Sumant Kumar was overjoyed when he harvested his rice last year. There had been good rains in his village of Darveshpura in north-east India and he knew he could improve on the four or five tonnes per hectare that he usually managed. But every stalk he cut on his paddy field near the bank of the Sakri river seemed to weigh heavier than usual, every grain of rice was bigger and when his crop was weighed on the old village scales, even Kumar was shocked. This was not six or even 10 or 20 tonnes. Kumar, a shy young farmer in Nalanda district of India's poorest state Bihar, had – using only farmyard manure and without any herbicides – grown an astonishing 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare of land. This was a world record and with rice the staple food of more than half the world's population of seven billion, big news. The villagers, at the mercy of erratic weather and used to going without food in bad years, celebrated. The rhythm of Nalanda village life was shattered. Not everyone agrees.
Bee-friendly Gardening: flowers, ideas and tipsGet your garden BUZZING! In the UK over the past fifty years or so we have lost approximately 98% of our rich wild-flower meadows, as well as many hedgerows, ponds and wildlife habitats. This has meant our bees, bumblebees and pollinating insects have become increasingly dependent on gardens and urban waste-grounds to find the year-round pollen and nectar food sources they need, as well as suitable habitats for nesting and hibernation. Over 2/3rds of our bees and pollinating insects are currently under threat. We can help our honeybees, bumblebees, wild bees and pollinating insects by making our gardens even more ‘Bee-and Pollinator Friendly’ at this time. There are several things we can do if we have a garden – or even if we have only a sunny backyard or window boxes: Growing ‘Bee-Friendly’ flowers: Without a wide range of forage flowers throughout the year, our different types of bees and pollinators cannot survive. Look for bee-friendly labels in garden centres and seed catalogues.
Is Malawi's 'green revolution' a model for Africa?31 December 2010Last updated at 05:09 By Charlotte Ashton Radio 4's The World Tonight Food is plentiful at Ekwendeni's street market The road side market in Ekwendeni, in Malawi's northern region, is bustling. Piles of mangos, sacks of maize flour and large pots of peas and beans glisten in the afternoon sun. But six years ago it was a very different scene. "When we had acute hunger, you wouldn't have found people selling peacefully like this. He attributes today's bountiful food supply to a combination of good rains and the government subsidy programme. 'Ruining the soil' The poorest farmers get 40% off the cost of fertilisers and seeds, as part of a scheme that has turned Malawi from begging bowl to bread basket. Continue reading the main story Case study: Enoch Chione, farmer I've improved my soil and my family is healthier. The problem with government subsidies is that you have 40 people in the village but the government only gives you 16 coupons. But is it sustainable? Holistic approach
A Green Revolution, This Time for AfricaFixes looks at solutions to social problems and why they work. Last month was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution. In 1944, Borlaug moved to Mexico to work on breeding high-yield, disease-resistant strains of wheat. Mexico adopted them — and in 1970, wheat yields were six times what they had been in 1950. In 1965, India and Pakistan, then on the brink of widespread famine, began growing the high-yield wheat. Borlaug, who died in 2009, directed the wheat improvement program of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, which goes by the Spanish acronym Cimmyt. Today Cimmyt researchers grow and test new varieties of corn, or maize, along with the wheat. Asian governments had large programs to provide credit, extension agents to teach new farming methods and subsidized inputs; the Food Corporation of India bought surplus grains at a guaranteed price. African governments, for the most part, did not do these things.
Cyprus: A Case StudyOne tends to think of islands as wet places (surrounded as they are by water) but the island of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean sea belies that characterization. Among many childhood memories I have of that place, some of the most vivid are of the wide-open, piercing blue of cloudless skies and the sun-scorched, dusty brown earth of summers when we visited. Water from the tap was sometimes rationed, so families always had to make sure they stored enough water to drink, cook, wash and bathe. No one died of thirst, but everyone knew that water was precious. Satellite Image of Cyprus. Source: NASA. That said, with an average annual rainfall of 480 millimeters (19 inches) the climate of Cyprus as a whole is technically only semi-arid – slightly wetter than Los Angeles or Denver, and much wetter than the true deserts that surround Las Vegas or Phoenix. Nonetheless, the country seems always to be perched on the precipice of a water catastrophe, with periodic droughts that can last years.
Pedieos river basin, CyprusThe Pedieos River is an ephemeral stream, which originates in the north-eastern hillsides of the Troodos mountain complex. The river basin has its highest elevation at 1400m above sea level and covers a population of 192,000 inhabitants. The fractured volcanic formations in the upstream area are mainly covered by conifers, with smaller areas of sclerophyllous and shrub woodlands and few plots of rain-fed cereals, irrigated fruit trees, greenhouses and livestock farms. At the bottom of the foothills, the 2.8million m3 Tamassos dam, which was completed in 2002, captures the runoff of the 45km2 upstream river basin. The river then flows into the urban agglomeration of the capital Nicosia and its adjacent municipalities, exacerbating existing urban flooding incidents. More information about Pedieos Pedieos society