The Next Green Revolution (This Time Without Fossil Fuels)

Norman Uphoff/The AgriCultures Network
The world record yield for paddy rice production is not held by an agricultural research station or by a large-scale farmer from the United States, but by Sumant Kumar who has a farm of just two hectares in Darveshpura village in the state of Bihar in northern India. His record yield of 22.4 tons per hectare, from a one-acre plot, was achieved with what is known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). To put his achievement in perspective, the average paddy yield worldwide is about four tons per hectare. Even with the use of fertilizer, average yields are usually not more than eight tons.

Sumant Kumar’s success was not a fluke. Four of his neighbors, using SRI methods, and all for the first time, matched or exceeded the previous world record from China, 19 tons per hectare. Moreover, they used only modest amounts of inorganic fertilizer and did not need chemical crop protection.

Producing more output with fewer external inputs may sound improbable, but it derives from a shift in emphasis from improving plant genetic potential—whether through engineering or plant breeding—to providing optimal environments for crop growth. SRI methodology translates into a number of irrigated rice cultivation practices that, for most smallholder farmers, include the following:

  • Plant young seedlings carefully and singly, giving them wider spacing, usually in a square pattern, so that both roots and canopy have ample room to spread
  • Keep the soil moist but not inundated. Provide sufficient water for plant roots and beneficial soil organisms to grow, but not so much as to suffocate or suppress either (e.g., through alternate wetting and drying or through small but regular applications)
  • Add as much compost, mulch, or other organic matter to the soil as possible, feeding the soil so that the soil can, in turn, feed the plant
  • Control weeds with mechanical methods that can incorporate weeds while breaking up the soil’s surface. This actively aerates the root zone as a beneficial by-product of weed control. This practice can promote root growth and the abundance of beneficial soil organisms, adding to yield.

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Source: The Solutions Journal

Solar Energy’s Quiet Revolution

Adam Blakester | Executive Director, Starfish Enterprises
SOLAR panels are old tech, don’t incite protests and don’t photograph well, but they are quietly helping to change old notions about energy generation.

Last month, Australia recorded its millionth rooftop solar photovoltaic (solar PV) installation.

After a cost free-fall, solar PV has become cheap and ubiquitous at a time when every new power bill seems substantially larger than the last.

Adam Blakester, who has been at the forefront of the Farming the Sun initiative to make solar energy accessible in northern NSW, argues that solar PV is changing the entire energy equation, roof by roof.

“We’ve gone from a situation five years ago where we needed new power stations and better supply infrastructure, to where the regulator is now forecasting that there will be no new power generation capacity needed because people are generating their own power,” Mr Blakester said.

Source: The Land
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Locally owned businesses can help communities thrive

A new article published by the Institute for Local Self Reliance has found that communities where small, locally owned businesses account for a relatively large share of the economy have stronger social networks, more engaged citizens, and better success solving problems.

“It wasn’t until the 20th century that this tenet of American political thought was fully superseded by the consumer-focused, bigger-is-better ideology that now dominates our economic policy-making. Ironically, the shift happened just as social scientists were furnishing the first bona fide empirical evidence linking economic scale to civic engagement.

Community Friendly Business“In 1946, Walter Goldschmidt, a USDA sociologist, produced a groundbreaking study comparing two farming towns in California that were almost identical in every respect but one: Dinuba’s economy was composed mainly of family farms, while Arvin’s was dominated by large agribusinesses. Goldschmidt found that Dinuba had a richer civic life, with twice the number of community organizations, twice the number of newspapers, and citizens who were much more engaged than those in Arvin. Not surprisingly, Dinuba also had far superior public infrastructure: In both quality and quantity, the town’s schools, parks, sidewalks, paved streets, and garbage services far surpassed those of Arvin.

“At about the same time, two other sociologists, C. Wright Mills and Melville J. Ulmer, were undertaking a similar study of several pairs of manufacturing cities in the Midwest. Their research, conducted on behalf of a congressional committee, found that communities comprised primarily of small, locally owned businesses took much better care of themselves. They beat cities dominated by large, absentee-owned firms on more than 30 measures of well-being, including such things as literacy, acreage of public parks, extent of poverty, and the share of residents who belonged to civic organizations.”

Read more here…

Wood Pellet Stoves for Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Wood Pellet Stove ReportStarfish has been working on a sustainable heating initiative as part of Farming the Sun for several years. This initiative is currently focussed in the High Country region of NSW. While there are a wide range of benefits from sustainable heating, the particular need in this instance is to address serious wood smoke pollution issues which are impacting on air quality and public health.

A new Report, “Wood Pellet Stoves for Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Reduction”, has just been released. One of the recommendations from the research is to consider establishing a discounted bulk-buy arrangement for pellet heaters modelled on Starfish’s Farming the Sun initiative.

To quote from the Report: “Domestic space heating in many cold regions of Australia is usually supplied by heaters running on solid wood, gas or electricity. All three fuel sources usually emit large quantities of greenhouse gases. Firewood collection for wood heaters has serious impacts on biodiversity. Wood heaters emit smoke and other gases which cause serious health problems. This research looked at pellet heaters as an alternative home heating option, to see if they could reduce wood smoke pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity impacts, using the Northern Tablelands of NSW as a case study.”

While Starfish is currently focussed on an innovative and energy efficient solar thermal heating and cooling technology, pellet heaters are a further sustainable heating option well worthy of consideration.

Download a free copy of the Report here

Shebeen ~ True Responsible Drinking

Shebeen | MelbourneA new Melbourne bar is serving up beer from developing countries with the profits going to projects in the country of origin. Jackie Hanafie puts the spotlight on this emerging social enterprise.

Shebeen takes its name from the illegal drinking dens of South Africa and Zimbabwe that sprang up during apartheid.

The way it works, in theory, is simple. Buy a beer that’s been imported from a developing country and the profit will be funnelled back to projects in that beer’s country of origin.

Cosily tucked away in Melbourne’s Manchester Lane, everything you see in the bar is second hand, mostly sourced from salvage yards. The chairs are made from an old school’s woodwork class while the tables were put together from old hoarding board from construction sites.

Starfish also utilises enterprise to create social change. See our community enterprises here.

Find out more…
Source: ProBono News

Economics word cloud from ABS analysis of Australia's 55 regional development plans

Australia’s Regional Development Priorities

The Australian Bureau of Statistics have completed an analysis of Australia’s regional development priorities and challenges. This analysis has been based upon the 55 regional development plans prepared from each of the members of Regional Development Australia.

The findings from their analysis include:
– the need to diversify regional economies
– recognition of climate change as a key challenge
– the priority for meeting education and health needs
– youth development being a priority
– infrastructure needs are paramount

Starfish facilitated the large-scale participatory planning for the Northern Inland (NSW) Regional Development Plan.

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Big Food Fail

Ten of the largest food corporations in the world are failing in their social and environmental responsibilities, according to a new report from international aid organisation Oxfam.

According to the report, the “Big 10” food and beverage companies, that together make $1 billion daily, are failing millions of people in developing countries who supply land, labor, water and commodities needed to make the corporates’ products.

Nestle, Unilever, CocoCola, Pepsi, Mars, Mondelez International, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Associated British Foods were rated by Oxfam on their policies on how they deal with:

[list type=”check”]

  • the rights of the workers and farmers who grow their ingredients
  • women’s rights
  • management of land and water use
  • climate change
  • transparency of their supply chains, policies and operations

It did not review other important policies such as nutrition, tax and waste.

Find out more…

Source: ProBono News