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Paulo Borges De Brito

May 15, 2014
06:08

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Great project. I like that you included a section called " Inventory current local agricultural practices". I have worked with family farmers producing organically for several years and this is an important piece. I would encourage you to develop participatory methods to gather the data. You'll get much deeper information doing it, specially cultural and historical factors as you pointed out. Also, the education piece is key. Empowering local farmers to enhance their practices, but not only that. It's important to empower them to know how to use their finances as they receive the money. Studies have shown that local farmers with low level of instruction do not know how to manage their finances. Otherwise, the project will fail. Paulo

Helio Laubenheimer

May 29, 2014
08:46

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I consider the link between micro-credit and sustainable small scale agriculture a very interesting and promising idea. The concept of micro-credit has been shown to be a very successful solution to empower low income populations through a variety of ways. You propose to apply this concept to small scale agriculture. Have you considered the inclusion of silvicultural, agri–silvicultural and agroforestry production techniques as well? This could broaden this program and have a bigger overall impact. The proposed sustainable agricultural practices have the potential to produce organic products. It would be interesting to consider an organic certification seal which would promote the cultivated products under this program and enable to fetch a higher market price. Furthermore, considering the social/community involvement, a Fair-trade certification could also be a form of adding value and leveraging this program. Reaching a higher selling price will favor the respective “micro loan” payment. You mention the positive aspect of reducing costs in mitigation and remediation cost that could be reallocated to the micro-credit program. How would you first, monetize/quantify the mitigation and remediation cost and second, make sure that these savings would actually be reallocated to the micro-credit program? Additionally, I was wondering if a “micro-loan” will be enough to change local agricultural practices considering that depending on the technique (required equipment’s, machinery etc.), the necessary funding could be quite high when considering the usual amount such a program loans. Hence, I would recommend carrying out a high impact x low cost analysis of the possible different practices to transform current small scale agriculture into a more sustainable one. Then, start focusing on structuring plans in order to recommend the most cost effective practice for the first round of loans.

Gregory Lee

Jun 2, 2014
08:07

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Paulo, Thanks for your time and comments. To address your specific questions. 1) Yes, also includes integrated farming methods to animal husbandry and fisheries as well. Emphasis is small scale to better suit small rural family farmers with an eye toward environmental stewardship and reducing ecological footprint. 2) Yes, organic and Fair-trade certifications are included in the mix of value-added approaches, among other practices such as adapting to local market conditions as suggested by the Thai King’s Theory of the Sufficiency Economy.] Another aspect of the King's Theory is for small rural farmers to form co-operatives (AFTER they have established food security for their families) rather than competing against each other in local markets when selling their surplus production.

Gregory Lee

Jun 2, 2014
08:33

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Helio Laubenheimer Thanks for your comment and suggestions. To answer your specific questions: 1) Monetizing / quantifying mitigation and remediation costs and transferring funds are big challenges and infringe on political turf. We are encouraged by the example of TreePeople in the Los Angeles, CA in urban tree planting in budgetary cost savings to the city/county governments and the budgetary reallocation of funds to support the TreePeople program to plant trees in urban areas. • Start with government and international disaster agencies for costs from past events in the area / country. • Combine with academic research and local government budgets for disaster relief. • Combine with international research to “project” data when / if local data are unavailable. 2) Micro-loan “enough”? The micro loans and the SAPs (Sustainable Agricultural Practices) are based on our low-tech/no-tech approach founded on principles of adaptive technology. The main thrust are small rural farm families. Our assumption is that large agri-business operations are sufficiently funded and/or politically connected to have access to funds for their efforts. 3) high impact / low cost criteria: Yes, this would be a very pragmatic approach for the assessment of the sustainable practices and micro-loan "fit". My vision of the micro-loan approval process includes an overview of any particular loan to the local area to orchestrate a multiplier effect and scale up that approach to adjacent local areas to build system momentum in a region.

