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Less Water

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SRI, More Rice, Less Water | 66 - MARCH 2013


EDITORIAL

Farmers Overcome Scepticism to Adopt SRI

T

he quest for technologies that enable more efficient and environmentally friendly agricultural practices has intensified as the reality of climate change has become universally evident. One such technology is the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) which was developed in Madagascar, becoming available to the rest of the world from around 2000. In this issue of Baobab, for which SRI is the theme, Erika Styger captures the progressive adoption of the technology outside Madagascar in an interesting chronology in her article titled: How is SRI evolving, and what are we learning? In East Africa, Professor Bancy Mati spearheaded introduction of the SRI technology in Kenya. See her interview by Fiona Imbali inside this issue. Farmers’ testimonies from two major rice growing areas in Kenya, namely: Mwea (Kirinyaga County) and Ahero (Kisumu County) attest to the effectiveness of SRI in increasing yields and improving their livelihoods. For their respective articles, Isaiah Esipisu talked to farmers in Mwea while Winfred Nkatha and Benson Kimathi captured experiences of Ahero farmers, returning with fascinating accounts. Efforts to introduce SRI have met some initial resistance of both farmers and the scientific community. The reasons are understandable. Unlike the normal processes through which new technologies are “released” to farmers from research centres and universities, introduction of SRI was not preceded by a large body of research published in peer reviewed journals. Farmers learnt about the technology, adopted it and other farmers learnt from them. Today the technology is well supported by research. By early 2013 it had been adopted by 58 rice growing countries. Moreover, the success of SRI has seen the technology, which when used for other crops is known as System of Crop Intensification (SCI), being applied to grow many other different crops including wheat, finger millet, sugarcane, (Ethiopian) tef, green, red and black grams, and several vegetables. An early article initially published by Practical Action in Peru gave a good step-by-step illustration of how to grow rice using SRI. We have carried it here as an illustrated Technical Note. We hope that the many farmers who read it will adopt the system and help to spread its associated benefits of less use of water, preservation of biodiversity and increased yield of rice (or the concerned crop) per hectare.

James Nguo Regional Director

2 | Baobab | March 2013

ISSN: 0966-9035 Baobab is published four times a year. It is a magazine on small-scale sustainable agriculture which is the East African edition of the AgriCultures Network global magazines. Editorial Board James Nguo Anthony Mugo Noah Lusaka Esther Lung’ahi Samwel Mwangi Fiona Imbali – Chief Editor Illustrations Shadrack Melly Cover Photo by Professor Bancy Mati Layout and Design Conrad Mudibo (Ecomedia) Important Notices Copyright Articles, pictures and illustrations from Baobab may be adapted for use in materials that are development oriented, provided the materials are distributed free of charge and ALIN and the author(s) are credited. Copies of the samples should be sent to ALIN. Disclaimer Opinions and views expressed in the letters and articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or ALIN. Technical information supplied should be cross-checked as thoroughly as possible as ALIN cannot accept responsibility should any problems occur. Regional Editions 1. Farming Matters global edition by ileia 2. LEISA REVISTA de Agroecologia, Latin America edition by Asociacion ETC andes. 3. LEISA India, by AME foundation 4. AGRIDAPE, French West African edition by IED Afrique 5. Agriculture, experiences em Agroecologia, the Brazilian edition by AS-PTA 6. Chinese edition by CBIK Talk to us The Baobab magazine Arid Lands Information Network, ALIN P. O. Box 10098, 00100 GPO, Nairobi, Kenya AAYMCA Building, Third floor, Along State House Crescent, Off State House Avenue, Nairobi Tel. +254 20 2731557 • Telefax. +254 20 2737813 Cell: +254 722 561006 E-mail: baobab@alin.net • Or visit us at www.alin.net Follow us on Social Media: Facebook page; Baobab Alin: Twitter @BaobabMagazine and @Alin_3Point0 About ALIN Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is an NGO that facilitates information and knowledge exchange to and between extension workers or infomediaries and arid lands communities in the East Africa region. The information exchange activities focus on small-scale sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation, natural resources management and other livelihood issues.


CONTENTS

05 08

THEME OVERVIEW

Can System of Rice Intensification Address Food Security in Africa?

