Nepal – making a failure out of a success

Introduction

After an extended visit to Nepal in 2018 I realized that the countries agricultural problems could be summed up as 1) a deficit in horticultural knowledge, 2) a lack of equipment and 3) a failure to use appropriate technology.

I concluded that Nepal had the climate to be highly productive all year round. What it needed was an educational and research station where intensive horticulture and fertility management could be taught and novel ideas developed into working.

So when I left in February 2019 I left loaded up with soft furnishing goods bought from India and Nepal that I intended to sell over the summer. I posted most goods ahead and then carried more goods on the flight back. I hoped to raise £10k however it was a struggle and at times I found myself carting 50kg of goods on a bus to markets where I failed to even cover the bus fare home. I did though manage to sell some and so in November 2019 I returned with some tools and £3500 in cash; a third of what I had hoped to raise. However it was along with my knowledge and passion what I had. It was also to be the last ‘push’ for, having spent the last 13 years trying to help NGO’s and farmers build sustainable projects, I had had enough of engineered failure.

2018 Reconnaissance Survey

During my visit in 2018 I had laid down some foundations; I made some inquires and through those some connections. I further executed a reconnaissance survey on the terraces above Sedi village and concluded that whilst the soils were poor they could, given the climate, be far more productive than they were. The problem lay in a lack of basic knowledge in soil and plant husbandry. sedi-reconnaissance-survey

map of sedi reconnaissance area

So it was here on my return that I first started, with the guest house owner and on the terraces I had previously surveyed . However the owner had not taken on board any of the advice I had given him in the reconnaissance survey and it was soon apparent that he had no intention of doing so.

Thus I began to look elsewhere. It though proved to be a struggle for, as has been the perennial problem I have encountered in Asia, everyone you meet is keen on the ideas but shy on practical action. Their interest is superficial and once they realize that progress require effort that interest rapidly withers.

ADAOS

ADAOS

This search led me to ADAOS, a small NGO that was introduced to me by Sushil, a young plant pathologist I had met on a bus from Kathmandu. We had discussed ideas on the bus and later met to discuss them further. Sushil showed me several sites to begin a compost operation; one of which was ADAOS. A small NGO running a retirement home for Nepali cows and whose main stock in trade was bottling the urine for human consumption. back-in-the-shit

new vermiculture bed

They also had a fledgling vermicomost operation and were interested in nursery production. Their unshakable belief in the medicinal benefits of ‘holy cow’ urine though put me off.

It was also far from a suitable site with poor access and a lack of water but I could at least help them improve their compost and vermicompost operation and as it was already February I needed to start something, to put something practical into operation so I agreed to show them how to make better compost. 3-2-1 compost

This developed into a basic strategy to produce compost and manufacture potting compost for nursery production. I moved to an apartment to be nearer and then a few weeks later the Covid19 lockdown came in. The attitude changed, and as foreigner I was seen as the source of Covid19 and thus found myself barred from the site. Plants I had raised for the growing operations withered in their pots as Narandra constantly failed to pick them up. It was clear the end of the road had been reached. ADAOS

Lockdown also saw a puppy I would name Pinto come into my life. Whilst I had not intended on keeping him the extended lockdown saw me becoming attached and I determined to eventually take him back to the UK with me. a-rescued-puppy

CESAR

Whilst working with ADAOS I met Santosh Koirala, who was minding his fathers joinery shop and who got the joke on the back of my t-shirt (Greta was angry but I’m fecking livid). On inquiring further I learned that he had spent 15 years in the States where he had completed a degree in chemical engineering (Texas A&M) and a doctorate in bio-molecular engineering (Lincoln). He was potentially an ideal partner for the biochar and biodiesel projects and so I returned and raised the ideas with him. Santosh was interested but before we could discuss the ideas further Lockdown intervened and progress stalled until July.

CESAR

Following the easing of restrictions we met, visited the Amar Singh Chowk site and agreed a basic plan to build a training and research operation built upon a working nursery. The four months of lockdown meant time was of the essence if things were to be in place for the new year. First was the manufacture of compost and then to start building the raised beds. Plans were drawn up, agreed and work commenced. The full story will be written up but for now there is the overview I produced in December

The Successes

Water Hyacinth Organic Fertilizer

At the end of lockdown last year I was able to gather some water hyacinth from the Fewa lake. Most was used to make compost but some I kept aside and using a basic barrel press extracted the liquid. In total 50 ltrs was extracted and held onto for a liquid fertilizer trial. The trial was executed over 4 weeks in February and proved extremely successful.

Basil growth after twice weekly feeds of 1) 50ml water hyacinth extract (WHE), 2) 50ml of mineral nutrient solution (MNF), 3) 50ml water (control) over a 4 week period.

