By John Jordan
Kathmandu, Nepal, April 13, 2019: Rice is one the world's mains food crops. While climatologists, health experts and others believe a more diverse food supply is preferable, rice will remain a staple for year to come.
So efforts can focus on growing rice in way that puts much less stress on natural systems. Since so much of this staple is grown by family farmers, that's a good place to start.
That's exactly what's happening in Nepal with the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
SRI was developed by Jesuit priest Father Henri de Laulanié de Sainte-Croix in Madagascar. According to his book, Rice in Madagascar, SRI has four principles:
- Establishing plants early and quickly, to favor healthy and vigorous root and vegetative plant growth.
- Maintaining low plant density to allow optimal development of each individual plant and to minimize competitions between plants for nutrients, water and sunlight.
- Enriching soils with organic matter to improve nutrient and water holding capacity, increase microbial life in the soil, and to provide a good substrate for roots to grow and develop.
- Reducing and controlling the application of water, providing only as much water as necessary for optimal plant development and to favor aerobic soil conditions.
The result is faster and greater yields with far less water and minimal if any chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This means lower costs—and higher profit--for family farmers.
For example, in Nepal farmer Mana Maya Samal has experimented with SRI on her 360 sq.
ft. plot of land. At harvest time, Mana compared her SRI output with families using traditional methods. On the same size plot, traditional farmers produced 6 pathi, a rural weight measurement. Mana produced 12 pathi.
In addition, the crop cycle when using SRI was 130 days—nearly two weeks less than the cycle using traditional methods.
Mana doubled her output at lower cost and could get her rice to market sooner.
Mana, along with other female farmers in Nepal's Udaypur district, is now expanding SRI to her entire rice crop.
These farmers are assisted by World Neighbors, a development group with a focus on female-led projects that use sustainable techniques. Please contact me at 202 554-5796 to interview World Neighbors executives.