PROJECT FOCUS

Mwea Rice Farmers Producing More Using Less Resources

11

GUEST COLUMN

System of Rice Intensification Gains Popularity in Kenya

17 22

ON THE SUBJECT OF SRI 2.0

How is SRI evolving, and what are we learning?

OPEN COLUMN

Farmers steadily embrace SRI in Ahero, Kenya

26 Various uses of rice residues across the East African region 28 Northern Uganda reaping from upland rice

…AND MORE 04

From Our Readers

14

Technical Note: system of rice intensification gains popularity in Kenya

20

Stork Story

25

Kapap: focusing on the smallholder farmer

29

Emerging markets

30

Beyond higher yiels: Enhancing agrobiodiversity threough SRI

32

GMO: Kenya bans importation on GM—what next?

36

Quotes on the sytem of rice intensification


FROMOURREADERS

Baobab welcomes comments, ideas and suggestions from its readers. Please contact us via e-mail at baobab@alin.net or write to P. O. Box 10098, 00100 GPO, Nairobi, Kenya.

I run and manage a Community Based Organisation (CBO) called Inuka Community Development Trust (ICDT) Through your very informative Boabab Magazine, which I got from a friend, I came to know about ALIN. At ICDT, we believe and strive for an all-round sustainable development in the community. To realize this, we aim to partner with like-minded oraganisations and government departments, among others, to channel information and resources to the community and more so groups in the rural areas to bridge the information gap. Currently, we are working with three local women groups and we would like to partner with you to help the local community realize sustainable development and eradicate poverty.

Thank you for continuously sending us the Baobab and Joto Afrika. My neighbour is a member of the agricultural committee and he often shares some of the articles published with the committee and community members. We appreciate the timely information which is very interesting and useful.

Isaac Mutua, Machakos, Kenya.

I have read the Baobab Magazine and it is very insightful. I am a Heath Specialist and would like to suggest that you have a commentary page where specialists in the health and various other fields can be able to write commentaries or opinions on various arising matters. For instance, information on the relationship between health and climate change in relation to the communities and stakeholders that your magazine targets will ensure that people are more informed. Diseased people cannot perform at their optimal best—low productivity of goods and services and a waste of man hours on medication and loss of morale at the workplace. I hope that my consideration will be taken into account.

Your Baobab magazine is transforming lives in the rural areas as more and more readers are getting equipped with skills and knowledge on various issues. I have been able to apply acquired knowledge from the magazine to train rural farmers and community members whose livelihoods have been tremendously changed. This I have done as a rural agricultural extension officer in Baringo County until 2012. However, I am still serving communities in a different capacity as a development worker in Isiolo County. Thank you and God’s blessings. Philemon Kemei B. Isiolo, Kenya.

G. Scott Kellie, Matumaini Molo.

Tom Parsaoti, Kenyatta University.

I was happy to receive your electronic version of the Baobab although it may be difficult for some people to read it especially for the ones who cannot access computers. Keep up the good work though. H. Kativo, Tanzania

Gabriel Oguda, Nairobi Kenya.

4 | Baobab | March 2013

I am a student at Kenyatta University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. Through Isinya Maarifa centre, I have been able to access past issues of the Baobab magazine. I have been enlightened on issues of farming and especially in the wake of the climate change phenomena. Thank you for this timely and informative magazine.

I am a student at Moi University. I am mainly interested in fruit-farming, a branch of horticulture. I hope this can be included in future issues of the Baobab. I am grateful for the insightful information and I would like to subscribe to it to ensure I always get copies while I am away from home. Emmanuel Kivinda, Eldoret, Kenya.

I subscribe to Baobab Magazine but have not continuously received it. I am a consultant in tropical bee-keeping and am sure the magazine will be of benefit to me. I would like to request that you renew my subscription. Thank you very much. Balogoun G. Bernard, Cotonou, Benin.


