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Mozambique: Slashing and Burning

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mozambique-by-douglas-drake

I recently spent three months cycling through Mozambique, in a range of temperatures from sweltering to incinerating. In addition to the obligatory saddle sores and sun burn, it provided some great insights into the country and the people.

Visiting different national parks and conservation related projects was the overarching aim of the trip. However, reality saw the bulk of my time spent cycling along roads, with varying degrees of tarmac and consistent volumes of litter.  What was past the litter was most telling, which for large stretches of the country was burnt or burning land.

Slash and burn agriculture is used extensively across Mozambique, to the point where it is clearly visible when protected areas of land begin and end. Forested land is clear cut and then burned; the layer of ash created then provides rich nutrients for a few years of farming. Once the nutrients are used up, another area of forest gets the same treatment, with habitat loss, air pollution and soil erosion all occurring. In essence the practice works for the short term but longer term – especially in light of a population growing at 3.8% a year – is unsustainable and hugely ecologically damaging.

Not only is slash and burn agriculture a long term issue, it is symbolic of far deeper problems within Mozambique, which raises questions of why the struggling general population would even care.  The title of the World Bank’s recently released bi-annual report on Mozambique sums it up well: ‘Mozambiqe Economic Update: facing hard choices’. Conflict, drought, low commodities prices and a depreciating currency are all highlighted as plights for the country.

Cycling through Mozambique it is easy to see slash and burn at the coal face. What is not so conspicuous is the fact that it permeates from the upper echelons of politics and international institutions such as the IMF.   Two examples are indicative. In 2012 offshore natural gas was discovered, so following the textbook, in swept the oilmen and bankers. Credit Swiss and Russian lender VTB, motivated by high commissions, helped the government raise $2.2bn in loans – not insignificant for a country with a GDP of $16bn – most of it done secretly. An additional $850m was raised to fund a state owned tuna fishing company.  In both cases the money was squandered and the resultant debt scandal has hammered the currency, leaving people in one of the world’s poorest countries facing annual food inflation of 40%.

Even assuming the money had not been wasted, both deals stink of slash and burn. Look to Nigeria and Angola for examples of fossil fuel resources making international institutions rich, whilst keeping general populations locked in poverty and corruption.  There is also a dark irony in the export of more commodities being seen as a long term solution, whilst simultaneously being peddled as a reason for the countries current economic woes.   That is before you even look at future reductions in fossil fuel use and fish stocks which will be driven by climate change and overfishing.

But perhaps worst of all is the reality that the exporting of natural gas and tuna will hurt the general population, not benefitting them in the short or long term. Fish is a staple part of the Mozambican diet and fishing a major source of employment. Increasing commercial fishing in an already overfished area, relocating fisherman and drilling offshore will undoubtedly have significant negative effects. Once gas and fish is then exported, all evidence suggests that revenue will be plundered and benefit a very small minority – much like the original debt – and not be spent addressing real and important issues like slash and burn agriculture.

Like much of Africa, Mozambique needs to turn a food deficit into a food surplus. With a reported 30%-40% of crops such as maize being wasted, it is obvious that investment in storage and transport infrastructure is required. This along with education and governance – to prevent practices such as slash and burn – is where private and public institutions should be focused.

Having spent a few nights at the beautiful Nzou Camp in central Mozambique, surrounded by African Paradise-Flycatchers and beautiful forests, it was all the harder leaving on a road surrounded by what was previously the same dense woodland. In its place, a carpet of black and dusty threadbare stumps, rolling as far as the eye can see. Sadly, that is the just the real slash and burn’s little brother.

Written by Douglas Drake

Aspiring adventurer, writer and environmentalist. Having sold his soul for a few years, Doug is now pursuing his true passions in life which revolve around animals and the natural world.  With a background in business and finance it is likely Doug’s articles will tilt that way.

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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