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Hydroponics and Vertical Farming in Morocco and the World – The Maravi Post

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By Carter and Henry Prillaman

A vision for the future of agriculture and possible implementation in Marrakech, Morocco

Our agriculture system as we know it needs to change. We see an enormous amount of waste in current practices through using up too much water, using too many pesticides that hurt the neighboring environment as well as waste of produce through imperfection or being pest ridden. This, combined with flagging and in some cases stagnant yield increases in soil systems across the world will soon require sweeping and rapid changes in growing methods. As our population continues to grow, food production will grow and our methods of growing should change as well.

There are methods available to us today to not only change the way we grow produce for the better, but also increase yields in a smaller space. Vertical farming through hydroponics or aeroponics gives us the opportunity to grow larger amounts of produce in seemingly unavailable spaces. Rooftops, indoors, in older warehouses—you can grow plants and stack them on top of each other to farm a consistent crop that produces year-round and quickly, uses less water and energy, is more pest resistant, and can help alleviate some of the logistical trouble of transporting produce to and from farms to cities everywhere.

Cherry tomatoes being grown vertically and hydroponically in a greenhouse in Morocco.
Hydroponics and aeroponics are increasingly popular cultivation methods among both commercial growers and research scientists. They confer several advantages with the foremost of these being their water use efficiency, with some studies suggesting up to 70% and 95% less water usage for hydroponics and aeroponics, respectively. In one 2015 study conducted in Arizona, an extremely dry state in the United States, it was found that hydroponically grown lettuce required 10 times less water as a system than soil-based lettuce crops. This is particularly important based on the similarities between the climates of Arizona and Marrakech. While this study found that energy usage of a hydroponic farm was significantly higher than soil-based farms, this could be nearly completely offset by reducing the amount of supplemental lighting used in favor of currently available solar power technologies.

Another advantage of greenhouse hydroponic production is season-independence, where a grower would be able to produce several harvests year-round by shielding the crops from seasonal changes through the use of LED lighting and heating and cooling of the greenhouse space. By utilizing existing ideas for a closed-loop hydroponic system, which can be easily constructed in any area of the world, it is possible to reuse nearly all water and nutrients that are not uptaken and transpired by plants. One study conducted in Indonesia suggested the use of such a system to more actively regulate water usage and increase cost-efficiency of hydroponic production in a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) hydroponic system. Water efficiency and full-year production and harvest are attractive, and depending on the design of the greenhouse, pest resistance can be built in as well through engineering of the facility to not be conducive to insect or microbial population accumulation.

While reusing nutrients and water can be economically and environmentally attractive (in reducing agricultural runoff, one of the main sources of pollution in the world), care must be taken to ensure consistent yield through several cycles of harvest. If not properly treated, reused nutrient solution can accumulate several phytotoxic (plant-harming) organic acids that are released from the roots of any plant in order to regulate the microbial population of its roots. Studies have shown that the use of activated charcoal can help to mitigate some of the damaging effects of these chemicals, though further research is needed to determine a commercially viable solution.

Another promising area of research in hydroponics and aeroponics is a possible disease resistance conferred by the physical stress of constant flow or aerosolization. One recent study found that in aeroponic systems, the microbial population of the roots remained almost entirely distinct from the population of the nutrient solution reservoir, suggesting very little, if any, microbial population overlap. Another recent study attempted to use a chemical intervention solution to mitigate possible E. coli contamination of lettuce crops grown in NFT systems. Though the chemical intervention was unsuccessful, a notable result was the complete lack of colonization of root tissue and no uptake of harmful bacteria into the vegetative tissues of any of the tested crops. Though these studies are recent, they suggest that hydroponics may be much more pathogen resistant than previously thought, leading to considerably lower contamination risk for hydroponic growers, and safer food for consumers.

The benefits of hydroponic and aeroponic farming are many, and emerging technologies are making the ease of access to such systems considerably lower, paving the way for a future generation of amateur and commercial growers to begin to farm in any place, at any time.

