Groundbreaking method enables small farmers to grow more food with less water

WASHINGTON, D.C- International relief and development organization Oxfam America joined WWF- International and Africare to bring attention to a groundbreaking method of rice farming known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) that has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of millions of poor people around the world.

In a new report released today, which is based on the experiences of the three organizations with farming communities in Vietnam, India, and Mali, SRI is shown to increase yields by 50% or more using 25-50% less water and almost 25% lower costs. As a result, farmers, in particular women, saw significant income improvements. In Vietnam, farmers introduced to SRI saw their income increased by about 50%, while in Mali farmers almost doubled their income.

“SRI can be a game changer helping to increase farmer incomes and reduce hunger for millions of poor people around the world,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America.  “This can be a win-win-win for donors, poor farmers and our planet.  Even modest investments can lead to immediate and impressive results, improving farmer livelihoods and community food security.  This shouldn’t be a question of ‘if’, but ‘how-much’ to invest in SRI.”

The report calls on all major rice-producing countries promote adoption of SRI, with a goal of at least 25% of their current irrigated rice cultivation systems converted to SRI by 2025 and all new irrigation schemes designed to support SRI farming.  Additionally, bilateral and multilateral aid agencies are urged to significantly increase their investment, through aid or loans, in supporting farmers toward SRI and complementary technologies and practices.

“This is a no-brainer,” said Offenheiser.  “SRI is a low-cost, high-impact strategy to address food security needs, improve rural livelihoods and increase resilience to a changing climate. USAID and other international donors should move fast to support and implement SRI wherever they can.”

SRI addresses one of the major challenges of this century: how to increase the amount of food necessary to feed the world’s growing population as climate provokes more erratic weather patterns and water shortages. Current rice production practices are highly water intensive, accounting for one-quarter to one-third of the planet’s annual freshwater use, an unsustainable practice given predicted impacts of climate change.

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