I had a few meetings today, and I heard two fascinating stories I would like to share with you.
The first one is about the CEO of a waste management company in Japan. He works in waste management, and he was very disappointed that the manure from the poultry farms was being disposed of as waste. He explained to me the difference between waste and valuable resources. He said that both waste and valuables are exactly the same, but the two categories are determined by who consumes them or not. For example, aluminium from an empty can is rubbish if you don't know how to use it, but it is valuable if you know how to reuse it.
He realised that chicken manure from poultry farms is now disposed of as waste because there is no one to use it, so he decided to make organic fertiliser from it. But even if he made organic fertiliser, there were no farmers who would use it. The reason why no one would buy it is because organic fertilisers are less efficient than chemical fertilisers and produce less crops. So now he has found a product that, when mixed with organic fertiliser, increases the yield of the crop and keeps it at the same level as when using chemical fertilisers.
But still, farmers do not buy organic fertiliser. But the farmers still don't buy the organic fertiliser because the consumers who buy their produce don't pay for the added value of the extra work. The CEO went to Europe to look at BIO certification, which certifies that a product does not contain too much nitrogen compounds, which are banned because they can be harmful to the body, i.e. 100% organic. In France, 60% of people buy BIO certified vegetables, which are 30% more expensive. In Japan, even people who are experts in agriculture doe not buy vegetables that are 30% more expensive. In other words, he had done his best, but unless we increase the number of people who consume organic vegetables, there will be no increase in organic farming and no progress in the production of organic fertiliser from chicken manure. And, the manure from the poultry farms will continue to be thrown away as waste.
This is similar to what I have found in Africa, where the problem of women collecting firewood and deforestation cannot be solved unless households are provided with energy that does not require them to collect firewood. I was going to write about the second story too, but I'll save that for tomorrow!