Saturday, July 28, 2012

Could Africa Hold The Answer To US Drought Woes?



Could Africa Hold The Answer To US Drought Woes?

"The world's poorest continent could offer clues to how America's farmers might cope with a hotter, drier climate, leading agriculture experts say.

In the African Sahel -- the belt of semiarid savanna running from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea -- farmers have successfully fought back an expanding Sahara and turned once dry, uncultivated scrub into highly productive farmland.

The key to their success has been allowing trees to grow, where they once cut them down, and adopting agricultural techniques that took full advantage of scarce water resources (ClimateWire, March 12). Now experts say it is time for American farmers to recognize the benefits that trees can bring to even the most arid plots of land.

Integrating trees in farmland has transformed parts of Africa, and now some experts think it could also work in the United States. Photo courtesy of the World Resources Institute.

"Given the situation in the U.S. Corn Belt," said Chris Reij, a sustainable land management specialist at Free University Amsterdam who has worked in Africa since 1978, "these practices might help farmers in Kansas and Iowa to adapt to more extreme weather, help make their crops more resistant to drought."

The scale and mechanization of U.S. agricultural production could not be more different than in Africa. Yet the current year's drought highlights the American sector's vulnerability to extreme heat and lack of rain -- a situation not unlike the one that plagued the African Sahel for decades.

Reij points out that trees are scattered across pastures of the Sahel and are the result of natural regeneration. That wouldn't work in the United States, where farmers and ranchers tend to cultivate or graze their herds on vast, open pastures that have been denuded of trees for as long as 200 years.

Robert Winterbottom, director of the Ecosystem Services Initiative at the World Resources Institute, concurred.

"[The Corn Belt] wouldn't look like a Sahelian landscape," he said, "but it's the principles related to more sustainable and climate-smart agriculture that were applied in the Sahel rather than the specific techniques that could be of use in the U.S."

Instead, they both explained, trees could be planted in rows between crops or bordering fields, providing many of the same benefits found in Africa: improved soil and water quality and windbreaks that keep dry topsoil from going airborne."

Also see:

Assessing Agroforestry's Advantages



North Dakota windbreaks protect adjacent crops and aid in sequestering carbon.





Africa's Great Green Wall Of Trees Against Climate Change Begins

Will climate change ultimately for all of its detrimental effects teach humanity the lesson that as much as we think we are separate we truly are connected?



There is hope.

India: Poorest Monsoon Rains In Four Decades



Lack of Monsoon Rains Could Lead to Drought Declaration

"India's monsoon rains are unlikely to pick up enough to avert the possibility that ministers meeting next week may officially declare a drought, which could prompt the government to offer more support for farmers to ensure adequate food supplies.

Rains from June 1 up to the end of the planting month of July are likely to be 21-22 percent below average, Farm Secretary Ashish Bahuguna said on Friday, unchanged from the seasonal shortfall recorded up to July 25.

India's crucial June-September monsoon rains were 29 percent below average in the first month of the season, while the rains were about 15 percent below average so far in July.

The government raised the possibility of a drought for the first time on Thursday when Farm Minister Sharad Pawar said ministers would meet early next week to discuss the situation. Over half of India's farmlands are rain-fed.

The Meteorological Department (IMD) is likely to revise its official forecast of average rains early next week after the government said rainfalls were now expected to be below average at around 92 percent of usual levels for the entire June to September season.

Levels below 90 percent are officially viewed as "deficient" -- a drought in layman's terms.

The IMD's latest weekly outlook, issued on Friday, suggested rains would continue to be patchy next week, picking up in northern areas during the second half but decreasing in central and east India.

The four-month monsoon brings 75 percent of annual rainfall and half of that is usually delivered in June and July, when India's farmers plant most of their summer-sown crops.

The crisis for one of the world's largest consumers and producers of commodities including sugar, rice, cereals, oilseeds and pulses comes as global prices for cereals reach record highs on a major drought in the United States." End of excerpt.

Also:

In India's Farming Heartland, Barely A Raindrop Falls...

"Late last year, Ramdas Dadaso Shinde planted 2,000 pomegranate saplings, nurtured them with water from a tanker and waited for the monsoon to arrive in June, as it does almost every year in the western state of Maharashtra.

Until then, he spent 150,000 rupees ($2,700) of his savings to keep them watered. To raise more money, he started selling off his 15 cattle, one by one.

But instead of dense rains feeding a plentiful harvest, he is now facing the prospect of a drought—and financial ruin. Barely a drop of rain had fallen by mid-July in his village, and he has lost not only his savings and his cattle but also the trees he planted.

"It's good that I let the cattle go, as I would have nothing to feed them," he said one recent day, staring at the empty cow shed.

The plight of Mr. Shinde, 35 years old, is being played out across Maharashtra, a state of 112 million people that includes the financial and Bollywood capital of Mumbai, as well as farmlands that stretch from the Arabian Sea to the jungles of central India.

With monsoon rains late and lackluster, swaths of the nation's most fertile farmlands are parched, including areas in the south and west that grow sugarcane, corn and rice—and parts to the north that grow grain.

Out of 36 meteorological subdivisions across India, 21 have received below-normal rains; rainfall for the country as a whole is 22% below average. Rain has been most plentiful on the coasts and in the hills, away from the farming heartland."

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This was predicted would be the case as weather/rainfall patterns due to climate change became more erratic. Dare I say worldwide famine? When you look in total at the world and all of the places where crops have been decimated by extreme droughts and floods it is hard to comprehend what it will be like in even five years time. A look at the floods to follow.



However, in early July Assam and Bangladesh were hit by extreme floods displacing 2 million people and killing 1000 in total. This is the moniker of the climate changes we were warned about. Shifting rainfall patterns affecting farming heartlands that will see erratic rainfall with extreme rains and monsoons which instead of nourishing agriculture destroy it. A worldwide famine would kill billions of people and open the doors to diseases and conflict. The economic and social consequences are beyond a scale of comprehension if left unaddressed on a global scale.

The current drought in the US is now becoming so severe as to warrant worries of a global food crisis, which then only exacerbates the global water crisis. We can no longer afford to think this is going to just go away. We are continuing to exacerbate the conditions leading to the pushing of natural processes bringing on these more extreme droughts and flood events. This is truly the test of how much we not only love this planet but how much we care for each other.

Humanitarian Disaster in the Sahara

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