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close this bookGATE - 2/96 - Renewable Energy and Solar Energy Use (GTZ GATE, 1996, 52 p.)
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- Problems and prospects of eco-cotton
- Anaerobic technology protects the climate
- Peter Baz leaves GTZ/GATE

gate 2/96: Problems and prospects of eco-cotton

Dialogue about a Product with a Future
Problems and prospects of eco-cotton
by Dr. Peter Fer

The promotion of eco-cotton is the aim of the German "working group on cotton". The working group organises a dialogue between farmers, traders and other experts in countries in which cotton is grown. Since 1994, this alliance of consumer, cultural, development and environmental organisations as well as traders of natural textiles has been holding international seminars. They aim at the exchange of experience about the production and marketing of ecologically grown cotton. Our author summarises some background information on the latest annual meeting of the working group which took place in December in Erfurt, Germany.

Almost half of the textile fabrics produced world wide are cotton fabrics. Conventional cotton production usually implies the massive usage of pesticides which has a negative impact on people and the environment. Alternatives are therefore urgently required. One possibility is the ecological growth of cotton, in which the fertility of the soil is improved and the usage of synthetic agro-chemicals is rejected (see gate 3/95: Organic Cotton). But still, a huge amount of chemicals is used when processing the cotton. Today, a lot of textiles are marked by 'eco-labels'. Often they only refer to the amount of harmful chemicals in the ready-made textiles. In most cases, how the cotton is grown is not taken into account.

An increasingly critical awareness among consumers has led to calls for ecologically produced textiles. A clear obligation to declare the origin and processing of textiles is demanded by consumers. In order to embed the conditions of the cotton producing countries into the debate about trademarks for textiles, the latest seminar of the working group on cotton invited experts on cotton production: scientists, planting experts, certification experts, textile traders, clothes producers and consumer groups.

The Indian Experience
Agro-technical problems were explained by Kisan Mehta using the example of India. Mehta is the president of the NGO "Prakruti" which is based in the Indian state of Maharashtra. India is the third largest producer of cotton in the world after the People's Republic of China and the US, producing 2.13 million tons. "Prakruti" is dedicated to the promotion of organic farming. It rejects the usage of agro-chemicals and the use of large-scale machinery.

"Prakruti" looks after the farmers' association "Virdarbha Organic Farmers' Association (VOFA)", which is located in Virdarbha in the state of Maharashtra, an area of intensive conventional planting of cotton. Maharashtra is the biggest cotton planting area in India, a completely rainfed area with low results in cotton production.

The planting of cotton has a long tradition in India, but nowadays even in small farms it involves a lot of agro-chemicals. As in many other countries cotton is the plant breeding with the highest usage of pesticides in India. However, there were always farmers who did not follow the path of high-input agriculture. These farmers, and the close co-operation of the public research institute Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, were the basis for the setting up of organic cotton production in Maharashtra.

"Prakruti" and the consultant agency "Environmental Protection Environment Agency (EPEA)", Hamburg, which is supported by the GTZ Protrade, advised and took care of 135 farmers with 1200 hectares of land concerning the production and marketing of eco-cotton.

Growing interest

The capacity of the project and the marketing conditions currently have a limiting effect on the expansion of eco-cotton planting. But the interest of the farmers for organic farming is growing. The reasons are mainly of an economic nature. The aim is the reduction of high production costs. On the other hand, the problems of fertility and erosion, as well as the effects of compost, fertilising, intercropping etc. are so significant that farmers who are not members of VOFA used components of organic farming. The farmers of VOFA have set up a system of 'self monitoring' and 'self checking'. Each farmer writes a diary about his or her organic farming. The forms are written in Maharatschi - the language of the farmers. The whole process started in August 1994. The farms were regularly checked by inspectors of a certification institute and certified according to IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements) standards.

Economic advantages

Although there is no reliable basis data about previous crops, early experience from last year indicates that a sudden avoidance of fertilizers during the transformation period can lead to a drastic drop in production (up to 50%). The farmers try to compensate the loss in production by adding organic substances.

