Growthpoint Properties has launched an innovative pilot project that turns the large volumes of food waste generated by client businesses at its properties into compost.
The project, named G-Eco, short for Growthpoint Eco, is a partnership with Life & Earth and has the potential for massive environmental benefits.
It is being tested at Growthpoint Business Park in Midrand using waste produced at four of Growthpoint’s large multi-tenant properties in the area.
The idea was born 18-months ago when Growthpoint embarked on a waste-management analysis process to measure waste sent to landfills and the effectiveness of its existing initiatives to reduce this. Results revealed that the waste generated by its building users and sent to landfill was substantial.
Knowing that 40% to 60% of landfill waste comes from organic waste from food and garden waste, Growthpoint embarked on an innovative six-month wet waste diversion trial, which started at the beginning of July this year.
“We are converting the wet waste collected at our properties taking part in the trial into compost, which is then used at these properties,” says Werner van Antwerpen, Head of Sustainability at Growthpoint.
To start the project, driven by Growthpoint’s Industrial Property Division, Life & Earth installed a food waste composting machine at Growthpoint Business Park in Midrand. The plant turns food waste into 100% organic compost and can process up to 1,000kg of food waste each day with the capacity to make about nine tonnes of compost a month.
Then, Growthpoint’s current waste contractors at Growthpoint Business Park, Woodlands Office Park, Woodmead Retail Park and Central Park were trained about the process and how to separate wet waste at source. Growthpoint also worked with its clients at these properties, encouraging them to separate their food waste.
The waste is taken to the composting plant at Growthpoint Business Park, where it is processed.
During its first four months of the trial, Growthpoint diverted 16 tonnes of waste from landfill and produced six cubic metres of nutrient-rich soil, which is reapplied at Growthpoint Business Park.
The resulting positive environmental impacts are significant when considering that composting food waste on site instead of sending it to landfill reduces CO2e emissions by 332kg per tonne – and this is just the start.
By removing food waste from the waste stream, recyclables increase by about 30%. Composting food waste is also a cleaner and healthier. It reduces vermin and rat infestations and removes bad smells from rotting food. Also, it reduces harmful vehicle emissions, with fewer trips now needed to take waste to the dump, as well deliver garden compost to the properties.
Importantly, a focus on food waste creates more awareness about the problem and helps clients manage their food costs as they strive to reduce both. So, the project stands to have a direct positive impact of Growthpoint’s clients’ businesses.
Proactive waste management initiatives such as G-Eco have become essential in South Africa. According to Life & Earth, the country sends more than 10.2m tonnes of food waste to landfill every year, and food waste costs our economy more than R4.6bn annually.
“The G-Eco waste-to-soil project is one component of Growthpoint’s bigger waste management strategy,” explains van Antwerpen.
It already reduces waste through recycling, and plans to ensure all its buildings have onsite recycling by the end of 2018.
Based on the success of the G-Eco pilot, Growthpoint plans to introduce more waste-to-soil plants in other areas of the country where it has clusters of property assets.
“We are excited to find out exactly how much waste-to-landfill we will be able to save with our different waste management programmes, but we are confident that it will be substantial,” says van Antwerpen. He also notes: “This innovative project contributes to Growthpoint’s environmentally responsible leadership and furthers our sustainable business journey.”
Growthpoint provides space to thrive with innovative and sustainable property solutions. It is the largest South African primary REIT listed on the JSE, and owns and manages a diversified portfolio of 547 property assets, locally and internationally.
Growthpoint is a Platinum Founding Member of Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), a member of the GBCSA’s Green Building Leader Network, a component of the FTSE4Good Emerging Index and has been included in the FTSE/JSE Responsible Investment Index for eight years running. It owns and co-owns the largest portfolio of certified green buildings of any company in South Africa and is recognised as a leading developer of green buildings. Growthpoint recently launched the only property portfolio in South Africa to be highly rated by both the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) and the GBCSA, aptly named the Thrive Portfolio.
Growthpoint Properties Limited
Werner van Antwerpen, head of sustainability
011 944 6598
Have you ever felt frustrated with the food waste that you throw away, knowing that it will be sent to landfill, and not knowing what could be done instead? To address this problem in its own office, Solid Green introduced both a worm farm and a Bokashi composting system.
A recent report entitled ‘Food Loss and Waste: Facts and Futures’, issued by the WWF, notes that, in South Africa, 10 million tonnes of food go to waste every year. That’s a third of the food produced annually in this country. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has valued this loss at R61.5 billion.
