Friday, 29 April 2016

Thinking big about haze in Thailand

Michael Shafer, director of the Warm Heart Foundation offers some thoughtful comments on Thailand's version of the regional haze issue. I cut the following comments related to biochar from the article published by 'The Nation' newspaper. The full article is available here.

CP are The Charoen Pokphand Group

"...What might such a solution look like?

The problem is hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste corn stalk that farmers have no option but to burn in order to clear their fields for the next crop. CP can teach farmers how to turn their corn stalk into a valuable product: biochar. Biochar, a pure form of charcoal, is made using a process called "pyrolysis" that produces no smoke, no black carbon, and virtually no greenhouse gases. The production of biochar is also carbon-negative, meaning that it removes CO2 from the atmosphere, reversing global warming.

To encourage farmers to make biochar, CP can include the purchase of the biochar made from contract corn stalks in the same contracts as for the purchase of corn kernel.

CP also owns large pig farms where it has manure management problems. Biochar is an excellent absorbent, capable of absorbing huge quantities of pig urine. It also dramatically reduces smells by adsorbing the ammonia and other noxious gases produced by pig urine and manure that make it smell so foul. Conveniently, mixing biochar with pig urine and manure creates a very effective organic fertiliser.

At the start of a growing season CP can distribute the biochar fertiliser to farmers in lieu of distributing synthetic fertiliser as they often do now. The reduction in synthetic fertiliser costs will fund biochar purchases, while the biochar fertiliser will improve farmers' soils and yields because it provides many more benefits than synthetics, including the capacity to retain water. Biochar fertilisers have the added benefit that biochar "locks up" pesticides in the soil. This reduces the risk of toxins entering the food chain and reduces the amount of toxic run-off from fields.

Taking such a "life-cycle" approach - from field waste and manure to fertiliser and feed - CP joins the ranks of a corporate elite, companies that make environmental sustainability part of the way they do business, and distinguishes itself from the majority of companies that talk about the environment without making it part of business operations. Such public relations is literally priceless, because it cannot be bought, but will serve CP well as it deals with consumer pressure groups in Europe.

If CP offers such a solution to the "corn crisis", it secures all five of the values we seek to protect. Farmers continue to get corn contracts and now get contracts for biochar made from their corn waste. Public health improves because every tonne of corn waste that is "pyrolysed" keeps six kilograms of smoke from being released into the air. The economy of the North gets a boost because the poor have more money in their pockets which, being poor, they spend immediately. The Thai economy can continue to grow as consumers do not face higher meat prices, chicken exports do not fall, and thousands of jobs and billions of baht of economic activity do not move to Myanmar. Thailand sharply reduces its national carbon footprint as the reduction in field burning cuts black carbon releases and the rise in biochar production cuts GHG emissions and sequesters three tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of biochar produced.

Michael Shafer is director of the Warm Heart Foundation based in A Phrao, Chiang Mai.

There is a overlapping story here for the annual haze issues emanating from forestry and plantation activity in Indonesia (some of it controlled by Malaysian & Singaporean interests). Check out 13 previous posts on the haze issue and its solutions here.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Mine tailing land restoration

How compost and cattle are restoring Coal Basin

This article may provide guidance on restoring damaged mining areas in our region.

Orion Magazine | Dirt First

Orion Magazine | Dirt First: Nurturing the busy life of soil is both a key to sustainable food production and a tool to turn back climate change.

This is a great read if you are into soil... not a comfortable read if you are a chemical farming advocate.