In the medium and long run the level of production stands at about 20% below that of conventional farms. Economically this should be more than compensated due to the lower production costs, since the use of expensive agro-chemical is not necessary. The different components of ecological planting include intercropping with a variety of repellent and leguminous plants and the mixing of different sorts of cotton for preventive plant protection. The choices of different sorts of cotton arises from the experience of farmers, since as yet there is no advice on varieties which are robust and specially appropriate for eco-cotton planting.

Agro-chemicals are not permitted for the fight against pests. After the transformation of the fields of the organic farmer these were much less affected by pests. In the biological farms, they mainly used antagonists such as the egg parasit Trichogramma, green lace wing (Chrysoperla), a viral pathogen (NPV), but also pheromones and plants extracts. The Neem tree from which insecticide are traditionally used, is not common in this area, but was planted in this farming area on around 4.000 hectares. The worst pest, the American boll worm Heliothis armigera, was reduced drastically by the planting of repellent plants and catch plants (sunflowers and Cajanus cajanus).

Scientific advice

In this context, Mehta and Jens Soth from EPEA presented an example of high-tech work at the grassroots level. The Central Institute of Cotton Research, CICR, has developed a simple method for mass breeding and releasing of the trichogramma wasp at the on-farm level. After this system was successfully tested on organic farms, the conventional farmers have taken it on board as well. The method is cheap, environmentally friendly, flexible and also creates jobs.

Millions of Indians live from planting cotton and from textile production. Therefore, Kisan Mehta wants to convince many more farmers about organic farming. In the last ten years there has been a marked change in people's awareness. The bottleneck remains with marketing however; since cotton is not the end product sold at a local market, many farmers from one area have to produce eco-cotton simultaneously in order to ensure an ecological processing.
Tanzania

In Tanzania the starting conditions for organic cotton production differ from the ones in India, as was explained by Gerd Ratter from the consultancy "Bioherb". In the small farming areas in Tanzania agriculture is relatively extensive. Agro-chemicals are only used by half of the farms even with cash crops such as cotton. These farms are rather suitable for transformation towards organic farming since the soil is not spoilt and the farmers are not used to quick results from pesticides and fertilizers. Also, the soil is not as degraded and pests are not as resistant as in areas with intensive agro-production.

Agricultural production is also not so one-sided towards cotton, so that there are fewer pests than in areas with a stronger emphasis on cotton planting. However, there is a lack of knowledge about other components of sustainable agriculture such as a regulated pattern of crops and organic reduction of weeds. Accordingly, advice on organic farming methods is needed.

Despite the comparatively low level of pests in Tanzania, the protection of plants it remains one of the main problems in the organic farming of cotton. Experience with biological methods of plant protection are lacking. Solutions are developed in co-operation with research institutes such as the Ukiriguru Research Institute in Mwanzana, consulting agencies and small farmers. This is the pre-condition before one can ask the farmers to take on the risk of a drop in production after the move towards ecological farming.

Similar to India, the long term experiments of the research institute Ukiriguru show that in the non-treated control areas production stands at around 30% less than in convential farming. This discrepancy is to be minimised by the development and testing of ecological plant protection methods and alternative farming concepts.

Certification methods

Peter Kollath from the Dutch inspection organisation for organic production methods, SKAL, pointed to a special problem of organic cotton farming: The hand out of certificates for eco-cotton. In the European Union about 60 different organisations are involved in the certification process. Control applies to all areas: the storage, transport, processing and documentation of all these processes. Most of the farmers cannot do this currently since they lack the knowledge.

The EU directive 2092/91 applies only to ecological farming in general, but there are no specific standards for the different steps of textile processing such as spinning, dying and weaving. This gap is filled by certifying companies such as the semi-public inspection organisation SKAL, which is giving out the 'EKO' symbol.

This certificate also involves socio-economic criteria such as health and safety hazards facing workers, air pollution at the workplace, the care of workers or the existence of child labour.

About 70 people from SKAL work locally on in-spection. The products are mainly marketed in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. How can a bridge be built between the producers and consumers?

The eco-textile producers at the seminar were in agreement that there should be transparency about how cotton is produced and where the profits are flowing.