A paper for this will be written in due course and there is still time to turn the control of water hyacinth from an expense for the municipality to a benefit to the municipality and environment. All it requires is the willingness to do so.

Raised beds: Continuous Cropping

Whilst the raised beds were intended for seed production and teaching they provided an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of all year round intensive cropping systems. Originally this was to be done using cold frames but with the decision by Santosh to cancel building the greenhouse, bamboo supports and plastic were erected to produce a hybrid cold frame and green house. Whilst the project was started the decision by Santosh to starve both the project and myself of funds and the subsequent theft of my dog meant that only the first crop was ever planted.

Biochar: the abandoned project

Biochar is an organic carbon that has a long half life and can be made from any carbon based material from wood wastes to plastic. Biochar has the potential to improve agricultural land and sequester carbon to address climate change. Nepal’s soils are low in carbon and in many cases this could be addressed with biocar additions. Furthermore I had interest from both National and International institutions to partner on biochar projects.

Carbon Sequestration Opportunities in the Agricultural Land of Nepal

The Failures

Why ADAOS Failed

It has to be said that ADAOS was always going to be a temporary engagement. The sites was unsuitable and the superstitious beliefs always going to get in the way of proper progress. It didn’t help that I was misled at the start into believing that I was dealing with a committee when in truth all decisions were Naranda’s. When the Covid lockdown begun those same irrational beliefs simply morphed into xenophobia and I was cast out like the proverbial leaper.

Why CESAR Failed

CESAR had much more promise and with Santosh having spent 15 years in the States where he gained his degree, masters and doctorate before doing several years work in industry I erroneously believed that things would be different. However;

  1. Santosh did no work. When we agreed to partner to build the project we agreed to split the work load whereby I was responsible for the design and operations to build the infrastructure whilst Santosh would take care of admin and communications. Sadly whilst I executed my side of the agreement Santosh did not do his and when I complained he openly admitted such but then did nothing to address it. If anything he came over as ‘entitled’ and if to add insult to injury then did less. The project could not survive if the admin and networking were not executed.
  2. What Santosh did do he then corrupted. There was in truth only one thing Santosh did: set up the NGO. Something only he could do as NGO’s in Nepal can only be set up and contain Nepali nationals on the board. Santosh took a long time to set the NGO up and when he did the board consisted of four family members none of whom had any interest in CESAR. This included the treasurer, secretary and vice chair. Thus as chair he did not have the casting vote but the majority. Not only was this in contravention of CESAR’s own constitution but it meant I was not dealing with an organization but an individual; one who ruled completely and who was similarly not committed to the project or prepared to do the bare minimum.
  3. Santosh agreed to a plan and then changed his mind after half the infrastructure had been built. This just creates crisis and increases the amount of work I have to do.
  4. Santosh refused to address issues such as water, rubbish burning and security. Water was a constant issue with a complete failure to provide as agreed sufficient storage. This included water for domestic use. Rubbish burning by the residents was common practice and went against the whole ethos of organization. Santosh addressed this by paying for the rubbish to be collected but did not enforce the collecting and disposing of rubbish and so the burning continued. Not one single bag was ever collected.
  5. Security, particularly the leaving open of gates by the residents was a major concern that I raised constantly but was ignored and one that ultimately led to the theft of my dog.

This wasn’t about money but interest and commitment to the project and the lack of concern about the security and well being of others. Santosh liked the idea of CESAR as a route to advance his Doctorate in bio-molecular engineering but when it came to the crunch not the idea of doing any work towards achieving this. When I started to complain not only did he do less but he also withheld funding. I was in the last few months starved into submission, no water, no gas and no food. In hindsight I wish I had walked away in January, after he decided to ditch the plans we had agreed a few weeks earlier and starve me of funds, but I wanted to complete the hyacinth and continuous cropping projects, I had put a lot of time and effort in and so I wanted something for my labours. The theft of my dog, a month later, a consequence of Santosh’s failure to address security was the worst of all possibilities. Hence I now regret continuing, had I left in January both myself and Pinto would already be back in the UK. Instead I will likely return on my own, financially broke, emotionally drained and bereft of all hope for planet Earth. Pinto

Conclusion

The irony here is that despite the failures of Santosh CESAR was proving to be a success. I had single handedly got the interest of international and national partners and was on target to build a first class teaching and research establishment. In all likelihood I would have succeeded in creating this in less time than the five years originally envisaged and similarly at a fraction of the costs. However this was only possible if others contributed and whilst I remained the only person committed, the only person doing any work then the project was doomed to fail.

