Easy Solutions Aren’t So Easy

By Hunter Craddock

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Coming to South Africa I had some hopeful ideas about how I might help change agriculture in places of extreme poverty where food insecurity is a huge issue. After spending only two days in an area that struggles with exactly that I quickly learned a lot of problems that make my ideas extremely unlikely   or difficult to implement. Originally, I wanted propose community agriculture that hires people that are unemployed. I would suggest using methods used by Joel Salatin who is well-known for his sustainable farming methods that he has shared in his books.

I would’ve proposed raising money to pay for grass seed that could be planted on community land that cattle could get the most beneficial nutrients from. Also, I would have a community herd of cattle that are rotated to a fresh lot each day which would allow the previous spot time to recover and grow in order to not be overgrazed. Every fourteen days the herd could start the rotation over because the grass would be back to a healthy stage with the maximum amount of nutrient. So, 3 days after the cattle left their lot I would have brought in portable chicken coops so that the chickens can spread the manure. This would allow fly larvae to mature just before hatching into flies. This would provide great protein for the chickens to eat reducing the need for as much chicken feed. Also, the chicken and eggs would also be more nutritious. The whole time it would help reduce the number of flies that bother the cattle herd which have to swat them with their tails which expends energy that could be otherwise conserved. This process would improve soil quality by improving water retention and reducing erosion due to water and wind. This would mean that after a year or, so the land could then be used to grow a variety of different nutrient dense crops. At that time the cattle could be rotated around a different area in the community while the previous area is farmed. That process could be repeated for generations; constantly improving yield quantity and soil quality.

It seems like the more I learn about the community and how things work: the more questions I have, and the more obstacles I discover that hinder the possible implementation of these proposals. Here are just a few of the problems and questions.

1.      In order to keep the cattle in a specific area I would suggest the use of solar electric fencing which can be relatively cheap and moved easily.

a.      The problem is that there is a possibility that it could get stolen. Can something like that  be protected?

2.      Could you get water to those specific lots since the cattle aren’t free to find their own water.

a.      Would it be worth drilling a well for?

b.      Could a truck be used to get water from rivers or other sources?

c.      Could they afford to use that much water running hoses from their current water source?

3.      Who would get the jobs?

a.      Do those who are unemployed want to do that kind of work?

b.      Who would fund the pay for those workers?

c.      How much would they be paid?

d.      Who would train them how to use solar fencing and how to effectively manage responsibilities.

4.      Would community agriculture negatively affect anyone?

a.      Would those households who make a living from farming lose their income?

b.      Would the land allocated to agriculture take land away from the locals that currently use it?

5.      What happens once the highway is finished?

a.      Will the families that rely on agriculture lose their income once food can be brought in more efficiently from farther away?

b.      Will monoculture take over and follow the same mistakes made in America?

6.      Are there solutions to any of these problems? 

7.      Is it feasible to make a positive change in agriculture before its too late?

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So with this in mind I have thought about other possible ways to provide help that could be implemented faster. I think back to the little girl that I met who spoke nearly perfect English, the memory of my conversation with her will stay with me forever. She wasn’t sure about me at first but eventually opened up. She told me that she was in 5th grade and the reason that she knew English so well is because she takes extra classes at school. It was inspiring to hear that she wants to be a doctor in the future. It made me really happy to hear that she had such ambitious goals. She thought I was crazy when I told her that I wanted to be a farmer which I think is funny.

The extra classes helped this girl get ahead and now she has awesome goals. Unfortunately, not all parents can afford to send their kids to extra classes. So, I think it would be amazing to campaign to fund families that want to send their kids to extra classes. I also would like to see agriculture education in the schools as a possible extra class.

Natalie Miller