“Modern” Farming and Rural PovertyPros and Cons of SRI Willem A. Stoop 23 January 2009 IFAD, Rome
Personal Background • Soils and agronomy (Wageningen and UH) • Rubber agronomist Liberia • Postdoc CIMMYT (Maize agron.) Mexico • Agronomist ICRISAT / Burkina Faso • Tropical Rainfed Cereal Systems - KIT/RTI • ISNAR - The Hague : NARS organisation • KIT/RTI : Systems research • Independent consultant / WARDA
IFAD website • 1,05 billion poor women, men and children in developing countries • Poor populations mostly in rural areas • Depend mostly on agriculture and related activities for livelihoods
Do the “rural poor” require specific agricultural techniques?and if soHow might these techniques differ from the conventional ones that are readily available? orWhat type of agronomy would be most relevant to the poor?
System of Rice Intensification (SRI)developed in Madagascar during 1980s in response to the conditions, needs and means of resource-poor smallholders
Modern Farming: Large / intermediate scale Commercial Mechanised External inputs (seeds, ag.chemicals) Capital intensive Smallholder farming: Small – variable scale Self sufficiency – surplus Mainly manual Local inputs (seeds, manure, compost, etc.) Labour intensive Major contrasts between “modern” and “smallholder” rice farming
SRI: very low seed rates very young transplants: 8 to 15 days old single transplants/hill wide spacing: 25x25 to 50x50 cm no flooding, moist soil compost 3 to 4 rounds rotary hoe Conventional irrigated: high seed rates young transplants: about 21days old 3-5 transplants/hill narrow spacing: 10x10 to 20x20 cm continuous flooding min. fertilizer + N topdressing 2 rounds rotary hoe / herbicide Major elements of SRI as compared with conventional practices
Crucial plant features in obtaining high yields with SRI • Profuse tillering • Profuse root systems “What will be the optimum bio-physical growth conditions that cause these features to translate into high grain yields?”
Pros Substantial savings: *Seed (suitability of local varieties) *Seed rates: 1/5 to 1/10 *Irr. Water: approx. 30-50% *No or limited agric. chem’s *Tolerance to drought and lodging Incr. resource use efficiency No envirm. pollution Cons Labour requirements?? *Delicate timing of operations *Increased (early) weeding (Precise land levelling) (Reliable water source/supply) Risks?? *Delicate, small transplants *Early floods *Local socio-institutional: avail. irrig. water / landtenure issues. Pros and cons of SRI
SRI is NOT a “free lunch” or “blue-print” • It requires farming skills: timely management of operations and efficient use of internal resources. • With experience SRI can produce attractive grain yields without or with minimal use of costly external inputs through very simple agronomic adjustments. • SRI must be viewed as part of a (integrated) farming system. • Location/farmer-specific adaptations are crucial. • Most initial constraints/risks are of a farm management nature.
Possible barriers to SRI dissemination • For past decades farmers have been bombarded with recipes for “green revolution” technologies including new seeds and agric. chemicals (mineral fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides). • By comparison SRI advises something like an “opposite” combination of practises. • Certainly in Africa, foreign aid and public extension services have lost much of their credibility with small farmers.
Implications for dissemination of SRI • “Learning” exercise for farmers, extension and scientists: • Farmer field schools • Farmer organisations / farmer-to-farmer • Encourage small-scale, individual farmer experimentation • Flexibility in dissemination process: “principles” are introduced, NOT standardised technologies • Monitor technological adaptations introduced by farmers • Accept initial slow adoption rates, while all stakeholders gain experience
Present (global) status of SRI • Principles validated in some 30 countries. • Increasingly and successfully practised by small farmers in major rice producing countries (India, China). • Agro-ecological mechanisms involved remain unclear for lack of adequate research (out-of-the-box thinking).
General significance of SRI principles and wider relevance to IFAD • For other (cereal) crops. • For the resource-poor farmer target group. • For environment-friendly agricultural practices: increased efficiency of external input use (seeds and agric. chemicals).