Howard (Memorial) Lecture 2009

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This Lecture was given at the Coventry University July 9th 2009 in connection with the International visitors, to the last Royal Show at Stonley, hosted by the Grow Africa Project.

This lecture was delivered as a response to previous speakers at this conference namely prof. Phil Harris (Grow Africa) and John Loxham (New Directions Foundation).

Good morning , my name is Richard Higgins and I am a graduate of the Royal Berkshire College of Agriculture. I am the son of a Somerset farmer and I grew up in farming until I lost interest at a time when farming was not so profitable in the UK. Many years later a friend introduced me to the works of Sir Albert Howard . These works are held in the reference library at Wye College where Howard studied and later taught.

I have here a world classic The Waste Products of Agriculture which we have re-released in India. This book covers what has gone wrong in agriculture since around 1840. The outcoming of Leibig’s theory and his title Chemistry and it’s application to Agriculture and Physiology began in effect the beginning of the chemical fertiliser industry. Farmers believed that all that was needed to replenish soils was the addition  of certain amounts of NP and K and that that would increase yields satisfactorily. But unbeknown to the populace the general health of the  population was beginning to decline and degenerative diseases would begin to increase.

Howard’s research went back to China , Korea and Japan – the Farmers of the Orient – where they had always used sustainable farming techniques, as  Mr. John Loxham was presenting – by recycling everything. These countries held the densest populations on the planet – up to 3,000 people per square mile -. Nothing was imported. Nothing was exported. A closed loop system. They were found to have very little disease and Cancer was hardly ever heard of.

So we have all been hearing on the British media these days – You are what you eat! – Nutrition comes from good food. It doesn’t come from supplements these largely pass right through the body. So we need real Nutrition from Real Food.

At this point we are going to talk about Eco San and this is the generally accepted term for recycled or recovered  human waste. (showing slide 1) The term was coined by the Danish or the Swedish where it is a growingly common practise. However it is what you do with these wastes that interests us here. Howard, in the first part of the last century, developed the recycling of wastes from the military, hospitals, schools and prisons. And at that time the council of Lewisham in London was successfully composting sewage sludge and city refuse.

This classic author, Sir Albert Howard, was the origin of the Soil Association today. He was the cause of the formation of the Soil Assoiation. His work became lost in time due to the onset of the chemical industry and remains locked up in reference libraries. Prince Charles whom I have met at Poundbury in September 2006, knows about the work of Sir Albert. He understands the philosophy behind this system of agriculture. It has also been lost due to the influence of modern sanitation and the expedience of water companies today. So how much nutrients are going out of the loop today. They should all be going back to the Land. This is agreed upon by the Director of the Soil Association, Patrick Holden, who is a friend of mine.

As far as Organic Farming goes today the human element cannot be used in the system because for one reason the material is mixed in with heavy metals that are flushed into sewerage systems from industry. However in rural situations like in Nigeria and other countries in Africa where you have a rural population of around 76%, that are poor, they don’t have the facility to take up so much mono cropping and the machinery and chemicals required to do this. Therefore what is needed is the returning to the land of all nutrients that can be recycled from animals and man. This will produce healthy crops. Mixed farming is what is needed to produce fertility without having to use chemical fertilisers – with or without EcoSan -.

But this is our double spearheaded approach to the  agricultural problems in Nigeria. The young farmers can become automatically organic by composting all the biomass, household and market waste that is so abundant. Without the use of the human element, but preferably with it. You have vast tracts of land that are not in production this is producing Biomass that is going unused. This Howard called Earth’s Green Carpet. The earth is always trying to produce. and if the land is growing something that means it is good land. This green crop we can harvest and produce fertiliser in 90 days. This is done in conjunction with animals, animal husbandry. Howard said that societies that do not employ animals in their system will not last very long.

By this method of combining these two main elements Biomass and animal manure we can create seven times the volume of manure. Seven times the manure comes out of the system. We completed research on Howard’s system in India in 1996 and produced a material that gives pest and disease resistance to all kinds of crops. (Holding up book) In this title (The Lost Science of Organic Cultivation) it is described how to do this. We recommend you purchase copies after this lecture. Howard’s original work is pictured in black and white and our later developments are in colour. All his plates show examples of crops in India that were planted with this system. He believed in field scale trials rather than only laboratory trials and he showed how an entire field being split down the middle with a string could produce the pest resistance we are talking about. One side of the field was planted in the “conventional” way with chemicals and the other side with just compost. When the pests came they stripped the field right down the line.

 

Further reading

100 years later… Farming Today

Some of the principles that Howard wrote about 100 years ago are just being talked about in this broadcast of Farming Today. From the Groundswell

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