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System of Rice Intensification: a helping hand against the food crisis

Innovation / -

Grazie al metodo Sri, sono cresciuti il numero di coltivatori e le risaie in Madagascar

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.

A French Jesuit moved to Madagascar in the 1980s and, observing the working farmers, started developing a new method of rice farming. As of 1991, two consecutive harvests failed due to drought and the country's food crisis deteriorated. That's why the IFAD, in conjunction with Cornell University of New York and the government of Madagascar, has been promoting this System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which increases yields. The project looks revolutionary, because it not only uses less seed and water, but also eliminates the need for pesticide. But the results speak for themselves.
 
A real change
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.
 
The spread of SRI to other countries
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.
 
 

Five questions for IFAD. An original technique for growing rice, that is spreading by word of mouth across Madagascar

Innovation / -

Nuova tecnica per le piantaggioni di riso in Madagascar
Courtesy of IFAD

Through the practical demonstration of the results, farmers have become involved and aware of the improvements that can be achieved in rice cultivation. IFAD, which works to ensure proper nutrition levels in rural areas, illustrates the originality and the replicability of the project.

At Expo Milano 2015, visitors will be made aware of IFAD project thanks to the photo-story displayed in Pavilon Zero. What message would you like to convey with your approach to the issue of food security?
Improving the livelihoods of the rural poor is at the heart of IFAD’s work, and maximizing agriculture’s contribution to improving nutrition is an essential part of that mission. Good nutrition begins with food and agriculture. Food security and nutrition are at the core of sustainable development. They are essential preconditions for inclusive growth and prosperity, poverty eradication, and individual and social welfare in all its dimensions. Moreover, small producers – women and men - need to be at the centre of the global agenda for food security and nutrition.

What difficulties have you encountered while working on your project? How did you overcome them?
The main difficulties met were political turmoil and the fact that farmers wanted to keep traditional farming methods because of the importance of rice in the local culture. To overcome resistance and raise awareness of System of Rice Intensification (SRI), IFAD adopted a number of measures (education, extension services, trust building) that proved successful.

Since the submission date, how has your project developed to date?
The challenge now is to continue to disseminate the information gathered in order to ensure continuity and constant improvement of SRI technique. This is occurring mainly through farmer-to-farmer teaching which is an effective way because when farmers can observe results of certain practices, the interest within the community grows. Other ways to inform farmers are through booklets, videos and radio programmes
 


What developments do you expect in the long term for your idea?
Scaling up is part of IFAD’s strategy for rural development, we are always bringing in new partners and expanding our technical assistance to various countries.
 
Do you intend to replicate the project in other countries or in other contexts?
The SRI technique has had remarkable success and offers good opportunities for replication. In fact, IFAD has promoted the new system in other investment projects and programmes, and, has facilitated the spread of SRI knowledge to several countries In Africa, it was brought to Rwanda and Burundi, and all across Asia, people are implementing SRI techniques. In fact, it has gone beyond rice and is being implemented on other crops like wheat or maize.
 
 

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