In recent months we have been investigating possibility of using cacti to sequester carbon dioxide.
In parts of many countries around the equator, the only plants that flourish are cacti and some trees.
In Kenya one cacti that grows well is the Opuntia. So well that many farmers want to to eradicate it!
They are are unaware that inside its prickly exterior is nutritious food!
All it needs to feed humans or cattle is the removal of the spines!
This can be done by burning or cutting them off.
Another project is to try and overcome the problem of the depleted soil of many small SSA farmers.
Previous efforts to fertilize depleted soil have often failed due to farmers being persuaded to carry out operations that take no accounts of the condition of the soil which have all too often have been affected by chemicals!
Guided by the expert, Roland Bunch, Jack beans were sown on the land of many subsistence farmers in Uganda. The following year maize and other crops were sown alongside the Jack beans. After the first harvest, there were so many Jack bean seeds that some could be sold to buy local traditional plant seeds and leguminous saplings to start agro-ecological farms!
Then disaster struck with heavy rainstorms and then locust attacks. Often the Jack beans were the only survivor! Many farmers reported heavy crop losses but their Jack beans were untouched! But then many had no food - except for Jack Beans. It was known that mature Jack beans could be cooked but, equally important, leaves and pods of newly sown beans would provide protein - until food aid arrived.
We have now shown that the sowing of this cover crop bean can be used to not only re-fertilise soil but be used as an emergency crop in extreme conditions.
This first success was in Uganda has led to many of the poorest farmers in other SSA countries also taking up the growing of Jack beans so as to re-fertilise their soil and provide emergency food at minimal cost!
Now there are hundreds of small farmers in Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and dozens in other SSA countries that we are helping. There could be many more but we can get no financial help!
With the increasing cost of 'improved' seeds, poor SSA subsistence farmers will be hard-pressed to buy their usual amount. They may have no choice but to rely on traditional/indigenous seeds in the future and hope not have too many locust attacks! And/or FAW - Fall army worms!
So far we have found few funded NGOs that will even admit there is a soil fertility problem despite the FAO stating that it is a serious problem in all these countries!
Soil creates life from death, transforming decaying organic matter into a precious resource that underlies the production of more than 95% of the food we eat. To ensure food security, the world must stop letting fertile soil wash and blow away, argue microbiologist Jo Handelsman and environmental researcher Kayla Cohen in their book, A World Without Soil.
You will find our supporter Charles in Uganda giving a lesson about JB at;
Trying to help those in SSA countries to have some food in bad times and some income in good times