Farming and landuse

Book launch: The Facts of Rural Life

London, 29 June 2015

The Facts of Rural Life was launched last week at the Farmers Club in London. Among those attending were Members of Parliament and Peers, including five former ministers, as well as scientists, journalists, country vets and representatives of a range of organisations involved in nature conservation, land management, animal welfare and field sports. [read full article]

Is this the future of conservation?

London, 22 May 2015

In the harsh environment of northern Kenya, communities struggle with frequent droughts, poor health care, sparse or irregular government services and the threats posed by cattle rustling and ivory poaching. Ethnic rivalries dating back many centuries continue to disturb peace and undermine development. However, all this is beginning to change, thanks to a new movement based on community conservation. [read full article]

Lessons from Brazil

London, 24 December 2014

I frequently visit projects which are transforming the lives of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people – by increasing crop yields, reducing malnutrition, restoring degraded lands, providing better access to education and healthcare. However, all too often these projects are confined to small areas and the question remains: how can they be scaled up to benefit hundreds of thousands or even millions of people? [read full article]

A conservation conundrum on the Marlborough Downs

Marlborough Downs, 27 October 2014

“When I came here as an assistant shepherd 32 years ago, this was a vast arable prairie, totally devoid of wildlife,” says Chris Musgrave, indicating with a sweep of his arm a great swathe of rolling countryside at the heart of the Marlborough Downs. “But just look how it’s changed!” [read full article]

Transforming rural livelihoods in Nigeria

Nigeria, 21 October 2014

When they think of foreign aid, or development assistance, I imagine most people think of money flowing from the wealthy North to the poorer South; from countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Norway and France to the least developed countries in Africa and the Far East. But there is another story that deserves to be told, about the growing importance of South-South cooperation. [read full article]

I remember, I remember

Almondbury, Huddersfield, 5 October 2014

If you listened to the Today programme on Radio 4 last Thursday, which was National Poetry Day, you might have heard Alan Bennett talking about Philip Larkin. Larkin’s childhood, he said, was characterised as ‘a forgotten boredom’. To illustrate the point, Bennett read the poem I Remember, I Remember, in which Larkin describes his thoughts as his train passes through Coventry, the town where he was brought up. [read full article]

So what’s the problem?

London, 17 April 2014

There is scarcely an acre of Britain which is truly wild. Farming, forestry, hunting, water extraction and urbanisation have all had a profound effect on our flora and fauna. Some of our top predators, such as lynx, wolf and brown bear, have been lost; many other species have been introduced, frequently with disastrous consequences for livestock, crops and indigenous wildlife. [read full article]

If I were a pig…

London, 24 February 2014

Last week, the Danish government introduced a ban on the religious slaughter of animals. “Animal rights come before religion,” said the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Dan Jørgensen. The ban has upset Jews and Muslims as it proscribes their traditional methods of killing animals. Instead of having their throats slit while fully conscious, Danish livestock must now be stunned before they are killed. [read full article]

Moving with the tide

London, 24 January 2014

On Wednesday, during a hearing of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on the winter floods, Paul Leinster of the Environment Agency told MPs that vulnerable stretches of coast could be abandoned to the sea. The process, which goes under the dreary name of managed realignment, would change the shape of Britain – with thrilling consequences. [read full article]

On the naming of crops

Accra, Ghana, 6 October 2013

“How many wives do you have?” This, loosely translated, is what Apagbaala means. This is the name that farmers belonging to the Dagomba tribe in northern Ghana have given to a variety of cowpea that produces tremendous crops.  It’s their way of saying that they need many hands – if not many wives – to harvest their cowpeas. [read full article]

Miraa, Meru and Mrs May

Meru, Kenya, 13 July 2013

“We are very angry with you British,” said the man I’d come to see at the Ministry of Agriculture in Nairobi. “We’re trying to work out how we can retaliate.” [read full article]

Import-export: the dream shattered

Iquitos, Peru, and London, 1 April 2013

I used to think I’d like to have another occupation besides writing. Ideally, it would be farming, perhaps rearing sheep or pigs. But that wouldn’t work, not least because I live in London and spend much of my time travelling. Another possibility would be to find some exotic plant of great potential – for example, as a health food or aphrodisiac – import it to London, and make some serious money. In short: import-export. [read full article]