Can National Happiness Survive on an Organic Diet?

Stepped farming in Paro, Bhutan (Credit: Soham Banerjee)

Stepped farming in Paro, Bhutan (Credit: Soham Banerjee)

The small kingdom of Bhutan is known for establishing the “gross national happiness” tool, a “multidimensional measurement” that looks at its citizens’ quality of life and well-being. Lately, it has been making waves for its government’s ambition to become the first 100% organic country in the world. More on National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog. http://on.natgeo.com/15kgyW0

Educating Girls Like Chrissie Can Save a Nation

In September 2012, I produced an opinion piece authored by President Joyce Banda of Malawi that ran on CNN.com. The piece, which was timed to coincide with the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, discussed the importance of education and gender empowerment in setting international goals for economic development. To read the piece, click here.

The Farm Bill Rollercoaster Gets Ready to Roll

Credit: National Archives no. 514376 44-PA-871

This week, the Senate began debating the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012,”the latest name for the Farm Bill. This legislation comes up for renewal every five years, and the back-and-forth always been larger than life and somewhat crazy. More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog. http://bit.ly/KvoPiw

New options for flood control could help during dry spells

Last year’s record flooding in the Chao Phraya River’s watershed caused $40 billion in damages and left one third of Thailand—including parts of Bangkok, the capital and largest city—underwater for weeks. The prolonged media coverage, however, completely drowned out most recollections of the record drought that the country experienced in 2010.

For Thailand, managing the agricultural challenges presented by climate change means planning to handle both too much water and too little. One solution, Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR), sets aside land in upstream areas of major rivers to “capture” floodwater and direct it into natural underground aquifers. With fully “charged” aquifers, farmers could then maintain rice yields during dry spells.

Matthew McCartney, principal researcher for the International Water Management Institute, and Theerasak Tangsutthinon of Thailand’s Department of Groundwater Resources led a tour of a MAR project 50km north of Bangkok that showed both the potential of this solution as well as the challenges it brings.

This was the subject of a slide show featuring my photos that I created for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).  I also secured coverage of the tour with the Christian Science Monitor and National Geographic.

New Global Land Rush Trampling Human Rights

A new rush on land in developing countries is trampling land rights in impoverished communities. Over the past five years, the Liberian government sold or leased more than one third of the country’s land for logging, mining, and agriculture. The government of South Sudan ceded control of nine percent of the new nation’s lands even before announcing its independence. http://bit.ly/xm828y