THEMEOVERVIEW

Can System of Rice Intensification Address Food Security in Africa? Rice is one of the most important food crops in the developing world and a staple for more than half of the world’s population. Globally, over 3.5 billion people depend on rice for over 20 per cent of their daily calories. More than 1.5 billion people depend on rice cultivation for livelihoods. Rice is grown in 38 African countries which in 2008 consumed 10 million tons of milled rice. Although Africa accommodates only 13 per cent of the world population, the continent’s consumption is a third of all the rice available on the world market. Professor Shellemiah O. Keya

Baobab | March 2013 | 5


L

and under rice in Africa was 23.5 million ha in 2006, representing a mere 4.4 per cent of total area under rice crops. In the West African region, rice ranks fifth in area after millets (21 per cent), sorghum (19 per cent), maize (11.5 per cent), cassava (9.4 per cent) and yams (5.4 per cent). Some countries like Mali and Nigeria exceed the average of 7.7 per cent. The yield of rice in a country like Egypt is 10 ton/ha compared to an average of 2.5 ton/ha in most of the Sub-Saharan African countries. In Eastern Africa, Tanzania is a major producer and consumer with a long history of rice research and production. Rice is the most popular staple food next to maize, with consumption spreading beyond producing areas to urban communities; per capita consumption is estimated at 23.7 kg/year. The crop is cultivated in 650,000 ha with an annual production of 980,000 tons. Tanzania is 85.7 per cent self sufficient in rice. In Kenya, rice is the third most important food after maize and wheat, especially for urban populations. About 95 per cent of the rice in Kenya is grown under irrigation in paddy schemes managed by the National Irrigation Board (NIB). The remaining 5 per cent of the rice is rain-fed. The current annual rice consumption in the country is 8 kg/person/year. It is estimated that Kenya consumes over 300,000 tons of rice annually and yet only produces 80,000 tons. The rest is imported at a cost of 87.5 million USD, depriving Kenya of much needed foreign currency. The quantity of imported rice is projected to increase due to the growing demand estimated at 6 per cent per annum. The National Rice Development Strategy document indicates that only an annual production increase of 9.31 per cent for 10 years can bring down the deficit. In Kenya, the average yields under irrigation is 5.5 tons/ha for the aromatic variety, and 7 tons/ha for the non-aromatic varieties. Unit yield for rain-fed rice varieties is slightly below 2 tons/ha. However, with the introduction of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties, unit yields of rain-fed areas can be raised. Successful models in some countries like Guinea, Uganda, Ethiopia and Nigeria have reduced rice imports by half over a few years through investments in high yielding NERICA rice varieties. For example, smallholder rice farming in Uganda doubled as farmers adopted rice as a cash crop, with area cultivated for upland rice growing from 1,500 ha in 2002 to 40,000 ha in 2008. In 2007, Guinea achieved a record harvest of 1.4 million tons - five per cent more than in the previous year, mainly because of immense government support for NERICA dissemination. Domestic rice production now covers about 70 per cent of the country’s

6 | Baobab | March 2013

Farmers during an exchange visit on an SRI field in Ahero

consumption. In Nigeria, rice imports had declined from two million tons in 2003-2004 to less than one million in 2005-2006. Given the importance of rice as an African staple food and the recent success stories of NERICAs in countries like Uganda, it is conceivable that rice will play a key role in bringing a green revolution to Africa. Madagascar, a major consumer of rice, led in the development of the System for Rice Intensification (SRI). The benefits of SRI include high yields per ha, savings on inputs, and optimal usage of available resources. In Kenya SRI has been adopted among the major irrigated rice schemes especially Ahero and Mwea. The SRI practices in these schemes entail use of young seedlings, transplanting one plant per hill, wide spacing, intermittent irrigation schedule, efficient weed control, and enhancement of soil organic matter by incorporation of manure and compost. Coupled with the adoption of versatile and high yielding NERICAs (subtypes 1, 4, 10 and 11) national yields in Kenya are set to increase. The transformative rice producing countries of Eastern Africa have now tested SRI innovative approach and most of them are on the path of attaining high yield increases as reported in SRI based practices. As Africa struggles to meet its rice demands, it would make sense for more countries to experiment with SRI since most counties in Africa have established capacity for research and extension.


