Africa's big Food and Fuel opportunity - January 2011 - Peter Bell
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:
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.
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.
a result of growing world population and increasing meat consumption,
the UN estimates that food demand will double by 2050. This growth in population and the movement of large swaths of the current population into the middle class will require huge increases in the amount of food produced.
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.
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.
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
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 expanding
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.