Choose Energy Sources Wisely



Have you heard about sustainable farming? It’s a way of farming that many farmers are talking about. Sustainable farming can also be called long-term farming or farming for the future. It means taking care of the land. In return the land will produce food for many years, so that your children’s children can enjoy good food and good health.

To farm for the future, you must use energy wisely. Think about the kind of energy you use for different tasks. Does your energy come from a renewable or a non-renewable source? Renewable energy sources are those that you can never use up, because there will always be more. For example, sunlight, windpower and waterpower are renewable energy sources.

Animal power is also renewable.

On the other hand, oil and gas are non-renewable resources. That’s because there is a limited supply of oil or gas in the world. Every time some is used, there is less for you and others to use in the future.

Take some time to decide if you are using renewable or non-renewable energy when you work the land. If you weed and plough your land by hand or with animals, you are using a renewable source of energy. This kind of energy will always be available to you. If you use a tractor which runs on petroleum fuel, you are using a non-renewable source of energy.

Fuel may not always be available at a reasonable cost.

Try to use renewable sources of energy whenever possible when you are farming, cooking and processing food. This will conserve resources so you can use them in the future.

Here are some useful ways to make use of renewable energy at home or in the field.

  • Use the sun to dry vegetables and fruit.
  • Build a biogas plant to provide cooking gas for your family or community.
  • Save seed from your own crops instead of buying seed that has been transported from another country, and treated with pesticides.
  • Use animal manure and compost to fertilize your fields, rather than buying chemical fertilizers that are transported long distances and require a lot of energy to produce.
  • Plant two trees for every one that you cut down for firewood.

It’s not always easy to know if the energy you are using is renewable or non-renewable. For example, in many tropical regions, there are lots of trees. You might think that cutting down one tree, or even a larger area of forest, would be using a renewable resource. After all, there are a lot of trees still standing. It’s true that using the wood from one tree can be replaced. But while one tree can be replaced, a forest cannot be easily replaced. A forest is made up of all the things in it — trees, insects, birds, vines, animals, soil, and water. And it includes all the complex relationships between these things. When you cut down too many trees in a forest, you affect not only the remaining trees, but you harm everything else in the forest. And while a single tree may grow back in twenty or fifty or a hundred years, a forest can take several hundred years or more to grow back, if it grows back at all.

If you consider the long-term effects of the various energy sources available to you, you can make the best choices for your home and farm. At the same time you will make your farm, and indeed the earth, a better place for everyone.


This script was written by Vijay Cuddeford, researcher/writer at Developing Countries Farm Radio Network

Information sources

  • Appropriate technology part 8: Biomass energy“, Outreach No. 81, 1992, 40 pages. Outreach, PO Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Appropriate technology part 7: Solar energy“, Outreach No.80, 1992, 44 pages. Outreach, PO Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Energy, part 3: Energy from the sun, wind, water and the earth“, Outreach No. 102C, 1997, 66 pages. Outreach, PO Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • People and energy“, Pied Crow, Volume 4, No. 1, 16 pages. Pied Crow’s Environment Special Magazine, CARE-Kenya, PO Box 43864, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Listening and watching saves energy and money“, Chris Howorth, ILEIA Newsletter, Volume 8, No. 1, 1992, pages 9-10. ILEIA, Kastanjelaan 5, PO Box 64, 3830 AB Leusden, Netherlands.
  • Energy: Careful use of scarce resources“, Gate, No. 2, 1996, 64 pages. GATE, Post Box 5180 D-65726 Eschborn, Federal Republic of Germany.
  • Quelles solutions ‚nerg‚tiques pour les pays du Sahel?“, Taoufik Budchiche, Echo du Sahel, Volume 1, No. 3, Sept-Oct. 1993, pages 6-8. Echo du Sahel, 200 Rue de Salaberry, Joliette, Qu‚bec, Canada J6E 4G1.
  • Le Soleil: une source d’‚nergie in‚puisable pour le Sahel“, Clode de Guise, Echo du Sahel, Volume 1, No. 3, Sept-Oct. 1993, pages 9-12. Echo du Sahel, 200 Rue de Salaberry, Joliette, Qu‚bec, Canada J6E 4G1.