Volume 5, Issue 2, April - June 2016
- Chair's Foreword
- Geoparks in Africa by Dr Enas Ahmed
- Agro-Ecology Issues in the films Ethiopia Rising and Man who Stopped the Desert
- Earth Science Book Review
- Earth Science Events
- References and Selected reading
In this edition we consider Geoparks in Africa introduced by Dr Enas Ahmed from Egypt and also the issue of agro-ecological land management as highlighted by two recent topical films on how communities (one in West Africa and another in East Africa) lifted themselves out of poverty and into self sufficiency, through the application of low cost (but labour intensive) soil and water conservation techniques.
Geoparks in Africa by Dr Enas Ahmed
Africa: is the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent. At about 30.3 million km² (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers six per cent of Earth's total surface area and 20.4 per cent of its total land area
The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognized sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition.
The geological heritage of Africa is an important part of the African natural heritage. But at the same time, there are some areas that are fragments of these heritages which represent parts of a unique continent-scale puzzle of the geological history and evolution of Africa. These areas in other continents present in areas known as Geoparks.
What is a Geopark: A geopark is a unified area that advances the protection and use of geological heritage in a sustainable way, and promotes the economic well-being of the people who live there.
The geoparks initiative was launched by UNESCO in response to the perceived need for an international initiative that recognizes sites representing an earth science interest. Global Geoparks Network aims at enhancing the value of such sites while at the same time creating employment and promoting regional economic development. The Global Geoparks Network works in synergy with UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and Man and the Biosphere (MAB) World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Most people associate nature conservation with the protection of biodiversity. Geoconservation, or the conservation of geodiversity, is an area of nature conservation which is not as well understood, but this appears to be changing. Across the world the emphasis in nature conservation has been on the conservation of fauna and flora whilst virtually overlooking the geological, and geomorphological...etc
Geoheritage and geoconservation are concerned with the preservation of Earth Science features, and are important endeavours globally, as reflected in various international and intra-national bodies set up for conservation, with agreements, conventions, and inter-governmental initiatives.
So the road for establishing geoparks in Africa began with workshops and Training course of AGN conference in Morocco 2011 and Chinese Geopark Network and the Geological Surveys of China, Senegal, and Egypt.
Agro-ecology Issues in the films Ethiopia Rising and The Man Who Stopped the Desert: Why Indigenous African Agro-ecology is a preferred approach to African food sufficiency than dependence on GM seed technology
In no other topic do science and social justice issues become so inextricably entwined as on the issue of food sufficiency. Western GM technology and its promotion under the guise of “green revolution” (through the new organisations such as Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa  and the New Alliance for Food security and Nutrition ) represent the greatest threat to African human rights and actual existence in the 21st century. Because the remit of Society of African Earth Scientists is in the interests of African self-sufficiency in many resources, including our food; it is inevitable that the Society must make a case for African people to rely on their own agricultural methods and that any attempt to de-legalize traditional practices (such as seed storage and exchange ) is no less than an attempt to control Africans through control of our food sources, and to generally arrest our rights to self-determination . Every African on the African continent must be made aware that "slavery versus non-slavery" is the stark choice, being presented to his/her local leaders, today in the form of GM bills presented to African governments on behalf multinational corporations. In some cases, these leaders of African people are in danger of selling us into actual slavery, through selling off of our rights to grow from and store our own food seeds. These leaders presenting these bills on behalf of foreign corporations are shackling Africans forever to having to buy seeds from foreign companies, or pay penalties to those same companies for using seeds contaminated with their GM material .
Agro-ecology is seen here as the application of ecology to the design of sustainable agricultural systems. From Kwasi Densu we learn that : Susan Hecht, in her discussion The Evolution of Agroecological Thought, suggests that the contemporary use of the term agroecology “dates from the 1970’s, but the science and the practice of agroecology are as old as the origins of agriculture.”
