Archive for 25/04/2014

One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

ID-10083575 In Africa over 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24, the youngest population in the world. This age group according to the African Economic Outlooks is expected to double in number by 2045. Low profitability, poor security of land tenure, and high risks are just some of the reasons Africa’s youth are leaving rural areas to seek jobs in cities, a migration that could see Africa with a shortage of farmers in the future. Given that agriculture is one of the continent’s biggest economic sectors, generating broad economic development and providing much of the population with food, this poses a serious threat to the future of farming and to meeting the demands of a rapidly growing urban population. Growing youth unemployment, ageing farmers and declining crop yields under traditional farming systems mean engaging youth in agriculture should be a priority.

Recent articles highlight this key challenge and suggest…

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One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

ID-10064167“For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.” Xenophanes, 580 B.C. You could, in reading this quote, be mistaken in thinking that the soil is a regenerating, renewable resource. Soil is formed from slowly decomposing rocks, sediment and organic matter. This process is so slow in fact that it takes 2,000 years to build 10cm of topsoil, such an unhurried rate of growth that soil should be thought of as finite, non-renewable and a resource that needs to be protected.

Healthy soils provide a variety of ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, water regulation, flood protection, habitats for biodiversity and food production. For approximately 1 to 1.5 billion people in the world land degradation is reducing some of these services, negatively impacting their quality of life and livelihoods.

So far we haven’t been doing a very good job of protecting the soil. We overuse and…

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My wife and I spent a few days in Devon recently, visiting my Mother – in – Law. We had superb weather – unusual on the edge of Dartmoor – so were able to get out and about to see some beautiful places. I’ll feature a few of the great gardens we saw over the next few weeks, but almost our first outing was to a famous Dartmoor nature reserve and ancient copse, called ‘Wistman’s Wood’. Some of the trees are at least 400 years old – gnarled and almost dwarf oaks – and I managed to get some photographs to capture our afternoon visit in the sun. It’s such a mysterious and peaceful place I was moved (not been that for a while) to try my hand at some ‘poetry’ to accompany the pictures, so here goes….

‘In Wistman’s Wood

In Wistman’s Wood
A tumbled dwarf in valley ‘scape,
Rising with a greying ghostly hue.
Ancient Oaks clinging to life, entombed in rocks.
All engulfed in mossy fernery and silver beards,
Branch and trunk home to more lowly life,
In Wistman’s Wood.

In Wistman’s Wood
Strong sun casts a net of shade
Not yet filled by new young leaves.
And what of night or winter time?
Moonlight, mist and chattering cold-
Apt setting for moorland fairy tales,
In Wistman’s Wood.

In Wistman’s Wood
Sounds gentle on a spring day;
Rushing of the young Dart and
Bathed by the soft breeze,
Cut with children’s shout and ‘copter whirr.
Lone sheep a munching on meagre growth,
In Wistman’s Wood.

In Wistman’s Wood
Hear still and little life;
See nature stretched;
Smell moorland peaty damp;
Touch stone and twisted, mossy wood.
Taste sweet water
In Wistman’s Wood’

And here is a series of photos just in case that was all a bit too vague…


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