Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Human Waste to Revive Haitian Farmland?

by Christine Dell'Amore
Published October 26, 2011
A new type of public toilet is helping people in Haiti make fertilizer from human waste, a project that may someday revive the country's degraded farmland, curb disease, and create jobs.
Since 2006 the U.S. nonprofitSustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) has been installing public toilets in Haiti, where 80 percent of the population has no access to sanitation.
Most Haitians are forced to dispose of their waste in waterways, plastic bags, or even abandoned buildings, according to SOIL. Any existing toilets are often poorly designed, with waste flushing straight into rivers or groundwater. (Related: "World Water Day Focus on Global Sewage Flood.")
Such practices mean that human feces easily get into the water supply, which can cause waterborne diseases such as cholera, currently at epidemic levels in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 6,000 people have died and 420,000 have been sickened since cholera broke out in Haiti in October 2010. (Read: "Cholera and Cooperation Play Into Haiti Reforestation.")
"Sanitation was the most successful health intervention in the modern world," said SOIL co-founder and soil ecologist Sasha Kramer. But in Haiti, "poop getting into water is the leading cause of death."
So far, SOIL has installed ecological toilets in camps of more than 20,000 people left homeless by the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Facilities are also being supplied to 30 communities in northern Haiti. (See "Haiti Earthquake Anniversary: Pictures Show Slow Recovery.")
But these aren't just any toilets: Kramer and her colleagues constructed urine-diverting toilets, a type of ecological sanitation in which urine and feces are separated. The waste is then covered with a dry material to aid decomposition and is regularly collected.
"With seven billion people on the planet as of this week," Kramer said, "technologies like this are more and more important for addressing the basic rights of a growing population and reducing the negative impact on the earth's ecological systems."
From Waste to Valuable Soil
Once a week SOIL workers drive through communities in a flatbed truck called the Poopmobile, collecting the toilet drums and replacing them with clean ones
The waste is then taken to a composting site outside the city, where workers mix the material with sugarcane bagas—a byproduct of making rum—to speed up the composting cycle.
"All the microbes get excited, they start reproducing like crazy," said Kramer, who's also an emerging explorer with the National Geographic Society. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)
The activity heats the compost to about 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius). This kills any disease-causing bacteria, which are adapted to the average human body temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius).
Workers check the compost temperature every two days, and "by the end of eight months, [we] end up with incredibly nutrient-rich soil," Kramer said. Human waste may even be better than cow feces for compost, she added, since our meatier diets contain more plant-boosting nitrogen.
When composted properly to kill pathogens, human waste is a "very rich nutrient source that's quite suitable for growing crops for human consumption," saidSerita Frey, a soil microbial ecologist at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
"In the West, we're quite squeamish about use of human waste in general as a fertilizer," Frey said, but "throughout history it's been used in Asia and other parts of the world as a soil amendment."
Adding compost to farmland can also improve soil structure and stability, both crucial for preventing erosion, added Frey, who is not affiliated with SOIL.
That's because, as bacteria and fungi decompose the material, they produce sticky glues that bind soil particles together to form stable clumps, she said. (See soil pictures.)
Toilet Project a "Very Good Circle"
So far, the Haitian toilet project has yielded more than 100,000 gallons (400,000 liters) of compost, some of which is already being applied to experimental gardens and crops, Kramer said.
Some of these gardens are producing vegetables that provide food for residents in Cité Soleil, an extremely poor, densely populated area near Port-au-Prince, said Daniel Tillias, a Haitian community organizer for the peace group Pax Christi Haiti.
The rich compost could eventually be used to grow crops and replant trees across the impoverished Caribbean country, where decades of land overuse and deforestation have stripped soils of nutrients and led to widespread erosion.
"We can use something that was useless as a wonderful opportunity," said Tillias, who has volunteered with SOIL and acted as a narrator for an independent film on the project, called Holy Crap! (Watch a video clip from the film on National Geographic's website.)
"It's a very good circle—it's a good, positive thing for this neighborhood."
Tillias said most people he has worked with have had positive reactions to the toilets, which do not smell. The only negative, he added, is that the facilities are often too popular and can get overcrowded.
Supporting, Not Leading, Communities
SOIL's project has another purpose: providing jobs for out-of-work Haitians, especially following the disastrous earthquake. Tillias, for example, has helped coordinate weekly temp jobs for people in Cité Soleil cleaning the public toilets.
With "a little funding that SOIL provided, [we can] give a very acceptable wage that many people wanted to have," he said.
Beyond providing jobs, however, "the question would be, what is the level of local and community buy-in into the process?" asked Haitian-born Alix Cantave, co-founder of the Haitian Studies Association at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
Though projects such as SOIL's are well intended, "what we have seen over the past 40 years, with all the investment that's been put into Haiti, [there's] very little to show for it," Cantave said.
That's mainly because international organizations often fail to build relationships with local entities, and when funding dries up, so does the project.
To make a new sanitation initiative last long-term in Haiti, Cantave said, a municipality where the toilets are installed would have to develop a unit within its government office to take on and manage the project.
"You're supporting, not leading," he said. That's when "people are engaged, then they can take control and they can own the process."
SOIL's Kramer already recognizes this. In "countries that have good sanitation systems, it's never an international organization that's put them in," she said.
"It has to be something that comes within the country, because it requires so much ongoing maintenance."
Household Toilets an Economic Opportunity?
To that end, SOIL has a plan: Come up with a solid design for a composting toilet that would work in households and thus get the project going on a small scale in about a hundred Haitian homes.
"I could see a model where private businesses provide collection services and the government is either involved in ... running the compost site or purchasing the compost," she said.
For example, Haiti's "Ministry of Agriculture would purchase the compost and resell to farmers at a subsidized price they could afford."
Then SOIL "would not do any more implementing—[we'd] do more consulting."
Community organizer Tillias also believes there could be a big economic opportunity not only for the owners of the toilets but for all Haitians, who can produce compost for local farmers and even export any extra to other countries.
In this way, he said, Haiti "could be the country giving the example to the whole world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I guess my students in Bachelor Science of Biotechnology and Agriculture can understand this word better than I am. 
For me, it is a complicated word of botany. 
According to Wikipedia, it is the the way of plants arrange their leaves. The word originally was borrowed from Ancient Greek word, phýllon "leaf" and táxis"arrangement. More reading about phyllotaxy will lead us to several more complicated but amazing phenomenon of the nature; Fibonacii Angle

