Delicious profits from organic rice and spice

Another hymn to organic farming, with its emphasis on biodiversity and the services it provides, graces the pages of The Jakarta Post. There’s a lot of familiar stuff in the piece, and a couple of real eye openers, like this:

“It’s extraordinary, but many farmers today do not realize that the vegetables they grow produce seed. That they can harvest and grow seed from their vegetable crops. They are so used to having to buy seed for growing, it’s as though that’s all they know.”

I knew this was true for many people in the “North” but I had no idea it was also true for small farmers in Indonesia. The article contains lots of sound suggestions for increasing on-farm diversity, even without going the whole hog of organic certification.

Satay to go

The BBC reports that the government in Kuala Lumpur is planning to give cash incentives to people who want to open Malaysian restaurants abroad. I’m all for it, Malaysian food is great. And it’s got to be good news for all those weird local vegetables, fruits and spices, right? But of course the idea wont get anywhere without a celebrity chef.

Biodiversity and ecosystem services

A mammoth metadata study of 111 different papers concludes that “biodiversity matters”. Well, duh. But it is good to have data. The study is published in Nature (press release here) for 25 October. To demonstrate the value of biodiversity, the study’s author Bradley Cardinale chose a paper that shows that the presence of three aphid predators has a greater impact on pests than one would expect from each of the three alone. In a single state — Wisconsin — this pesticidal service was worth millions of dollars, Cardinale said. Not to dismiss all the other services that biodiversity performs, but it seems that one way to get decision makers to understand its importance is to turn those nebulous “services” into something they do understand: cold hard cash.

Let there be biofuels

There’s a lot of talk about biofuels these days, but perhaps not much on how growing biofuel crops might actually benefit poor people. So here’s an interesting story from India about how private firms are paying villagers to plant jatropha – traditionally the fruits were collected from the wild, placed on bamboo spikes and burned for light.