References Worldwide, rice is grown in more than 100 countries, with a total area of approximately 158 million ha producing more than 700 million tons annually. About 90 per cent of the rice in the world is grown in Asia (nearly 640 million tons). Sub-Saharan Africa produces about 19 million tons and Latin America some 25 million tons. The rice growing enterprise in African can be addressed by:

Africa Rice Center (WARDA). 2008. P Kormawa and AA Touré (eds). Rice Policy and Food Security in sub-Saharan Africa. Proceedings of a workshop held on 7–9 November 2005, Cotonou, Benin. Cotonou, Benin: Africa Rice Center (WARDA). Tareke Berhe1 and Toshiro Mado 2. 2008. Promoting rice “from plant to plate” for food security in sub-Saharan Africa: SG2000’s strategy. In: Africa Rice Center (WARDA). 2008. Somado, E.A., Guei R.G., and Keya S.O. 2008 (Editors NERICA: The New Rice for Africa – a Compendium, Africa Rice Center (WARDA), Cotonou Benin

Enhancing adoption of improved technologies such as SRI and NERICAs thereby increasing rice production in African countries at large;

Enabling farmers to participate in selection of new and improved varieties;

Narteh LT, Winslow M, Youm O and S. O. Keya. 2006. Partnerdriven agricultural research-for-development networks in West Africa: the case of ROCARIZ. KM4D Journal 2(2).

Farmers and consumers preferences should be taken on board (grain qualities);

Republic of Kenya , Ministry of Agriculture 2010 National Rice Development Strategy Implementation Framework (2008-2013)

Breeders and farmers adopting participatory varietal development that takes into account farmers and consumer preferences;

Putting more emphasis on varieties that are resistant to drought and diseases.

The required actions include improved varietal selection, testing and seed production, enhanced extension services, enhanced post harvest management, policy enhancement, access to credit and promoting agribusiness approaches along the rice value chains.

Nwanze KF, Mohapatra S, Kormawa P, Keya S. O. and S BruceOliver. 2006. Perspective. Rice Development in sub-Saharan Africa. J Sci Food Agric 86:675-677.

Raitzer, D. and T.K. Kelley. 2008. Benefit-Cost Meta-Analysis of Investment in the International Agricultural Research Centers of the CGIAR. Agricultural Systems 1-3(96). Prof. Shellemiah Keah is a graduate of Cornell and Makerere Universities. He is a Professor of Soil Science at the department of Land Resource Management and Agriculture Technologies (LARMAT), University of Nairobi. He has served for over 30 years in senior academic and administrative positions in several Universities and agricultural research centres, including as an Assistant Director General at the Africa Rice Center (WARDA). He can be contacted through: shellemiahkeya@yahoo.com

Baobab | March 2013 | 7


PROJECTFOCUS

Mwea Rice Farmers

Producing More Using Less Resources With water supply decreasing in rice irrigation schemes due to climate shifts coupled with the bulging population pressure, rice farmers in Mwea, Central Kenya, have adopted a new crop management system that allows them to produce more by using fewer resources. By Isaiah Esipisu 8 | Baobab | March 2013

“T

...he new technique is known as System of Rice Intensification, initialised as SRI,” said Dr. Raphael Wanjogu, the Principal Research Officer at the Mwea Irrigation Agricultural Development Centre (MIAD). “It consists of simple tested and proven practices, which ensure that the farmer uses very little water and other resources to get maximum yield particularly from rice grown in paddies,” he explained. The practices include planting young seedlings, between eight to 15 days old, instead of the traditional method where 30 days old seedlings are planted. “Evidence based studies have shown that transplanting such tender seedlings and planting them in shallow depths enhances the plant growth potential, which results in better yields,” said Dr.Wanjogu. As opposed to the conventional practice where rice is planted randomly with a spacing of about ten centimetres, the SRI system provides for a wider spacing about 25 by 25


