Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Mission 3 has really given me a kick in the teeth. From what other Evoke Agents have shared there are clearly many silos of activity in the area of sustainable power generation.

I found my social innovator in my own backyard. As I shared with Agent Joanna Chaplin following her Call to Action, Kenya is coming out of a 3 year drought. We relay heavily on hydroelectric power and have been experiencing both water and power rationing for over 2 years. Our governments imediate solution was to utilize fossil fuels for power generation, which lead to leving of a new fuel tax, more than doubling the cost of power. This has adversly affected our manufacturing and service sector.

In the past 2 or so years, Kenyan organiations have been growing biofuels especially jatropha and sugar cane. One of this companies, East Africa Fuels has contracted over 75 farmers who have grown over 60,000 Jatropha trees. From this website I learnt that Jatropha is drought resistant and can grown on rocky land. It is easy to grow, lasts for about 40 years with each mature Jatropha tree producing upto 1/5 litre of oil and other useful by-products including fertilizer and methane gas. Jatropha is not edible, unattractive to wildlife and livestock and its its oil is said to burn 80% cleaner than fossil fuels. Unlike other alternative energies (sun, wind, water) it does not require new technology (cars, generators etc. will run on Jatropha),

Sounds PERFECT doesn't it? Researching the disadvantages, I found that, IMHO, many could be surmounted by better technology. The only question I couldn't see an easy answer to is should we grow food for cars or food for people? Evoke Agents, who can come up with a solution to this??

Views: 74

Comment by Comelia Tang on March 21, 2010 at 4:46pm
Hmm...Growing food for cars should be secondary I think.
Comment by PJE on March 21, 2010 at 5:10pm
This is interesting, I am pretty much against biofuels in terms of crops, but your post about these trees being drought resistant and growing on rocky areas leads me to think that it might also be good against desertification and maintaining habitat. The idea of combining needs (hereto stop deserts growing and provide fuel) to provide new solutions appears very ripe. Often following one need may cause another problem but what about taking several needs and finding one solution! So for example the energy storing football takes a need for play (vital for children, great for adults) and the need for electricity and provides a solution. I have a feeling this sort of joined up thinking might provide new and unusual solutions.
Comment by Evo on March 22, 2010 at 4:59am
Sugar has been shown to be very efficient in Brazil, being used for a handful of uses as a fuel and food in one crop. In America we use corn which is very inefficient by comparison....I'm not sure how your trees measure up but sugar looks to be quite an efficient way to make the most of your growable land. With any permaculture plan be thinking about all of your needs and try to keep a balanced crop....trees not only prevent erosion and soil damage but they also provide some protection for other crops like cacao to grow without the need for pesticides.
Comment by Nick Heyming on March 22, 2010 at 5:09am
Perennial trees are generally a much better solution than a water intensive, annual crop... just don't deforest too many good native trees to plant jatropha...
Comment by FRANCIS ORONDO GWER on March 22, 2010 at 9:42am
we shouldnt really grow food exclusively for cars, but consider the case of mumias sugar in kenya. it is producing electricity by burning bargasse, a by product of sugar production and this generates 34MW of electricity, which is almost equal to what Kenya's largest hydroelectric dam produces.
the power is cheaper and cleaner, and it comes from by product of sugar production.
however, in countries like Brazil and Germany, sugar production is a by product of ethanol production. the primary purpose of sugarcane planting is for power generation, not for food production.
but i don't think growing food for fuel can compromise food security, if the savings that are made from substituting bio fuels for fossil fuels is directed to research into higher yielding food crops and better varieties.
when food prices in the world markets skyrocketed 2 years ago, and people were quick to blame biofuels, angela merkel correctly observed that rise in food prices was not due to scarcity caused by biofuels, but by rising incomes in india and china, where rising incomes have made it now affordable for families to afford one more square meal per day. and were are talking of a combined population of almost 3 billion people. this increase in food demand is what pushed up food prices
Comment by Massive Attack on March 22, 2010 at 3:14pm
Growing food for people. I like Francis point that using fuel revenue dollars for research into high-yield plants. It doesn't necessarily interfere. But our worldwide, especially in developed countries, focus on cars is outdated. Public transportation & bikes & such are a much better means.

