GSRs Newsletter is a collection of news, reflections, innovations and ideas that our team has foundim portant enough to write down and share with you. W e hope youll be as ex cited as we are with allthe latest developm ents around the world and what it m eans for us all. GSR Newsletter Issue No.2 April 2013 The Gem that is Sierra LeoneA new GSR development project in Sierra Leone could develop as early as sixmonths from now. Just last month, our senior executive directors met withChief John Turay of Bo District in Sierra Leone. He expressed a great interestin what GSR was doing and we were startled when he emailed us a copy of aletter from the President of Sierra Leone. It was addressed to all the chiefsabout the high priority the national government would now give towards ruraldevelopment in order to secure sound employment for its people. We believethat this decision was made for many reasons, most specifically to move thecountry forward towards the future, and away from the shadows that loomover its recent past.Many of you may know the recent history of the Sierra Leone surrounding itsrich deposits of raw mineral resources, especially diamonds. There are somany diamonds in Sierra Leone that Chief John jokingly told us that there isno one barefoot in Sierra Leone because their feet would be cut open by all thediamonds littered on the ground. It is because of this richness in mineralresources that the country went through a civil war in which a great manySierra Leone citizens were maimed or killed for access to those diamonds. Theatrocity was so severe that it inspired the Hollywood movie, Blood Diamond inan effort to raise international protest against these heinous acts againsthumanity.
Chief John told us he feels very confident Sierra Leone can become aprosperous nation, especially with a sturdy rural development plan. We at GSRare inclined to agree with him. In the upcoming months, GSR will enter talkspreparing to draw a great many investors into the project. Unfortunately, ourfunds are tied up and we currently need to ask for your help in order to get anassessment going in Sierra Leone so that we may give our projections of totalcosts to our investors, and start rolling out our on the ground projects.GSR firmly believes in innovation and we’re reviewing several funding optionsincluding crowd funding. We hope to start a grassroots style drive to get ourassessment team on the ground in Sierra Leone, running tests and surveyingas soon as possible. Please stays tuned with us and inform as many people aspossible about our cause as our crowdfunding campaign unfolds. Agricultural Genius: The Yeoman Keyline Subsoil PlowThe Yeoman’s Keyline Subsoil Plow is a unique permaculture technology thatwas founded by the Keyline ecological study in Australia in the 1950’s. As thename implies, the Keyline plow is a tool that tills. However, the key differencebetween this and other plows is that it aims to till the subsoil withoutdisturbing fertile topsoil. By doing this, the positive effects of tilling areretained without any loss of soil fertility via erosion.The “key line” on a particular piece of land can be mapped out usingstereoscopic photos and a topographic map. When the land is plowed alongthe lines indicated, it can maximize the amount of water retained by the soil.Farmers who become adept at using this plow find that their yield per acredramatically increases. This agricultural system requires more expertise indealing with different soil conditions. However, farmers that take the time todevelop their skill in organic farming will find that it pays off in the long run.The Permaculture Movement (also started in Australia to answer that country’spressing needs) aims to systematically prevent soil erosion and otherecological factors by adapting techniques that attempt to adhere to naturalprocesses. When used with good farming practices, we can say that the Keylineis a type of appropriate technology that combats a wide range of problemsstarting from the aforementioned soil erosion, desertification,
over-salinization, waterlogging and over-eutrophication.In conjunction with other permaculture techniques like contour farming (whichtakes local topography and geology into consideration) the Yeoman KeylinePlow is part of a Keyline system designed not only to perform excellent soilconservation service, but actually serves to enrich the soil by pulling upmineralized nutrients from the subsoil strata and keep the top soil constantlysupplied with nutrients to stay productive. The typical Keyline Subsoil Plowgoes for about US $10,000 on the market.GSR team members have begun using the Keyline Plow with very good results.We hope to strike a licensing arrangement with the Yeoman company tomanufacture their equipment in Africa and India so that we may provide ourrural development projects with these high quality tools and techniques totransform farms with depleted soil into literal paradises. The Secret to Feeding (and Greening) the Whole Planet Guest Author, Dr. Duncan EarleBack in the 1990’s an agricultural anthropologist named Robert M. Nettingwrote a book on smallholders, the formal term for people who farm smallplots of land in usually traditional village communities; he surveyed thesefarmers in every part of the world, and found an astonishing series of facts,irrespective of location: 1. Smallholders more productively utilize marginal land, than large scale plantation farming. 2. Because smallholders understand the long-term importance of their land as a productive asset, they tend to treat the land better from an environmental management standpoint—that is, more sustainably than the plantation-styled agribusiness model. They are also able to better discern when to use pest controls, since it is rather costly to not discern. 3. This sustainability is enhanced by biodiversity—most smallholders raise many plant species, often ones in complementary relationships (the
