Food vs fuel, or carbon credits?

Is it raining outside my window? – Just wishful thinking. It’s the sprinkler. I’m watering the garden, hoping that will bring on rain.  Maybe I should wash my windows and the car too – it might be more effective. I think we Canadians have a superstitious root too, not just the Africans!

There is much talk in the world about the whole food versus fuel issue. We often discussed it in Zambia, where thousands of hectares are being planted to Jatropha, a tree specially used to produce biofuel. Contrary to what many would like to make us believe, Jatropha is not just being planted on marginal soil, but on some of the best land in Zambia, in Africa itself.

Natural Resources Canada has reforested this fertile quarter as a response to climate change. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Natural Resources Canada has reforested this fertile quarter as a response to climate change. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

We saw more of that happening in Europe. As we drove through the Rhein valley along the border between France and Germany, the fertile valley was seeded mostly to corn – not to feed the world, but to feed the big silos beside biodiesel plants. Many feel this is unethical. While the World Food Bank talks about a looming food shortage for the earth’s masses, some of the most fertile acres are being seeded to plants for fuel.

The whole debate came close to home today for me. A quarter of land down the road was planted to trees some years ago. I didn’t think too much of it, really. Today we decided to stop and read the sign beside the fence: “This plantation is part of the Government of Canada’s response to climate change. Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service in partnership with the local landowner established this plantation to promote afforestation for carbon sequestration and fibre production.”

This quarter is part of the most fertile land in this area, some of the most fertile land in Alberta. Just some twenty kilometers north the land becomes more marginal, moving into swamp and then north of that grey wooded soil which is mostly cattle country.

This quarter is just adjacent to the reforested one, and will produce a good crop of canola, if it ever rains. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

This quarter is just adjacent to the reforested one, and will produce a good crop of canola, if it ever rains. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Farmers continue to clear land of trees in that marginal area while trees are planted on some of the most fertile soil. More of the same of what is happening in Africa and Europe? Unethical, perhaps?

There was a website on the sign: www.nrcan.gc.ca/cfs-scf/ I checked out the site, and found that this could be part of a research plot related to learning more about climate change and its affect on the forest, etc.  But those words ‘carbon sequestration’ sound very much like carbon credit trading to me.

My Dad was very upset last summer when he learned that some of the best land in his community, Cecil Lake, B.C. (North Peace River country) was sold to a European company to use as carbon credits. At the time I told him that if farmers can make more money growing trees than a crop, why not? He didn’t like to hear that!

He and many like him spent a good part of their lives wrestling that land from the wild and making it fit to grow grain. I remember spending summers picking roots while other kids got to go play baseball. Now the next generation is turning it back to trees. At the same time farmers and ranchers continue to clear land in the more marginal areas of the community.

Couldn’t the treed land be sold to companies for carbon credits instead of reforesting fertile land and continuing the clearing of more marginal land? I’ll have to look into this more.

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