Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gain weight with organic!

A few months ago I visited the Yasofman farmers group in the dry Yatta area in Kenya, on the road to Somalia. As customary we started the visit to the farmers by a meeting with selected leaders in their dark office in the trading centre, to get some information and be properly greeted before taking to the field. 
Joseph Manyala from the Yasofman group

Joseph Manyala, demonstrated the progress of the group with his own body. He proudly recounted that before they started their work in organic his weight was just 50 kg. Even for a slim Kenyan that is clearly not enough! But now, with the organic project he has gained 25 kg and thus has more or less the ideal weight for his stature. I found this a very direct and concrete measure of progress and the relevance of organic for food security.
The way it works is like this. With organic production there is more variety in the production and thus also in the diet of the farm families. The diversity caters for a more resilient system as well. Even if there is a spell of bad weather some crops will do better than others. Also, with organic production, crops can withstand drought better. Finally, if the farmer are also able to access a better market they can increase their income. And income is the strongest factor for food security in a farming system which is already integrated into markets. Income means ability to buy missing food, to invest in production, e.g. buying a cow, develop irrigation etc.  

The movie below is from three different organic groups in East Africa, of which the Yatta group is one. Watch it, seeing is believing.

The movie was made by the IFOAM OSEA project (for which I am the Project Leader). If you want more facts and details there are several interesting reports to download on the OSEA project web site. E.g. a study on productivity in organic farming concludes that: 
 “The limited literature available clearly points to significant yield increases when Organic Agriculture practices are used to improve low input conventional traditional agriculture in East Africa.”
And a consumer survey shows that:
“Once the respondents are exposed to the definition of organic, an overwhelming majority (93%) felt that indeed eating organic products is good and most of them also agreed that it would be very important to know whether what they consume is organic or not.”

Monday, October 14, 2013

Clean up the cloud

First I deleted a travel blog I kept during an epic bicycle trip from Sweden down to Turkey and back. Then I deleted most of my pictures in the Picasa files on the net. Then I closed down two domains and their web sites, and cancelled two more cloud services. And deleted a lot of files in the two services I still use.  If I knew how I could delete my old facebook entries I would do that as well. I see no value whatsoever that they are kept more than a few weeks. Who looks at them anyway.

Why? Why do I do this. It is not primarily because I am afraid by NSA or other big brothers - well I am afraid of them but I think they will find out that I don't like them in any case. It is also not that I am afraid of getting used to "free services" which sooner or later will come at a price - which they clearly will.

There are two other reasons.
First. DON'T LITTER. We know we shouldn't spread all our rubbish in the place we live and we shouldn't throw it on the street, so why do we think it is fine to do it on the internet?
Second and most important DON'T WASTE. Even if many of these services are for free in the sense that you and I don't have to pay for them, they consume a lot of resources, and I mean A LOT

The Facebook server halls now built in Sweden will consume the same amount of energy as 16,000 private homes. In addition the halls need backup diesel generators; in case of a blackout, construction designs call for each building to have 14 backup diesel generators with a total output of 40 MW.  Read more on Facebook receives massive support for Swedish data centre
It is very hard to calculate the real energy use for the whole IT sector and the growing cloud, figures vary from a couple of percent up to ten. What is indisputable is that it is a sector with almost explosive growth and that its share of energy use is also growing very rapidly.

This might require some large-scale societal response. But as always we also have individual responsibility. Some chose to opt out altogether, others thinks that the internet is the best that happened the world since sliced bread. I tread the middle way of mild skepticism.
The least you and I can do is to empty the trash can
And we can sort out all those old photos and lousy videos on YouTube (I forgot them!). I am sure that half of the stuff in the cloud could be deleted NOW and we could close down a dozen coal powered plants in a blink.