A “Sunn Hemp” crop rotation can improve soil health and respond to the climate change impacts of smallholder rice farmers in the hopes of mitigating atmospheric CO2 and other climate forces.
I am Ngmnet Aektasaeng, a rice farmer and entrepreneur of bottled water in rural Thailand. I am interested in social enterprise, and in particular agribusiness, for the improvement of smallholder farmers’ livelihoods and practices. This project exemplifies a simple solution for farmers. I would like to raise funds for my project because it benefits our community and neighborhoods.
Rice is a staple crop for people in Southeast Asia, and Thailand is one of the major rice producers in the world. Rice production is considered as a major source of methane emissions because of the continuously flooded water regime of rice cultivation. It is also a big source of black carbon emitted to the atmosphere from the burning of rice straw after harvesting rice.
Thai farmers are facing a new challenge of water insufficiency. Therefore, restrictions on second crop rice production have been announced by the Thai government in response to water supply insufficiency during the dry season. Smallholder farmers are also facing higher prices for chemical fertilizer, lack of labor for their farms, and the decreasing market price of rice.
This raises a challenging question: how can farmers survive and overcome those barriers and sustain their well-being and their livelihood? This project is intended to pursue better solutions in practice and capital asset.
To reduce methane emissions from paddy rice, the practice of Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) will be introduced. AWD helps effectively reduce methane in the irrigated area, but it is not enough to provide sufficient water for the second crop of rice production. Therefore, alternative crops with less water requirements are needed for the dry season and crop rotation in the rainfed area.
In 2015, “Sunn Hemp” (Crotalaria juncea L.) was been planted on my farm after the rice harvest with the purpose of producing green manure and improving soil properties after long-time use of chemical fertilizer. We found Sunn Hemp crop rotation to be beneficial.
Firstly, planting Sunn Hemp right after harvesting helps stop the open burning that usually happens in paddy rice. Secondly, Sunn Hemp’s beautiful flowers attract visitors to our farm. My mom is very happy when people ask her to take a picture with the Sunn Hemp on our farm, and it is the starting point of our conversation with others about this plant and its benefits. It is a simple way of spreading the word of knowledge to other farmers, students, and key local authorities.
Thirdly, we got a pre-order of Sunn Hemp seed right after posting a beautiful flower picture of Sunn Hemp on Facebook.
Finally, we will have healthy soil for the next crop of rice production because Sunn Hemp uses nitrogen-fixing green manure that helps improve soil quality, reduce soil erosion, conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds and nematodes and recycle plant nutrients. Removal of atmospheric CO2 via C sequestration in terrestrial ecosystem could help convert the sequestered C into soil organic carbon. Likewise, the planting Sunn Hemp also accelerates the mitigation of atmospheric CO2.
The main objective of this project is to upscale the Sunn hemp crop rotation to other smallholder farmers by using our climate-friendly practices. The main targets of our project are at least 20 farmers in my community who have already expressed their interest in adopting this technology after receiving information and personally visiting our site. Additionally, students and other communities can learn from the project.
In line with our current activities, this project can start right after fund authorization. It is expected to achieve its goals in a one-year timeframe (from June 2016 to the end of April 2017). The training will be conducted after we have selected target farmers, and farmers will start planting Sunn Hemp right after harvesting rice in November.
During the flowering period of Sunn Hemp, we will promote our project to nearby schools and communities by giving them the opportunity to visit, enjoy, and learn about the production from our member farmers. Local authorities will be informed to collaborate before the training.
Expected outputs and outcomes
- Increase the number of smallholder farmers that adopt Sunn Hemp as crop rotation for their rice production;
- Increase farmers’ capital assets in rainfed areas and solve the problem of water insufficiency in irrigated areas;
- Reduce open burning of rice straw after harvesting rice;
- Improve soil health and reduce soil degradation;
- Improve people’s well-being and develop agri-tourism in the future.
A total of $5000 is needed, and the funding will be broken down by activity as follows:
- Develop Seed Bank and enable seed accessibility. 50% of the budget will be used for seed accessibility and development of the seed bank for sustaining sufficient Sunn Hemp Seed for the next crop;
- Conduct training and develop training materials. 30% of the budget will be used for training and coordination with local authorities to find collaboration;
- The last 20% will be used for administrative purposes including office stationery, travel, and so on.
In-kind contribution from my farm will be sought to complement the budget. Contributions include a demonstration of the site by using existing facilities, knowledge and human resources, which are available and necessary for the project.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Ngmnet Aektasaeng (Thailand) – ngamnetaektasaeng[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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