Recycling food waste is one way of taking responsibility for food that is not consumed. Recycling is also important because, once food waste enters the waste stream, other recyclables are more difficult to separate as they become contaminated.
Solid Green’s first worm farm reduced our organic waste significantly; and we soon introduced a second worm farm as the first one was not capable of processing all our organic waste. After five years, we have two super-healthy worm farms, with the worm population quadrupled (at least). The farms also generated a significant amount of worm urine, which can be used as organic fertiliser on plants, or as a sink cleaner!
Soon after the farms’ introduction, we realised that worms are picky eaters and that we needed something to take care of all the food waste they were not able to deal with, such as citrus fruit peels as well as meat and dairy leftovers. The Bokashi composting system was then introduced and has been amazing. These two systems have enabled us to compost 100% of food waste produced in our office. This compost is then used for the plants in our office. We also gave our staff two Bokashi bins so that people could implement this practice at home as well.
HOW DOES THE SYSTEM WORK?
Bokashi bran is a mix of beneficial microbes, which enhances the composting process. You start with a little bran in the Bokashi bin, then add your food scraps, add some more Bokashi bran and repeat until the bin is full. The Bokashi bin does not smell and can be kept in the kitchen until it is full. As such, it is a handy system if you live in an apartment. At our office, we keep a small bin on top of the counter and this is regularly emptied into the Bokashi bin on our balcony.
When the Bokashi bin is full, you leave it to stand for about a month – which is why it is handy to have two bins. You can then transfer it to a compost heap, or dig a hole in the garden where it can compost further. Or you can transfer it to a bigger container, let it stand for two more months, and then use the compost for pot plants or in the garden. Alternatively, you can deliver your Bokashi to a local composting scheme, or food garden.
Here are some useful links to assist with sourcing these systems:
- Earth Probiotic (Shop)
- Earth Probiotic
- Worm Farm
- The Unconventional Farmer
- The Compost Gardener
We need to think about how we produce food, what we consume and what we discard, writes Georgina Crouth.
For aeons, parents have guilt-tripped children into eating their dinner because less fortunate children are starving somewhere in the world.
Judging by the bounty seen in restaurants, grocery stores, at markets and on the streets, it’s hard to believe half a billion people in the world are going hungry while the rest are either making terrible food choices or are gluttons.
By 2050, the world’s population growth is projected to be 10 billion (according to the EU Commission’s Health and Food Safety estimates).
Our resources are not infinite but the way we treat them, you’d think electricity comes from the plug, meat from the supermarket, our greens from the greengrocer and water from the tap.
It takes money to produce all that – money that could be used to drive development in other areas and help the needy.
Food production costs water, it produces emissions, reduces biodiversity and drives climate change.
Our marine ecosystems are being degraded, drought is wreaking havoc, forests are disappearing and millions of people the world over are hungry. We need to start thinking about how we manage and produce food, what we eat and food waste.
Worldwide, 2 billion people are obese while half a billion starve. In South Africa, the latest Discovery Health figures show 60 percent of women and 38 percent of men are clinically obese, with 14 million people going hungry daily.
Yet we throw away up to a third of all our food.
Dr Nadene Marx-Pienaar from the food retail division in the department of consumer science at Pretoria University breaks down some staggering figures about our throwaway society. “It’s estimated that 177kg of food waste is generated annually by the average South African (according to a 2013 study on it by the CSIR),” she said.
“Findings from the study done by the Department of Consumer Science at the University of Pretoria on food waste among Gauteng households done in 2014/15 revealed that fruit and vegetables outranked all the other food groups in terms of food mostly wasted by households. Second were cereals and breads (including pasta, rice, cakes and pastries) with dairy products (including milk, yoghurt and cheese) in third place. The fourth most wasted food type is meat, poultry, fish and eggs.
“The self-reported percentage of purchased food wasted indicated that 31 percent of respondents waste more than 30 percent of the fruit and vegetables that they buy, 34 percent waste more than 20 percent of cereals and breads, 27 percent waste more than 20 percent of dairy products and 20 percent waste more than 20 percent of the meat, poultry, fish and eggs that they buy.”
A 2013 CSIR study titled “The magnitude and cost of food waste in South Africa” found the costs to the economy were estimated at R61.5 billion a year or 2.1 percent of our GDP. “At the same time, 70 percent of poor urban households in South Africa live in conditions of food insecurity.
Food is treated as a disposable commodity, especially in developed countries.
“Yet almost one in seven people globally are estimated to be undernourished.