Farmers during an exchange visit on an SRI field in Ahero

The residents could not understand why Mwangi was transplanting very young seedlings with only two leaves, and planting seedlings from 1 kg of seed in an area that traditionally consumes an equivalent of 5 kg. He was also planting one seedling per hole instead of five, as it has been the norm. But having witnessed the system work in India where he had gone for a rice farming exchange programme, Mwangi remained adamant and planted a small portion using the SRI system. “My family members and even casual labourers refused to work for me, perhaps thinking that I had gone crazy. I was forced to ask small children to help, and indeed, they could heed the instructions,” he recalls. Everyone was amazed as Mwangi’s plot had healthier, lush, succulent green plants than any other within the scheme. And from a quarter an acre piece of land where he used to harvest nine 90Kg bags of rice, the yield upped to 12 bags. As a result, according to the records at the MIAD Centre, over 2000 farmers are already practicing SRI since its introduction in 2009. “I am convinced that this is the way to go. We need more techniques that can guarantee us productivity that can meet the ever growing demand,” said Paul Kuria, one of the farmers who had resisted the system upon its introduction. So far, Kenya produces 110,000 tons of rice every year, but the consumption is 300,000, which is almost three times what is locally available. The gap is however, filled by rice imported from Pakistan, Thailand and India among other places. centimetres, to ensure that the plant receives sufficient sunlight and soil nutrients. This allows the plant to produce stronger stalks and more tillers. Most importantly, the SRI system discourages continuous flooding of the paddies, which is the traditional practice in rice farming all over the world. “One needs to practice alternate wetting and drying,” explained Dr. Wanjogu. But having planted rice the conventional way for a long time, the uptake of the SRI system was initially slow. “I was one of the very first farmers to try out the SRI system in 2009. It was not easy, because there was resistance right from the family level. My wife, children, neighbours and friends all objected to it,” said Moses Kareithi Mwangi, who has been farming rice in Mwea for the past ten years.

To improve the soils further, some farmers have turned to compost manure instead of inorganic fertilisers. “Last year, I applied manure on my crops and the yield was still impressive,” said Kuria. “In a place where I have traditionally harvested 25 bags of rice, the yield rose to 35, which is a huge boost considering that through SRI, I used less planting materials, less water, and less farm inputs.” Environmental experts indicate that with the tough and changing climatic conditions, the demand for food is going to increase drastically. “Given the new report of the World Bank just out warning of a possibility of a fourdegree increase in world temperature by the end of the century, interest in climate change adaptation is going to rise rapidly in coming years,” Professor Dennis Garrity, the United Nations Drylands Ambassador, told Baobab. This will be complicated by the fact that the world population is expected to hit 9 billion by 2050.

Baobab | March 2013 | 9


A rice farmer in Mwea Irrigation Scheme preparing his paddy ready for planting.

India is one of the developing economies that are utilising techniques such as SRI to improve food security. During the 2011-2012 season, the country’s rice yield improved by almost 50 per cent from 4.6 million metric tons in the previous season, to 7.2 million metric tons this season, as reported by the Times of India. Part of the country’s success is attributed to the use of SRI system, because during the season, the country dedicated 300,000 hectares (12 per cent of its paddy area) to SRI management. In Kenya, the 2011-2012 season showed better results according to the MIAD Centre. Records there indicate that farmers who embraced the SRI management realised up to nine tons of rice per hectare for the lower-yielding Basmati variety compared to the yield of five tons realised by farmers who used the conventional management.

10 | Baobab | March 2013

For the high yielding IR variety, farmers who used the new management system harvested over 17 metric tons per hectare compared to nine tons without SRI practices. Water savings ranged from 25 per cent in dry weather to 33 per cent in wet weather in all areas where SRI has been introduced. “Generally, farmers in Kenya have proved that SRI increases rice yields and saves water. That is why we must popularise it even more, and embrace more appropriate technologies,” said Dr Wanjogu.

Isaiah Esipisu is a science writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. He can be reached at: esipisus@ yahoo.com or http://isaiahesipisu.blogspot.com.


GUESTCOLUMN

System of Rice Intensification Gains Popularity in Kenya

S

ystem of Rice Intensification (SRI) is an efficient technology for rice-farming that was recently introduced in Kenya. It results in higher yields, requires less water and increases net incomes from rice production. The World Bank Institute describes SRI as: “a set of farming practices developed to increase productivity of land and water as well as resources.”A professor of land and water management, Bancy Mati, from Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), spearheaded the introduction of this technology in Kenya.

