Rice farmers use rice straw as cooking fuel rather than open-burning

By Prof. Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh and the Project Team

Initiated by the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) together with the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), Cambodia, Hue University (HU), Vietnam, and King Mongkut’s University of Technology (KMUTT), Thailand, this SUMERNET Phase 3 research project has begun to investigate and address a common problem among countries of the Mekong Region – the open burning of large amounts of rice straw during agricultural processes.

For the agrarian countries of the Mekong Region, where rice is a staple food that can provide up to three-quarters of the total number of calories consumed, a significant amount of rice straw is generated each crop cycle. In order to accelerate the crop rotation process, the majority of farmers take to open burning of rice straw in the field to clear the surface of biomass. This produces rice straw residue, which is a potential biomass resource. This project is assessing the current status of rice straw management in target Mekong Region countries, and the potential rice straw derived fuel and cook stove technologies available and suitable for the local farmers, with possible air-quality and climate change co-benefits for the wider region. The suitability of technologies will be considered based on social, economic and cultural contexts in order to seek full acceptance from end users.

Project kick-off meeting and methodology workshop, 13 February 2015 (Photo by Project Team).Prof. Visnathan, Dean of the School of Environment, Resources and Development (SERD), formally launched the project before the kick-off meeting and methodology workshop in February 2015, where research partners and boundary partners came together to formulate the methodology framework and work plan. A project overview was given by project principal investigator (PI), Prof. N. T Kim Oanh, project Co-PI, Dr. Abdul Salam presented technology options for densification methods of using rice straw as cooking fuel, and project research specialist Dr. Didin Agustian Permadi presented the research activity plan and a draft of the research questionnaire. Representatives of RUPP, HU and KMUTT then presented a plan for the surveying to be conducted in the target countries; Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. A final session was led by Prof. N.T Kim Oanh to agree the planned research agenda for the surveying in agricultural areas that is to be conducted by research partners between April and June 2015. All participants then visited a biomass laboratory located at Energy Park (Energy Field of Study) to see available densification and cook stove technologies developed by AIT.

Preliminary survey rice straw collection in Pathumthani, Thailand (Photo by Project Team).In addition to the kick-off meeting and workshop, other project activities have also been conducted. As part of a preliminary survey to inform the project planning, AIT and KMUTT engaged with the head of a farmers’ association in Pathumthani, Thailand, to obtain samples of rice straw generated from harvesting in the area. These samples are being examined to ascertain the impacts of loose and roped rice straw on emission and thermal efficiency. Another preliminary experiment was conducted on the development of densification methods for using rice straw as a cooking fuel. The performance of the rice straw briquettes prepared from two different processes, cold and low pressure, and hot and high pressure, was evaluated. The results of the preliminary survey and experiments will inform and advance future technology assessments during the project.

You can learn more about the rice straw project here, at its project page.