The positive case for choosing an agro-ecology approach as against the aggressive mainstream style of agriculture practiced by large corporations lies in the demonstrated successes of communities that have literally been lifted out of poverty by the assiduous application, on a mass community level, of agro-ecological methods. Most of the methods used are traditional African in origin, as well as being traditional methods that have been adapted to improve chances of success. Some methods are new, and have proved successful in other situations .
Two films recently released by 1080 films, highlight these successes in West Africa (Burkina Faso) and East Africa ( Ethiopian Tigray region ), and represent an important document of the mass application of indigenous soil and water conservation techniques, and the resulting change/improvement in the local
- Soil fertility
- Water table
- Vegetation cover
- Tree cover
The efforts in our two case studies are led by two exceptional conservationists (Sawadogo in Burkina Faso, and Aba Hawe in Ethiopia) in that their knowledge of soil and water conservation methods and ability to mobilise community work forces proved very effective in making regional transformations in forestation, water availability and even micro-climate, due to the increased plant cover and hence evaporation of water into the atmosphere from newly emerging vegetation.
In each film, we see the final results of the application of traditional soil and water conservation techniques (such as terracing, stone lines, planting pits, etc) on a community level and also the introduction of novel new approaches to help prevent land degradation.
The methods used in both examples were numerous and varied, each making their contribution. When all the various methods were applied together, the overall effect included increase in the water table, improvement in soil fertility and so on.
One of the failings of agro businesses in claiming that GM will increase food yield is that the question of crop yield is dealt with in a compartmentalised way. We know that to create a good crop yield we must have all of the appropriate natural conditions (we need sunlight, water, we also need good quality soil, including the microbes living in that soil). But the agro- business model focuses on the supposed superiority of their GM seed alone to the exclusion of these other conditions. The application of GM technology is often accompanied by the heavy use of fertilizers which poison and destroy the soil . These methods in truth lead to the destruction of the soil, and hence the impoverishment of African communities.
The numerous techniques applied by these local communities make an interesting collection of soil and water conservation measures, that have been proven, before the entire world (thanks to the films) to be most effective in lifting African communities from poverty into self sufficiency. These methods are there to be shared throughout the Continent’s farming communities, and deserve to be noted.
• Terracing slows down the velocity of the water by removing the land steepness at step intervals; thereby making overland flow less erosive
• Terracing increases the infiltration of water into the soil
• Terracing therefore conserves soil as well as water
Terracing enables the cultivation of land on steep slopes and even escarpments (e.g., the Dogon of Mali)
• Indigenous terraced systems are major economic assets as they protect land down stream from degradation as well as preserving cultivated land on the slopes. Their maintenance is the most cost effective strategy for land conservation, as these structures exist and only need to be maintained.
• Pitting systems slow down the velocity of the flow and collect both water and nutrients, enhanced by placing manure mixed with mulch at the base of each pit. In Burkina Faso, Yakuba Sawadogo increased the size and depths of traditional planting pits to make them more effective.
Used very successfully in Ethiopia to combat drought, land and soil degradation, check dams are a series of dams placed along a river or waterway to reduce the energy of the water flow at the dam, therefore making the flow more manageable down stream. They can serve to slow the flow along the river and increase the retention of water. in the dry season, more water may be retained along the river due to the construction of a series of check dams. This also serves to maintain local water table levels at higher levels than when check dams are absent.
• Once again these have the effect of slowing down the water flow. They also serve to collect soil, trapping the soil between the closely packed stones. The drawing below illustrates the spacing between bunds (20 - 50m)
Farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR)
One of the techniques used by Tigray communities in Ethiopia to regenerate their forests had already been used successfully to reverse desertification in Niger. This method, called FMNR (farmer managed natural regeneration), was one in which apparent singular shrubs and bushes are recognised as potential trees or "underground forests", which are able to grow rapidly when they are pruned such as to reduce the number of branches along the individual plant stem, leaving only the branches at the top of the plant. This has the effect of reducing the amount of plant energy that goes into growing this surplus of branches along the plant stem. Plant energy is then instead directed towards thickening the stem and maintaining the upper branches of the plant, growing the plant rapidly into a tree within a few seasons.