I would aver that it wasn’t too much to ask for the organization to be created honestly and with an active and committed board; or for Santosh to make the necessary calls and arrange meetings with relevant civil departments. In particular turning an expense, the invasive water hyacinth, into a resource. The work was a success, the projects were working but whilst I was the only contributing partner I was in the end just another man’s slave.

Nepal whilst being one of the few countries that has the resources and climate to become a successful and sustainable agricultural society sadly lacks the will to do so. As the saying goes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink and thus a success is turned into a failure.

pinto

I created this page to give some better images of my dog Pinto who was taked from Amar Singh Chowk of on February 8th.

Pinto was last seen getting on a bus to Hospital Chowk after which he disappeared.

I believe he has been taken and is now tied up or fenced in somewhere.

If you know where he is I am offering a 50,000 Rs reward for information leading to his recovery.

please send a photo via whatsapp on either of these two numbers

mobile 98 28 78 4793

whatsapp +44 7487 400 792

Pinto is a small neutered male of appro 11kg. He is vaccinated and microchipped and was due to be taken with me back to UK. If he is not found soon I will have to leave without him

Pinto’s story

Pinto came to me as a small puppy I rescued a year ago on the 2nd day of lockdown here in Nepal. I was sat at my PC, working or reading the news when I heard a commotion outside. I recognized the yelps and growl of a puppy so went to investigate.

Outside I found a neighbor pushing a tiny drenched puppy, for she had just poured a bucket of water over it, with a broom. I realized this little thing stood little hope of survival and so I went back inside and retrieved a basket I had bought to make a planter, an old sack, some string and some scissors to make a lid. I then went back out and the puppy had already ran into another neighbors garden. I went in and told the householder that I would catch him.

He was tucked into some plant pots and was snarling. So I quickly stitched a lid onto the basket and then took a small broom and waived it at he. As he lunged at it I grabbed him with my other hand, put him in the basket and then tied the sacking down.

This was him when I got him home.

more to come as I will share Pinto’s story from lockdown, our moves and our project work in Nepal.

please bookmark or subscribe for updates

Carbon Sequestration Opportunities in the Agricultural Land of Nepal

Authors

Roshan Babu Ojha is a Soil Scientist at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council who is currently studying for a PhD at The University of New England, Armidale, Australia (Biography)

Malcolm McEwen is a freelance Soil Scientist and Environmentalist trading as Persephone Habitat and Soil Management . He is the Admin and principle Editor of this site. (Biography)

1) Background

Nepal is divided in four agro-ecozones (Terai, Siwalik, Middle mountain/mid-hill and High Mountain) ranging in elevation from 60 meters above sea level (masl) in the south to 4800 masl in the north. The northern elevation extends up to 8848 masl which is rocky and snow covered. Terai (a part of Indo-gangetic plain) is flat land extending from 60-300 masl. Siwalik is extended from 900-2000 masl. The Middle mountain/mid-hills zone is represented by gentle to steep sloping land extending from 1500-2700 masl (Chalise et al., 2019). The High Mountain zone is steeply sloping land extended from 2,000-4,800 masl. Around 27% of the total land is suitable for cultivation and 20% of land is under cultivation. Forest and shrubs, occupying approximately 40% of total land area, extend from Terai to high-Mountain. Pasture land is mainly limited to high-Mountain and represents 12% of the total land area.

1a) Current Cropping Systems

Farming is dominated by traditional integrated cereal (rice, maize, millet, mustard and wheat) with livestock (cow, buffalo and goat) systems (Gauchan and Yokoyama, 1999). Terraces on the hill slopes is also a key feature of Nepalese agriculture (Jodha, 1992; Partap, 1999). This can be further differentiated with the lower Terai dominated by a rice-wheat based cropping systems, the mid-hills region dominated by maize-based cropping systems and the high mountain region dominated by pastoralism. (Gauchan and Yokoyama, 1999

1b) Abandoned Land

Approximately one third of the cultivable land in Nepal has been abandoned over the last 30 years (Gautam, 2004; Jaquet et al., 2015; Khanal and Watanabe, 2006; Seddon et al., 2002) and whilst land abandonment issues have occurred throughout the country it has been particularly prevalent in the mid-hills zone (Paudel et al., 2019). Within the Kaski district of Nepal 40% of households abandoning at least one parcel of land for two consecutive years and 28% of the all plots being consistently uncultivated and left fallow (Khanal, 2018). Further studies have identified that abandoned crop lands were subjected to degradation through soil erosion, landslides, and terrace collapse (Khanal and Watanabe, 2006).