What about aquaponics? A combination of hydroponics & aquaculture, it uses fish poop as fertilizer. Imagine three 55-gallon buckets. One cut in half & filled with gravel & a bit of soil is stacked on another which holds fish. The third, filled with water, is suspended above or placed beside. Interconnecting these a steady flow of water takes the fish poop to plants for fertilization. This saves a lot of water compared to outdoor growing. And the yields are reportedly very high. I just learned of this stumbling through evoke & am very intrigued by the idea.
Comment by Michele Baron on March 22, 2010 at 4:02pm
This is an interesting digression from Jatropha trees--which could help fix soil, provide shade, diminish ambient water loss... Traveling, we did aquaculture fish/plant mixes in cool "bio-orb" tanks, added some snails to eat the "non-productive" (probably could have used it, but didn't like it clouding tank sides) algae, recycled fish defecatant for fertilizer, processed plants (they grew profusely, constantly needed trimming to allow fish space to thrive as well) for other purposes (some edibles, some high-yield fertilizer when ground--didn't do biofuel experiments as had no equipment/space/avenue to utilize it. Still studying micro-organisms symbiotic plant-to-biogas digestive cycles; re-establishing estuary/waterway health is an ongoing topic as I manage to write my own blogs and read others'.
I think if you can co-plant Jatropha along with other plants (food-producers--or maybe pollinating/fruit trees with similar space/water/soil requirements) to enhance land-environment while propagating cash crop(s), and see if diversification into bio-diverse healthy waterway aquaculture (fish for protein, river shrimp, macro-algae (bottom rooting) for food and bio-fuel uses, would also provide secondary benefits of bird sanctuary, etc) is possible.
Have been following cassava root (tapioca, bio fuel, holistic medicine, nutrition, etc--cassava fuel production yields rival sugar cane... but there is crop-disease problem) culture for some while.
Very recently mono-culture disease/pest quarantines have been imposed due to (unsustainable) planting/production/cross-contamination issues. With planting, bio-diversity seems safer, ecologically, environmentally, and economically. But while combustible fuels are still needed, some production using jatropha trees, in combination with other crops, might be a good compromise.
Comment by Nick Heyming on March 22, 2010 at 4:26pm
It'd be cool to come up with a 'fuel guild', that was a wh*** bunch of plants that formed a symbiotic community that nourished each other and discouraged pests. The bulk of them would also be able to be harvested for oil or cellulosic fuel...
Comment by Michele Baron on March 22, 2010 at 7:59pm
Great concept. I was reading something about high-tannin plants (teas, etc) that deter pests. Even cashews and other outer-husk/plus-shell nuts have high tannin levels, and could produce food plus oil, while leaving tree sustainably rooted in the soil... pairing cassava (h***-growing method popular now, but I think it spreads disease without precautions/cross planting) with high-yield above-ground insect-unfriendly plants (sago palm? other bush palms--grow quickly, tolerate drought, sand, Asia, Africa, even temperate zones) and/or other oil/starch producing plants could mitigate pest/disease promulgation. Canes could pair with citronella grass and/or bamboo (especially the thin sour bamboo gra****--shoots edible, leaves productive for char-bio, poles useful--good all-round plant, never saw insects on it in Japan)--cross-planting is a good idea--@Nick the guild of compounded knowledge would be great. @ Shakwei, thanks again
Comment by Hayden Darrell Linder on March 26, 2010 at 3:27pm
@Shakwei, I don't know about growing food solely for cars but what you described doesn't do that. Even if it doesn't stop erosion. The tress will bring down the cost of fuel that in itself will benefit the needy in Kenya. The less fuel costs the less it will cost them if they can afford to travel. And even those who cannot afford bus tickets or taxi rides will still benefit in that any outreach will have less overhead and more help they can afford to offer because less was spent by them on fuel.

I'm firmly for the trees. And if they stop erosion then that is gravy. Very tasty gravy.

@Nick and Michele. The topic about the plants reminds me of something I saw on a gardening show. One of the latest trends is to plant three plants together in the same row. I cant remember the combination but there are several groups of plants that each chain together well because each one gives off as waste what the one next to it needs as fuel. The example I saw was something like Green Beans, Tomatoes, and Lima beans.


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