Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This is the idea we submitted to Project 10100:

Your idea's name

Sustainable farming leaders for the developing world.

What one sentence best describes your idea?

Training community leaders in sustainable farming will improve the life of the 2.5 billion people dependent on subsistence and small scale farming.

Describe your idea in more depth.

This project will create thousands of local leaders in Africa, Asia, and South-Central America who will learn, practice, demonstrate, and popularize low input-high yield sustainable agriculture in low resource small farms. While many philanthropic projects aim to improve market access, pricing, and technological support for small farmers, few are focused on minimizing input costs of small agriculture. An increasing number of farmers are now receptive to alternative methods of farming due to increasing costs and other disadvantages of conventional farming. But due to inadequate popularization and training very few small farmers are currently able to take advantage of the established sustainable agriculture knowledge base.

In this project, small farmers who are experimenting with alternative methods of agriculture will be invited to train in the best practices from high yield sustainable agriculture approaches such as Fukuoka farming and permaculture. Leveraging the expertise and infrastructure of current leaders in the field, the trainees will be educated in sustainable agriculture methods adapted for their local environmental, economic, and cultural conditions.

The trainee leaders will attend an intensive course at regional training centers and then start implementing the natural farming methods on their own farms. With ongoing training, guidance, and support, they will optimize the methods for local conditions. As these farms are established, they will be encouraged and supported to function as local centers of demonstration and training, accelerating the adoption of sustainable farming in their vicinity.

The number of people trained by this project will depend on the funding received. One new sustainable agricultural center for each five to ten thousand square miles may be an appropriate stretch goal. For the developing regions of Asia, Africa and South America, this translates into a goal of creating about two to four thousand sustainable farming leaders in the first training cycle.

What problem or issue does your idea address?

Subsistence farmers constitute 75% of the worlds poor. Small farms provide most of the food for over 80% of the world's population. Yet, small farms face a bleak future due to the increasing costs of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and fuels on one side, and the artificially cheap products of subsidized industrial farming on the other. Decline in soil quality due to chemical dependent monoculture has further harmed most small farms.

These pressures have manifested themselves in dramatic local price fluctuations, global rise in food prices, and in India, large scale farmer suicides. Small farmers are also migrating to urban areas more than ever before, with all the consequent problems for the migrants as well as the urban areas. Ongoing deterioration of small farm productivity is hurting the livelihood of farmers, food security and national security of a large majority of the human population, and is accelerating global environmental degradation.

If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how?

Implementing this grass roots project will generate long term positive impact on the quality of life for the 2.5 billion small farmers as well as food security for 5.5 billion small farm consumers. Compared to mechanized chemical dependent monoculture, sustainable agriculture is far more suitable for low resource small farms in developing countries. High yield sustainable farming involves creating a balanced, high biodiversity farm ecosystem. The services of this ecosystem enable these farms to drastically reduce the labor and material costs of tilling, pest control, weed suppression, and fertilizing, while getting better yields than monoculture farms.

Due to the significantly reduced input costs and increased yields, small farmers will achieve financial stability and security as their return on investment increases. High yields and diversity in local food production will create local food security. The lower labor requirements will free human resources for improving local economic and environmental conditions.

What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground?

  1. Obtain funding and determine size and region focus of the project.
  2. Build a coalition of experts and leaders in the field of high yield sustainable small-farm agriculture.
  3. Identify the methods of sustainable agriculture that are best suited for environmental, cultural, and economic conditions in each region.
  4. Identify existing regional training centers, and organize training programs.
  5. Identify trainees in local regions - ideally, small farmers who are actively experimenting with alternative methods of farming.
  6. Arrange financial support and other resources for trainees to attend training sessions and to implement sustainable agriculture practices on their farms.

Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it?

If this project is successfully executed, it will create a critical mass of sustainable farming leaders and educators who will help accelerate the adoption of sustainable farming in small farms worldwide. The resulting bottom-up revitalization of small-farm agriculture will be reflected in several measurable parameters:
  1. Number of small farmers identifying themselves as sustainable farming practitioners.
  2. Small farm area switched from conventionally to sustainably farmed.
  3. Reduction in input costs (pesticide, chemical fertilizers, labor, irrigation, etc.) on sustainable farms.
  4. Improvement in local environmental conditions, including air quality, ground cover, and water table.
  5. Increase in yield and diversity of farm produce, as well as biodiversity in and around the farm.
  6. Improvement in rural health and child mortality rates due to improvements in nutrition.
  7. Reduction in small farmer debt and increase in net worth.
  8. Reduction in rural medical costs.


t. said...

Dear friend,

It's a great project. Thank you for your efforts and good will, and I really do hope your idea is selected.

elwyn said...

Hey have you had any response from google on your project?
I shaw your post in Fukuoka Farming Yahoo group and led me to your site and your project.

I also submitted something along those lines.
We should talk and compare notes. I will try to reach you.
Nice blog.


Chinmay said...

Thanks t. and Elwyn,

Project 10^100 seems to be paused indefinitely. (The website says "Check back later"). So I'm not holding my breath.

In any case, as one out of 150,000 ideas, there isn't much of a chance, statistically speaking.

Elwyn, looking forward to talking with you.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




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