1c) Causes of Abandonment

The abandonment of land has become an increasing problem as the inability to produce a viable income from agriculture has, through internal migration and emigration, led to rural depopulation. Historically traditional cropping systems emerged out of the need to provide sustenance for the farmer and immediate family with little or no requirement for the generation of income through the cultivation of cash crops. However with the increased desire for consumer goods, energy and transport networks the need to finance this changing lifestyle has also emerged. The existing agricultural systems of Nepal however have failed to adapt to these needs. Minimal attention has been paid to adapting and modernizing agriculture to take advantage of emerging markets, technological developments and export opportunities in response to the growing social changes with most farming enterprises still cultivating traditional crops and using simple tools and draft animals in the tillage of land. Where attempts have been made to adapt lack of cultivation knowledge and use of appropriate tools has resulted in low yields and little income generation. This has been compounded by a failure to educate farmers in the cultivation of new crops and the adoption of appropriate technology to cultivate those crops.

2) Difference and Role of Soil Organic Matter (SOM) and Soil Organic Carbon (SOC)

Soil organic matter (SOM) also, and more commonly referred to as humus is the fully or partially decomposed remains of microbes, animal and plant material. Humus is dynamic in nature and is important in the mineralization of plant nutrients and the maintenance of soil and ecosystem health. Comprised largely of short lived material it contributes to both the labile (active) pools of C, which persist from a few days to several years and the longer lived recalcitrant (stable) pools that can persist for several centuries and contribute to the mitigation of CO2 in the efforts to tackle climate change.

Soil organic carbon (SOC) is the part of the SOM comprised of just carbon. On average SOM is composed of 58% of SOC. Carbon stored in the soil, in the form of SOC, is the second largest global Carbon reservoir (Lal et al., 2015). A significant component in maintaining soil ecosystem function (Adhikari and Hartemink, 2016; Janzen, 2006; Lal, 2019) it is further necessary in maintaining the physical, chemical and biological properties that contribute to soil fertility, soil sustainability and food security (Lal, 2004; Lal et al., 2015; Wiesmeier et al., 2019).

2a) Current Status in Nepal

Soil organic carbon (SOC) is an essential soil component to maintain and restore soil quality and ecosystem function (Janzen, 2006; Lal et al., 2015; Wiesmeier et al., 2019). Past policies in Nepal, (i.e.The National Agriculture Policy (NAP) 2004 included in the Agriculture Perspective Plan (APP) 1995-2015) focused on chemical fertilizer distribution and subsidy schemes but failed to address the potential or importance of organic fertilizer and SOC in the maintenance of soil and crop health. As a consequence the use of chemical fertiliser at the expense of organic fertilizer has led to significant oxidation and loss of Soil Organic Matter (SOM) in the croplands of Nepal with SOC having declined to 1% (ADS, 2015).

2b) Existing Government & Agency Policy Objectives

The importance of SOC to increase agricultural productivity and sustainability has been identified in the Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS, 2015-2035). The former National Agriculture Policy (NAP) 2004 and the Agriculture Perspective Plan (APP, 1995-2015) largely focused on increasing agricultural production through seed and fertilizer development at the expense of organic manures which in turn has led to an increase in soil erosion, nutrient mining, and chemical pollution of water bodies by agro-chemicals. With the decline in SOC having now been realized a target to increase Soil Organic Matter from 1% to 4% over the next 10 years has been set. To meet this target, the Ministry of Agricultural Land Development (MoALD) has a policy to increase SOM through the promotion of the organic farming, improved use of manure, on-farm composting, vermi-composting, and the subsidizing of commercial organic fertilizer. However few government programs have yet been started to address organic farming and organic fertilizer production at the farm scale.

2c) Current inputs of SOC

Addition of organic material is one of the most effective ways to add carbon to cultivated soils. However most organic inputs contribute the labile form of carbon (Paul et al., 2001) which is mineralized according to first order kinetics. This results in an annual loss of approx. 50% of the carbon added with, after four years, only 6% of the additions remaining. This though can be offset by regular timely additions (annually or every three years) which, over the long term result in a net balance being achieved.

2c i) Farm Yard Manure

In integrated livestock farming systems Farm yard manure (FYM) is the most commonly used bulky organic fertilizer. Combined with mineral fertilizer FYM can increase labile carbon by 75% and water soluble carbon by 110% (Brar et al., 2013). The stable carbon fraction is higher in farm yard manure and straw residue incorporation than green manure addition (Chaudhary et al., 2017).

In most studies addition of Farm yard manure significantly increases SOC sequestration and SOC stock but the amount of farm yard manure use in the studies is far from the realistic dose applied by the farmers. Practically, it is not achievable in farm level to maintain the FYM dose (3-4 t FYM ha-1 on dry weight basis) as recommended by the studies (Gami et al., 2009).