Gregory Lee

Jun 2, 2014
08:44

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Paulo, In response to your comments: 1) [SAP inventory: •Collaborate with schools, colleges, universities following the model of the British government’s use of students to conduct landuse mapping of the UK during WWII in their effort to re-locate essential war industry, set up military bases and live fire practice areas with minimal impact to farming. *Revising current school curricula to include student practicum and community service to inventory historical / traditional and current agricultural practices as well as sustainable practices in their local areas. •Require existing government agriculture agencies to inventory historical / traditional and current agricultural practices as well as sustainable practices in their local areas.] 2) [Financial training for farmers: •Consider adapting RTC-TH FUNDS (Farming Under No Debt System) to the project. •Possibly integrate with local bank education programs (e.g. Thai BAAC (bank of agriculture and agricultural co-operatives) financial training program for small farm family finance). •Basic financial training / recordkeeping training class required for the micro-credit program] •Include Basic Financial Training / Recordkeeping or adapt RTC-TH FUNDS program training in basic general education in elementary and secondary schools.]

Helio Laubenheimer

Jun 4, 2014
04:36

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Hi, I have another comment related to the climate change mitigation part of your proposal. It would be interesting to add how the baseline emissions will be determined and later on emission reduction monitored and quantified in order to guarantee these to be real, measurable and have long-term benefits. If I imagine a dozen or even a hundred plus small farmers distributed "unevenly" as part of the project, to monitor their activities and determine the amount of emission reductions will be a complex task. Could be interesting to use the approach of a “Programme of Activities” from the Clean Development Mechanism or so called “Grouped Projects” by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) which provides the organizational and methodological framework for component project activities with the same stated goal to operate. Adopting or even developing a new methodology - under the VCS for example - will make your emission reduction tangible and allow these to be sold and its revenues to be reinvested.

Jason Tessler

Jun 17, 2014
06:56

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I think you have a very promising idea by bringing Best Management Practices (BMP) to all the small farmers. The large agricultural conglomerates receive most of the spotlight, but it is these smaller local farms that have the greatest ability to shift the way their direct community views the environment. Not only can these farms teach the local community about their food supply, but they have the ability to teach important ideas about living sustainable beyond the food they purchase. Now the proposal you have described is very comprehensive and delves deep into community involvement. This piece is very important to affecting the global community and reaching your long term goals. However, without more discussion and hard data on how you will monetize these "direct and indirect effects", you will never make it to the community involvement stage. Ecosystem services analysis and conversion into actual $$ gained/lost to the community would be extremely difficult to accurately calculate. To make your proposal more realistic, you should spend some time researching environmental accounting/ecosystem services analysis and learn how the professionals appropriate dollar amounts to different ecological features and societal services from such features. Here is an interesting case study about AT&T and their idea of Green Accounting. http://www.epa.gov/oppt/ppic/pubs/greenac.pdf Look up other case studies and learn more about ecosystem services valuation before creating an in depth plan for your organization. Perhaps it will be beneficial for you to attempt to value a local farm in your area and add monetary values or credit points to different features or services offered. In summation, i think the idea is great but you need to focus more time to understand deeply how you will evaluate these different farms and how adding/changing/updating their standard operating procedures will affect the valuation of their farm and therefore there local community as well.

Helena Grunfeld

Jun 17, 2014
08:07

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There are many aspects of this proposal I find very useful, particularly an inventory of climate compatible farming practices, training in how to use such practices, rural training centres, community involvement and appropriate financial incentives for farmers to adopt SAPs. The emphasis should be on practices that can improve adaptation as well as adaptation, recognising that farmers in developing countries are the main victims of climate change while the problem has been caused in developed countries. Many agro-ecological practices can achieve both adaptation and mitigation objectives. Treating SAPs as adaptation should make these eligible for funding under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). And that brings me to one issue of the proposal I would question, namely the reliance of micro-credit, although I realise this is key to the proposal. I am somewhat sceptical of micro-credit. While recognising it has been positive for poverty reduction in many cases, I have also witnessed many farmers losing their land as they have been unable to repay micro-credit loans, which often have higher interest rates than standard bank loans. But funding is required, both for establishing the system, training and for compensating farmers in the short term, as their yields often decrease during the first few years after changing to agro-ecological practices. Several European countries have such compensation schemes. In developing countries, funding for such schemes could be provided through instruments under the UNFCCC’s CDM, such as the Adaptation Fund, or the Green Climate Fund.

