What do we need most?

Having spent the last two articles insulting nearly everyone, people now have the legitimate right to ask: so what is your answer? What would you do, Beddowes, if you were in power?

The Rhodesians were famous for two things:

(1) Their extreme racist attitudes and belief in the superiority or inferiority of different ethnic groups.

(2) Their excellent organisational ability, especially in building the economy under sanctions.

The Zanu (PF) government of Robert Mugabe has followed the Rhodesian legacy very well on point 1. but not on point 2. The most important thing we need to do is to develop food and energy. If we are self-sufficient in food and energy, we can tell the rest of the world where to put their sanctions. Though the messy ‘Land Reform’ has created numerous problems, since Independence there has been another serious problem hampering food production: we have had a persistent problem of drought which was there even in the 1990’s.

That has to be handled through irrigation – which obviously needs water, but not quite so obviously, it needs electricity.

The Zanu (PF) government has in the past had a very commendable programme of rural electrification (especially to the homes of traditional leaders) but without increasing generating capacity! Without electricity, there can be no development.

Zimbabwe has sufficient coal reserves for the next 300 years! Even if we start using large quantities of this unfashionable fossil fuel, we can follow what the ingenious Brazilians have been doing for some time now, we can limit carbon emissions without any extra cost – in fact we can use the carbon emissions for another purpose.

Simply, what Brazil is doing in all its coal fuelled power stations is to use those emissions for the production of special, very high protein, algae which reproduces at an amazing rate. That algae has three uses – food supplements for under-nourished children, high-protein stock-feed and conversion to bio-fuel.

Now, how about the rural areas? Did we not have a ‘Solar Summit’ in 1996 where world leaders were invited and a new fleet of Mercedes-Benz bought at great expense? And did we not spend so much money on the Great Event that there was nothing left for actually building solar power factories or for initiating pilot projects throughout the country?

We must start building both solar water heating and solar electric power factories and use them for our rural homes.

One problem with solar panels is that they do not generate enough power for cooking, we must still collect firewood. Well, we do not need to stop collecting firewood: what we need to do is to build or buy wood-burning stoves. A wood-burning stove uses only one-sixth of the wood used by an open fire. Thus we are not depleting our forests so badly. Thus rural folk, especially women, will spend less time collecting firewood – and the wood-burning stove produces less smoke than the open fire which is therefore healthier.

To supplement this, we can grow wood-lots of fast-growing timber especially for firewood. These wood-lots will help us to preserve our natural forests and will absorb the reduced carbon emissions coming from the wood-burning stoves and the power stations.

The simple technology is already there. Let us use it. Let us not always wait for government.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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