There was a debate about the opinion that eco-cotton must become cheaper in order to make it affordable for broader groups in society. Many experts in the working group pointed out that many consumers in industrialised countries are willing to pay more. A higher price for raw materials would only marginally affect the end price of the product. In order to achieve this, the problems of dying and processing of eco-cotton must be solved. In addition, certification companies and markets in planting countries should be developed in order to avoid the accusation of 'neo-colonisation'.

Dr. Peter Fer works as an expert in the area of sustainable agriculture and development. He is a participant of the GTZ working group "organic cotton".
gate 2/96: Anaerobic Technology Protects the Climate

Anaerobic Technology Protects the Climate
Reducing methane emissions from agriculture, agro-industry and domestic sewage
by Norbert Glaser

Methane gas is second to carbon dioxide in its greenhouse impact. World-wide up to 460 million tons of methane gas are contributing to global warming each year. Capturing methane and producing renewable energy (biogas) through anaerobic treatment entails a relevant contribution to climate protection.

According to Werner Kossmann, GATE/ISAT expert on solid waste and wastewater, anaerobic technology, when applied to waste-water, sludge or solid organic waste has various advantages, e.g. protecting water resources and climate and to recirculate organic material.

Methane gas is a climate killer

Most climate protection activities to date have focused on reducing CO2. Ways of avoiding or reducing methane gas emission were only discussed as a side aspect. Kossmann explains: "Only small concentrations of methane occur in the atmosphere. Nevertheless with a share of 19% it ranks just behind CO2 on the list of climate killers. Its greenhouse effect is 25-fold that of CO2."

Water pollution

Methane is produced in all anaerobic fermentation processes. Experts estimate that human activities cause up to 460 million tons of methane to be released into the environment each year. The chief sources are waste landfills, fermentation by ruminants, gully, sewage plants, rice fields, biomass incineration and domestic and agro-in-dustrial ponds. In Germany methane is chiefly released from waste dumps (33-41%), livestock husbandry (25-35%) and coal mining (18-23%). In developing countries this trace gas chiefly occurs in organic waste and wastewater from agriculture, agri-industry and settlements.

The example of sugar cane processing: 199 to 388 m3 of wastewater are generated per ton of sugar. A sugar factory in Egypt processing 600,000 tons of sugar cane per year produces 160,000 m3 per day of low-polluted water and 6,500 m3 of highly polluted water. The wastewaters are not treated separately in line with their pollution rate, but both flow into the Nile. The result: high water pollution and uncontrolled generation and release of methane.

A study by the TBW consulting company (naturgerechte Technologien, Bau- und Wirtschaftsberatung GmbH) in Frankfurt, Germany has provided a new basis for the discussion on methane's greenhouse effect. Barbara Klingler and Alexander Eitner came to a "very cautious estimate" (as they stress) that 6.5% of anthropogenic methane emissions in developing countries in the sectors they studied could be avoided using anaerobic technologies. Optimistic forecasts go much further: The Fraunhofer Institut Systemtechnik und Innovationsforschung (ISI) considers that by applying various measures, the world-wide savings potential even reaches 50%. At present, methane release into the atmosphere is not controlled.

The TBW study rates agriculture (gully, manure, intensive stock-raising) as the largest producer of methane emissions. "World-wide 28 million tons of methane are emitted from animal excrements, chiefly in eastern and western Europe and Asia". Anaerobic technologies could reduce at least 50% of these emissions at a price of DM 24-48 per ton carbon dioxide equivalent. A global programme to lower agri-methane emissions by 50% would cost DM 11-22 billion according to Klingler/Eitner.

Agriculture

Domestic sewage causes 10 million tons of methane per year. More than 75% of these emissions arise from non-treated or badly treated waste water in developing countries. Urbanisation and demographic growth mean that urgent action is necessary. In Latin America 280 million people daily produce 40 million m3 of sewage. 41% have access to wastewater treatment systems, 38% dispose of their waste sur-place. Malaysia's centralised sewage systems only reach 5.3% of the population. 33% of waste water is disposed of via septic tanks, the rest is disposed of on a completely uncontrolled basis. DM 180-340/ ton CO2 equivalent are required for centralised and decentralised sewage purification measures with an anaerobic stage, or for biolatrines, (Klingler/Eitner estimates). Klingler puts the costs of reducing CO2 in industrialised countries far higher. The benefits obtained from the energy produced is not included in the calculation. Methane accounts for ca. 60% of combustible biogas.

