Israel’s Negev Desert is alive – with locusts.
NBC News: Huge swarms of the newly hatched critters have begun marching across the sand, devouring everything in their path.
With the help of high-tech irrigation methods, much of Israel’s desert has been transformed into lush farmland that supplies supermarkets across the country with fresh produce. But the swarm of locusts, which locals say is the worst infestation in decades, is threatening crops and farms.
Photo: Dead locusts lie under a bush after being sprayed with pesticide. (Dave Copeland / NBC News)
Central pivot irrigation is a form of overhead sprinkler irrigation consisting of several segments of pipe (usually galvanized steel or aluminum) joined together and supported by trusses, mounted on wheeled towers with sprinklers positioned along its length. The machine moves in a circular pattern and is fed with water from the pivot point at the center of the circle. The outside set of wheels sets the master pace for the rotation (typically once every three days). The inner sets of wheels are mounted at hubs between two segments and use angle sensors to detect when the bend at the joint exceeds a certain threshold, and thus, the wheels should be rotated to keep the segments aligned. Center pivots are typically less than 500 meters (1640 feet) in length (circle radius) with the most common size being the standard 1/4 mile (400 m) machine. To achieve uniform application, center pivots require an even emitter flow rate across the radius of the machine. Since the outer-most spans (or towers) travel farther in a given time frame than the inner most spans nozzle sizes are smallest at the inner spans and increase with distance from the pivot point.
Most center pivot systems now have drops hanging from a u-shaped pipe called a gooseneck attached at the top of the pipe with sprinkler heads that are positioned a few feet (at most) above the crop, thus limiting evaporative losses and wind drift. There are many different nozzle configurations available including static plate, moving plate and part circle. Pressure regulators are typically installed upstream of each nozzle to ensure each is operating at the correct design pressure. Drops can also be used with drag hoses or bubblers that deposit the water directly on the ground between crops. This type of system is known as LEPA (Low Energy Precision Application) and is often associated with the construction of small dams along the furrow length (termed furrow diking/dyking). Crops may be planted in straight rows or are sometimes planted in circles to conform to the travel of the center pivot.
The key to solving hunger in Africa starts with improving the soil. An overview of agricultural subsidies and the debate over whether the best approach is through inorganic fertilizers or greener, cheaper (but more difficult) solutions like no-till farming:
Fertilizer use in Africa is at the mercy of precarious politics. Although Rwanda’s fertilizer programme is growing, Malawi’s has started to fall apart as the country’s economy has collapsed and its international relations have deteriorated. Many of Malawi’s biggest donors, including the UK government’s Department for International Development, suspended budgetary support to the nation last year because of concerns about governance and the Malawian government’s refusal to devalue its currency as recommended by the International Monetary Fund.
Although the United Kingdom reinstated some funding to help transport fertilizer, many Malawians couldn’t purchase it this year. Changuya walked for an hour and a half to the depot in town, only to find that all the subsidized fertilizer was gone and she would not have been able to afford it anyway.
Water grabbing is not a new phenomenon and has much in common with earlier resource grabs and what has been called the “enclosures of the commons.” The new dimension of contemporary water grabbing is that the mechanisms for appropriating and converting water resources into private goods are much more advanced and increasingly globalised, subject to international laws on foreign investment and trade. There is thus a real concern that a new generation of ‘Mulhollands’, the early 20th Century Los Angeles official who made water grabbing infamous, will profit from this scenario to the detriment of local communities and ecosystems, and at a scale that has not been seen before. In the context of a ‘global water crisis’, where 700 million people in 43 countries live below the water-stress threshold of 1,700 cubic metres per person, there is an urgent need to put an end to the global water grab.
The easiest way to make something cheaper to replace American labor with cheaper labor — that is, hardware, software, or cheaper foreign workers. Agriculture has replaced 95% of its labor force (as a share of the economy) thanks to farm mechanization. Over the same time, families could afford much more food.
But here’s the really interesting part: While relative spending on food and drink has declined, the portion of our food and drink spending going to farmers declined, too. Farming has become even more efficient and productive than grocery market prices reveal. That’s because,increasingly, when we buy food, what we’re really paying for are the business services required to market and distinguish it.
Consider $1 of food spending. In 1967, 26 cents of it went to farmers and manufacturers. Today, that share has fallen to 16 cents, economist Stephen Rose has reported for The Atlantic. In 1967, only 6% of food spending went to the service sector. By 2007, the number of people working in business services quadrupled, and their share of our food spending doubled. As the economy moved from growing stuff to serving stuff, farmers lost 7% of their share of the food market and restaurants ate up nearly the same portion.
