Profile of Takao Furuno


Model: No Institutional set-up. Operates through leveraged networks.
Geographic Area of Impact:
South East Asia
Focus: Technology, Rural Development, Environment, Agriculture


The Innovation
Takao Furuno has developed and disseminated a sustainable, integrated organic rice and duck farming system. This method significantly increases yields and has been replicated in thousands of locations across
Asia. Rather than using chemicals, Furuno introduces ducks into rice paddies to fertilize and strengthen rice seedlings and protect them from pests and weeds. This process boosts farmers' incomes and decreases their workload, while reducing environmental damage and increasing food security.


In the next three decades, population growth will lead to a 70% increase in the demand for rice. The Green Revolution, which increased food yields through intensive monocropping and use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, is recognized today as unsustainable and environmentally unsound. Annual increases in the use of chemical fertilizers now outstrip the growth of rice yields, causing declining incomes and intensifying rural to urban migration. Alternative systems are necessary. In the mid 1970s, Takao Furuno, a high-spirited farmer who had been influenced by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, was determined to turn his farm organic. Furuno spent ten years doing the backbreaking work of pulling out weeds by hand. In 1988, he came upon a traditional practice of using aigamo ducks to protect rice. The ducks eat insects, pests and snails. They also use their feet to dig up weeds, in the process oxygenating the water and strengthening the roots of rice plants. Furuno lovingly calls this method the "duck effect" and his farm yields have soared.


Furuno's duck-rice system is the result of continuous study of a natural symbiotic relationship after years of trial and error adjustments. One season, disease destroyed his entire crop. For three years, dogs ate Furuno's ducks until he got the idea to install electric fences. Furuno has identified the optimal age at which ducklings should be released into rice fields, the number that should be introduced per tenth of hectare and the moment when ducks should be removed. Through experimentation, he discovered that the addition of certain fish (loaches) and a nitrogen-fixing weed (azolla) to the field boosted rice and duck growth. In addition, Furuno has successfully marketed duck rice, which now sells at a 20-30% premium over conventionally grown rice in
Japan and other countries. Today, his 3.2-hectare farm gives him an income of US$ 160,000 a year from producing rice, organic vegetables, eggs and ducklings. After demonstrating that small-scale organic farming can be highly productive, he is disseminating his ideas. He has authored best-selling books on his methods, such as The Power of Duck (Tagari publications, ISBN 0 908228 12 0), as well as an aigamo duck cookbook (Nobunkyo publisher, ISBN 4 540 98395 4). Through his writing, travel, lectures and cooperation with agricultural organizations and governments, his methods have spread to more than 75,000 farmers in Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Iran and Cuba.

Personal Snapshot
The image of an Asian rice farmer is probably one of a taciturn man in a straw hat with whom it is difficult to converse about anything except his local area. In contrast, you will find Takao Furuno quite a surprise. His passion for the preservation and health of the small family farm is backed up by a deep understanding of how modern society works. "My dream," says Furuno, "is to see ducks cheerfully swimming around in all the rice paddies of
Japan and other Asian countries.

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