Cumulus Green 2024

Self Reliance for the Persecuted

Winner – 1st Prize

Self Reliance for the Persecuted

Team TDV – Mayank Raj, Manisha Bisht, Yukti Anand

The Design Village, India

Food insecurity and lack of nutrition continue to plague many communities across the globe. Chief among them are those affected by displacement due to economic, social, climatic and political reasons.

Of the 82.4 million refugees across the world, India hosts 208,065 (as of March 2021) from many neighboring countries. Of these 40,000 are estimated to be Rohingyas who have fled the Rakhine state of Myanmar due to religious and ethnic persecution. Of these only 22,459 are officially registered with UNHCR India, receiving a refugee card as their only valid identity proof.

Acknowledging these complexities, we decided to delve deeper into the ideas of food security for the stateless. We hope to address food access, production and consumption for a few, hoping one intervention could lead to possibilities for the many, across the country and globe.

The Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, a primarily Buddhist state, are considered to be the most persecuted minority in the world and have faced institutionalized discrimination for decades. Our project addresses a settlement of 100 Rohingya families residing in shanties alongside 700 inter-state migrants in Shram Vihar, New Delhi. With no sanitation, access to roads, sewage or drainage systems, and little access to nutrition, they have little hope.

With no state of asylum possible, the national/local government provides no access or aid, rendering the community largely dependent on UNHCR for a few kgs of rice, pulses, oil and salt for survival. Other aid is usually met through humanitarian efforts, in the form of food supplies, medicines, education for children through NGOs and other organizations.

Through intensive visits across weekends and interviews with residents, local doctors, aid workers etc, we were able to determine the complex system of receiving insufficient dry ration. The gross miscalculation of nutrients and no consideration for the traditional native palette of the community was made apparent. The community supplemented the need for fish and greens in their diet by selling the already sparse ration provided.

Having no access to salaried jobs, the community members work as regularized labour, often working in hazardous conditions like sorting medical waste. Growing small amounts of greens on polluted soil using drainage water, the doctor observed that the residents of Shram Vihar, suffer chronically from multiple deficiencies and infections. Local studies have revealed higher rates of epilepsy in the community as an effect of mental stress and continued temporality.

Addressing this gap created by the discrimination between alive and living, we are proposing a service to not just address the pressing issue of nutrient deficiencies in the community, but also develop a sense of general well being by using their existing skill in bamboo and leveraging their cultural knowledge of farming.

Through self-reliance and identity development, the Rohingyas can move away from a sense of statelessness and can find solace in this landlocked geography, so far from home. By assimilating their culture, traditional skills and belief systems they can have a life, by achieving physical and mental well being.


Winner – 2nd Prize


Team LixiLab – Daniela Barón, María Valentina Forero, María Alejandra Parra, Valentina Pérez, Lina Sánchez, Laura Velasco

Univerisad de Los Andes ,Colombia

In 2015, the FAO reported soil contamination as one of the main threats affecting the world’s land services. The source of this type of pollution can be linked to chemical products used in agriculture, manufacturing, and even military operations. These substances, which include heavy metals such as chromium, lead, nickel, copper, cadmium, and arsenic, end up being released into the environment.

This project started in Mochuelo Alto, a rural community in the outskirts of Bogotá, located next to the city’s landfill. This population relies on agriculture for its livelihood and is directly affected by leachate’s heavy metals coming from waste decomposition, causing contamination in water sources, and altering the soil’s biodiversity.

These metals reduce organic matter and inhibit growth and nutrition assimilation in crops, generating low productivity and crop quality reduction. On the other hand, they affect the health of the consumers, as heavy metals are related to cancer and adverse effects on the nervous, respiratory, reproductive, and cardiovascular systems.

LixiLab is a bioremediation technology using the dead bacterium Lysinibacillus sphaericus CBAM5 for extracting heavy metals in farmed soils. This non-pathogenic bacterium is resistant to heavy metals and can adsorb them even after completing its life cycle, because it has an extracellular self-assembly protein. This layer is found negatively charged on the cell membrane; therefore, bacteria can adsorb positively charged metals. Also, since it is dead, the uncertainty of bacterial reproduction in crops disappears.