Interview by Fiona Imbali

How was SRI introduced in Kenya? This system

of rice-farming was introduced in Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kirinyaga County in 2009 through collaborative efforts of the National Irrigation Board (NIB) and JKUAT among other partners under my stewardship together with Markus Moeller (World Bank) and Dr. Raphael Wanjogu of Mwea Irrigation and Agriculture Development (MIAD). While on a different mission in Rome in 2009, Professor Norman Uphoff of Cornell University made a presentation on SRI and I knew this could be done in Kenya. The World Bank funded the pilot work in Mwea from a then on-going project called Natural Resources Management (NRM). The African Institute for Capacity Development (AICAD) provided seed funding for the first SRI research. Since 2010, JKUAT has been supporting a programme on SRI research, training and extension work. From 2011, NIB has funded the extension of SRI to Western Kenya including Mwea Irrigation Scheme itself. From the outset, introducing SRI was challenging since some farmers demanded written assurances from NIB stipulating that it would be successful and seeking compensation if it failed. However, this was not done. Nevertheless, two farmers Moses Kareithi and Mathew Kamanu decided to give it a try. Moses put a third of his field under SRI and had a 40 per cent increase while Mathew dedicated a quarter of his land achieving 100 per cent increase in rice yields.

Professor Bancy Mati during the interview

Baobab | March 2013 | 11


What procedures ought to be followed in this system of ricefarming? Under SRI, seedlings are transplanted

when they are about 8 -14 days old to increase their tillering ability unlike in conventional paddy systems where transplanting is done after 21-30 days. Under SRI only one seedling should be planted per hole and not a handful. SRI transplanting is done in a square pattern and on wider spacing of about 25cm x 25cm to enhance sunlight absorption. Intermittent water application is used and not continuous flooding. After tasselling (panicle initiation), the paddy field is fully wetted to allow the plant to transfer maximum nutrients to the grains. Irrigation should be stopped 1-2 weeks before harvest to allow the plants to dry before harvesting. Rotary weeding should be done preferably using a simple mechanical weeder.

Professor Bancy (left) next to a research field on the assessment of effects of SRI on mosquito larvae.

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Is land preparation in SRI different? No, it is done in a similar manner

like in paddy fields but for SRI, levelling of the ground is critical. However, one needs to prepare land in the context of the soil type. Heavier soils need to be slightly wet to make it easier for the seedlings to get established.

How was SRI’s reception when it was introduced? At first, farmers were sceptical, but they are increasingly getting interested after seeing SRI’s success. Currently, Mwea, Bunyala, Ahero, West Kano and South West Kano irrigation schemes have adapted SRI. By the end of 2012, we had over 4,000 farmers practicing it and over 20,000 who had been reached through various awareness fora. Currently, 3000 acres is under rice grown through SRI in Mwea.


‌consumption of rice increases by about 12 per cent a year, compared to maize at 1 per cent.

Moses Kareithi, the first SRI farmer in Kenya. Photo: Erika Styger

Most rice consumed in Kenya is imported; do you think wide adoption of SRI will close the deficit? According

to the Ministry of Agriculture, consumption of rice increases by about 12 per cent a year, compared to maize at 1 per cent. This is attributed to rapid urbanization and progressive change in eating habits. SRI may be a solution owing to the resultant high yields and farmers can afford to sell their rice at competitive prices similar to rice imported from Asian countries. In Rwanda for instance, adoption of SRI has resulted in increased production despite most soils being sandy.

Why should farmers shift to SRI? One is assured of increased yields and SRI

can be practiced on almost all types of soils. Rice grown under the system matures faster and farmers can get up to seven tons per hectare. Rice grown through SRI is also heavier, weighing 10-20 kg more per bag. It has harder grains which do not break during milling. Water management through SRI breaks the mosquito breeding cycle since larvae die within two days of drying the paddy field, reducing the incidence of malaria. Occurrence of waterborne diseases such as Bilharzia is also reduced as well as parasites such as leeches.

Weeds tend to grow more rapidly under un-inundated conditions. Is this a challenge in adopting SRI? Yes. However, we advice

farmers to weed 10 days after transplanting seedlings. This should be repeated two to three times every 10 to 12 days. Farmers eventually realise that this extra effort pays greatly because the soil gets properly aerated, leading to increased yields.

What are the other challenges in rice production generally? There is a

misconception of SRI. It is neither a seed nor a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), but a practice. Some white birds like to walk on wet paddies in search of frogs and insects and in the process damage the transplanted seedlings. In the Western Kenya schemes such as Ahero and West Kano, cases of rice breakage at milling are a big problem. However, after adopting SRI, cases of only 5 per cent breakage have been noted unlike in paddy rice where up to 60 per cent breakage is often reported.

