Berrysmith Foundation

French Visit by Ashley Berrysmith


 Picture of 92 year old Dr Ripley Fox and his wife Denise Fox in a small town in the South of France near Ganges

Ashley visited Dr Ripley Fox and his wife Denise over 28th and 29th January 2012.

Ripley is 92 and very weak and frail and Ashley was pleased that he had made the decision to visit him to learn firsthand what Ripley had achieved and what his vision was for the continuation of his project.

Ripley explained that Spirulina is over 3 billion years old and has survived subzero to plus 60 degree Celsius temperatures. It grows in brackish high pH water where no other pathogenic organism will survive. It is the world’s highest source of balanced protein and contains a balanced range of micronutrients. It is also a superior source of absorbable iron and a good source of vitamin A and B12 which is difficult for vegetarians to obtain from other vegetable sources.

It only takes 2 grams a day to cure a child from chronic malnutrition which typically leads to night blindness and brain damage (blended with typical cereal meal for 8 weeks). Spirulina also is perfectly suited to be grown in the regions of Africa and Asia which account for 93% of all child deaths through malnutrition under the age of 5. Worldwide 8 million children die under the age of 5 from malnutrition related issues. The regions most effected in Africa and Asia are sub-Sahara (98% of African deaths) and South- East Asia (77% of Asian deaths). These figures are taken directly from the official UNICEF website.

Ashley questioned Ripley extensively about his successes and failures, particularly his Togo Integrated Village. Over 90% of all humanitarian projects fail, particularly after the first year. This was also finally the case with the Togo project. Technically it worked well, even though it was a little complicated to operate. With the system running for the first year and all the bugs ironed out, the village women were well trained in running the system.

His Integrated village system produced methane and fertiliser in a bio-digester which was fed from a toilet system. The resulting fertiliser was sterilised in a solar steriliser at 100 degrees Celcius and fed to the Spirulina tanks. Some of the Spirulina was fed to Talapia fish as another protein source and the ammonia waste from the fish went through a bio-filter and converted into nitrates which provided nitrogen for the Spirulina.

Gas from the bio-digester was used for cooking and to run an engine driven flour mill. Through the introduction of a toilet system, internal parasites were reduced which previously were absorbing 30% of all the nutrient consumed by the villages.

One of the main issues was that even though the chosen women in the village could understand and see the value of recycling human waste to produce food, it was not accepted by the wider community. Gas from the bio-digester was used to run an engine which ran a flour mill in the village. This was a good option for the village as previously they had to walk 15km every day to a privately run mill. Women could then conserve energy and valuable water using the local mil. Flour was then sold to "wealthier" Africans to produce bread.

It ended up that their customers refused to accept wheat grown from a system produced by human waste from the lower echelon of their society. Also the private mill was losing business so apparently the solid brick local mill was destroyed mysteriously in a storm.

Local agents for a multi-national fertaliser and insecticide supplier also convinced the locals that compost produced by human waste had no nutritional value and they were better off using their fertilisers. The multi-national was also was selling organo phosphate insecticides that were banned in the developing world. At one stage Ripley and Denise say they couldn't breathe when insecticide was being sprayed in a field nearby by a village farmer spaying DDT without using any protection. Subsequently all the fish died in Ripley’s integrated system.

Interesting though, although recycling is not accepted in Africa and India, Ripley has had great success with integrated village systems in Vietnam and China, where recycling human waste has been practiced for centuries.

After 30 years of Ripley's dedicating his life to  building and developing integrated village systems for Spirulina and seeing the ongoing failures due to influence by US corporates, greed from wealthier villages and misconceptions, he in his 90's believes the only way forward is to produce Spirulina in mega farms using seawater to preserve valuable fresh water. He calculated that 75 sq km's are required to cure malnutrition on an ongoing basis for 200,000,000 children at 8gms per day. If children are malnourished in the first two years of their life, the effects of malnutrition are irreversible. This results in both stunted growth and brain development as well as ongoing low resistance to diseases.

Read Ripley's paper on the concept of a seawater mega farm.

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