Potential savings

Estimates concerning agro-industrial sewage vary widely. Experts believe that it is possible to eliminate 64 million tons of methane per year. Klingler/Eitner investigated six agri-industries and arrive at a figure of 1.3 to 2.3 million tons of methane output per year. "There are no aggregated figures particularly for emerging nations", said Klingler. "Our first finding is that there is a lack of quantitative facts. Statistics are urgently needed on what waste flows occur and their degree of pollution. Indisputably, they account for a considerable part of the climate problem." Clarifying agro-industrial sewage costs DM 5-20 per ton CO2 equivalent.

Application

Methane, laughing gas and carbon dioxide amounting to 780 million tons CO2 equivalent could be avoided in this way, and at the same time twelve million tons of heating oil equivalent could be saved and 54 million hectares of forest preserved. Kossmann believes that the benefits of controlled generation of methane in anaerobic plants are many-fold: "It would reduce direct emissions by generating methane in controlled closed systems for energy recovery, hence saving fossil energy and lowering CO2 emissions, replacing wood, thereby conserving forests and their vital functions (erosion protection, water storage, etc.)." One m3 biogas corresponds to c. 6.5 KWh electrical or 13 KW thermal energy.

The study reveals that relatively small inputs of anaerobic technology can have an effective impact on the climate. Klingler and Eitner demand a worldwide effort to identify and support technologies which avoid methane emissions. Activities should focus on developing countries where large savings potentials exist.

In many countries biogas has been supported in the context of alternative energy supplies. The technology is widely applied in Asia, where China and India are leading biogas users. Kenya, Tanzania, Colombia, Cuba and Jamaica, Thailand and Nepal also have biogas programmes. Two new studies centre on the contribution this technology can make to protecting the climate.

Biogas plants can be an expedient solution wherever average wastewater temperatures exceed 20 -a typical situation in many emerging nations. Reducing methane emissions in the wastewater sector also has positive side-effects: improved health situation for the population and less surface and groundwater pollution.

The various aerobic and anaerobic wastewater treatment procedures can be geared to the specific objective (cf. gate 1/1995). Setting up sewage networks and wastewater transport facilities is costly, making surface water treatment more expedient.

The TBW study considers an interim stage between centralised and on-site treatment. With a small decentralised anaerobic system (for several houses or small settlements) for the needs of around 50 people, methane is produced at a cost of DM 0.1 to 0.5 per kilogram. In rural areas wastewater could be co-fermented agricultural residues. Another solution would be to apply aerobic technology to halt methane production in existing wastewater ponds (using mechanical aerators), although this would entail far higher operating and maintenance costs.

To treat agro-industrial wastewater (from coffee, sugar cane and sisal processing, abattoirs, breweries etc.) and larger quantities of municipal sewage the study proposes a closed, anaerobic plant which collects and utilises the methane. Far greater quantities of methane are obtained from agri-industrial waste than from household sewage. By using the gas in processing operations the costs of the technology are reduced. The task at hand in the coming years is to develop anaerobic systems which are easy to handle, financially viable and which will allow wastewater to be treated on an economically and ecologically-sound basis.

The status quo

The GTZ's supra-regional sector project to promote anaerobic technologies for the treatment of domestic and industrial wastewater and solid waste is also working along these lines. "We are currently surveying the status quo for the waste water and solid waste sector", said Hartlieb Euler of TBW. "The goal is to find out: What is the present situation in anaerobic technology? What are its weak points? How much does it cost?"

The objective of the first phase is to identify criteria as the decision making basis in order to successfully implement anaerobic technology. In a second pilot phase programmes in two countries are scheduled to be drafted. Emphasis will no doubt centre on Asia and Latin America in view of growing urbanization and large-scale industries and their experience with the use of anaerobic technology. Progress will be forthcoming in the agri-industrial sector: As Euler puts it: "Individual investors are addressed here so that administrative processes will be easier and the problem can be tackled locally, pinpointing wastewater with high concentrations."

