Rice is not just the staple diet of more than half the world; It is also the largest source of rural employment and livelihood
This project report by WWF-ICRISAT begins by highlighting the importance of rice as a major source of calories for half the world’s population and also as the single largest source of employment and income for the rural population.
It makes connections between rice production and its impact on the environment and argues for need to adopt techniques such as System of Rice Intensification (SRI) to improve produce and reduce the damage to the environment.
For example, current practices at genetic uniformity can make crops more vulnerable to pests and diseases. They are also wasteful of increasingly scarce and costly resources such as water and fossil fuels. Heavily fertilised, continuously flooded rice fields produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, and misuse of inorganic fertilisers and agrochemicals results in soil and water pollution. Evidence indicates that there has been a gradual slowdown in the yield gains of rice in many countries.
The report highlights the potential benefits of adopting System of Rice Intensification (SRI) type practices in countries around the world and argues that these are not only limited to nutrition and food security in developing countries and for the poor, but also extend to the environment. These include reduced requirements of water for irrigation, reduced emission of greenhouse gases and the reduced requirement for the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
Experiences of Africare, Oxfam America and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) while working with the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in the African Sahel, Southeast Asia, and India have found that farmers are able to produce more rice using less water, agrochemical inputs, and seeds, and with less labour. The net effect has been an improvement in household incomes and food security while reducing the negative environmental impacts of rice production, thus making food production more resilient.
The report ends by recommending that all major rice-producing countries should promote adoption of SRI, with a goal of at least 25% of their current irrigated rice cultivation systems converted to SRI by 2025, with all new irrigation schemes designed to support SRI farming and having the ability to provide smaller amounts of water to rice farmers reliably.
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