EARTH SCIENCE BOOK REVIEW
Handbook of Photovoltaic Science and Engineering, Wiley &Sons, 2011
This is a comprehensive guide to the theory and practice of photovoltaics, including even a section on the latest technology of organic solar cells, an assessment of the impact of policy on the development of solar and also the role of solar in tackling global underdevelopment.
EARTH SCIENCE EVENTS
15-17 August 2016
International Conference on Alternative and Renewable Energy Quest
Venue: Cairo, Egypt
VISION: International conference organised by IEREK. Promotional material includes the following:-
"The world has a critical necessity to search for alternative and renewable energy and the importance of its technologies have been growing significantly.
For several important reasons, this is extremely important for the future of our society:
- Renewable energy still has a long way to go in order to replace fossil fuels and become a primary source of energy consumption but things have been lately definitely moving in the right direction.
- It would significantly decrease the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and this would have positive environmental impact for our entire planet.
IEREK seeks to promote and disseminate knowledge of the various topics and technologies of renewable and alternative energy resources through organizing the international conference."
27 August – 4 September 2016
International Geological Congress
Venue: Cape Town, South Africa
VISION: The Council for Geosciences together with the Geological Society of South Africa and other collaborators from academia and industry, currently lead the preparations for the 35th IGC in South Africa.
1-7 October 2016
8th Conference of the African Association of Women in the Geosciences
Venue: Sibiu, Romania
VISION: The African Association of Women in Geosciences (AAWG) is supporting the development of Earth Scientists in Africa by providing opportunities for networking and promoting the application of geosciences for sustainable development. To meet these challenges, AAWG is organizing numerous activities in and out of the African continent. Biannual International Conferences are being organized to address various challenges that the African continent is facing and to which Earth Sciences could make a contribution. In order to strengthen the collaboration between our African and non-African members and also to increase the visibility of the Association, the 8th AAWG Conference is being organized for the first time out of the African continent. To meet these objectives, we choose as a title for the 8th conference "Building bridges between Earth Scientists Worldwide: A Way for Promoting Peace and Strengthening Integration". This conference is organized locally by the Geological Society of Romania and is hosted by Astra National Museum Complex, Sibiu.
31 October – 6 November 2016
African Rift Geothermal Conference (ARGeo)
Venue: Asmara, Eritrea
VISION: Sixth Africa Rift Geothermal Conference in collaboration with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other support partners…
2-4 December 2016
International Conference on Improving Sustainability Concept in Developing Countries
Venue: Conrad Cairo Hotel, Cairo, Egypt
VISION: International conference…
References and Selected Reading
- https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/12/14/gmo-patent-controversy-terminator-genes-seed-piracy-forcing-farmers-buy-seeds/ and see also, http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2874165/ghanas_women_farmers_resist_the_g7_plan_to_grab_africas_seeds.html
- Jordan, et al (eds), Land & Power: Sustainable agriculture and African Americans - A collection of essays from the 2007 Black environmental thought conference. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), 2007. p. 95
- Methods such as FMNR (farmer managed natural regeneration) and "tether and carry".
- Gupta, S.K., Modern Hydrology and Sustainable Water Development, Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, 2011.
- A link on “Groundwater and Rural Water Supply in Africa”: http://www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/people/academic-staff/richard-taylor/research/files/macdonald_etal_2012.pdf
- Link to Journal of African Earth Sciences: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-african-earth-sciences/
*Board of the Society of African Earth Scientists: Dr Chukwunyere Kamalu (Chair - Nigeria), Osmin Callis (Secretary - Guyana/Nigeria), Ndivhuwo Cecilia Mukosi (South Africa), Mathada Humphrey (South Africa), Dr Enas Ahmed (Egypt).