“Food waste does not only impact on food security, but has environmental impacts in the form of wasted resources and emissions,” they noted.
Food waste isn’t only what we throw in the bin though – it includes that which is lost during and after agricultural production; storage; manufacturing; distribution; and consumption, they say.
“The largest costs of food waste occur in food distribution (R19.6bn), followed by processing and packaging (R15.6bn), and agricultural production (R12.5bn). To meet the challenge of feeding growing populations and addressing food insecurity, massive reductions in the amount of food wasted across the food supply chain in South Africa are needed.”
Marx-Pienaar added: “Date codes are the most reported reason for wasting food. This is followed by poor product appearance and poor planning in terms of purchasing, preparation and storage.”
It’s important to note the difference between “best-before” and “use-by”: the former relates to quality and the latter to safety.
“Use-by” dates mean food can be consumed until that date – after that, if it hasn’t been frozen or preserved, it’s not fit for consumption.
If food has reached its “best before” date, it’s still safe to eat but it may not be at its best. Best-before dates are important guidelines to ensure food safety but they’re not cast in stone as many foods are still good to eat days – sometimes weeks – after they’ve expired.
Some foods, such as cold meats and ready meals, could become dangerous but other foods – such as honey, cornflour and sugar – don’t go off and the dates have the psychological effect of encouraging consumers to throw out perfectly good food.
Responsible retailers and manufacturers are doing their bit to mitigate this wastage: last year, their donations enabled FoodBank to feed 170 000 people with 3 350 tons of food and helped 550 non-profit organisations. That’s R23.5m worth of food reclaimed.
Lamees Martin, FoodBank SA’s marketing and communications officer, explained: “We collect edible surplus food from manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers and redistribute this food to verified NPOs that collectively feed thousands of hungry people daily.
“As a recipient of food donations, FoodBank SA has a responsibility to its beneficiaries to carefully check all products received at its warehouses.
“Hence we have quality checks for handling food donations, such as checking all dates on all products and rejecting expired stock.”
France and Italy have recently been in the news for introducing laws governing food waste. In France, retailers are fined for throwing away food; in Italy, they’ll soon be incentivised for donating unsold food.
As consumers, we have the power to vote with our forks to reduce waste. If we all put more thought into what we were eating (and doing so sustainably), preparing real food at home (rather than buying processed food) and wasting less, we’d not only save resources but we’d also be teaching our children to prepare for a future in which there’s enough to go around.
Wise up. Here’s how!
Helpful sites: Visit savethefood.com for food storage tips; www.slowfood.com for information on responsible consumption and local producers (or find your local Slow Food chapter) and follow Love Food Hate Waste; Stop Food Waste; Ugly Fruit & Veg; FoodTank; FoodInsight.org and others on Twitter.
Slow in Joburg: On Saturday, Slow Food Johannesburg will be at the Soweto Theatre, with three events: a conference (“Growing and Producing Food in Soweto and Johannesburg: Urban Farmers Speak” and “Buying Food in the City; how to get a healthy and fair deal”); a market, where urban farmers from Soweto and Orange Farm will be selling their produce; and an “eat-in” (an Nguni cow has been slaughtered for a nose-to-tail competition between teams of chefs and local gogos – pre-booking only). To book, visit www.webtickets.co.za or www.sowetotheatre.com.
Read up: Staff scientist at the US Natural Resources Defense Council Dana Gunders’s book the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook offers suggestions to change behaviour around waste. Order at amazon.com. For a chef’s perspective, I can highly recommend Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie, which gives wonderful tips on shopping smart, cooking cleverly and wasting less.
Earn valuable CPD credits
Ouagadougou – With the logo of his internet TV station on his black T-shirt, Inoussa Maiga energetically plucks corn stalks in northern Burkina Faso for a programme on farming in Africa.
Maiga, 30, launched Agribusiness TV in May in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, determined to change poor opinions about agricultural work held by African youth and to help develop the continent.
“All those who went to school up to a certain level consider going back to the land as a failure, as something demeaning. Yet and we see it every day in our broadcasts, there are many opportunities for young people,” he says.
In Bagre, 245 kilometres (150 miles) north of the city, Maiga has found one of the unusual topics he likes to promote: a teacher who gives classes in maths while raising pigs and growing maize, rice and groundnuts.
Other characteristic subjects are a woman in Benin with a degree in banking and finance who works in a “man’s universe of crop production” and an inventor of helpful machines for agricultural cooperatives in Togo.
