economy? The government could shut down unprofitable mines until prices rise, and re-employ miners in agriculture or road construction.
  • Why doesn't the government demand that all a foreign company's costs are spent inside the economy, by requiring the use of Zambian suppliers only? Many suppliers would have to be trained up, but the raising of production standards and technology transfer would have a direct impact on the Zambian economy, both by raising wages and by creating a Zambian manufacturing sector.
  • Alternatively the government could only court foreign companies in sectors with large overheads and low gross profits, so most of the turnover is actually spent in the economy. This would have a large multiplier effect on the economy, an effect that was missing from the Development Agreements. The key to economic growth and wealth retention is the re-investment of costs or profits (or both) inside the local or national economy. If reinvestment works for Warren Buffett, how could it be 'socialist' or un-capitalist? The least the government could do is prioritize the multiplier effect when attracting foreign investors. Because of the principle of reinvestment, I am generally against attracting FDI, but it can be done in a way that maximizes the impact on the Zambian economy.

Emergency Measures

However, to ensure food security in the short term, there are other things the government can do:

Revamp the NCZ to increase fertilizer production. This would lower the price of fertilizer by making more of it available through increased production instead of price manipulation.

Revamp the old farm cooperatives to increase extension services to farmers

  • Create rural roads to open up farms and areas of the country so crops can make it to market
  • Increase storage facilities of the FRA

In other words, increase the hard and soft infrastructure of agriculture in the short run, and professionalize subsistence farmers in the medium and long run.

Just to get the thought juices flowing, I would recommend the following popular books:

Making Your Small Farm Profitable, by Ron Macher (publisher of Small Farm Today)

Powernomics - The national plan empower Black America, by dr. Claud Anderson (former Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Commerce under Jimmy Carter).

Sincerely,
MrK / Guest Blogger
The above memo was sent by MrK to Minister Musokotwane following his request that Zambians respond on the Budget 2009 via email to him.

10 comments:

  1. “the signs are there already not only in Zambia, but Malawi, Zimbabwe and many other countries”

    You might think of removing Zimbabwe on the statistics based on global economic melt-down because the current problems in Zim are political and essentially set in after she turned from commercial-led farming to small scale farming. That is how they have caught up with us who think small scale farmers will produce enough to ensure food security. Well they (small-scale farmers) might do that but not in the next hundred years. Not with policies which just aim at generating a “feel-good-factor” and not economic competitiveness as well as sustainability.

    “Also, the dependence on chemical fertilizer should be phased out. There are many organic fertilizers which can be made inside the country. For instance, Southern Province has a strong cattle sector. Cattle bones can be ground into bonemeal and provide an organic source of phosphorus (K). Blood can be collected, dried and ground into bloodmeal, a very effective source of nitrogen (N)”

    Interesting because to my knowledge we do not have that much of slaughtering otherwise we would have been exporting a lot of beef. So where will these bones and blood come from to ensure that there is constant supply of bonemeal to all small scale farmers across Zambia? May be the alternative is to change the policy in the way we waste bones in the cemeteries. And about bloodmeal, may be we should include that from elephants since, presumably, by their size they could give us a lot of blood. In other words, I do not agree with you on bonemeal/bloodmeal theory because it is not sustainable, unless you mean the owners of cattle could be the ones to utilise the bonemeal and bloodmeal on their farms. But that in itself would not benefit Northerners.

    “Organic agriculture is more labour intensive and at the same time requires fewer off-farm inputs, which reduces both need for foreign exchange, creates jobs and helps secure the food supply, all at the same time”

    Since organic agriculture is labour intensive, how easy is it for it to be economically competitive? By you focussing on employment creation on farms, don’t you think that because it is labour intensive then it calls for technological interventions which means you may not need a lot of people employed on organic farms?

    “Secure property rights for subsistence farmers : We always hear about some investor coming in and throwing 'squatters' off the land. Even though these 'squatters' may have lived and worked on that land for generations. How is a farmer supposed to invest in anything, when their land can be taken away from them at the whim of an investor, chief, politician or just a competitor? There should be a way to create title deeds for indigenous Zambians, which have a limited saleability, so the land does not simply become subject to speculation instead of farming.”