Yep, prices are people. “Baked into the price of everything we buy is the rising cost of advertising, accounting, legal services, insurance, real estate, consulting, and the like — jobs performed by the high-wage workers of our modern economy,” Rose elaborates.
From the stuff getting expensive the fastest, like hospital stays and elite college tuition, to the prices that are falling the fastest relative to wages, like television and freeze-dried prepared foods, we are paying for people — just as we always have. The big idea here is that prices follow workers.
“Nearly 1,000 public water systems in Texas restricted water last year. Even now, after some winter rains, 17 systems are projected to run out of water in six months or less. The 2011 drought was the most intense one-year drought in Texas since at least 1895, when statewide weather records began. Losses reached $10 billion in crops, livestock and timber.” - Hari Sreenivasan in the PBS NewsHour segment (above) “Texas Towns Run Out of Water as Drought Takes its Toll.”
Kenana wants to more than double output to over 1 million tonnes annually and establish itself as a major exporter, managing director Mohamed El Mardi told Reuters in an interview.
Sudan, one of Africa’s largest sugar producers after Egypt and South Africa, imports more of the sweetener than it exports because of strong local demand. Officials hope new factories and other improvements will reverse that by 2014.
Rising sugar exports would also help the country make up for losing three quarters of its oil output when South Sudan seceded last year, fuelling a foreign currency shortage in the north. Oil used to account for about 90 percent of Sudan’s exports.
Over the past few months there have been negotiations with Ethiopia by Egypt’s interim government on the proposed Renaissance Dam project, tension on the Nile seems to be growing, with Egypt demanding it does not lose any of its colonial era water rights, while upstream nations like Ethiopia are telling Cairo they deserve more access to the world’s largest river.
Only a few years ago, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was celebrating its 10 years in existence in Alexandria. All the major players were present, from World Bank officials to water ministers across the region. The result from that optimistic meeting has been near disastrous, with a smaller spin-off movement growing among upstream nations that Egypt says threatens their very ability to deliver water to their citizens.
They claim “national security” as the prime reason or their opposition to any real negotiations for water. Part of that is true. Egypt is growing at a rapid pace, with the population expected to reach 120 million by 2025, according to the United Nations Population Fund. But the reality is Egypt must negotiate and change its ways over Nile water, or East Africa could become embroiled in a water war of unprecedented character.
Egypt’s doomsday scenarios to justify its dominance of the Nile’s water may be real, but the sad fact is too many Egyptians suffer water shortages today, on a daily basis. Not in the five years that the Egyptian government claims.
The assessment is drawn from a classified National Intelligence Estimate distributed to policymakers in October. Although the unclassified version does not mention problems in specific countries, it describes “strategically important water basins” tied to rivers in several regions. These include the Nile, which runs through 10 countries in central and northeastern Africa before traveling through Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea; the Tigris-Euphrates in Turkey, Syria and Iraq; the Jordan, long the subject of dispute among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians; and the Indus, whose catchment area includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Tibet.
“As water problems become more acute, the likelihood . . . is that states will use them as leverage,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. As the midpoint of the century nears, he said, there is an increasing likelihood that water will be “potentially used as a weapon, where one state denies access to another.”
A unit of Egyptian private equity firm Citadel Capital plans to cultivate up to 40,000 acres of farmland in South Sudan to sell staple foods such as maize in the newly-independent nation, an executive said on Tuesday.
…The United Nations warns that around a third of the country’s roughly 8 million people will need food assistance this year after bad weather and violence hit farming.
Citadel is investing about $30 million to produce staples such as maize, sorghum and sunflower in the oil-producing Unity state bordering South Kordofan, project manager Peter Schuurs told Reuters.
‘We have so far 4,000 acres and we will be planting this year, primarily maize with some sorghum and sunflowers,’ said Schuurs, managing director of Concord Agriculture, a fully-owned Citadel unit.
‘Our focus is food security in South Sudan… we will be supplying the local markets,’ he said on the sidelines of an investment conference in Juba. ‘We will plant the crop in June.’
An escalation of the land program will “eventually result in the government having to face its responsibility for the human-rights violations caused by so-called development schemes,” said Oakland’s Executive Director Anuradha Mittal in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday. “In the meanwhile, pressure on international donors to stop aid to the government of Ethiopia will gain further strength.”