Stop the Smoke 2019

posted in: Environmental Blog | 0

From hazy to clean, from black to green: no longer a dream!

Stop the smoke forever! Eliminate the cornfields that burn every year. Plant green forest, bamboo and coffee in their place. Be the solution!

Help us raise $13,000 (390,000 THB) to supply biochar fertilizer made from crop waste to feed perennial bamboo, coffee and new forest planted in 5,000 rai of Mae Chaem’s corn fields. Your support will cut haze from Mae Chaem by 5% forever and permanently improve local farmers’ livelihoods.

What does cutting 5% of the haze from Chaem mean? Imagine permanently removing the smoke from 8,808,767 cigarettes from the air you breathe every day. That is cutting 5% of the haze from Mae Chaem forever.

This project closes the circle. If we succeed, we will have proved that there is no excuse for smoke from burning fields. It proves that the poorest farmers in North Thailand can earn new income when instead of burning their crop waste; they convert it into powerful, organic fertilizer.

And what better use for that fertilizer than to invigorate the growth of new, higher value, forest crops that will permanently replace the sprawling cornfields on bald mountains?

Chiang Mai, you proved that it IS possible to stop the burning, to stop the smoke. You proved that small farmers would help happily. You converted small farmers who once burned their crop waste into biochar entrepreneurs who now want to make their corn stalks into fertilizer – smokelessly.

You did it – and you created a model for Thailand and Southeast Asia.

In 2017, you turned your anger about inaction on the haze crisis into a positive energy to invest in Warm Heart’s “proof-of-concept” project in Mae Chaem, the heart of Chiang Mai smoke country, to engage small farmers in converting waste corncob to biochar.

In 2018, you put “proof-of-concept” into production investing in Warm Heart’s efforts to develop biochar-based fertilizers and super-composts.

In 2019 – this burning season – Warm Heart needs your investment in “closing the circle.” We need your help to supply the biochar fertilizer needed to replant Mae Chaem cornfields with bamboo, coffee and new forest to solve the smoke problem permanently.

Every year the March-April “burning season” blankets north Thailand with choking smoke. It not only kills tourism, it kills people. The smoke is nasty – it stings the eyes and irritates the throat, but its most important constituent, PM2.5 – particulates so small that they pass right through the lungs’ walls – kills 4.3 million people around the world annually, many right here in Chiang Mai.

In Chiang Mai, forest fires make a lot of smoke, but North Thailand grows 3,125,000 rai  (500,000 hectares) of corn that leaves behind 7 million metric tonnes of waste. Mae Chaem alone grows 100,000 rai (16,000 ha) of corn, producing 34,999 metric tonnes of husk and cob, and 60,000 metric tonnes of stalk. According to a 2018 study of Mae Chaem, 41% of all corn stalk burned. Much of the corncob and husk burns, as well.

Burning 60,000 tonnes of corn stalk produces 375,000 kilograms of PM2.5. One kg of “haze” is equivalent to the smoke of 71,429 cigarettes; 375,000 kg is equivalent to the smoke of 26,828,732,400 cigarettes.

That is a lot of cigarettes.

What to do?

Ordering poor farmers to stop burning obviously does not work. Nor does ordering the army to shoot people or the police to arrest people. Nor does bringing big business to set up “solutions” that exclude locals.

Warm Heart thought there was a better way and in 2017, the Governments of Canada and the US and lots of private citizens, many from right here in Chiang Mai, invested in testing if poor farmers could be taught to make biochar – super charcoal – from crop waste instead of burning it. Warm Heart then promised to buy everything they made at an agree price.

Good bet. they made 15,000 bags of char!

In 2018, we turned to online friends again to raise the funds necessary to develop and test new biochar-based fertilizers. They worked great! Some outperformed synthetic NPK fertilizers.

But back in Mae Chaem, there were still 16,000 ha of corn and far more corn waste than our little project could manage. To make matters worse, even if we were helping poor farmers, feed corn is a lousy crop. Leave aside how bad it is for the environment; it doesn’t work for small farmers. In fact, the more you commit to corn, the more you lock yourself into long-term poverty.

What to do?

Mae Chaem needs two things. Its soils need restoration and farmers need higher value crops. Luckily, studies from around the world show that biochar can rapidly restore even the most degraded soils. And higher value crops? They are available, but how to plant them in Mae Chaem’s terrible soil?

Close the circle. That’s Warm Heart’s project for 2019. Let’s demonstrate for all to see the value of this biochar – this solid smoke – local farmers have been making. Let’s put lots and lots of biochar fertilizer into the soil of Mae Chaem to kick start bamboo shoots, coffee seedlings and forest tree saplings.

Please help. The more biochar we can provide, the more bamboo, coffee and trees that we can plant and the more cornfield farmers can convert permanently to more productive, sustainable and environmentally friendly crops.

So far the combined effort of corporate donors, the government and NGOs has planted 700 rai – 0.7% of the cornfields of Mae Chaem.

Our target – your target: 5,000 rai – 5% of all of the cornfields of Mae Chaem.

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