The TV channel, available on the web and mobile phones, has steadily garnered a network of correspondents in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali and Togo, with Mauritius next on the agenda.
‘Maximum age of 40
The editorial stance of Agribusiness TV has clear rules.
Features focus on people of “a maximum age of 40” who have a “pretty interesting” background in farming, stock-breeding and other “different links in the food chain”, Maiga explains.
Programmes can cover “food processing, green jobs, everything related to the environment and the business of sustainable agriculture”.
“We want people whose careers can inspire other people,” says the broadcaster, who set up the enterprise with his wife Nawsheen Hosenally.
Himself the son of a peasant farmer, Inoussa studied at the University of Ouagadougou, where he specialised in communications for development before founding Agribusiness TV.
He seeks “above all to showcase young Africans who are courageously committed to agriculture, who invest in the area, and possibly to bring a different outlook among young Africans to this sector,” he says, calling it “the motor for the development of African economies”.
‘Massive youth unemployment’
“When you look at the economic structure of our countries, you see that it’s in agriculture where one can create the most jobs and fight massive youth unemployment,” adds Inoussa.
“We want to spotlight young people who are doing interesting things. We seek to motivate and encourage those who would like to start out in agriculture. May this inspire them!”
Inoussa’s work won support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states and the European Union.
The CTA provided funding worth 58 000 euros ($65 000) to help launch Agribusiness TV. Inoussa came up with a further 65 000 euros from his own communications firm.
Hosenally also works full time on the channel. She translates material into English and deals with technical aspects of putting broadcasts online and managing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
The founders surpassed their aims during the first year, with 45 000 fans on Facebook and about 800 000 viewers for their broadcasts. The website is bilingual, full of videos and a blog.
But on a continent where internet access remains patchy, the founders of Agribusiness TV are happy to make their videos available to various associations to be shown in rural settings.
“We project videos ourselves when we’re invited to conferences or meetings with players in the rural world,” says Inoussa, who hopes that his channel will benefit from the gradual progress of the internet in Africa.
“Every day, at least 15 people get in touch with us asking for the contact details of such and such an entrepreneur to whom we devoted a video,” Hosenally says.
“We’re also encouraged by the messages and the comments we receive each day,” adds Inoussa.
“These are videos that inspire people, we get a lot of feedback from the entrepreneurs we meet. Some of them tell us about contracts they have signed thanks to our work.
“All this gives hope.”
Agribusiness TV is available in French and English on dedicated apps for smartphone at www.agribusinesstv.info.
Earn valuable CPD credits
By Andy Challinor
The most extreme El Niño weather current in history has officially been declared over, but has left some 100 million people facing severe food and water shortages in its wake. But we cannot rest easy as another, less headline-grabbing phenomenon, is already underway.
Gradual yet steady warming of the planet is posing an equally significant threat to our food supply. Our crop breeding programmes, which develop crops that will survive in high temperatures, are simply not keeping up.
In recent years, our ability to predict future climate scenarios has improved greatly. For example, we now know that mean temperatures in Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, and may reach as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels. This is the good news: at least we know what is coming.
The bad news is that we have much less time than we might think to get our food systems prepared to adapt to these latest projections. In fact, research out this week shows that maize crops currently being bred will be out of date by the time they get into the field, in terms of their response to rising temperatures. 1.2 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America depend on maize as a staple food. Yet climate change is advancing quicker than we are able to breed and disseminate heat resistant varieties. As if breeding was not already complicated enough – needing to respond to complex cultural and market preferences – we now need to pay closer attention to future climate scenarios to ensure these improved seeds are fit for purpose.
As we face our eighth consecutive hottest month on record, we should be feeling the heat both literally and figuratively and accelerate the pace of our crop research accordingly.
A range of solutions are available to rectify this worrying situation. First, there are several opportunities for reducing the amount of time it takes to breed new crop varieties and get them into circulation – which currently stands at up to thirty years. Using marker aided-selection for example, that allows certain traits to be identified and used, as well as involving the farmers who will use the new seeds in a “participatory” breeding approach, have both shown promise for achieving this. New varieties could also be bred in warmer temperatures, so that they develop more heat stress tolerance along the way. This efficient solution is now being tested by teams in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Ethiopia and shows much promise. Mitigating future climate change to within the agreed “safe limit” will also ensure that new crop varieties can survive. This will become particularly important in the second half of this century, when changes we make now in reducing emissions will begin to show their effects.