famous case being corn and beans, where the beans perform nitrogen fixation for the corn and the corn provides a structure for the bean vine). 4. Smallholder farm communities are far more socially cohesive and provide more mutual assistance and “sense of community” than plantation worker communities—that is, more family values and village solidarity, whereas plantations are plagued with prostitution, substance abuse, STDs and many other social ills derived from displacement from traditional village life. 5. Because of their small size and high crop diversity, smallholders are more flexible producers, able to “turn on a dime” changing crops as the market shifts in terms of demand. By contrast, large scale plantations are tied to technologies of scale that are not flexible, like expensive machinery dedicated to a single crop—this in turn means smallholders are less often caught in the situation of crops becoming too cheap to harvest. Nowadays, this is further enhanced with the kind of price information we see being managed in the Tanzania program with mobile devices. 6. He also noted that smallholder farmers absorb a lot of labor, as it is labor-intensive (good for families, and for poor countries with lots of unemployment) while large factory farms use lots of capital and less labor (operating on credit, and often deep in debt), whereas globally there is a lot more labor availability than capital, and smallholder farmers will tolerate far cheaper labor prices than plantations because of the domestic organization of labor, proximity to home (elimination housing costs), and the dual utility of fields that both provide products for sale and for the pot, i.e. subsistence. Smallholder farmers then subsidize agricultural production with discounted labor costs, self-built housing, and alternate productive activities during labor droughts (like house building).In addition to all the other reasons for supporting smallholder farmingproduction models, his data suggests that if a person can solve the economiesof scale issue with co-ops and/or other kinds of community-basedorganizations (that allows for collective purchase of any inputs and pooledmarketing), the other factors lead to a more sound and practical land-usemodel than mega-farms, from any angle you wish, the economic (efficiency,flexibility, resilience), the social (equity, solidarity, social “health”) andenvironmental (sustainability, conservation of resources) standpoints. Africa’s Potential World Agro Market
This article examines the new World Bank report, Growing Africa: Unlockingthe Potential of Agribusiness, which states that Africa’s agricultural marketcould triple by 2030 if farming on the continent modernizes its practices andgets better access to credit, new technology, irrigation and fertilizers. Currentlyvalued at US $313 billion a year, Africa’s agricultural market could reach $1trillion over the next decade.GSR agrees with the World Bank assessment, but we wonder whatmethodology the World Bank has been using over the last 40 years, since therehasn’t been much impact on Africa’s economy. When will Africa undergo itsagricultural renaissance? Agricultural methods which rely on importingexpensive equipment, expensive genetically modified seeds, expensive fuel andfertilizers make it virtually impossible for smallholder farmers toadvantageously participate in the world economy. These methods are onlyuseful for large scale plantation style agriculture already predominant inwestern nations, characterized by high levels of capital expenditure and lowlabor components.Instead of creating jobs, such mechanized agriculture has thrown millions ofsmallholder farmers into severe poverty. This gives them little to no choice andthey are usually forced to abandon their land only to live in one of theburgeoning shanty towns surrounding one of the major cities in Sub-SaharanAfrica.GSR supports local solutions for local problems. By practicing self-reliantagricultural techniques which lower costs and uses appropriate technology, ithas become far easier for smallholder farmers to get sustainable results. GSRhas demonstrated that when using homemade organic fertilizer, agriculturaloutput increases as much as when using chemical fertilizers. However, withorganic fertilizers there is the added benefit of soil rejuvenation, and greaterlong term quality of crops. Irrigation systems can also be designed using lowcost technology, which is affordable for smallholder farmers.