Africa has experienced wonderful agricultural and economic growth in some regions but with current methods this is not sustainable. From the “Agricultural Transformation for Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems – United States Agency for International Development (USAID)” 2021 pre-summit, there was a discussion regarding the need for change in the direction of agriculture in the future. There is a need for an increase in productivity in the land already used for agriculture, which will then lead to greater and more sustainable economic growth. Increasing productivity through new agricultural technologies would have lasting impacts on farmers, communities, and societies everywhere. From the World Bank report, “Harvesting Prosperity: Technology and Productivity Growth in Agriculture,” there is particular weight given to innovation and the need to support this innovation through connection to markets. We believe that using new hydroponic and aeroponic technology as well as vertical farming can increase productivity, foster a closer connection for city residents to their food production, and experience continued growth in the agricultural sector.

A vertical aeroponic farm in Kenya.

Across the world, we are conducting unsustainable practices and use of land for agricultural growing. The High Atlas Foundation, a foundation for the lasting and prosperous development of Morocco, has been working to address this problem. They have been following responsible procedures and using new technology to increase efficiency through primarily women and youth led campaigns. In addition, they have been working to address the problem of climate change through monitoring trees they have planted for carbon offsets. There is a necessity in not only Africa but across the world to accept and utilize new technology to help increase the productivity of the land we have, while also saving our planet. The advent of hydroponics, aeroponics, and vertical farming is a great method to try and combat the pressing issue of how we are going to grow plants when there is little water and little surface area. This gives the possibility for many methods of urban farming, including vertical and hydroponics in rooftops and many unused areas that could be used for growing.
 
We only have one world, so being good stewards and living sustainable lives is imperative. Expanding use of the technology of hydroponics and vertical farming can allow the small grower to have much stronger financial gain while also helping alleviate the burden agriculture places on the planet. There is only so much space in the world, but we can always grow up.
 
Carter Prillaman is a current junior majoring in biology at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Henry Prillaman is a current senior majoring in economics at The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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There is no ‘insecurity’ in Nigeria – The Maravi Post

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By Tony Ogunlowo

Nigeria has recently been voted for as one of the safest countries in the world to live in. It has a zero-crime rate and you’re a lot safer walking the streets of Lagos than you are in London or New York.

This of course, is one big fat lie!

As part of his Eid el Maulud message to the nation President Buhari suggests “time has come to revise the prefixes ‘rising insecurity’ with ‘declining insecurity’ “. In short, he’s asking us to be economical with the truth. So, in short, the DSS can only do so much to stop the truth getting out and now the Presidency is politely asking journalists to “lie small, small” (- or else?). Twitter is down (unless you are using a VPN) and any other Social Media site used to discuss the rising insecurity in the country can be shut down with a single nod from Aso Rock.

Now, we can’t all be Lai Mohammed, as a reporter/journalist/columnist we have a job – and responsibility – to report what we see, truthfully, for the benefit of the populace. To follow the Presidents directive would be like telling a doctor to downplay the dangers of the Covid pandemic.

The general public has a right to know what is going on in the world around them. If you downplay the insecurity in the country you risk lulling people into a false sense of security and the criminals will become bolder knowing the people have dropped their guard.

This comes at a time when the Nigerian Airforce allegedly had to bribe bandits, with N20 Million, to return an anti-aircraft gun they had stolen but we’re not allowed to report it, Wall Street Journal dey lie!

A journalist code of ethnic’s states that a journalist must serve the people with devotion, educate while avoiding sensationalism without distorting or manipulating the facts.

So in the past 48  hours of ‘declining insecurity’ in Nigeria the following has happened:

  • 43 people killed in a Bandit attack in Sokoto state.
  • 10 bandits killed in Giwa LG, Kaduna.
  • Village head kidnapped in Katsina.
  • The NDLEA made more than 700 arrests.
  • Bandits kill 12 in Zamfara.