2c ii) Crop Residues

Residues such as crop stubble, cereals straw, leaves and roots which are not removed from the field after harvest add small amounts of SOC and further provide other physical, chemical and biological benefits. Residue retention similarly increases soil organic matter levels (Gupta Choudhury et al., 2014; Lugato et al., 2014; Rasmussen et al., 1980) and can have beneficial effects on microbial communities (Zhao et al., 2016). However, both the quantities and stability of crop residue carbon are low and thus the benefits are minimal on their own.

3) Future Opportunities to Increase SOC

In order to meet the Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS, 2015-2035) target of increasing SOM to 4% over the next 10 years and with the greatest degradation and highest productivity occurring on the Terai and mid-hill regions, specific management strategies for the Terai, mid-hill and high mountain regions should to be developed. These strategies should similarly address agricultural development and education.

3a) Land Management strategies

Opportunities to increase SOC in agricultural lands exist through the adoption and promotion of better pasture and tilled land management practices and utilization of existing infrastructure. These include seeding pasture with deeper rooted and beneficial species, better utilization of field boundaries and terrace walls, adoption of green manuring and on farm composting of organic wastes prior to incorporation into the land.

3a i) Pasture Management

With the majority of pasture existing in the higher elevated regions and representing 12% of the total land area consideration and research into suitable perennial and deep rooted species that contribute both to the health of livestock and increase SOC should be undertaken. The same should be performed at the lower altitudes in order to similarly improve stock health and productivity and sequester carbon. At present we are working with ADAOS to devise a strategy to integrate improved habitat and pasture management for the preservation and maintenance of traditional Nepali cattle.

3a ii) Field Boundary and Terrace Wall Management

Field sizes in Nepal are relatively small and so have a much larger ration of boundary to cultivated land than found elsewhere. Similarly, the predominance of terrace farming generates a large surface of terrace wall representing as much as 50% of the total land area (Sedi reconnaissance). These boundaries and terrace walls are currently utilized in the production of forage for housed cattle however colonization is largely left to natural processes resulting in the establishment of poor quality and non-forage value plants (weeds) that require maintenance and can damage the terrace walls. Through the deliberate seeding of more productive less damaging plants to both the boundaries and the terrace walls would result in better forage and higher productivity of cattle. Furthermore these boundaries offer the opportunity to cultivate biomass and oil bearing plants such as Jatropha or Tree borne oilseed (TBO’s) for the production of bio-fuels. With Nepal having no fossil fuel reserves utilization of boundary and terrace walls for biomass and biodiesel crops could thus contribute greatly to the development of a domestic fuel industry that reduces pressure on natural forest land, provides fuel security and promotes wider sustainability objectives (SDG’s). Is furthermore another area of research and development that we intend to investigate and promote. (link to biodiesel page)

3a iii) Green Manure and Under Sowing

Cropping systems in Nepal range from constant all year round production (mustard, maize, rice) to single annual crop (rice) production. With the former one harvest is followed by the addition of small amount of fresh FYM incorporated with the sowing of the following crop and little of no subsequent weed management resulting in dirty (weed infested) crops producing low yields. With the latter land is left fallow between crops and is similarly naturally colonized by poor value plants utilized for rough grazing. In both cases the use of green manures both as standing crops and as an under-sow for incorporation following harvest and prior to re-sowing would provide additional Carbon inputs and improve subsequent crop productivity and grazing value.

3a iv) On farm Composting

On farm composting of FYM and organic residues remains one of the best ways to provide SOC to the soil and utilize available nutrients for subsequent crops. The current practice of using fresh FYM whilst more beneficial than not does however have detrimental effects as available nutrients, in particular nitrogen, are utilized by micro-organisms in order to decompose the material. Similarly, residues that are not incorporated are often removed and burned. These residues could be utilized along with the FYM in compost production so as to produce a more stable beneficial product with higher fertilizer value. We are currently developing a three stage composting system with ADAOS to produce high quality stable compost for use in crop production and as an ingredient in the manufacture of potting media for the production of nursery plants (link to compost post)

3b) Supplementary Opportunities

In addition to improved land and on farm management strategies opportunities to gather non-farm based (i.e. wood mill and forestry residues) and off/post farm residues (processing and restaurant waste) for either composting or biochar manufacture exist. Similarly abandoned and marginal land could be utilised to produce green material for direct incorporation into cultivated land or for compost feed stock. There further lies an opportunity to add significant amounts of SOM and SOC through the development of nursery production to supply seedling plants for field cultivation. Each module may hold as much as 10g of SOC thus every 10,000 seedling plants grown in soil-less media could add 1 ton of SOC to a parcel of land.