Norbert Glaser is a freelance journalist specialisting in developing policy.

gate 2/96: Peter Baz leaves the GTZ/GATE

An innovative "lateral thinker"
Peter Baz leaves the GTZ/GATE
by Roland Seifert

At the end of March 1996 Peter Baz left GTZ. The GATE programme is closely associated with his person. He coined GTZ's "appropriate technology" activities more than anyone else over the last 15 years. "Question and Answer Service", "technology programmes", "cooperation partnerships", "small project funds", the projects "ISAT" and "Proklima" are all linked with his name.

Peter Baz became Head of GTZ's Technology Transfer Section, staffed with two dozen co-workers; the section then went on to become the Development Technology Unit. As Baz put it, "this marked the beginning of so many issues like biogas, photovoltaics and environmental impact assessments." GATE has been the instigator of numerous important innovations which have flowed into GTZ's ongoing operations.

Peter Baz came to GTZ from Berlin, where, even in his days as student of mechanical engineering and space technology, he had been interested in traditional technologies and the development of intermediate technologies. Valuable inputs were derived from the circle around the future's researcher Robert Jungk and from activities in the Interdisciplinary Project Group for Appropriate Technology, IPAT, of which Peter Baz was a founding member in 1974.

Soon afterwards, IPAT's stand at the Hanover fair caught the attention of Erhard Eppler, the then Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation (BMZ). The first BMZ commission soon followed. The German Appropriate Technology Exchange (GATE) was set up as a GTZ department in 1978 and together with IPAT it began a "learning phase which lasted several years" as GATE co-worker Klaus Rudolph remembers. "Activities at that time centred on developing and constructing prototypes, simple wind machines, biogas plants, oilpresses and the so-called fish-farming-greenhouse-network was the first attempt of knowledge exchange. Seen in today's light many activities were no doubt quite adventurous - but we gained a lot of experience", says Rudolph.

Peter Baz himself joined GTZ in 1981. Technology programmes began replacing attention to individual technologies. Dissemination programmes for biogas, wood saving stoves, mini hydro power plants, so-called gimery technology and the small project fund, which still exists today, gradually emerged.

Although success did not crown all activities, the experience made flowed into the Question and Answer Service and the cooperation and partnership arrangements with Southern NGOs in the 1980s. More than 20 individual partnerships existed when the GATE partners met for the last time in Mexico to work out amendments to the partner programme. This meeting had been preceded by other workshops: many participants will remember Bad Herrenalb or the Frankfurt talks on "AT in Post Modern Times".

The turning point came when GTZ was re-organised in 1989. New fields of activity were open to GATE. The Technology Dissemination Unit became the new project "Information and Advisory Service on Appropriate Technology". Dialogue with the South stood more and more under the mark of comprehensive information management.

In 1990 Peter Baz was GTZ's advisor in East Berlin to cooperate in setting up the German Agency for Cooperation (DAZ), the interim institution which took over the development cooperation activities of the former GDR. These activities terminated after German reunification. On his return he was able to span a bridge between GTZ, industry and Greenpeace with the "Proklima" project to disseminate CFC-free technologies for the refrigeration industry.

Leaving the GTZ after 15 years is chiefly a personal decision. He is "just in great form now" stresses Peter Baz. And on the professional side? "... perhaps set up a forum for innovative 'lateral thinkers' or help in implementing the recommendations of the study 'Zukunftsfges Deutschland' ('Sustainable Germany')".

All of GATE's outputs in the last few years were not Peter Baz' work alone of course. He himself points to the initiative and creativeness of his many colleagues. But his unconventional way of working, numerous contacts and openness for new ideas were a major motivating factor. His enthusiasm for people, situations and things often ignored inherent constraints. Many of us can still hear his repeated words "don't start using the cutting shears when the thoughts are still in your mind!".

His visions often lead to uncertaincy. But this ability to think in different directions and dimensions often paved his way to success. The "Proklima" project with his partners in China and India and elsewhere is an example.

Peter Baz has left the GATE environment. His power of vision has not been seized. GATE would do well to continue tapping it in the future.