LixiLab is a grassroot, feasible solution joining science and design to develop hands-on practical strategies along with farmers’ knowledge and tools. The technology applies the dead bacteria in a dehydrated hydrogel matrix, made of a chitosan and alginate blend, that works in water and soil. Those biopolymers are non-toxic, biocompatible, biodegradable and are obtained in large quantities all over the world at a low cost.

The first biotech application is LixiSoil, a biofilter which is introduced into the soil to reduce contaminants on surface rooted plants like vegetables and tubers measuring up to 60 cm or 2 feet. A fence can be created using several filters placed individually, covering the length of the land that the farmers need. The filter comes with a package of dehydrated spheres that can be changed, refilled or removed once the conductivity sensor indicates the maximum level of heavy metals in the spheres.

Ultimately, the farmers will return the packaging with the bacteria-filled metals for collection at indicated locations. At the end of the spheres’ life cycle, metals are extracted from the bacteria in a lab.

LixiAqua, the second biotech application, is implemented in water sources used for irrigation, storage tanks, and ponds. It should be placed in the medium up to one day to do its filtering process.

LixiLab’s mission is to make toxic-free crops possible, reducing the risk of diseases and increasing the well-being of farming communities and consumers. Finally, LixiLab seeks to ensure access to improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by creating more fertile lands, reducing crop losses and soil degradation to guarantee the ecosystem’s biodiversity.

Rice Bran Foundation

Winner – 3rd Prize

Rice Bran Foundation

Kentaro Sohara, Giovanni Bruno, Kaori Kawarazaki, Lisa Koga, Melba Catania

Politecnico di Milano, Italy

The Rice Bran Foundation is a program that creates economic value from rice bran that would otherwise be discarded in Italy and converts the proceeds into fertilizer making kits that can be used in developing countries for distribution.

According to IRRI (International Rice Research Institute), rice is a very important crop in the fight against hunger and is a staple food for 3 billion people worldwide. Data suggests that climate changes in many developing countries creates soil which is poor in nutrition, leading to a decrease in productivity.

When rice is processed into white rice, nearly 10% of its weight is refined as rice bran, a byproduct. Rice bran has a high nutritive value. Besides proteins, rice bran is an excellent source of vitamins B and E. Bran also contains small amounts of anti-oxidants, which are considered to lower cholesterol in humans. However, In both developed and developing countries, rice bran is discarded. In fact, we have noticed that even in Italy, which is responsible for more than 50% of the rice production in the EU, rice bran is discarded. In developing countries, there is also the problem of insufficient investment in rice milling machinery and the lack of a clean separation between rice bran and rice husks.

In Japan, this rice bran has been used for various purposes. For example, rice bran is a rich source of nutrients and can be converted into a very good fertilizer by fermentation, because it increases the bacteria and fungus in the soil when used. Various studies have shown that productivity can be increased by using fermented rice bran as a fertilizer in rice cultivation. In addition to fertilizers, rice bran can be converted into fermented foods, cosmetics, oil, and other products that generate a variety of economic value, and thus present a great opportunity.

In this program, we will contribute to the fight against global hunger through the following four steps:

  1. Collecting rice bran and rice that would otherwise be discarded in Italy from rice farmers free of charge
  2. Rice bran will be processed, commercialized, and sold to EU consumers. Rice will be fermented and converted into rice koji (dried rice malt).
  3. Use the funds obtained from the above and the rice koji to create fermentation kits for converting rice bran into fertilizer, and distribute them to farmers in developing countries.
  4. Rice farmers in developing countries can create their own organic fertilizers using the kit and the byproducts of their rice production.

This program will fight hunger by enabling rice farmers to create their own organic fertilizer, helping them to have higher productivity and bringing climate resilience into their soil and rice production. Consequently raising awareness in Italian consumers regarding the situation of farmers in developing countries.