Critics of SRI claim that it is unscientific, what is your view?

There are some researchers who are critics of SRI. However, research has proven that SRI increases yields. There are adequate scientifically peer reviewed publications to show this. SRI promotes agro-diversity of soil organisms that improve soil fertility and contribute to plant growth and health.

Bancy Mati is a Professor of Land and Water Management at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). Email her on: bancym@gmail.com Fiona Imbali is the Communications Officer at ALIN. Email: FImbali@alin.net

Baobab | March 2013 | 13


TECHNICALNOTE

Introduction

1

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is different from conventional rice cultivation. It is characterized by the elimination of competition for the roots by having a larger space between plants, so that they can grow in the best

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conditions and support photosynthesis. There are a lot of differences, such as lower planting density, number of roots and practices used in land and water use.


Preparation of the Field

2

• Drain the field you intend to use for rice-farming and ensure the irrigation and drainage canal facilities are in perfect condition. • Use appropriate equipment to level the field, place the organic manure and distribute evenly. • Flood the field and let the oxygen begin to churn. • Level the seedbed.

Seedbed preparation

3

• Prepare the seedbed to about 20 cm depth from the surface; ensure that the soil is fertile and close to the ground surface. • Break up the soil so that it is very soft and even.

Seed Preparation

4

• Put the seeds in a bowl of water, those that float have to be discarded. • The ones selected are put into a bag that is permeable, so that they can be soaked. • Place the bag in a bucket of warm water and soak for a day and a night. • You then remove the bag and place it in a warm place; also for a day and a night.

Sowing

5

• When the seedling is ready, spread seeds in the nursery. • Spread a handful of seeds over 1m2. • The nursery is covered with compost manure to protect the seedlings from animals. It is also covered with paddy straw or other types of grass. • You have to water it in the mornings and evenings, using a watering can or any other suitable container.

Baobab | March 2013 | 15


Removing Seedlings

6

• Extract the seedlings after 6 to 11 days. • This is done at this stage to ensure that they reach their full potential. • If you leave them for more days their tillering ability will be low and thus lower yields.

Transplantation

7

• Extract the seedlings (seedlings of 2 sheets) on a tray or a piece of sisal. • From the container where the seedlings are, take them one by one. • Mark the point of transplantation by making a hole of 3-5 cm where the seedlings are placed. • They are transplanted in squares of 25cm x 25cm, 33cm x 33cm, 40cm x 40cm or 50cm x 50cm. • Dry the field by removing the water and weed it at least once a week with a hoe.

Watering

8

• The field has to be watered or intermittently moistened. This is done at least three times before the the formation of grains. • When the rice blooms it should be watered (flooding) to about an 25mm. An inch deep layer. • As the grain matures, decrease the water level.

Related electronic resources (System for the Intensive Cultivation of Rice) SRI Madagascar http://www.srimadagascar.org/telech/ SRI%20ES%20P.p (System for the Intensive Cultivation of Rice) Cornell http://ciifad.cornell.edu/sri/extmats/spmanual1.pdf Intensive Rice Farming in Madagascar Technical Notes Tropicultura, 2011, 29, 3, 183-187 http://www. tropicultura.org/text/v29n3/183.pdf International Rice Research Notes http://www.irri.org/ index.php?option=com_k2&view=ite Rice Knowledge Management Portal http://www.rkmp. co.in/category/eisstates/meghalaya?page=1

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For more information: Technical Consultations Service Contact: Giannina Solari Email: info@solucionespracticas.org.pe Web: www.solucionespracticas.org.pe Adapted from a Practical Action (Peru) Technical Brief (No. 46) on SRI


ONTHESUBJECTOF

SRI 2.0: How is SRI evolving, and what are we learning?

S

ince the first successful SRI results outside Madagascar were reported from Indonesia, India and China in the year 2000, we can distinguish two major periods for SRI. The first period, referred to as SRI 1.0, lasted loosely from 2000 to 2008. The second is proving to be even more interesting.

