Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1988


This profile was prepared when Edson Hiroshi Séo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1988.
The New Idea
As an agronomy student in Sao Paulo, Hiroshi was one of Brazil's first two practitioners of alternative, gentle agriculture. He has continued to experiment and read widely, mastering and modifying both broad framework ideas and the most detailed technical aspects of soil science.Hiroshi feels Brazil could resolve much of its poverty by making its land produce wisely. For example, fish farming in water-rich areas in central Brazil alone could close the country's protein gap.According to Hiroshi, raising agricultural productivity in Brazil does not necessarily require large expanses of land; it does not entail the intensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and eventual damage to the environment. Hiroshi has demonstrated that both small holders and commercial farmers can employ soil management techniques that are appropriate to Brazil's varying climates; they can double and triple productivity without using toxic inputs; they can tap hidden water resources without undue expense.Hiroshi's work with zeolite provides a small example of his applied inventiveness. One of the problems with water soluble nitrogen fertilizers is that they weaken the plants that they serve by first administering massive overdoses and later, too little nitrogen. Using ground zeolite instead provides steady supplies of nitrogen for several years because the zeolite attracts nitrogen-producing bacteria. Although this is something of an improvement, Hiroshi is not satisfied because he believes healthy plants require balanced nutrition every bit as much as people do -- not a lot of only a few nutrients. He is now using zeolite as a feed supplement, precisely because it rounds out the feed's mineral content.Hiroshi has dedicated his adult life to studying, perfecting, and teaching a series of alternative technologies that are both appropriate to Brazil's diverse rural contexts and environmentally sound. He has carried his work tirelessly across the country, gradually building a following among agronomy students, agronomists, and local leaders. Hiroshi now wants to systematize and multiply what he has started. To that end, he has just founded the Center for Research and Training in Agriculture and Alternative Technology, located centrally in Brasilia. This center will facilitate his research and make it much easier for him to pass on his knowledge in an efficient "hands-on" manner.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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