    To me this sounds to be a sensational comment and probably trans-agriculture (trying to talk about agriculture but really not addressing the problem) because this is not anywhere near to being one of the reasons why our agriculture system is not performing well. Supposing the state, and not an investor, wanted to build a new highway and a railway line through that piece of land which has titles, should it decide not to do so because it is an organic farmer’s piece of land? I guess that farmer will just have to be compensated accordingly otherwise it will be cruel for the state not to do so. So I do not really see the connection between having titles and being agriculturally productive and maintaining competitiveness. In Zimbabwe for instance, didn’t the indigenous people grab farms from settle-commercial farmers? They did (and transferred titles I suppose) but they are failing to make use of them.

    However, I agree with you 150% on the following:
    “Emergency Measures

    However, to ensure food security in the short term, there are other things the government can do:

    Revamp the NCZ to increase fertilizer production. This would lower the price of fertilizer by making more of it available through increased production instead of price manipulation.

    Revamp the old farm cooperatives to increase extension services to farmers
    • Create rural roads to open up farms and areas of the country so crops can make it to market
    • Increase storage facilities of the FRA
    In other words, increase the hard and soft infrastructure of agriculture in the short run, and professionalize subsistence farmers in the medium and long run”

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  2. Cho,

    Thanks for posting this guest blog. :)

    Anonymous,

    You might think of removing Zimbabwe on the statistics based on global economic melt-down because the current problems in Zim are political and essentially set in after she turned from commercial-led farming to small scale farming.

    What happened in Zimbabwe has nothing to do with a switch in farming, and everything to do with the destruction of their currency through sanctions, specifically section 4.c of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 - sanctions, which were intended to destroy their currency.

    It has nothing to do with a few thousand tobacco farmers giving up growing cancer sticks.

    “Organic agriculture is more labour intensive and at the same time requires fewer off-farm inputs, which reduces both need for foreign exchange, creates jobs and helps secure the food supply, all at the same time”

    Since organic agriculture is labour intensive, how easy is it for it to be economically competitive? By you focussing on employment creation on farms, don’t you think that because it is labour intensive then it calls for technological interventions which means you may not need a lot of people employed on organic farms?


    Competitive with whom?

    This is the problem you supply siders always forget. Efficiency is not the final goal, profitability is. Along the line, you actually have to leave money in people (workers) pockets, or you have no market.

    As long as a business makes more money than it spends, it is a sound business. And if it needs legal protection from businesses which do not operate in such a manner, so be it.

    Look, all the sarcasm and 'problems' you present are hypothetical.

    So if you have a practical objection, please present it.

    Interesting because to my knowledge we do not have that much of slaughtering otherwise we would have been exporting a lot of beef.

    According to this statistic, Zambia produces 107,000 metric tonnes of meat.

    I don't know exactly what percentage of bodyweight of cattle is blood or bone, but I would guess that it is significant.

    This article about Mongolian cattle states the muscle:bone ration of Menggu cattle is 1:5.3. In other words, the bones weigh 5 times the meat produced.

    So if Zambia exports 107,000 metric tonnes of meat, it produces at least a multiple of that in bones. That would be a multiple of 107,000 tonnes of phosphorus (P) fertilizer. I haven't found the meat:blood ratio, but it would not be insignificant either.

    Not insignificant, I would say.

    For the existing use of bone as fertilizer, see:

    On the use of meat/bone meal as fertiliser - new fertiliser for organic farming uses P&S

    General description of bonemeal: answers.com.

    By the way, there are also 100% non-animal fertilizers, also known as vegan fertilizers:
    cottonseed meal
    soy meal

    On vegan farming:

    'Green manure' keeps these farmers happy
    Veganic farming takes root in U.S. by using only plants, no animal waste

    I think your real objection to organic fertilizers is that it does not have the whizz-bang of 'modernity', and 'progress' like chemicals and corporate agriculture.

    Am I wrong about that? Because there are drawbacks to both organic and chemical fertilizers, but I think the impact of chemical fertilizers on the soil is detrimental to the land itself, which is the greatest cost, both to farmers and the people in general, in the long run.

    Organic agriculture is sustainable, because it not only does not deplete the soil like chemically based agriculture, or cause runoff that contaminates the water supply (cleanup costs), it actually improves the soil, and keeps it available for agriculture for centuries to come - which should also weigh in on a cost-benefit analysis.

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  3. Mr K has big ideas for developing Zambia. The trouble is that they, or others like them, have all been tried before and have failed. As Dr. Musokotwane fully understands, it is not for governments to create wealth (which they cannot do) but to provide, so far as possible, a creative environment for wealth creation.

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  4. Murray,

    Mr K has big ideas for developing Zambia. The trouble is that they, or others like them, have all been tried before and have failed.