It is amazing that the angle between successive leaves on a stem is often about 137.5 degrees. 

The ultimate aim for this arrangement is, for every leaf to reach maximum sunlight and resources. That will lead to the maximum or at least optimum performance of every leaf. For the sake of the whole tree. 

 Sesungguhnya pada kejadian langit dan bumi dan pada pertukaran malam dan siang, ada tanda-tanda (kekuasaan, kebijaksanaan dan keluasan rahmat Allah) bagi orang-orang yang berakal. (Iaitu) orang-orang yang menyebut dan mengingati Allah semasa mereka berdiri dan duduk dan semasa mereka berbaring mengiring dan mereka pula memikirkan tentang kejadian langit dan bumi (sambil berkata): Wahai Tuhan kami! Tidaklah Engkau menjadikan benda-benda ini dengan sia-sia, Maha Suci Engkau, maka peliharalah kami dari azab Neraka.

Ali Imran, 190-191.

Maybe one way how God want to teach us, human-being, about how to organize a group of people. 
How everybody in an organization should be given enough and equal space and chances to give the best performance. Especially when most of the members of organization have equal abilities. 
Is really something to think about. 


Menulis dari jauh,
Norshida Ismail,
Hiroshima University,
May 12, 2011.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monetary System

In common situation, lending occurs when there is something to lend. Did you ever heard about the lending itself creating the thing to be lent? The things itself doesn’t exist anywhere before the lending activities occurred. This is what actually happens today in a so called monetary system. To understand the monetary system, we need to look on the history of money creation.
                The money begins as receipts issued by goldsmith. People who want to claim their gold from goldsmith, all they need is to show the receipts. After a long time, people start to use the receipts in the market because it was more convenient as compared to the gold coins.  The goldsmith start to realize that the likelihood of all of the people would come at the same time to claim their gold is almost impossible.  They begin to manipulate the situation in order to gain more profit by producing receipts or money more than the gold they have in repository. The money created was given as loan to the people and they charge interest on it.  Today’s monetary system occurs almost the same way as the above situation even though the current system involved the use of some new terms like debt, bond, fractional reserve system and inflation. We would go one by one into detail.
                Whenever government need money or fund, it would goes to central bank (in US it was called Federal Reserve System, it name varies among countries). The government would write a check or called as bond. Let say the government produce 100 dollars bond and then it goes the central bank. The central bank would then type 100 dollars into the government account. The bond itself is the debt instrument which means that the government owe the central bank for 100 dollars.  The 100 dollars money was then deposited into commercial bank.  The money is available to the public through loan. However, under fractional reserve system, it was stated that the bank must kept 10% from its deposit as reserve, and so, 90 dollars were available for loan. It was quite straightforward to understand that the 90 dollars come out from 100 dollars deposit. However, it was not actually the case. The 90 dollars were simply created on top of 100 dollars deposit and now the total amount of money is 190 dollars. This is how the money supply was expanded. Now we could understand that the money is created whenever there is demand for it or loan. Previously, the money doesn’t exist anywhere; it was just created when there is loan. This is the explanation for the situation given in the first paragraph.
                The previous 90 dollars creates another 81 dollars which are available for a new loan. This loan cycle can created 900 dollars from 100 dollars. The expansion of money supply creates inflation in which the buying power of the money is gradually reduces. For example, central bank has 1 ounce gold and the bank produce 100 dollars money to represent that 1 ounce gold. From time to time, with the expansion of money; more money would be created. Taking the previous situation in which the total amount of money in circulation is 1000 dollars, that amount now represent 1 ounce gold instead of 100 dollars previously. This is how the money value reducing with the expanding of money supply. Beyond than that, the inflation is the hidden tax charge to the public without their conscious. Whenever the government produce more money for funding its program, the more money the public would pay for purchasing goods through the reducing of the money’s purchasing power.
                The purpose of this article is not to judge the present monetary system; it is just to show how it works in brief. Any comments are welcomed. If this article is can’t be understood at all, please click log on to the original sources provided below:

Money as Debt
Zeitgeist: Addendum
Money, Banking and the Federal Reserve (HQ)


Monday, May 24, 2010

Study uncovers optimal ecology of bioinsecticide

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2010) — BBSRC-funded researchers at the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway University of London have discovered that the commonly used and naturally occurring bacterial insecticide Bt works best if applied to young plants and is enhanced by the presence of the insect pests.

The research is published in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens.

Spraying Bt -- the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis -- is a common method for controlling a variety of insect pests and is one of the main approaches to chemical-free pest control in agriculture. Optimising sustainable farming techniques can help meet the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050 using fewer resources and with minimum impact on the environment.

Senior researcher Dr Mike Bonsall at the University of Oxford said: "Bt has been used commercially for about 40 years and is readily available to control pest moths and the like, but until now we've known very little about the natural abundance of the bacteria in the environment and what happens when we apply extra bacteria as a means of pest control. It's really important to understand what is happening so that we can, for example, know what factors might have an impact on the insects becoming resistant to Bt."

Bt is found naturally in soils and on plants and exists as many different varieties that each have a preference for infecting different organisms. Bt strains that are specific to certain insects rely on being able to infect those insects in order to reproduce. The researchers studied a strain called ST8, which infects the Diamondback Moth -- a pest that attacks cabbages, broccoli and related crops -- and they found that the population of bacteria (either existing or applied) establishes itself more readily when the insects are present.

The team set up several cabbage plots in the field to examine what was happening when there were extra insects and/or extra bacteria added to what was already present. Then they took samples of soil and leaves. For each sample they looked at the genetics of the bacteria to build a profile of which strains of Bt were present and in what numbers.

Lead researcher Dr Ben Raymond at Royal Holloway University of London said: "We found that our strain, ST8, is the most common in the environment already and it also seems to be best at getting onto the leaves where it can infect the moths. We think that the ST8 that exists naturally in the farm environment might well be colonising the plant as growing seedlings so it gets the earliest possible opportunity to infect the moths, which of course it needs to do to survive.

"This makes sense given that we also found that when there are extra insects in the environment the bacteria actually do much better and can be found in larger numbers. It also shows why spraying the plants, especially young ones, rather than the soil is the best way of using Bt to control insect pests."

The research team are also looking at factors that affect the chances of insects becoming resistant to Bt. In particular they are looking at the way the toxin that kills the insect and an antibiotic that Bt produces to get rid of competing strains of bacteria in the insect's gut both impact the evolution of resistance in the insect.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said: "Sustainable solutions to future food security will rely on a thorough understanding of how ecosystems operate. This is a good example where the interactions between different parts of such a system have a significant impact on how we can control pests using biological rather than chemical methods. It is also vital that our ongoing practices with Bt present minimal risk of insects becoming resistant and so work to understand the fundamental biology that happens within this system is extremely important."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Agriculture is a Worship

Kelantanese Government is now trying to boost its agriculture sector as to become National Food Hub. The approach chosen by the state government is quite unique. Doing agriculture is not to gain profit as much as possible (as other people see it) but it is a part of worship to God. This principle is highlighted  by the state government, they come with their own moto "Agriculture is a Worship". This new concept of agriculture would give significant impact to the target group in many aspects.
Environment is created by God and human as khalifah in this world must manage it for the sake of live beings. Farmers would try at their best in the agricultural practices so as to worship God. They would feel responsible for providing people with safe food and preserving the environment at the same time. Pests as part of the God creatures which also worship God should not be eliminated completely from the field. They must be maintained below the threshold level. The damage by the pests under the threshold level considered as "sodaqoh" where the farmers would get reward from God for good deeds.
I see this new approach would have a bright future if it is implemented in the right way. For more information plesae go to

