A rice farming technique doubles yields, using fewer resources. This International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) project started in Madagascar, but has now spread to other countries too.
The system originates from the idea that one plant with plenty of space to grow, yields more than two plants occupying the same space. The technique involves various phases: once the first shoots have sprouted, they are replanted in wet soil nearby. The spacing between plants must not fall below a specified minimum distance, and the field must be kept damp through controlled irrigation (low water consumption). The technique is completed by constant drainage using a hand-drawn plough. Under this system, the soil no longer has to be flooded as before, but is kept damp and dry alternately.
Despite initial diffidence, this technique for overcoming the global food crisis has been widely acclaimed among local populations. Since the project's launch, in fact, over 100,000 farmers have converted to SRI.
Rice yields rose from 1,700 tonnes in 1998 to 23,000 tonnes in 2007, and two harvests per year are now common. Yield per hectare now exceeds 4 tonnes, which is three times as much as in 2006.
The number of farmers and rice plantations has also risen, with the result that Madagascar now not only meets domestic demand for rice in full, but has sufficient surplus to become an exporter. The income of farming families has risen by an average of 75%.
This programme has now achieved all its initial objectives and is being successfully implemented in Rwanda, Burundi and a number of Asian countries. And the training necessary for disseminating the technique is provided by farmers from Madagascar, who travel to other countries to demonstrate its practical benefits.