    The Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, Germans, Dutch, Belgians, French and Italians would disagree as to wether Social Democracy, or as I would like to call it, capitalism with safety nets, has 'failed'.

    As Dr. Musokotwane fully understands, it is not for governments to create wealth (which they cannot do)

    They create wealth all the time. They also can and do create jobs all the time (just to pre-empt that particular Republican talking point).

    Governments also jump in when the economy is in distress, which is what we have seen all over the globe, including capitalist country number one, the United States of America.

    Roosevelt stepped in with the creation of works projects, which helped alleviate the Great Depression, which itself was caused by laissez faire economics. Much the infrastructure created then is still in use, and it's economic value over the decades must be in the billions, if not hundreds of billions. Contrast that with the treatment of infrastructure by the neoliberal types.

    In Holland after WWII, there was a storm which killed thousands of people, and in response *the government* (not any for profit corporations) stepped in and created the Deltaworks, creating (yes, creating) tens of thousands of jobs for labourers and engineers, while at the same time making the country a more secure place to live and even do business in.

    Before you say, 'but the government did not create any jobs, it just redistributed tax revenues or created future inflation through the issuing of bonds', think about the benefit to the government and the country, by securing thousands of hectares of land for future commerce, and securing thousands of lives - all people who have been educated by the government. We're talking about saving literally billions of euros in opportunity cost.

    Or think of the measures taken during the Depression by Huey Long, the governor of the state of Louisiana, which put people back to work and kept people in their homes, years before the same happened in the rest of America. The infrastructure he had built is still in use today.

    So it has been tried and did not fail.

    but to provide, so far as possible, a creative environment for wealth creation.

    That is entirely dependent on context. Within the context of Zambia, which has a neocolonial economy, what does that mean, exactly? What is this environment that needs to nurtured, more than the economy itself?

    Are we supposed to keep exporting raw materials, while other economic sectors remain undeveloped? In which case, creating an environment for wealth creation would simply mean creating an environment for foreign capital and foreign corporations, but having as little linkage to the Zambian economy as possible, leaving 70% of the population living on less than $1,-/day.

    We really have tried that, and it really did fail.

    Sorry, but this is a typical, dogmatic, supply sider's answer. Earth to Murray, the world economy is collapsing under the weight of neoliberal economics.

    And we have been there before. Let me give you my analysis of how this present Second Great Depression came about.

    Back in 1980, the US economy came off a 9 year bear market (1965 - 1974, not coincidentally coinciding with the Vietnam War), and a Middle East oil crisis.

    When Ronald Reagan came to power, he declared that 'government is the problem'. He said, "The 9 worst words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'". He then systematically went about underfunding social programmes, but not military spending (hence the nickname 'President Ray-gun' for his support for the 'Star Wars' program).

    At the same time, he and his supply-sider buddies went about to reduce the American middle class' wages, by allowing corporate raiders to accumulate huge amounts of wealth, and undermine the tempering influence of the Unions on wages. As a result, all the Middle Class's wages were undermined - either because they were directly fired as result of corporate mergers and acquisitions, or because they kept their jobs, but they were now competing with a much greater number of the unemployed, which reduced their ability to maintain wages or get pay raises.

    You can see this supply side philosophy as a huge, shortsighted attempt to increase corporate bottom lines, at the expense of employees incomes, which the corporate side simply sees as 'costs'.

    There is a problem with that approach, one that we are now paying for. That problem is that wages are not only cost to corporations, but they at the same time represent demand in the wider economy. No wages, no demand for goods and services. Corporate profits are the supply or productive capital, while wages are the demand side of the equation.

    You can see supply side economics as a shortsighted attempt to massively favour Supply over Demand. The problem is that you not only need both, but that they need to be in balance in order to have a healthy economy.

    You cannot favour one side or the other without creating a massive imbalance in the economy.

    But there is another side to supply side economics. While they were underming demand by reducing unionisation in the workforce and allowing thousands of people to be laid off, they were also giving tax cuts specifically to the rich, under the motto 'It's your money'.

    The problem with tax cuts for the rich, is that a person with a $5 million company or income is not all of a sudden going to start a second company, especially if the economy is still not picking up. So what do they do with it? They misallocate their taxmoney, by finding the easiest way to allocate money, which are real estate and the stockmarket. This is why the 1920s, the 1980s, and the 2000s were all associated with bubbles in real estate and stocks. You give tax cuts to the rich, and you get a boom-bubble-crash-depression scenario in stocks and realestate.