…and that’s not taking into account all the other ‘minor’ crimes like the Fulani herdsmen going on the rampage, again, and everywhere; cultists killing one another in running battles across the country; armed robbers having a field day in Lagos, kidnappers etc,etc.

In 2019 I wrote an article entitled “ The Death of Free Speech in Africa” (https://naijagists.com/the-death-of-free-speech-in-africa/) in which I pointed out that African leaders were back to their old tricks of controlling the media and this was before the Twitter ban in Nigeria: control the media and you can control the people forever. It works well in North Korea, China, Russia and some African countries and now its slowly becoming practice again in Nigeria. Again, its being brought back by the same man who in 1984 tried to repress the press with the infamous Decree 4.

So, in my article next month I’ll be writing that the glorious Nigerian Army has exterminated all but five members of the dreaded Boko Haram: Governor Nasir el-Rufai has announced that Kaduna state is finally bandit free; the South-East is the most peaceful – and safest – place to live in Nigeria and all yahoo-yahoo boys and cultists are being rounded up.

I wish!

Follow me on Twitter: @Archangel641 or visit http://www.archangel641.blogspot.co.uk

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Sudan: Rival protest leaders call for peace – The Maravi Post

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Rival Sudanese protest leaders on Wednesday urged their supporters to remain peaceful, on the eve of a critical day of demonstrations over the fate of the country’s fragile transition to civilian rule.

Opposing factions of the civilian umbrella Forces for Freedom and Change, including a pro-military splinter group, have called for competing rallies Thursday.

The civilian umbrella alliance spearheaded nationwide demonstrations in 2019 that led to the ouster of president Omar al-Bashir.

The FFC’s mainstream faction has supported the government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Sudan’s transition to civilian rule, while a breakaway faction has demanded the dissolution of his government.

Protesters from the splinter faction have been holding a sit-in outside Khartoum’s presidential palace for the past five days and have been calling for “military rule”.

Some have urged General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan — who chairs Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, a body made up of both civilian and military figures — to take over.

Ali Ammar, a protest leader from the mainstream FFC faction, urged Sudanese “to fill the streets (Thursday) across the country to safeguard the civilian rule and democratic transition”.

“Our protest will not come near the presidential palace or the cabinet building, so there would be no friction with protesters (there),” he told a press conference Wednesday.

Nasr al-din Mohammed, another leader from the mainstream faction, urged for the protest to be “peaceful”.

Meanwhile former rebel leader Mini Minawi, a key figure in the splinter faction, urged pro-army supporters to maintain order at their protest on Thursday.

“October 21 is a day of tolerance, not of incitement or violence,” he told a separate press conference.

Finance minister and ex-rebel leader Gibril Ibrahim, also associated with the breakaway faction, “rejected resorting to any form of violence” during the pro-army protests.

Critics have alleged that members of the military and security forces are driving the pro-army protests and that counter-revolutionary sympathisers with the former regime are also involved.

The rising tensions come as Sudan reels from deep political splits.

Premier Hamdok has described the crisis as “the worst and most dangerous” the country has faced during the post-Bashir transition.

Sudan said last month it had thwarted a coup attempt that it blamed on both military officers and civilians linked to Bashir’s regime.

On Wednesday, the US embassy in Khartoum voiced “strong US support for Sudan’s democratic transition” and urged protesters to be “peaceful”.

Senior US diplomat Payton Knopf also met with officials including Hamdok in Khartoum ahead of a visit by US special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman at the end of the week.

Hamdok said he wanted to “follow through on the objectives of the revolution”, according to a statement.

Burhan on Wednesday insisted on the “partnership between civilians and the military”, after earlier this week expressing commitment to the transition to civilian rule.

Source: Africanews

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Madagascar: Severe drought could spur world’s first climate change famine – The Maravi Post

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The region has been hit hard by successive years of severe drought, forcing families in rural communities to resort to desperate measures just to survive. 

Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, has a unique ecosystem which includes animals and plants found nowhere else on the planet. The country experiences a dry season, usually from May to October, and a rainy season that starts in November.  

Daily life disrupted 

However, climate change has disrupted the cycle, affecting smallholder farmers and their neighbours, said Alice Rahmoun, WFP Communications Officer in the capital, Antananarivo, speaking to UN News on Thursday. 

“There is of course less rain, so when there is the first rain, they can maybe have hope and sow some seeds. But one little rain is not a proper rainy season,” she said.  

“So, what we can say is that the impacts of climate change are really stronger and stronger….so harvests fail constantly, so people don’t have anything to harvest and anything to renew their food stocks.” 

Varying impacts 

Ms. Rahmoun was recently in southern Madagascar, where WFP and partners are supporting hundreds of thousands of people through short and long-term assistance.   

The impact of the drought varies from place to place, she said. While some communities have not had a proper rainy season for three years, the situation might be even worse 100 kilometres away.  

She recalled seeing villages surrounded by dried-out fields, and tomato plants which were “completely yellow, or even brown”, from lack of water.  

Surviving on locusts 

“In some areas they are still able to plant something, but it’s not easy at all, so they are trying to grow sweet potatoes.  But in some other areas, absolutely nothing is growing right now, so people are just surviving only eating locusts, eating fruits and cactus leaves,” said Ms. Rahmoun.   

“And, just as an example, cactus leaves are usually for cattle; it is not for human consumption.”   

The situation is even more dire because, she added, “even the cactus are dying from the drought, from the lack of rain and the lack of water, so it’s really, really worrying”. 

Every month, WFP provides food assistance to 750,000 people in Southern Madagascar

© WFP/Krystyna Kovalenko

Every month, WFP provides food assistance to 750,000 people in Southern Madagascar

Families barely coping  

The plight of families is also deeply troubling. “People have already started to develop coping mechanisms to survive,” she said.  

“And that means that they are selling cattle, for example, to get money to be able to buy food, when before, they were able to get food and feed themselves from their own field production, so it’s really changing the daily life for people.” 

Valuable assets such as fields, or even houses, are also put up for sale.  Some families have even pulled their children out of school. 

“It’s also a strategy right now to gather the family’s forces on finding income-generating activities involving children, so this has obviously a direct impact on education,” Ms. Rahmoun said. 

Providing life-saving aid 

WFP is collaborating with humanitarian partners, and the Malagasy Government, to provide two types of response to the crisis.  Some 700,000 people are receiving life-saving food aid, including supplementary products to prevent malnutrition. 

“The second one is more long-term response to allow local communities to be able to prepare for, respond to and recover from climate shocks better,” said Ms. Rahmoun. “So, this includes resilience projects such as water projects.  We’re doing irrigation canals, reforestation and even microinsurance to help smallholder farmers to recover from a lost harvest, for example.” 

WFP ultimately aims to support up to one million people between now and April, and is seeking nearly $70 million to fund operations.  “But we are also involving more partners to find and fund climate change solutions for the community to adapt to the impacts of climate change in southern Madagascar.” 

COP26: Prioritize adaptation 

In just over a week, world leaders will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 UN climate change conference, which UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called the last chance to “literally turn the tide” on an ailing planet. 

Ms. Rahmoun said WFP wants to use the conference to shift the focus from crisis response, to risk management.  

Countries must be prepared for climate shocks, and they must act together to reduce severe impacts on the world’s most vulnerable people, which includes the villagers of southern Madagascar. 

“COP26 is also an opportunity for us to ask governments and donors to prioritize funding relating to climate adaptation programmes, to help countries to build a better risk management system, and even in Madagascar, because if nothing is done, hunger will increase exponentially in the coming years because of climate change,” she said, adding: “not only in Madagascar, but in other countries.”  

Sourced from United Nations Africa Pages

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