Helio Laubenheimer

Jun 18, 2014
10:27

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Hi, I agree with helenag, sounds interesting to combine different funding mechanism in order to achieve the most efficient result. Best regards

Gregory Lee

Jun 28, 2014
10:53

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HelioLaubenheimer Thanks for your Jun 5 comments and suggestion. Baseline data is critical to assessing the effectiveness of any actions. And yes, the uneven distribution of potential participants is challenging. Please bear in mind this grassroots effort relies on RTH-TH community-based education methods (especially the teach back). So our aim is to “cluster” participants within a village or neighboring villages. This also fits with the scalability aspect of the program. If you can imagine a village implementing this project as a dot in the landscape. As their success diffuses to neighboring villages (i.e. others begin to wonder why can you get more crop yield without costly synthetic fertilizers? Using less water? Earning more money?), others will self-select to learn. The one “dot” gets bigger and hopefully even more “dots” appear on the map. Thanks for your suggestion about VCS. I wasn’t aware of this, and it took some time to read through their website and materials. This seems a good approach to try to “standardize” the data for reducing emissions, etc. One of the challenges for me has been the fact that the proposal is not a typical one tied to a single site. It is a broad brush suggestion that any grassroots organization could attempt. As you pointed out, farmers are scattered everywhere and are not necessarily evenly distributed on the globe. Thus, variations in weather/climate, soils, topography, and farming methods will cause a wide variety of results in terms of the nutrients and amounts in crop residuals. I read studies in Sri Lanka looking at rice straw. The chemical constituents and amounts varied from region to region and species of rice. The devil is in the details. I fear have such detailed data may not be readily available. Indeed, detailed data to estimate the amount of green house gases in the season burning to clear fields in northern Thailand may not exist, or could be subject to debate. Perhaps a “crowd sourcing” approach via universities and students could help address this data issue. But to be honest, at this point, I am hard pressed to clearly quantify the existing emissions, possible emissions reductions, or financial costs / benefits. That being said, I am mindful of a saying I recall hearing: Those who say a job is impossible should get out of the way of those trying to do the work. PS I am happy to say that a small NGO in another northern Thai province read through the FFCCM notes and wrote to me saying they are going to try to adapt and implement some of the ideas in their area. They deemed some aspects of the project very feasible for their area. I haven’t heard details of which parts they will attempt. But I hope to keep in touch with them. PS2: The RTC-TH is predicated on seeking appropriate technology solutions to problems. We are an all volunteer grassroots community effort with NO outside funding. Our shoestring budget comes out of participants pockets, so we tend to favor no tech/low tech, no cost/low cost approaches. Our philosophy is simple: It is much easier to spend other people’s money than your own. We believe in what we are doing, we put our own money into it. We live it rather than just talk about it.

Gregory Lee

Jun 28, 2014
10:49

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brainyjay Thanks for your Jun 18 comments. You are correct: monetizing the direct and indirect effects is extremely complex and difficult. It is even more so because this “proposal” is not fixed to a specific location (but is offered up to any grassroots organization to try). In the real world, foreign currency exchange rates, national finances, local bank finances, local prices for goods and services are so variable that I am at a loss as to where to begin. For Northern Thailand, burning to clear the land for planting creates terrible air pollution that negatively impacts personal health, air transportation / tourism, etc. Perhaps a crude metric of the number of respiratory visits in local hospitals on a monthly or weekly basis could be tracked and correlated to the air pollution. A cost / patient visit gives a rough “cost” to the air pollution. We feel less burning could result in less air pollution, thus fewer respiratory cases. Using the cost per patient value could be a way to monetize that part of the problem. However, I am inspired by the example of TreePeople (www.treepeople.org) and its founder Andy Lipkis, who found a way to put a dollar value to planting a tree in any Los Angeles neighborhood. He then convinced the city government and it agencies to see the value of the trees to local real estate values, energy cost savings, etc. relative to the city budget. The city know that by supporting tree planting, they save budget dollars and shift some of the money to support community tree planting workshops and projects. Thank you for suggesting the example of the AT&T approach. Combined with the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) suggestion by HelioLaubenheimer could be a viable approach. Perhaps “crowd sourcing” from the environmental community, government agencies, and academia could be added to the mix.