3b i) Composting of off farm and non-farm derived organic wastes

Organic wastes derived from domestic and commercial operations as well as forestry residues and saw mill wastes (i.e. wood shavings, bark) offer a route to recover significant quantities of carbon for either composting or the manufacture of biochar. Similarly invasive water weeds such as water hyacinth could be utilized in both composting and biochar manufacture. Currently wood waste from saw mills is being used as a compost ingredient at ADAOS and we are similarly looking at opportunities to collect restaurant waste from Lakeside for compost manufacture as well as the water hyacinth that annually chokes the Fewa lake.

3b ii) Biochar

Biochar, anoxygenic pyrolysed charred materials, have considerable agronomic (Biederman and Harpole, 2013), and environmental benefits including C sequestration (Schmidt et al., 2011), and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions (Gurwick et al., 2013).

Biochar addition can have considerable long-term stability (Lehmann et al., 2009) and significantly increase the stable C sequestration in soil. Depending upon feedstock the half-life of biochar in soil varies from a few months to hundreds of years but with the proportion of labile C (3%) to recalcitrant C (97%) the contribution is chiefly in the long term (Wang et al., 2016) . Smith et al., 2010 similarly identified that the C decomposition in biochar is slower indicating that biochar additions are a potential means for long-term storage of carbon. Furthermore Woolf et al. (2010) estimated the net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by sustainable biochar production could be as much as 1.8 Pg CO2-C annually whilst Weng et al., (2017) noted that additions of biochar improved root growth with newly derived root carbon increasing by 20%. (Link to Biochar Page)

3b iii) Abandoned land: Utilisation for green manure and compost feed stock production

With upwards of 30 % of agriculture land being abandoned and little prospect of that land being bought back into production in the short term it could be utilized to produce green manures for incorporation into operational lands or for the production of feed stocks for nearby compost operations. Such an utilization would be extremely beneficial to on farm composting of FYM which is absent of bedding material and so lacks sufficient structure to be effectively composted.

3b iv) Module raised plants in soil-less carbon rich substrates

We are currently developing a nursery operations at ADAOS (link to page) for the production of seedlings raised in potting media derived from the worm worked compost and coir. Each module contains up to 10g of SOC in the form of humus (SOM) made from FYM, grass cuttings and wood shavings. As yet we are unaware of any research undertaken to calculate the amount of of SOC such a system would add to a field but estimate that at a planting rate of 100,000 seedlings per hectare the total input could exceed one ton of carbon per hectare. As the material has been both composted and worm work it is highly stable and may have a longevity in excess of 10 years.

4) National and Global benefits

In addition to contributing to the aims of Nepal’s Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS, 2015-2035) the above recommendations also provide the opportunity to contribute to wider National and International Objects, in particular the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, are 17 integrated objectives that aim to balance social, economic and environmental sustainability. They were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Specifically we hope, through the above measures to address:

  • Goal 7 & 9 Affordable and Clean Energy & Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure through the generation of biomass and biodiesel fuel industries in Nepal.
  • Goal 4 & 8 Quality Education & Decent Work and Economic Growth through horticultural and soil management programs.
  • Goal 13 Mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration
  • Goal 15 Life on Land through habitat management and creation
  • Goal 17 Partnerships to achieve the Goals. Starting with ourselves, a team that originates from and is spread over four continents.

Whilst similarly working towards and in partnership with the other 10 Goals (No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Reduced Inequality, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Life Below Water, Peace and Justice Strong Institutions,)

5) Way Forward

Increasing carbon in croplands has multiple soil crop and environmental benefits. To achive both the domestic targets and global goals consideration should be given to fully integrating all possible options to sequester carbon into Nepals agricultural soils. Similarly priority should be given to the re-utilization of abandoned croplands for the accrual of Carbon either within the land it self or for use in active farming operations. Through our work with ADAOS and other ongoing projects we are developing mechanisms to promote and educate land owners and farmers in sequestering carbon and improve productivity in crop production in order to achieve the Nepalese Governments agricultural and environmental targets.

References

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Brar, B. S., Singh, K., Dheri, G. S., and Balwinder, K. (2013). Carbon sequestration and soil carbon pools in a rice?wheat cropping system: Effect of long-term use of inorganic fertilizers and organic manure. Soil and Tillage Research 128, 30-36.

Chalise, D., Kumar, L., and Kristiansen, P. (2019). Land Degradation by Soil Erosion in Nepal: A Review. Soil Systems 3, 12.

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Gautam, G. (2004). Abandonment of cultivable land: Farmers’ dependency on imported cereals [in Nepali].