Research promises more healthful vegetable oil -- and tractor fuel to harvest it

ScienceDaily (May 21, 2010) — Genetic discoveries from a shrub called the burning bush, known for its brilliant red fall foliage, could fire new advances in biofuels and low-calorie food oils, according to Michigan State University scientists.
New low-cost DNA sequencing technology applied to seeds of the species Euonymus alatus -- a common ornamental planting -- was crucial to identifying the gene responsible for its manufacture of a novel, high-quality oil. But despite its name, the burning bush is not a suitable oil crop.
Yet inserted into the mustard weed -- well-known to researchers as Arabidopsis and a cousin to commercial oilseed canola -- the burning bush gene encodes an enzyme that produces a substantial yield of unusual compounds called acetyl glycerides, or acTAGs. Related vegetable oils are the basis of the world's oilseed industry for the food and biofuels markets, but the oil produced by the burning bush enzyme claims unique and valuable characteristics.
One is its lower viscosity, or thickness.
"The high viscosity of most plant oils prevents their direct use in diesel engines, so the oil must be converted to biodiesel," explained Timothy Durrett, an MSU plant biology research associate. "We demonstrated that acTAGs possess lower viscosity than regular plant oils. The lower viscosity acTAGs could therefore be useful as a direct-use biofuel for many diesel engines."
Improved low-temperature characteristics noted for the oil also could make it suitable for diesel fuel, he said. And acTAGs boast lower calorie content than other vegetable oils, Durrett added, "thus they could be used as a reduced-calorie food oil substitute."
With University Distinguished Professor of plant biology John Ohlrogge, visiting professor of plant biology Michael Pollard and other MSU researchers, Durrett published the findings in the May 18 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The burning bush is certainly not a rare species -- the team gathered its samples from plantings around MSU's campus. The researchers now are working to improve the modified mustard weed seeds' acTAGs yield and already report purity levels of up to 80 percent.
"It should now be possible to produce acetyl glycerides in transgenic oilseed crops or single cell production systems such as algae that are the focus of much current effort in biofuels research," said Pollard, who is keen to explore the technology's commercial potential. "With the basic genetics defined and thus one major technical risk greatly reduced, the way is open to produce and assess this novel oil in food and nonfood applications."
Funding for this early stage research came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with support by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a scientific consortium of which MSU is a major partner.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ant Has Given Up Sex Completely, Researchers Confirm

Ant Has Given Up Sex Completely, Researchers Confirm

ScienceDaily (Jan. 9, 2010) — The complete asexuality of a widespread fungus-gardening ant, the only ant species in the world known to have dispensed with males entirely, has been confirmed by a team of Texas and Brazilian researchers.

Most social insects—the wasps, ants and bees—are relatively used to daily life without males. Their colonies are well run by swarms of sterile sisters lorded over by an egg-laying queen. But, eventually, all social insect species have the ability to produce a crop of males who go forth in the world to fertilize new queens and propagate.

Queens of the ant Mycocepurus smithii reproduce without fertilization and males appear to be completely absent, report Christian Rabeling, Ulrich Mueller and their Brazilian colleagues in PLoS ONE this week.

"Animals that are completely asexual are relatively rare, which makes this is a very interesting ant," says Rabeling, an ecology, evolution and behavior graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin. "Asexual species don't mix their genes through recombination, so you expect harmful mutations to accumulate over time and for the species to go extinct more quickly than others. They don't generally persist for very long over evolutionary time."

Previous studies of the ants from Puerto Rico and Panama have pointed toward the ants being completely asexual. One study in particular, by Mueller and former graduate student Anna Himler (now at Arizona State University), showed that the ants reproduced in the lab without males, and that no amount of stress induced the production of males.

Scientists believed that specimens of male ants previously collected in Brazil in the 1960s could be males of M. smithii. If males of the species existed, it would suggest that—at least from time to time—the ants reproduce sexually.

Rabeling analyzed the males in question and discovered that they belonged to another closely related (sexually reproducing) species of fungus-farmer, Mycocepurus obsoletus, thus establishing that no males are known to exist for M. smithii.

He also dissected reproducing M. smithii queens from Brazil and found that their sperm storage organs were empty.

Taken together with the previous studies of the ants, Rabeling and his colleagues have concluded that the species is very likely to be totally asexual across its entire range, from Northern Mexico through Central America to Brazil, including some Caribbean islands.

As for the age of the species, the scientists estimate the ants could have first evolved within the last one to two million years, a very young species given that the fungus-farming ants evolved 50 million years ago.

Rabeling says he is using genetic markers to study the evolution and systematics of the fungus-gardening ants and this will help determine the date of the appearance and genetic mechanism of asexual reproduction more precisely in the near future.