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SRI - a proven solution that addresses the challenges of sustainable food systems highlighted by Rockefeller Foundation.

How SRI meets the Rockerfeller Foundation's needs

By Olivia Vent

Despite the United Nation’s hopes to end world hunger by 2030, the Rockefeller Foundation’s just released report “Anticipateand Localize: Leveraging Humanitarian Funding to Create More Sustainable Food Systems” predicts that starvation will instead only be more prevalent.:

Asia has a majority of the world’s malnourished population (around 425 million people in 2021), but the degree of undernourishment is most intense in Africa which has the highest prevalence of undernourishment. One in five people in Africa (20.2% of the population) faced hunger in 2021, compared to 9.1% in Asia, 8.6% in Latin America and the Caribbean, 5.8% in Oceania, and less than 2.5% in North America and Europe. Women and children bear the brunt of food insecurity everywhere especially where populations are continuing to grow.

To expand food security, the report presents several recommendations to transform the governance of global food systems and humanitarian assistance. These include greater focus on anticipating needs before crises occur and investing in local solutions and leadership to develop resilience so that when crises occur, whether due to climate or conflict, communities can recover more quickly and minimize their dependence on emergency assistance. In addition, donors, UN agencies, and other stakeholders involved in improving long-term food security should coordinate and collaborate more effectively, with sustained interventions and investments complementing emergency responses.

Sabarmatee, co-founder of the NGO Sambhav, promoting traditional rice varieties in India

The report acknowledges that this means empowering the capacities of local and national actors instead of encroaching upon them. It recommends that we learn from and accelerate localization models that already exist – especially solutions developed and led by communities in the Global South. To this end, examples of successful approaches should be assembled to inform future projects of what the best practices might be.

More specifically, the report urges investing in gender-sensitive and climate-smart agriculture, particularly the broad domain of regenerative farming. On page 32, the report says:

“The aim is to ensure healthy soils to feed more people and increase resilience to climate change while creating thriving farming communities. This kind of farming can adapt to the conditions faced by small-scale farmers, with the emphasis on local crop varieties and on harnessing traditional knowledge to sustain, rather than fight, natural ecosystem processes.”

This is exactly what the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has been promoting for the past 25 years. It is a grassroots solution with global reach that has been implemented in many thousands of farming communities around the world toreduce poverty, increase food availability, and help communities recover from disasters and disruptions due to war and conflict.

Donors utilizing SRI potentials include major development NGOs CRS, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, World Vision International, and the major bilateral and multilateral donor agencies -- the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, USAID, GIZ and others – cooperating with governments and local NGO’s to improve regional food security, which has validated SRI’s effects in over 60 countries.

SRI is recognized as an effective low-cost strategy which greatly benefits under-resourced rice farmers as it improves yields while reducing inputs such as seeds water and fertiliser. This lets them be more resilient when crises occur.

Furthermore, as the report wishes to “ensure healthy soil” SRI is again useful, as one of its key features is to promote soil health to enhance root growth, making rice plants more drought-tolerant and water-stress resistant, and mitigating greenhouse gas emission. This comes from avoiding hypoxic paddy soil that generates methane. SRI-produced rice in India is the first rice to be Regenerative Organic Certified™ (ROC™).

Young rice seedlings being planted using SRI methods

Projects in which SRI is embedded as an intervention also contribute to women’s empowerment, as SRI can reduce their workload and physical discomfort considerably. Further, SRI principles have been applied to improve many other staple crops, like wheat, maize, finger millet, potatoes, teff, and rapeseed.

SRI’s success stems in part from the fact that it is not a fixed set or practices but a set of regenerative principles and practices that farmers and local leaders learn and then adapt them to the local agronomic and cultural contexts. Thus, SRI has spread through regions intailored projects instead of being delivered like a packet of fertilizers. Farmers require knowledge to understand the principles and some follow-up support as they implement the changes on their fields.

Considering the Rockefeller Foundation’s intention to develop a ‘toolbox’ of smart investments and innovative approaches,organizations with SRI experience– public sector, international, civil society, private sector – should share their knowledge. This would provide a resource ofknowledge to inform future SRI initiatives so that they can be introduced on alarger scale. As the Rockefeller Foundation report suggests, we have the toolsto manage the looming crisis of climate change and water scarcity and to investin a transition to more sustainable and resilient rice cultivation methods.

Some Examples of SRI Used in Climate Resilience,Crisis Recovery, Women’s Empowerment, and Conflict Zones to Improve Food Security and Resilience

·      Cameroon

SRI Practices Sustained during Cameroon Conflicts

Funding Agency: Skills for Development (NGO), London

Local Partners: SRI COOPBOD GroupNgoketunjia (farmers cooperative, Ndop)

·      Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

A Walk through the Past and the Future of Congolese Rice

FundingAgency: World Bank, DRC Government

Implementing Partner: Rikolto

ClimateSmart Agriculture Will Provide Food Security and Reduce Carbon Emissions in DRC

FundingAgency: DRC Government

ImplementingAgency: Woodwell Climate Research Center, US

Agriculture: Small Producers Trained in the Intensive Rice Farming System

FundingAgency: GIZ

ImplementingPartner: CIV

·       India

Gond Women Take Charge of Water and Farming in Their Village

Funded Agency: IKEA Foundation

LocalPartner: PRADAN


·      Liberia

Japanese Gov’t Rice Grant Makes Impact in Liberia

FundingAgency, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

LocalPartner: CHAP [Community of Hope Agriculture Project]


CHAP Helps ReduceSpread of COVID-19 among Liberian Farmers Using System of Rice Intensification Principles

FundingAgency: Liberia Ministry of Agriculture

LocalPartner: CHAP [Community of Hope Agriculture Project]


·      Myanmar

I Feel Like Morethan a Female Farmer

Funded Agency: Irish Aid

Local partner: Network Activity Group (NAG)


Rice cultivationusing the System of Rice Intensification method in Kayin State, Myanmar (video)

Funding Agency: Lutheran WorldFederation in collaboration with Act Alliance Partners in Myanmar


·      Tanzania

System of RiceIntensification (SRI): Producing more with less(video)

FundingAgency: FAO

LocalPartners: Junior Farmer Field and Life School


·      Vietnam

World Vision’sCoastal Areas of Thanh Hoa Province Resilient to Natural Disasters

FundingAgency: World Vision International in Vietnam

Local Partner: Provincial AgriculturalExtension Center


More Information about Application of SRI in Areas of Disrupted Agriculture can be found here.

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