Gurwick, N. P., Moore, L. A., Kelly, C., and Elias, P. (2013). A systematic review of biochar research, with a focus on its stability in situ and its promise as a climate mitigation strategy. PloS one 8, e75932.

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Jaquet, S., Schwilch, G., Hartung-Hofmann, F., Adhikari, A., Sudmeier-Rieux, K., Shrestha, G., Liniger, H. P., and Kohler, T. (2015). Does outmigration lead to land degradation? Labour shortage and land management in a western Nepal watershed. Applied Geography 62, 157-170.

Jodha, N. (1992). Mountain perspective and sustainability: a framework for development strategies

Khanal, N. R., and Watanabe, T. (2006). Abandonment of agricultural land and its consequences. Mountain Research and Development 26, 32-40.

Khanal, U. (2018). Why are farmers keeping cultivatable lands fallow even though there is food

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New Sites – New Hope

As a last ditch attempt to save planet Earth I have decided to concentrate my efforts through my own web sites and new blogs… To this aims I have re-uploaded the Persephone Habitat and Soil Management Site (if I hadn’t you couldn’t read this) so all my old posts are now back up and available to read. I will in time revise the site so that it continues to serve it’s original purpose: to provide free information and advise on building sustainability. I will also use it to continue to blog on environmental issues and developments. I have similarly set up several sub-domains which I will use to both blog and share detailed news on relevant projects I am involved with. These include: my Photo-Blog Here I will post short light-hearted posts supported by images and photo galleries. The site will act as a main repository for all my images which are available for personal use subject to correct attribution and linking back to the site and for purchase of higher quality prints (copyright and re-use) click to register with the site I have also created a site for Nepal . This site will concentrate on the projects I am working on that are related to Nepal. In addition to myself there are currently three other contributors but as projects progress I hope to increase the contributors so that a network is created that integrates the projects and shares information and resourses in a cooperative capacity. Click here if you want to contribute I will similarly be creating new pages for the Persephone project, I originally created a sub-domain but until there is more than just me working on it it doesn’t need it’s own site. It’s purpose is to promote the data ecosystem I believe can be contribute to tackling climate change on a global scale. Through the Persephone Project I hope to build a network and connect with people who have the web and app development skills to build the data ecosystem I envisage. One that can provide subsistence farmers with access to critical knowledge and to similarly act as a means to build a data cooperative so that those farmers can share resources, plan and market their produce collectively. Subsistence farmers number some 600 million people world wide (UNFAO), add in the family and that number jumps to over 3 Billion (half the worlds population). It is also within this group that the greatest population growth is occurring, the UN estimates between now and 2050 Africa will account for 50% of the worlds population growth. So it is with the poor that the greatest amount of work needs to be done and it is with the poor that the Persephone Project will concentrate its efforts. If you have web, app, database, distributed network or blockchain skills and think you can help then contact me  here. I will, when time permits revive my old blog conceptual-reflections. It was originally created to provide me with a place to vent my frustrations and keep my red flag waving antics off phasm. Age hasn’t subdued that need so I still need it but feel the above sites are not the right place for an ‘angry old man’ to spout venom. I will provide links once it has been revived. As a one man band who would rather be growing vegetables and chasing butterflies it is though a slow process. Building the sites and writing the posts as well as trying to phyisically build projects takes time and effort and there is only 24 hours in a day, six of them I need for sleeping. But we march on regardless, we continue to try to save ourselves from ourselves for failure is not the absence of success but giving up, and I haven’t yet reached that point. As long as one flower remains, there is hope. and I will cling to that hope regardless of how futile others think it is. Thanks for reading and please leave a positive comment or better still registered with any or all the sites above and (once I’ve set up the newsletters) you will get notifications of new posts. Regards Malcolm McEwen (aka Greenman-23)

The Persephone Project

A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR A DYNAMIC DATA ECOSYSTEM FOR AGRICULTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Primary Mission statement

“Build a Comprehensive Data Network for Agriculture and the Environment”

About

The Persephone project has arisen out of the ongoing need to find a comprehensive solution to our growing agricultural and environmental woes. It presents a framework in which to holistically address our shared problems and to collectively design equitable and efficient solutions to them.

Objectives

The main objective of the Persephone Project is to build a comprehensive ‘closed loop’ data framework to improve the production, sustainability, quality and consumption of agricultural products.

The Persephone Project further recognizes that stakeholders are integral to and the ultimate object of the system and so will adopt a ‘Wealth Creation through Distribution’ policy based on Metcalf’s law. The project has the ambitious target of reaching and including a billion small farmers over the next seven years in order to provide:

1) Access to relevant agricultural data

2) Tools to manage natural resources equitably and sustainably

3) Access to virtual and physical marketplaces

4) Automated mechanisms to manage produce logistics and authenticate origin.