But none of this will be possible without significant funding. The Green Climate Fund was set up at the Cancun climate talks in 2010 to help developing countries adapt to and mitigate future climate change, yet it still has not supported agricultural research (instead focusing on clean energy, water and land restoration projects). This could be one so far untapped resource.
Of course, we cannot claim that breeding alone will solve the food shortages that record temperatures are causing; indeed some crops will simply not be suitable for cultivation in some areas of the world by as soon as 2050. Improved seeds can only contribute to food security and farmer incomes if other challenges such as access to finance and market access are also addressed in tandem.
With this in mind, existing heat and drought tolerant crops can have tremendous impact on rural livelihoods especially for smallholder farmers. For example, the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa project is now being used by two million farmers in 13 African countries, helping them grow enough food to feed their families and sell on the surplus – even at times when rains are erratic or scarce.
We cannot let the next phase of breeding efforts become futile. While this research only examines maize crops in certain regions of the world, it should raise alarm bells for many other global staple crops, which are also at risk of being outpaced by our changing climate. We urgently need to link climate scientists, crop modellers and breeders to identify which traits will be needed where over the next 30 years, and work collaboratively to ensure that they are successfully bred into the future crops on which we will rely.
– After over a year of extreme weather changes across the world, causing destruction to homes and lives, 2015-16 El Niño has now come to an end.
This recent El Niño – probably the strongest on record along with the along with those in 1997-1998 and 1982-83– has yet again shown us just how vulnerable we, let alone the poorest of the poor, are to dramatic changes in the climate and other extreme weather events.
Across southern Africa El Niño has led to the extreme drought affecting this year’s crop. Worst affected by poor rains are Malawi, where almost three million people are facing hunger, and Madagascar and Zimbabwe, where last year’s harvest was reduced by half compared to the previous year because of substantial crop failure.
However, El Niño is not the only manifestation of climate change. Mean temperatures across Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, possibly reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels, and rainfall will change, almost invariably for the worst.
In the face of this, African governments are under more pressure than ever to boost productivity and accelerate growth in order to meet the food demands of a rapidly expanding population and a growing middle class. To achieve this exact challenge, African Union nations signed the Malabo Declaration in 2014, committing themselves to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025.
However, according to a new briefing paper out today from the Montpellier Panel, the agricultural growth and food security goals as set out by the Malabo Declaration have underemphasised the risk that climate change will pose to food and nutrition security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The Montpellier Panel concludes that food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart.
Smallholder farmers will require more support than ever to withstand the challenges and threats posed by climate change while at the same time enabling them to continue to improve their livelihoods and help achieve an agricultural transformation. In this process it will be important that governments do not fail to mainstream smallholder resilience across their policies and strategies, to ensure that agriculture continues to thrive, despite the increasing number and intensity of droughts, heat waves or flash floods.
The Montpellier Panel argues that climate-smart agriculture, which serves the triple purpose of increasing production, adapting to climate change and reducing agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, needs to be integrated into countries’ National Agriculture Investment Plans and become a more explicit part of the implementation of the Malabo Declaration.
Across Africa we are starting to see signs of progress to remove some of the barriers to implementing successful climate change strategies at national and local levels. These projects and agriculture interventions are scalable and provide important lessons for strengthening political leadership, triggering technological innovations, improving risk mitigation and above all building the capacity of a next generation of agricultural scientists, farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs. The Montpellier Panel has outlined several strategies that have shown particular success.
Building a Knowledge Economy
A “knowledge economy” improves the scientific capacities of both individuals and institutions, supported by financial incentives and better infrastructure. A good example is the “Global Change System Analysis, Research and Training” (START) programme, that promotes research-driven capacity building to advance knowledge on global environmental change across 26 countries in Africa.
START provides research grants and fellowships, facilitates multi-stakeholder dialogues and develops curricula. This opens up opportunities for scientists and development professionals, young people and policy makers to enhance their understanding of the threats posed by climate change.
Sustainably intensifying agriculture
Agriculture production that will simultaneously improve food security and natural resources such as soil and water quality will be key for African countries to achieve the goal of doubling agriculture productivity by 2025. Adoption of Sustainable Intensification (SI) practices in combination has the potential to increase agricultural production while improving soil fertility, reducing GHG emissions and environmental degradation and making smallholders more resilient to climate change or other weather stresses and shocks.
Drip irrigation technologies such as bucket drip kits help deliver water to crops effectively with far less effort than hand-watering and for a minimal cost compared to irrigation. In Kenya, through the support of the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute, the use of the drip kit is spreading rapidly and farmers reported profits of US$80-200 with a single bucket kit, depending on the type of vegetable.
