Written by Quynh Nguyen
Open rice straw burning in Red River Delta can cost up to $200 million in environmental damages (according to a recent study), not to mention the risk posing upon the health of a community of millions.
Why Do Farmers Burn Rice Straw?
In the past, farmers used to keep rice straw after they harvested the grains. They dried and stored straw for various purposes. A portion could be burned for energy, mainly cooking. Some others were fed to their livestock. People also recycled straw to make a thatch for their house or turn it into fertiliser.
The situation has unfortunately changed in recent years. Alternative fuel sources, like coal and gas, have become affordable. Most houses are now roofed with tiles instead. More people means less land to spare for storing straw. All together they result in increasing rates of straw burning in the area. In some villages, 80% of rice straw was burned right on the field. Thai Binh is one of the provinces with the highest rates, partly due to its high population density. It is the reason why Fargreen has chosen Thai Binh as the target for our second pilot project.
So many farmers think burning straw saves them the transportation cost of removing the straw off the field so they can soon start with the next crop. However, their action costs everyone else a lot more, with the farmers themselves paying the bigger share.
Burning straw releases millions of tons of greenhouse gases (GHS), including carbon dioxide - the greenhouse gas responsible for 70% of the global warming to date. Besides, the smoke can cause respiratory problems for local communities, with the poorer being affected more seriously. The burning of wet straw results in smog, which limits the visibility of vehicles travelling through the areas, and is likely to cause more accidents.
What are the solutions?
Rice straw has been proven to be a useful source for mushroom production, bio-fertiliser and power generation.
For over one year, Fargreen has joined the mission to prevent straw from burning and turning the seemingly-useless waste into a useful possession. Working with farmers across Red River Delta, we have collected tons of straw to reuse for mushroom production. We aim to produce high-quality mushrooms in an eco-friendly closed-loop system. Our organic mushrooms will be offered to the local market as a green and reliable product while the leftover after mushroom cultivation will be recycled back to nourish the soil as bio-fertiliser.