Fecundity of the earth

Jake Jackson who, unable to farm in Zimbabwe, had transformed a desperately poor, war-torn part of northern Mozambique into rich farmland by training more than forty thousand black Mozambicans to grow tobacco and other crops for export.

“Peasants who had recently lived in mud huts, dependent on food handouts from the West, were now building houses, driving four-by-fours and sending their children to school.”
The Last Resort, A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Douglas Roberts. Jonathan Ball 2009.

If we convert the energy gained from harvested plants into kilowatt hours and compare it with the energy expended for that harvest, the result is startling: for fifty harvested energy units the American farmer invests 250 fuel energy units, the Chinese farmer only a single human energy unit.

“This means simply that the primitive countryman of the east works at an efficiency rate of 5000 per cent and the USA farmer equipped with the most advanced technical aids, at an efficiency rate of only 20 per cent”
Nature, Mother Of Invention by Felix Paturi. Harper & Row, 1976

“I was aiming at a pleasant, natural way of farming which results in making the work easier instead of harder. “How about not doing this? How about not doing that?” was my way of thinking. I ultimately reached the conclusion that there was no need to plough, no need to apply fertilizer, no need to make compost, no need to use insecticide. When you get right down to it, there are few agricultural practices that are really necessary.

“Take a look at these fields of rye and barley. This ripening grain will yield about 22 bushels (1,300 pounds) per quarter acre. I believe this matches the top yields in Ehime Prefecture.
“And yet these fields have not been ploughed for twenty-five years. To plant, I simply broadcast rye and barley seed on separate fields in the fall, while the rice is still standing. A few weeks later I harvest the rice and spread the rice straw back over the fields.

“In my opinion, if 100% of the people were farming it would be ideal. There is just a quarter-acre of arable land for each person in Japan. If each single person were given one quarter-acre, that is 1 1/4 acres to a family of five, that would be more than enough land to support the family for the whole year.

“If natural farming were practiced, a farmer would also have plenty of time for leisure and social activities within the village community. I think this is the most direct path toward making this country a happy, pleasant land.”,
The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming (New York Review Books Classics) (Masanobu Fukuoka)

By Henry George

Image courtesy of www.un.org

Zimbabwe - A pupil at Nhema Primary School displays produce from the school garden. Credit UNICEF

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