Providing climate information services
Risk mitigation tools, such as providing reliable climate information services, insurance policies that pay out to farmers following extreme climate events and social safety net programmes that pay vulnerable households to contribute to public works can boost community resilience. Since 2011 the CGIAR’s Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Senegalese National Meteorological Agency and the the Union des Radios Associatives et Communautaires du Sénégal, an association of 82 community-based radio stations, have been collaborating to develop climate information services that benefit smallholder farmers.
A pilot project was implemented in Kaffrine and by 2015, the project had scaled-up to the rest of the country. Four different types of CI form the basis of advice provided to farmers through SMS and radio: seasonal, 10-day, daily and instant weather forecasts, that allow farmers to adjust their farming practices. In 2014, over 740,000 farm households across Senegal benefitted from these services.
Now is the time to act
While international and continental processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals, COP21 and the Malabo Declaration are crucial for aligning core development objectives and goals, there is often a disconnect between the levels of commitment and implementation on the ground. Now is an opportune time to act. Governments inevitably have many concurrent and often conflicting commitments and hence require clear goals that chart a way forward to deliver on the Malabo Declaration.
The 15 success stories discussed in the Montpellier Panel’s briefing paper highlight just some examples that help Africa’s agriculture thrive. As the backbone of African economies, accounting for as much as 40% of total export earnings and employing 60 – 90% of the labour force, agriculture is the sector that will accelerate growth and transform Africa’s economies.
With the targets of the Malabo Declaration aimed at 2025 – five years before the SDGs – Africa can now seize the moment and lead the way on the shared agenda of sustainable agricultural development and green economic growth.
How will climate change affect you? Probably through water.
That’s the major message of a new World Bank report that finds the way governments treat water can have a profound effect on the economy.
Good water management could lead to a six percent increase in global GDP by 2050, while bad management – or simply business as usual in some places – could reduce GDP by as much as 14 percent in the Middle East, 12 percent in the Sahel, and 11 percent in Central Asia. Poor water policy could even lead to sustained declines in GDP in some places, via losses in agriculture, health, income, and property.
The basic problem is that demand is ever increasing while supply remains finite. In addition, supply is becoming harder to predict as climate change shifts rainfall patterns. Without major improvements in water efficiency, global demand could exceed supplies by 40 percent over the next 15 years.
To assess how climate change will affect water supply, the authors modeled water runoff in 235 river basins under different conditions and emission scenarios. They then compared those changes to current conditions to identify the most vulnerable regions. For example, Colombia is expected to see a considerable decline in runoff, but the current level of rainfall is already so high, the risks are considered minimal. For arid countries like Iraq, the same decline could have much more severe consequences.
A broad belt stretching from West Africa through the Middle East and South Asia to Japan encompasses the most vulnerable countries. Many of these countries’ river basins, home to 60 percent of the world’s population, already exist in a “state of near-permanent water stress.”
Supply and Demand
To narrow the gap between supply and demand, the World Bank recommends expanding supply, such as by building more physical infrastructure, like dams. But it also cautions that without corresponding efforts to manage use, demand tends to increase at the same rate, leading to little change in water dependence. (Indeed, though the bank is primarily focused on infrastructure and economic policy, others have noted the importance of social change to improving water security and climate adaptation.)
Governments have several options to address the demand side. There are top-down planning and regulatory schemes, and bottom-up pricing and permitting changes. In areas of scarcity, groundwater withdrawals should be monitored and managed to increase performance and avoid pumping aquifers dry. The authors also recommend making it easier to import food in countries that have “no comparative advantage in food production where water resources are being degraded in the attempt to force increases in food supply.”
Market-based solutions, such as changing pricing and incentive structures, are also a part of the answer, according to the World Bank. The report says water pricing is commonly misunderstood. Where water is free or extremely cheap, poor people tend to be worse off and inefficiency and environmental degradation increase.
The Middle East, for example, is the most water-scarce region in the world, which should encourage users to take advantage of every last drop. But the opposite is true. Very low water prices and high subsidies, especially for irrigation, are in part responsible for the worst water productivity rates in the world. Some worry that Yemen, where many farmers have replaced grape vines with more water-intensive qhat, will become the first modern country to literally run out of water.
About Conflict and Migration…
The report makes clear connections between the physical processes of climate change and hydrology and socio-economic results, including economic growth, poverty alleviation, and inequality. These links are especially compelling coming from an organization that plays a leading role in international trade, investment, and financing for developing countries.
