Privatized trees roll back the desert

An article in the New York Times got a lot of traction among some of the more conservative-minded bloggers because it said that the ownership of things previously assumed to be a common good gave a better incentive to look after them. Fair enough. More interesting still is that the trees preserve soil and water, which enables a greater diversity of crops to go, which improves everyone’s livelihoods. I found the piece here, which has the link to the original article. And that, I think, is a much more illuminating and nuanced read.

Sandalwood in danger

For some reason or other, there’s been a lot in the news lately here in Kenya about sandalwood and its over-exploitation. There was a piece in the TV evening  news just the other day when a huge consignment of the stuff was found in a warehouse owned by an MP. Now here’s an article from The Nation, reproduced by the excellent


This story is not particularly agricultural, but I couldn’t resist it. Brazilian researchers extracted the essential oils from a Piper sp commonly eaten by bats and then smeared the stuff on plastic fruits, which they then distributed in areas of damaged rainforest. The bats were attracted to the fake fruits, though they wouldn’t normally fly in degraded forest. Why go to all this trouble? Because the bats spread lots of seeds via their faeces, and could thus be used to restore the vegetation.

Amazonian deforestation

Brazil’s National Statistics Office (IBGE) recently released a new set of maps of the Amazon showing how it is being converted to agricultural land. There’s a nice discussion over at And check out the post a few days back on the BBC radio programme on nuts in Brazil: I’ve just added a link to a short article.