Gregory Lee

Jun 28, 2014
10:28

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helenag Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on our proposal. I am glad you found so many useful aspects to the proposal. As for the effectiveness of micro-credit, well, in all honesty, it can make for a mixed bag of results….as with just about any program. I was drawn to the idea of micro credit after studying the Grameen and its very low loan default rate. In Thailand, under the 2006 Thaksin government, individual village funds were created (10,000,000 Thai Baht) and set up to be managed by the villages. In our village, small loans were available to individuals or groups. The most successful loans (in terms of repayment) involved loans to small groups. Each team committed to pay the loan even if a team member “defaulted.” Admittedly, our village may be a “unique” situation. It is a clan village (most folks are blood relatives” and peer pressure is an integral part of the social system. I personally know of several folks who were in teams that have received more than one loan after repaying the previous ones. So the initial seed money for the village fund is still in circulation. On the other hand, other villages no longer have an active loan program. The original money was all distributed in what became non-performing loans so the funds are exhausted. No new loans are possible until repayments are completed (and that doesn’t appear to be any time soon.). They say the devil is in the details. And yes, the specter of losing farms and such with non-performing loans is real; it has happened in the past, continues to happen today, and will probably happen again in the future. This is why we feel community-based education is critical to empower rural farmers to more effectively manage their land, resources, and finances. [Note: Over the past decade, we have introduced many of our sustainable agriculture practices as elementary school lessons. The twist was to create each lesson as a integration of math, science, geography, technology, and English. This was very suitable for the multiple subject format of an elementary school. However, the lesson also included hands-on outdoor practice in the school garden (where produce went to school kitchen/cafeteria). Students were encouraged to take the lessons home and “teach back” to their family and friends. This is all part of our Community-based education method.]

Gregory Lee

Jun 28, 2014
10:29

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helenag and HelioLaubenheimer Thanks for the suggestion regarding funding sources. Our remote rural location (12 hours north of Bangkok by overnight express bus) and limited financial means limits our efforts in so many ways. My experience in grant writing is limited. Proposals consumed limited time and receiving awards brought on administrative responsibilities that seriously eroded our time on task with the program beneficiaries. These experiences, combined with the reality of life in Thailand (not moving the “right” circles) and walking in a social landscape filled with landmines of corruption prompted us to take a position of operating on a shoestring or less budget. No money does limit our operations, but it greatly decreases the hands held out for a “white envelope.” We often say, money is necessary, but it isn’t the solution to the problem. In fact, money can often be part of the problem (especially in terms of corruption and the abuse of power). The advantage of our self-funded approach is that we tend to attract participants who “self-select” to be with us for reasons more in sync with our organizational goal: providing community-based education for the self-sufficiency and sustainability of small rural family farms. We operate in northern Thailand by default. My wife has a small family farm started by her parents who tried to follow the King’s Theory of the Sufficiency Economy (which is wholly consistent with our efforts). The society context of our effort can be summed up as “community payback.” My wife grew up in the village, went through the local public school system, graduated from a northern Thai university, and ultimate got a low entry level government job in community development. I met her while doing my own people-to-people volunteer project on soil erosion management in rural Thailand (during my summer vacation from teaching in the US). We subsequently got married and she had to quit her job. During summer trips to Thailand, she visited her family and met some of her elementary school teachers. We launched an innovative elementary school program and brought US student volunteers to visit the school in Jun 2005 and Jan 2007. We lived in the US and when I retired early, returned to her home village, and continued our efforts the village elementary school and expanded our people-to-people efforts in self-sufficiency and sustainability using her family farm by continuing what her parents started. To any and all reading the comments and suggestions presented to help improve this proposal, if you have the capacity, knowledge, skills, etc. to help me make this proposal stronger, please contact me directly and consider being added to the team. I have no idea where this will go. But if nothing else, people can get the annotated list of Sustainable Agricultural Practices (SAP) by visiting www.neighborhoodlink.com/RTC-TH_Tech/pages for a copy of “Funding Farmers for Climate Change Mitigation Program). Revision 2 is currently posted. Further revision may be released as more suggestions are received and considered for inclusion. This “proposal” to Climate Colab was prompted by contact with Tal Lee. However, it was presented more as a means to prompt discussion for the concept. My vision was for any community group in the world to be able to try to adapt / adopt it to their local conditions. You can see the broad scope of this topic is hard for any one person to fully master and command. Our RTC-TH efforts are all about team work and maintaining a strong sense of community. Thanks again for taking time to read about our ideas and spending the time to comment. Best wishes to all.