    Not satisfied with that, they also benefit the corporate side by deregulation, conveniently forgetting that much of this regulation was put in place after a crash and/or depression, caused by these very same policies. For instance the Glass-Steagall act.

    It is this deregulation which creates the catalists (junk bonds, Savings & Loans, Adjustable Rate Mortgages) for the bubble to burst, but it is the underling distortion of supply and demand in favour of supply that is quietly doing the real damage. And that is what we see playing out today.

    Back to the early 1990s. After the corporate layoffs, and the Crash of 1987, the American consumer was not coming back (because they still didn't have their jobs back).

    So in 1992 the Federal Reserve, led by prominent supply sider Alan Greenspan, decided to get people back to spending by keeping interest rates artificially low, so people could pretend they had incomes again by taking out credit and going into debt. The poor maxed out their credit cards, and the rich bought second homes, or put a second mortgage on their homes so they could buy a new car.

    This is how the Federal Reserve plugged the gap, created by pro-corporate economics which left workers without incomes. Instead of rolling back these neoliberal policies as having failed, they tried to inflate the economy out of this clear imbalance between supply and demand by encouraging people to borrow, replacing salaries with credit. This is also why gold started to rise in 1992, even though the usual causes for a rise in gold (inflation) seemed absent. It was $280 an ounce back in 1992, today it is over $900 an ounce.

    Meanwhile, not satisfied with reducing unionisation, the supply siders tried another trick to crank up corporate profits by reducing labour costs - outsource entire factories to low wage countries. WOOOHOOO!!

    This meant several things - one, US workers incomes were even further undermined and two, what once was spent within the US economy as US workers wages, was now kept by the corporations as profits, and what they did spend in wages, was spent in Indonesia, India, China, etc. This has led to the phenomenon of many people working more than one job, just so they can stay in place. Where it was once enough to have the husband work and have a decent standard of living, it was now necessary to have the wife go out and work, just to pay the bills. This was another giant red flag that the demand side of the economy, wages, were being systematically eroded.

    In a normal business cycle, supply and demand move towards eachother to find an equilibrium. However, supply side economis so distorts the business cycle, that the distance between the two becomes huge, and as a result, what was once a moderate economic downturn becomes a recession, and what would have been a recession becomes a great depression.

    This is what we are witnessing today. And the only way out of it in the US, is to restore demand, by repealing deregulation, and returning the economy to production of real goods - in Zambia's case, food and other manufactured goods based on it's raw materials.

    We have seen the fallacy of favouring supply over demand, rather than seek growth while keeping both in balance. What is going on today, is a resetting of the market back to 1992 or even earlier levels, because this low interest rate bubble is unsustainable.

    We need to move beyond supply and demand, by allowing the government to create the infrastructure that everyone, including business, needs. Roads, bridges, farm blocks, irrigation, as well as universal education and healthcare. And we need to use whatever money from mining that we can.

    At this point, continuing to believe in supply side economics has become an act of faith, not an act of reason.

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  5. There is a difference between a government in a developed economy increasing spending to utilize underused existing productive capacity and a government in a developing economy substantially increasing spending to try to create wealth. In the latter case there is little unused existing productive capacity, so it will lead to inflation.

    Another factor is that countries using currencies that are in use world wide and which they are able to print, in other words dollars in America and Euros in Europe, are able to increase money supply to a larger extent without increasing inflation because goods can be imported from other countries using dollars and euros. Compare this with a currency with limited circulation and demand such as Kwachas, simply increasing the supply of Kwachas substantially would increase inflation because it could not be used to import goods at pre-existing conversion rates since there is a limited demand for the currency overseas.

    I agree with Murray, government should not create wealth, but produce a creative environment for wealth creation.

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  6. Organic farming has a tendency of producing lower yields resulting in higher prices of orgnically grown produce. So to even think that organic produce will replace conventional agro produce is at best a dream.

    Time

    Indeed, organic farming requires greater interaction between a farmer and his crop for observation, timely intervention and weed control for instance. It is inherently more labor intensive than chemical/mechanical agriculture so that, naturally a single farmer can produce more crop using industrial methods than he or she could by solely organic methods.

    Skill

    organic farming requires considerably more skill to farm organically. However, because professional farming of any sort naturally imparts a close and observant relationship to living things, the best organic farmers are converted agrichemical farmers.

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  7. General,

    Organic farming has a tendency of producing lower yields resulting in higher prices of orgnically grown produce. So to even think that organic produce will replace conventional agro produce is at best a dream.

    I don't know how one leaps from the statement that lower yields mean that therefore organic farming replacing chemically based farming is at best a dream.