One place where the report’s arguments are a little loose is the small section on migration and conflict. Civil conflict and instability are invoked throughout the report as potential consequences of ignoring water concerns. Violent conflict and migration can result from food price spikes, drought, floods, and income inequality, according to the report.
There are indeed legitimate concerns around these kinds of risks (see the New Climate for Peace report for a comprehensive breakdown of seven), but there are also many open questions about how exactly climate change affects stability and human mobility.Oversimplifying these complex interactions can lead to poor policy and unintended consequences.
In one case, the report also seems to misstate one of its supporting pieces of evidences, citing a study that founddemocratic institutions improved after rainfall declines to argue that rainfall shocks, “by straining government budgets,” make “regime change more likely” and “ignite conflicts.”
In their Climate Change Action Plan, released early last month, the World Bank committed to producing a “flagship analytical report” on climate change, migration, and conflict next year, so perhaps we will see a fuller treatment of these dynamics then.
Consumers care more than ever before about the environmental impact of the products they buy, and companies are incorporating green business trends in order to capitalize on this growing demand. As of 2014, “55% of consumers across 60 countries [were] willing to pay higher prices for goods from environmentally conscious companies… 71% of Americans at least consider the environment as a factor when shopping,” according to a green industry report.
In addition to the revenue-boosting effect from ‘going green’, businesses can also appreciate some significant savings from reduced energy costs by incorporating sustainability and energy efficiency into their products, practices and operations.
Innovative & Renewable Energy
Renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, have been impacting commercial industries for several years, creating more sustainable practices across the board. Renewable energy and innovative methods of sourcing energy is now more mainstream in business-to-consumer markets as well. As in residential scenarios, businesses can offset their usage and costs by implementing renewable methods like solar paneling. Businesses are also finding more unique ways to generate energy — one company is even turning food waste and sewage into usable energy!
Waste is the antithesis to green behavior, whether it happens with energy, products and supplies, or food. Feeding America® reports an estimated 70 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year in the United States alone. This food waste generates more greenhouse gases that carry a greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Many urban restaurants, grocery stores, and food producers are cutting back on waste by donating their leftover food to homeless shelters and food banks. Meanwhile, grocery retailers are increasingly redesigning their business models to reduce food waste, going so far as developing zero-waste stores and recipe-based food delivery services.
Energy Efficient Housewares
Green business trends toward energy efficiency are affecting the residential marketplace, particularly with home renovations and the choices homeowners make for a home remodel. Construction companies and providers of home services are offering eco-friendly options that homeowners prefer. Common examples of these popular eco-friendly products include new appliances with high Energy Star ratings, tankless water heaters, solar paneling, and insulated windows or window film. Many construction firms are also incorporating green business trends in their building and sourcing methods, such as using reclaimed or recycled materials for a variety of home renovation applications, instead of brand-new materials and fixtures.
Tech companies and corporate businesses can do a lot to reduce their carbon footprint, beyond simply adding a recycling bin and encouraging employees and customers to go paperless. Computers and other electronic devices use up a lot of energy, especially when they are left on after-hours and when moving screen-savers are running. Office-based businesses can easily implement a ‘greener’ approach with a policy of turning off the default screen-saver triggers, and asking employees to turn their computers and electronics off at the end of each day. For companies with the budget to replace older machines, energy-efficient electronics with high Energy Star ratings or EPEAT marks are available. Another popular employment benefit for technology and media industries in particular, is to allow or encourage telecommuting. This is also a green business trend, since commuting carries a significant carbon footprint for the employee, and employers spend more in energy and financial costs with larger office spaces.
Marketing and advertising is a cornerstone of virtually any business. Eco-friendly advertising trends and methods are becoming more popular. For example, some companies are choosing to advertise on new billboards that showcase the business while providing an ecological benefit, such as purifying the air or hosting an urban garden. Businesses are also reducing their use of paper products, while saving lots of money in printing costs by focusing more on digital marketing and online advertising avenues.
Moving forward, green business trends are expected to continue to develop with a focus on carbon recycling, green infrastructure, microgrids, the circular economy, and the B-to-B sharing economy, according to a 2016 report from GreenBiz. Progressively, these elements of eco-friendly business practices are becoming more of an opportunity for reducing risks and increasing revenue — opening the door for mainstream investors to finance sustainable business growth.
