For more than half of humanity Rice is Life. This World Wide Fund for Nature Report highlights the relationship between rice, food security and water scarcity and examines the contribution that the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) can make to address various challenges in India.
Lifeblood for millions of people in India, rice is now a way of life and deeply embedded in cultures, rituals and myths. It is a staple food for more than half the world’s population. Rice is the only crop that can survive flooded conditions, making it a preferred water-intensive crop. The report focuses on India, which has the world’s largest rice cultivated area and faces major water crisis and conflicts since expansion of rice cultivation is linked to availability of water.
Poverty rates are higher in tail ends of the systems where water is less and productivity is low.
The World Wide Fund for Nature is working with farmers, scientists and national institutions of India to promote the System of Rice Intensification, as it will reduce pressure on fresh water eco-systems and improve food production. Although the report is based on Indian experience, the findings are relevant to many rice producing countries with appropriate modifications to suit local conditions.
Primarily, a type of grass, rice, unlike most other comparable plants, has a remarkable ability to tolerate submergence. Farmers started out by growing rice in low-lying land, where the conditions are congenial. This method of cultivation also kept weeds in check and reduced their labor requirements. There is a strong relationship between rice production and fish cultivation in many Asian societies. The durability of this association depends both on maintaining sufficient quantities of water year-round and ensuring that the water is free of toxic elements.
According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), rice provides 23 % of all the calories consumed by the world’s population. Aside from being a staple food, rice contributes fodder for livestock and straw for roofing and other construction uses. Husks from milling are used as cattle feed, for briquette making and as construction or packing materials.
As a way to increase rice productivity, the Government of India had launched programmes that encouraged the use of high yielding varieties, improved nutrient inputs and modern technological methods. These included the Special Rice production Programme (SRPP), and the Integrated Programme for Rice Development (IPRD).
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), improved yield with less water, less seed and less chemical inputs than most conventional methods of rice cultivation. SRI is an amalgamation of multiple beneficial practices that Henri de Laulanie, a French Jesuit priest had observed and popularized.
SRI has eight basic principles that follow:
1. Preparing high-quality land
2. Developing nutrient-rich and un-flooded nurseries
3. Using young seedlings for early transplantation
4. Transplanting the seedlings singly
5. Ensuring wider spacing between seedlings
6. Preferring compost or farmyard manure for synthetic fertilizers
7. Managing water carefully so that the plants’ root zones moisten but are not continuously saturated
8. Weeding frequently
Implementation of SRI had improved the productivity of land, labor, water and capital used in rice cultivation. SRI is ideal in giving impoverished rural-communities, the much-needed food and health security, while conserving scarce natural resources, particularly water. SRI had been adopted across more than 20 states in India. Since 2004, SRI had been systematically evaluated and promoted in 11 districts of Andhra Pradesh and is on the move for implementation in many more districts.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) had highlighted the need to properly evaluate, demonstrate and disseminate rice-cultivation methods that benefit farmers and consumers in India, in the form of more remunerative crop and healthier rice respectively.
With support from ICRISAT and in co-operation with Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Directorate of Rice Research (DRR), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), NGOs and farmers, WWF had been assessing and publicizing SRI under the auspices of the International Dialogue on Water, Food and Environment. With the assistance of ICRISAT and DRR, the WWF project also assessed microbial in soils associated with SRI, aside from water saving and productivity experiments.
Following advocacy by the WWF project, in November 2005 the Andhra Pradesh Government announced 40 million rupees as grant for establishing SRI demonstration plots, one each in all villages of the State. Rice grown under the SRI method was declared to be ‘irrigated dry crop’.
WWF established partnerships with rice research institutes, agricultural universities and civil society organizations, and encouraged them to work on SRI to assess its feasibility and popularization. SRI had been adopted in more than 20 States across India.
The System of Rice Intensification had shown convincingly that the method could increase farmers’ rice yields, while using less water and lowering production costs.
The mission of WWF is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by
- Conserving the world’s biological diversity.
- Ensuring that the use of renewable resources is sustainable
- Promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
Use of SRI is expanding in States like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Tripura and in countries like Cambodia and Indonesia.
New Concept did the editing, design and printing of this document.
Website - WWF India
Document - More Rice with Less Water, SRI - System of Rice Intensification
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