In addition the framework will aim to generate significant ‘real time’ land use and environmental data at the local, state and national scales in order to provide markets and governmental bodies with accurate crop and environmental data.

Structure

The Persephone ecosystem is modular rather than a single homogeneous structure, with ‘no component within the network relying on another to function and no component essential to the function of the network as a whole’. The Persephone ecosystem is therefore robust and negates the potential for a single point of failure in the network. It’s modular design contains four core and two sympathetic components:

Despoena – Agricultural Resource Database and Management Tools

Paradigm – Agricultural and Environmental Database

Gateway – Entry level Crypto-currency tailored for subsistence farmers

VAMp – Virtual Agricultural Marketplaces

Juggernaut – Semi Autonomous Produce Logistics

IPAL – Independent Produce Authenticity Log

Framework

The Persephone ecosystem will be built upon the the ADS stack concept of Application, Database and Storage layers. Whilst it is a complete network capable of supplying critical data to small farmers, opening access to wider markets and improving produce logistics and authenticity it will retain the ability to add other features and to communicate and inter-operate with other electronic networks built upon the same stack architecture.

The Components

Gateway – Entry level Crypto-currency tailored for subsistence farmers

Despoena – Agricultural Resource Database and Management Tools

Paradigm – Agricultural and Environmental Database

VAMp – Virtual Agricultural Marketplaces

Juggernaut – Semi Autonomous Produce Logistics

IPAL – Independent Produce Authenticity Log

Gateway (GTE) – Entry Level Crypto-currency.

A stand alone crypto-currency Gateway will function as a means to raise capital (ICO) to build the other components and then as an entry level crypto-currency for subsistence farmers. With permissioned nodes, large blocks and only verified wallet owners Gateway will be a secure, low cost and user orientated blockchain . Additionally Gateway will introduce three novel features with Wealth Creation, Wallet Recovery and Exodus (a unique solution to the POW difficulty problem).

Despoena: Agricultural Resource Database and Management Tools

Despoena is a database of land use and resource availability complimented by a suite of apps designed to aid crop, soil, livestock and resource management at the farm, catchment and regional levels. At its heart is the Land Use Inventory (LUI); a self performed audit of the farm and it’s resources. By performing the audit and uploading the data to the network the farmer will earn tokens and gain entry to the Gateway token ecosystem. The data in the LUI will then be matched with scientific data in Paradigm to provide the farmer with soil, crop and livestock husbandry advice. The LUI will also supply data to DAO’s which in turn will provide resources management services at the catchment and regional level. Other DAO’s will keep markets via the VAMp informed of crop progress through out the growing season.

Paradigm: Agricultural and Environmental Database

The worlds environmental knowledge in a single accessible commons database is the aim of Paradigm. A structured searchable database that will power the applications of Despoena. Moving beyond agriculture Paradigm will grow to become a repository for all our knowledge on the planets biosphere; a comprehensive library to sustainable manage the Planet’s ecosystem.

VAMp : Virtual Agricultural Marketplaces

Virtual Agricultural Marketplaces will be built so that farmers can advertise their produce to physical marketplaces. Real time data from the DAO’s and the management apps will keep the VAMp up to date with crop progress and expected harvest dates. It is envisaged that the VAMp will encourage a dynamic relationship between the farmers and the physical markets to evolve so that the two plan together. An ‘Agricultural Bazaar’ where farmers can use their Gateway (GTE) tokens to buy and sell certified seeds, tools and other aids to crop production is also envisaged. Both aspects will be engineered and managed to encourage sustainable development and generate real value into the Gateway token ecosystem.

Juggernaut: Semi Autonomous Produce Logistics

Juggernaut is a complimentary service to the existing transport and logistic industries. Using mapping technology it will connect disparate entities in the supply chain and then plan the logistical movements of those goods. With the aim to reduce transport costs, improve delivery times and reduce cargo losses Juggernaut is seen as an intermediate stage to a fully autonomous logistics network.

IPAL: International Produce Authenticity Log

IPAL is a blockchain supply chain tool to track the movement of goods From Farm to Fork and provide an authenticity log to the final consumer.

Summary

Whilst all the components in the Persephone ecosystem are stand alone, (none are integral to the whole system), each component will be designed with the others in mind to give fast seamless operation across the network. Separation of function serving to make upgrades and maintenance to the system easier and providing robustness by negating the potential for a single point of failure or attack to the network. The ecosystem herein described should not be regarded as extensive but a summary of what can be achieved.

to read the full concept note please download the pdf document