Chemicals and pharmaceuticals company Bayer has joined forces with the Howick-based Future Farmers Foundation to show its support for the Future Farmers initiative. This reinforced Bayer’s commitment to local agricultural development through sustainable food production, skills development and job creation. Participants of the Future Farmers programme would gain real-world experience on local commercial farms for two to five years to ensure that they had a full understanding of what farming entailed. Once ready, trainees were given the opportunity to hone these skills through international mentorship opportunities or to share their knowledge within their communities to transfer skills, boost agricultural productivity and promote a system of sustainable food production.
“Bayer is committed to the development of the agricultural industry in South Africa, and this partnership will enable us to contribute to the sector in a meaningful way,” said Bayer communications head Tasniem Patel. She noted that Bayer’s support of the foundation’s vision to develop commercial farming skills for sustainable food production not only helped create jobs but also created opportunities for skills transfer and the development of the overall industry. Ultimately, this could contribute to increased farm output in the future, as farmers were learning to use Africa’s agricultural resources more effectively.
Patel added that the sustainable production of high-quality food should be a top priority on Africa’s development agenda, not only for the continent to meet the needs of its growing population, but also for African countries’ economic trade commitments and growth potential. “Addressing some of the major challenges in modern agriculture requires fresh answers and we are committed to helping tackle these challenges through our expertise and partnerships,” concluded Patel.
LONDON—Although growing human numbers, climate change and other crises threaten the world‘s ability to feed itself, researchers believe that if we used water more sensibly that would go a long way towards closing the global food gap.
Politicians and experts have simply underestimated what better water use can do to save millions of people from starvation, they say.
For the first time, scientists have assessed the global potential for growing more food with the same amount of water. They found that production could rise by 40%, simply by optimising rain use and careful irrigation. That is half the increase the UN says is needed to eradicate world hunger by mid-century.
The lead author of the study, Jonas Jägermeyr, an Earth system analyst at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), says the potential yields from good water management have not been taken fully into account.
Already parched areas, he says, have the most potential for increases in yield, especially water-scarce regions in China, Australia, the western US, Mexico and South Africa.
“It turns out that crop water management is a largely under-rated approach to reducing undernourishment and increasing the climate resilience of smallholders,” he says.
In theory, the gains could be massive, but the authors acknowledge that getting local people to adopt best practice remains a challenge.
They have been careful to limit their estimates to existing croplands, and not to include additional water resources. But they have taken into account a number of very different water management options, from low-tech solutions for smallholders to the industrial scale.
“Our study should draw the attention of
decision-makers at all levels to the potential
of integrated crop water management”
Water harvesting by collecting excess rain run-off in cisterns—for supplementary irrigation during dry spells—is a common traditional approach in regions such as Africa’s Sahel. But it is under-used in many other semi-arid regions in Asia and North America.
Mulching is another option, covering the soil with crop residues or plastic sheeting to reduce evaporation. And upgrading irrigation to drip systems can play a major part.
Water management becomes increasingly important to food with continuing climate change, because global warming is likely to increase droughts and change rainfall patterns.
Wolfgang Lucht, co-author of the study and co-chair of PIK, argues that the global effect of proper water use has been neglected in the discussion about how to feed the world.
“Since we are rapidly approaching planetary boundaries, our study should draw the attention of decision-makers at all levels to the potential of integrated crop water management”, he says.
It finds that global warming affects glacier melt, soil erosion and the release of sediments into rivers and lakes, damaging water quality. This is already having a significant impact on 40% of the world’s population, which lives downstream in India and China.
Transport of pollutants
The study found that concentrations of mercury, cadmium and lead in high-altitude lake sediments in areas with low human activity were significantly higher than in more densely populated low-altitude areas. This shows, the authors say, that atmospheric long-range transport of pollutants in remote Himalayan areas may deposit them at high altitudes.
The plateau has extensive permafrost cover, storing a lot of carbon. The temperature in the area has been increasing for the past 500 years, and the climate in the central plateau has been warming more than other regions in the last century.
Water from the plateau feeds the Yangtze, Yarlung Tsangpo (known in India as the Brahmaputra) and Ganges rivers, on which more than one billion people depend for their water.
Professor Mika Sillanpää, the director of the university’s Laboratory of Green Chemistry, calls for urgent research to understand the carbon cycle in the Himalayas.
“Global warming is releasing increasing amounts of carbon matter from permafrost to waters and then to the atmosphere,” he says. “This will intensify regional and even global climate change. It will affect human livelihoods, rangeland degradation, desertification, loss of glaciers, and more.”