Dear Shuttleworth fellows,
Further to my last mail I write to expand upon and give further details on the work and projects I am involved in here in Nepal (Nepal Agricultural and Environmental Projects).
As several of you are involved in similar and related projects and it is my intention to expand the work I am keen to forge links and increase the number of contributors in order to build a collaborative network.
Current Work and Projects
Since connected with ADAOS at the end of February I have been fully engaged in building them an advanced composting and vermicomposting operation. Whilst the Covid19 lockdown has not impacted on the project itself nor the project page it is has prevented me from completing the 3-2-1- Composting post that will accompany it. Furthermore there are plans to begin designing potting media made from the worm casts for use in Nursery production.
Biochar Project for Carbon Sequestration
I have similarly been in communication with Dr Tom Sizmur, an Associate Professor at the University of Reading and Dr Rabindra Adhikari, an assistant professor at the Institute of Forestry, Tribhuvan University. We are putting together a pilot scheme to manufacture biochar as a means to sequester carbon and improve soil fertility. This will also feed into the potting media program for nursery production. There is post on the Nepal site regarding Carbon Sequestration and I have attached a copy of the support letter from Dr Tom Sizmur in the email I sent you.
Land Identification and Evaluation programs
Nepal currently suffers from extensive land abandonment issues with up to 30% of agricultural land being abandoned. I will, once the Covid19 lock down is ended be evaluating parcels of land for inclusion in the biochar and other programs.
Horticultural Training Program
Nepal’s land abandonment issues stem largely from the inability of farmers to efficiently produce crops. Thee climate and soil however are sufficient to do so. What is lacking is the horticultural knowledge. Some of this land can be easily bought back into production whilst other parcels could be utilised in the production of biofuels both in the form of biomass and for production of biodiesel.
Nepal has no fossil fuel reserves and imports all its fuel via India. Nepal’s Topography negates rail transport and so the majority of its transport is commercial trucks and buses which can be easily converted to run on biodiesel. As with the Biochar project I hope to develop reafforestation programs in conjunction with the Tribhuvan University where Tree Bourne Oilseed (TBO’s) are included.
All of the above are intended as integrated and combined applied and research projects. In support of these I further hope to establish the following:
Dr Tim Sizmur of Reading University has given great support and is keen to help develop the projects. This to include project and experimental design assistance in biochar and carbon sequestration programs, supplying researchers (MsC and PhD) and potential funding to build laboratory facilities.
Hosting and Working facilities
At present plans are afoot to turn my apartment in Pokhara into a shared space for visiting and local research scientists. The ground floor property consists of two bedrooms, a large kitchen, a reception area, bathroom and shower. There is also a small garden which has an additional outside toilet. The largest of the two bedrooms will be turned into a four bedroom dorm. The smaller bedroom will initial be for my use but could be utilized as a smaller 3 bed dorm so that the property has separate male and female sleeping facilities. The kitchen is large and once I have built a farmhouse table (one that will have a steel frame and so act as an earthquake shelter) it will double up as the main eating and social area. The reception area will be screened off and turned into a six station computer room. Currently food is being grown in the garden with a small area set aside for a table and chairs.
The Persephone Project: a data ecosystem for agriculture and the environment
All of the above is leading too and in support of the bigger project I have been working on: the Persephone project. I intend to make applications to MIT’s Solve 2020 Challenge ‘Sustainable Food Systems’ and HRH Prince Williams EarthShot prize in due course. Furthermore there is now a post which gives some background to the project
As well as extensive horticultural and soil management skills I have a background in mechanical and civil engineering. I can construct in wood, steel, fibreglass, etc and as a time served plant fitter (diesel plant to the construction industry) can fix, strip and re-build all forms of mechanical plant (from small machines such as pumps and mixers to cranes, trucks and earth movers). I can and intend to build the pilot pyrolysis plant for the biodiesel project myself but currently lack the necessary tools and workshop facilities as well as the funds to buy the materials to do so. Download the concept note
In order for the above to continue I need funding. It’s the biggest issue I face and in 3 months I will be flat broke. To continue this work, and I hope you will agree I could really do with one of the Flash grants. Fortunately my sustenance expenses are low: the rent on the apartment is 10,000NPR ($100) a month. My personal expenses (food, toiletries, travel) are similarly low (I can get by on $100 a month). Thus to survive till the end of the year I need less than $1500. However this does not cover the monies required for the materials or transport costs to build the computer room, the dorms, the kitchen table/earthquake shelter and garden seating area. Nor as I intend to use any funds secured to build the pilot biochar plant. The labour to build and connect all of these is however supplied by me and is thus free. I estimate the costs of the materials to build the computer room, dorm, kitchen table/earthquake shelter and garden seating to be under $1000. The pilot biochar plant could well be constructed for under $3000 with the more monies I can secure the bigger the plant I can build.
Collaboration with Fellows
If I can survive I want and intend to collaborate with all of you. My ambitions are big and wide and there is not only room to incorporate your aims but to further the work to develop a comprehensive program to tackle climate change and sustainable development. However none of this will happen if I am run into the ground for the want of a few dollars.
I am hopeful that you see the benefit and potential of my work and that you can recommend me for one of the Shuttleworth Foundations Flash Grants. The monies being sufficient for me to continue this work for the foreseeable future.
Together we can Turn a Blue Planet Green
With kind regards
Malcolm McEwen (Persephone Habitat and Soil Management)