Thursday, 17 August 2017

Permaculture and peace in the Middle East (#journal)

Exploring The Impact of Climate Change on the Outbreak of Early 21st Century Violence in the Middle East and North Africa and the Potential of Permaculture as an Effective Adaptation 

Considering the ongoing violence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, especially within Syria and Iraq, it is essential to provide an accurate explanation of causes. In addition to discussing the climate-related concerns associated with the emergence of violence, this paper considers how tackling the environmental crisis in MENA will improve living standards and lead towards sustainable development. As a supplement to a range of secondary data, a small selection of individuals who have escaped the recent conflicts have been interviewed. Because this sample pool is small, and the ongoing violence precludes fieldwork, this study provides only a preliminary exploration of the topic. As a potential adaptation to climate change in the region, permaculture is presented through illustrations of its capabilities for redressing some of the underlying causes of violence in the region.

Introducing 'design thinking' in heath care (report)

The Use of Design Thinking in MNCH Programs: A Case Study of the Care Community Hub (CCH) Pilot, Ghana

Responding to growing interest among designers, global health practitioners, and funders in understanding the potential benefits of applying design thinking methods and tools to solving complex social problems, the Innovations for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Initiative piloted innovative interventions to address common barriers to improving the effectiveness of basic health services in low-resource settings. Central to the initiative’s overall strategy was experimentation and learning related to the application of “design thinking,” a form of inquiry that is applied in the conceptual stages of a planning process and subsequent stages of program or product development. In spite of increased reports of the use of design thinking in developing-country settings, there is little systematically documented evidence of the value of these approaches in the form of in-depth documentation or formal evaluations that link design thinking to health program performance or health outcomes. Moreover, there are few validated metrics to assess the effect of design thinking.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Soil health and human health (journal)

The idea that human health is tied to the soil is not a new one. As far back as 1400 BC the Bible depicts Moses as understanding that fertile soil was essential to the well-being of his people. In 400 BC Hippocrates provided a list of things that should be considered in a proper medical evaluation, including the properties of the local ground. By the late 1700s, American farmers recognized that soil properties had some connection to human health. In the modern world, we recognize that soils have a distinct influence on human health. We recognize that soils influence (1) food availability and quality (food security), (2) human contact with various chemicals, and (3) human contact with various pathogens. Soils and human health studies include investigations into nutrient supply through the food chain and routes of exposure to chemicals and pathogens. However, making strong, scientific connections between soils and human health can be difficult. There are multiple variables to consider in the soil environment, meaning traditional scientific studies that seek to isolate and manipulate a single variable often do not provide meaningful data. The complete study of soils and human health also involves many different specialties such as soil scientists, toxicologists, medical professionals, anthropologists, etc. These groups do not traditionally work together on research projects. Climate change and how it will affect the soil environment/ecosystem going into the future is another variable.

Agroecolgy better than input substitution - a 1996 classic (journal)

Agroecology versus input substitution: A fundamental contradiction of sustainable agriculture

 The central question posed by this essay is whether sustainable agriculture will be able to rescue modern industrial agriculture from its present state of crisis. To answer this question this article begins by outlining the economic, social, and ecological dimensions of the crisis, each of which must be addressed by an alternative paradigm in order to pull agriculture out of crisis. It then examines a persistent contradiction in the alternative agriculture movement: that of input substitution versus agroecologi‐calty informed transformation of farming systems. It is argued that the prevalence of input substitution, which emphasizes alternatives to agrochemical inputs without challenging the monoculture structure of agricultural systems, greatly diminishes the potential of sustainable agriculture. By only addressing environmental concerns, this dominant approach offers little hope of either reversing the rapid degradation of the resource base for future production or of resolving the current profit squeeze and debt trap in which the world's farmers are caught.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Combining organic and mineral P fertilisers (online)

Does combined use of organic and mineral phosphorus fertilisers support mycorrhizal colonisation

Phosphorus (P) fertilisers come from phosphate rock, a finite resource . Therefore, alternative sources need to be used to ensure the sustainability of food production systems. Organic amendments (OA), such as manures and composts, can be used, but vary in the amount and forms of P they contain.  Arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM) — symbioses between plant roots and fungi — can enhance plant P uptake. They also provide other benefits to soil and plant health. In this project, four OA were investigated for their potential to be used as P fertilisers. The relationship between the chemical properties of the OA and plant (wheat) P uptake from the OA was determined. A second experiment was conducted to determine whether chicken litter with straw bedding can be effectively used in combination with mineral P fertilisers, supplying crops with P while having minimal effect on AM colonisation.

Take home messages

  • Incorporation of organic amendments (OA) into phosphorus (P) management plans can have beneficial effects on arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM). 
  • OA alone may not be able to meet crop P demands.
  • Combined use of OA and mineral P fertilisers successfully met crop P demands.
  • Bicarbonate-extractable P gives a good indication of the P fertiliser potential of OA.

Is farmer-generated data accurate? (journal)

The accuracy of farmer-generated data in an agricultural citizen science methodology

Participatory approaches involving on-farm experimentation have become more prevalent in agricultural research. Nevertheless, these approaches remain difficult to scale because they usually require close attention from well-trained professionals. Novel large-N participatory trials, building on recent advances in citizen science and crowdsourcing methodologies, involve large numbers of participants and little researcher supervision. This study experimentally assess the accuracy of farmer observations in trials. At five sites in Honduras, 35 farmers participated in tricot experiments. They ranked three varieties of common bean for Plant vigor, Plant architecture, Pest resistance, and Disease resistance. Reliability of farmers’ experimental observations was generally low, but aggregated observations contained information and had sufficient validity to identify the correct ranking orders of varieties. Our sample size simulation shows that low reliability can be compensated by engaging higher numbers of observers, realistic numbers of less than 200 participants can produce meaningful results for agricultural research by tricot-style trials.

Organic better than conventional? (Journal)

Organic agriculture key to feeding the world sustainably

Study analyzes 40 years of science against 4 areas of sustainability. Researchers have concluded that feeding a growing global population with sustainability goals in mind is possible. Their review of hundreds of published studies provides evidence that organic farming can produce sufficient yields, be profitable for farmers, protect and improve the environment and be safer for farm workers.