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Africa's big Food and Fuel opportunity - January 2011 - Peter Bell

Three global macro shifts currently underway can enable rural African’s make the leap from a substance existence to an affluent standard of living. These 3 macro trends are as follows:

World Population Growth

1.    The shift of the world’s population from rural living to urban living now sees more people on earth living in cities than in rural environments for the first time in mankind’s history.

2.    The second trend is the movement from a poverty level of income to a middle class income level for hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

3.    The third trend is that the world’s population is estimated to grow by 3 billion by 2050.

As a result of growing world population and increasing meat consumption, the UN estimates that food demand will double by 2050. This growth in p
opulation and the movement of large swaths of the current population into the middle class will require huge increases in the amount of food produced.

Rising personal incomes will mean that a larger proportion of those people will be wealthy enough to eat meat on a regular basis. The movement into the middle class of huge numbers will require a change of type of foods produced to include more energy dense foods, like meat.

Increases in meat production and consumption will affect grain availability exponentially as it takes approximately 7kg of grain in feed to produce 1kg of beef using the existing, intensive production system.  China for example consumes less than 300kg of grain per person annually compared to 900kg of grain per person consumed in the USA. The number of Chinese wealthy enough to eat meat on a regular basis is forecast to double by 2020 and similar trends are visible in other emerging nations.

In recent decades the US alone supplied almost half of world grain exports and 6 countries - Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Thailand and the USA combined  supply 90% of grain exports.  Recent assessments of the global agricultural economy suggest a significant slowdown in the rate of growth in crop yields. This means that the majority of this change in output and increase in meat production will have to come from increasing the amount of land the world uses for agriculture. Currently the world dedicates by some estimates an area equivalent to the size of South America to raise crops and estimates range up to 40 percent of Earth's land for total agricultural output.

 CAFO Cows
Using existing agricultural practices to raise meat to feed this new demand would require a massive expansion of existing agricultural lands…. unfortunately there is just not that much new land available in the world for agriculture.   

In addition to the problems of existing meat production techniques that are grain and fossil fuel dependent, the current intensive animal production systems produce high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus wastes, plus concentrate these discharges of toxic materials around production sites.

The planet cannot sustain nitrogen run-off at existing rates and limited supplies of phosphorus from mainly US mines, restrict the potential for expanded supply.  

To meet the world’s changing dietary demand, plus meet the expandin
g population’s requirement for more food and at the same time shift the world to a sustainable, rotational, organic based system of production, the agriculture systems of the world will undergo dramatic change between now and 2050.

By taking advantage of this global macro change moment, poor, rural African farmers have the potential opportunity to solve some of the world’s food production problems and at the same time, uplift themselves into the middle class.

 

     
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