Day 3 of the International Conference on the System of Crop Intensification (ICSCI22) for Climate-Smart Livelihood and Nutritional Security was awaited by many. In fact, the opportunity to listen to the stories and experiences of 25 farmers from different parts of India is not common in this type of event.
The excitement and tension were evident in the eyes of people who’s daily life is often spent in rural areas and whose voices are mostly ignored. During the past two days farmers tried their best to overcome the language barrier that separates them from each other and from the other attendees of the conference and they were happy to share their experiences ‘eye-to-eye’. The morning of the 14th of December 2022, it was their time to speak from a stage in front of a public of scientists and leaders of the international cooperation sector.
The experiences of farmers were very different from each other, as one would expect from a country like India which has the dimensions of a continent and diversified cultures and natural environments that make it so rich. The barriers farmers faced in implementing their activities were multiple and related to their own socio-economic and environmental context. On the other hand, their experiences with SRI/SCI methods were all stories of success and they were happy to share their personal satisfactions and improved livelihood as a consequence of understanding and adopting these agroecological set of practices. Although a lot can still be improved with the help of appropriate machinery, supportive policy environments, and better access to markets, all farmers were positive about the future of their farming activities and were committed to disseminating their knowledge with as many peers as possible.
The remaining sessions focused precisely on the areas that need to be developed to support and facilitate the good work that millions of Indian farmers are currently doing for making their land more productive while simultaneously reducing their impact on natural resources and climate change.
Theme 3 focused on the need to stop working with compartmentalised approaches and integrate various technologies and agroecological practices for creating synergies that can boost the sustainability of the farming system. This type of inclusive approach would also support the definition of packages of ‘solutions’ available for specific areas and would promote a smooth transition that farmers can design themselves according to their capacities. When most farmers in a specific area will start consistently adopting their own strategies for shifting toward a more sustainable type of agriculture, then the effect will be tangible at the landscape level and positive synergies will arise between agricultural and wild areas.
Technology also has a key role to play in the mentioned transition. Exponents of the private sector presented some good examples of available mechanisation for implementing SRI practices for rice cultivation. The high level of efficiency reached by machinery contributes to a positive view of the future of SRI and SCI systems as the dissemination of these products could facilitate the implementation of climate-smart agriculture and therefore enhancing the benefits for farmers and the environment. Combining the use of technologies with the agroecological managements of the farming systems allow a wide set of opportunities for the sustainable intensification of the agricultural sector.
Theme 6 of the conference was devoted to discuss what can be done in terms of creating a more supportive policy environment at the State, National, and International level, so that farmers can be incentivised to adopt sustainable practices.
In India some virtuous examples of policies that promote SRI methods are available in states like Bihar, Tripura, and Odisha that scaled the methods through different government-led programs and are now already enjoying some of the benefits.
However, a lot can still be done and the call is for a National plan able to support and lead the transition to a more sustainable agriculture. Institutions are asked to adopt a more inclusive and holistic approach able to take into account the environmental, agronomic, social, and economic aspects of the transition and promote constructive interactions between farmers, researchers and the private sector, as this conference did at its own scale and capacity.
SRI-2030 officially presented its work and plans for the future and establish itself as an active player in this transition. The role that SRI-2030 wants to play in this important process is the one of a facilitator of ongoing SRI-related works and catalyser of resources and attentions toward the huge opportunity of upscale the System of Rice Intensification to 50 million hectares by 2030 for the benefit of the people and the environment. Discover how on our website: https://www.sri-2030.org/