    Lower yield per hectare is often put forward in support for chemical farming. However, there are actually considerations other than yield per hectare.

    1) Numbers of hectares in cultivation vs yield per hectare

    80% of Zambia's arable land is not under cultivation, and 97% of arable land is not under irrigation.

    Obviously, these represent a far greater potential for increasing food production than yield per hectare. Yield per hectare becomes an issue when capacity is being maxed out, not when capacity is low. When capacity is low, there is a far greater gain in productivity to be had by increasing the number of hectares under cultivation, than by trying to squeeze greater productivity out of the existing land under cultivation.

    2) Cost of inputs vs cost of labour

    Chemical agriculture requires far greater inputs - machinery and it's maintenance, bought or imported chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, just to counteract the unnatural situation created by monocropping and bare soil, which create vacuums nature keeps trying to fill with 'pest' species. Bare soil also increases evaporation, requiring increased irrigation to avoid damage to crops.

    Compare that to Organic and especially Natural Farming, where crop rotation, undersowing of nitrogen fixing plants practically eliminate the opportunities for pests to run out of control, soil to be depleted, or excess water to evaporate. This is why not only do chemical farmers make good organic farmers, but why chemical farmers try to return to organic farming at any opportunity they have. Lower inputs means lower costs and greater profits.

    In Zambia, where wages are so low and unemployment so high, you can actually make a cost-benefit analysis in favour of labour and against imported or commercially produced chemicals.

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  8. Time

    Indeed, organic farming requires greater interaction between a farmer and his crop for observation, timely intervention and weed control for instance. It is inherently more labor intensive than chemical/mechanical agriculture so that, naturally a single farmer can produce more crop using industrial methods than he or she could by solely organic methods.


    Actually I would disagree. There is not just one kind of organic farming. I agree that the farmer needs time and knowledge to start to know his field to a slightly greater extent than the chemical farmer, but that is not a bad thing. Mixed cropping and undersowing actually eliminate the need for weeding completely.

    Growing flowers and other plants that attract predator insects, letting chickens run free, even using lizards and similar species actually eliminate the need for most pest control naturally.

    In fact if you look into Natural Farming, it gives the farmer a lot more leasure time, because the intelligent use of plant and animal species start to take care of weed, pest and other issues for the farmer.

    Returning everything but the crop itself to the farm reduce the need for fertilizers. What fertilizer the farmer does need, he can profitably produce himself by raising livestock - chickens, goats, worms (worm bins), etc.

    Skill

    organic farming requires considerably more skill to farm organically. However, because professional farming of any sort naturally imparts a close and observant relationship to living things, the best organic farmers are converted agrichemical farmers.


    I would sort of agree. However, it is cheaper to gain that skill than it is to have to keep buying inputs.

    Soil Quality

    Organic farming improves soil quality, where chemical farming depletes it. By not killing soil life with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, excess fertilizer (NPK), and by returning for instance straw, stalks, and leaves from corn, wheat or rice to the soil, there is very little need for added fertilizer.

    Organic farming depends on recycling nutrients on a continuous basis, where chemical farming is about taking nutrients out of the soil, and then having to make up for that by adding fertilizers. In the end, this depletes the soil, where organic farming builds soil for future generations to use.

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  9. Food Quality

    If you have ever eaten purely chemically grown vegetables from hydroponics (where food is grown only in water and chemicals), you know the effect of not using soil, let alone organic soil, on the quality of the end product. They look like tomatos, but they have no taste, and you know something is missing. That 'something' is all the minerals and hormones produces by interaction of soil life, nematodes, earth worms, rocks, etc. on the final product.

    Properly grown organic or natural food tastes better, is much healthier, and and in the end cheaper to produce.

    If you can, please get hold of a used copy of Natural Farming, by Masanobu Fukuoka (I think it is almost out of print).

    National Security

    If every farm is a small selfcontained unit, not at the mercy of international fluctuations in the price of chemicals, the exchange rate, and fuel; and able to produce for the local market no matter what happens in the capital, or elsewhere, there is a huge influence on social stability and economic security that comes from that. No more risk of famine, no more external shocks to food production. Even storms and floods have less of an impact on a balanced organic field of crops.

    That adds an economic value all of it's own.

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  10. Bio-intensive farming:

    A Simple Solution

    The Plowboy Interview: Masanobu Fukuoka
    Mother Earth News, Issue #76 - July/August 1982
    by Larry Korn

    ReplyDelete

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