Helena Grunfeld

Jul 6, 2014
06:58

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farmajarn, Thanks for your background in formation and clarification on many issues. Agree with you that writing proposals for grant applications is very time-consuming, as is the administrative reporting requirements. And the point about problems that could be created in communities when lots of funds become available is also spot on. And of course education and training in both financial and agriculture issues are critical. Maybe one way to move forward could be to prepare some type for proforma grant application relevant to a specific funding agency dealing with these issues, so each community would only have to complete what is specific about that community, rather than the scientific background, etc. Maybe also setting up a group of remote volunteers assisting with writing grant proposal and reporting?

Gregory Lee

Jul 8, 2014
07:07

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Thanks for your very useful suggestion on the idea of a generic "proforma" grant application AND a group of volunteer grant writing assistants willing to help remotely (online) with both the initial writing and reporting. Of course, as with any system, there are pluses and minuses, but I like your idea of providing more choices and using technology to bring to the mix the needy and the capable worldwide. I will be incorporating your suggestion ASAP. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of the planting season now, so time is limited (...hahaha...when is there ever enough time?). Thanks for you helpful suggestions. Best wishes

Climate Colab

Aug 6, 2014
12:30

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The basic idea is good, but there are no plans here for implementation. No budget is presented, probably because the proposers are not sure what they are going to do. --- (1) It is a very complete list of items that are addressed in this presentation. It provides information about two options but does not give an estimate of them -- How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels? What are the proposal’s costs? (2) The project would be started in Southeast Asia due to the high population density, high proportion of rural agriculturalists, and the common practice of clearing land with fire. The project work will be conducted by local farmers, government leaders, environmentalists. To create its F2C2M micro-credit program it would seek support from government banks and also international monetary agencies such as World Bank.

Gregory Lee

Aug 7, 2014
11:00

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It is an honor to be selected and to have judges take the time to read and comment on my proposal. Unfortunately, an unexpected family medial emergency situation has arise requiring my immediate attention. The long term and indefinite nature of the medical issue and care precludes me from devoting more time to the proposal at this time. Perhaps I can consider entering again next year. I also want to express my sincere thanks to those who took the time and effort to support my proposal. Your comments and suggestions were helpful.

Victor Blanco

Aug 26, 2014
04:47

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Great project. I wish you the best!. As I supported your proposal I would appreciate you support my proposal in Waste Management Contest, named 'REACC - Recycled Debris for Adaptation to Climate Change'. Regards!

Victor Blanco

Aug 26, 2014
04:49

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Great project. I wish you the best!. As I supported your proposal I would appreciate you support my proposal in Waste Management Contest, named 'REACC - Recycled Debris for Adaptation to Climate Change'. Regards!

Climate Colab

Sep 3, 2014
12:25

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Dear Mr. Greg Lee, We are sorry to hear about your medical emergency and hope that things are resolving themselves in a happy direction. We enjoyed reading your proposal. Please consider entering the Climate CoLab contest again next year! Best wishes, Land Use Fellows and Judges
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