By Erika Styger

SRI 1.0: Curiosity, discovery and controversy Curious extension agents, researchers

and farmers who learned of SRI set out to determine if this method from Madagascar would show similar results in their own environments. Side-by-side comparisons were done mostly in farmers’ fields and on a few research plots, where farmer practice or researcher best management practices were compared to SRI practices

as described in the extension materials from Madagascar. The practices included raised bed nurseries, transplanting of young and single seedlings with wide spacing, application of organic matter to soil, alternate wetting and drying irrigation, and mechanical weeding. Based on their first field experiences, farmers and technical staff in different countries began to adapt the

Baobab | March 2013 | 17


Based on their first field experiences, farmers and technical staff in different countries began to adapt the SRI practices to their own climates and rice growing conditions‌

Positive results proud farmer, Mngeta village, Kilombero District Morogoro region Tanzania

SRI practices to their own climates and rice growing conditions: ranging from humid to arid climates, from sea-level to high altitudes, and for irrigated, lowland and upland rice systems. In many countries, excellent results were documented in field reports, as well as in a few scientific articles. This led to a period of controversy, when a handful of scientists from certain U.S. universities and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) questioned the legitimacy of the reported SRI yields unless they were validated in peer-reviewed scientific journals. These observations in this early period were understandable. Formal agricultural experiments usually take 3-5 years from conception until results are published in a peer-reviewed journal, whereas technical reports can be available shortly after the field tests are finished. The number of peer-reviewed research articles, have increased steadily. Between 2011-2012, over 60 articles per year were being published. In early 2013, more than 350 peer-reviewed journal articles had been published. Nevertheless, some observers, especially from scientific circles, have clung to their original objections. In any event, this intellectual controversy has been of little concern to farmers, who

18 | Baobab | March 2013

have continued to adopt the SRI method in more countries with support from pragmatic practitioners and scientists.

SRI 2.0: Adoption and innovation outpaces formal research By 2008, the

SRI method had been validated in 38 countries, based on solid fieldwork and research. Positive results were obtained under different rice-cropping systems independent of the variety used, and in different climates and agro-ecological zones. By early 2013, the SRI methodology had been validated in 51 countries. Although practices vary according to specific rice systems, the underlying core principles for SRI remain the same. Interestingly, resource-constrained smallholder farmers, who depend on agriculture to feed their families, have been the most progressive in understanding the potential of SRI. Since the year 2005, farmers in India, Mali, Ethiopia, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Cuba, inspired by their success with SRI, have begun - independently from each other - to test the SRI principles with other crops. Improved yields have been reported for crops


like finger millet, wheat, sugarcane, mustard, Ethiopian tef, legumes, and vegetables. The application of SRI principles worked also with other crops, thus the System of Crop Intensification (SCI) was established. The most complete collection of information can be found at the Cornell SRI Rice website under “Other Crops”. Because innovations come from the farmers, SRI and SCI turn the conventional research system approach upside down. It contradicts the still prevalent model where innovations are developed on research stations and “transferred” to farmers. With SRI and SCI, agriculture scientists need to go to farmers’ fields to learn about the innovations. Unfortunately, this is not happening often enough. Most decision makers remain unaware of what farmers’ innovations look like, and are thus unable to support new opportunities to improve food security. A priority for research should be to develop and implement methodologies that directly track farmer efforts and help to fine-tune their SRI practices and innovations.

How did experimental SRI research evolve? While early research focused on

comparison trials of SRI practices with farmer or best management practices, recently more research focuses on understanding the factors that contribute to improved plant performance and phenotype, such as studies of roots, plant physiology, and the influence of microorganisms on plant productivity.

To date, most research on SRI has been undertaken by nationally-funded programmes, especially in India, China, Thailand, Japan, and Indonesia. Members of this diversified research community work in relative isolation because there is no easy way for them to collaborate, and valuable opportunities for synergy are lost. This is one reason why we are developing an international SRI research network, where researchers can connect and collaborate easily with each other through an openaccess internet platform.

Integration of agro-ecological approaches Re-thinking how we produce

agricultural crops is more pressing than ever, given the fragility of our finite natural resource base, and the threat of climate change. The (new) Green Revolution paradigm, “producing more with more inputs”, is no longer an option. There is still tremendous opportunity to further integrate the SRI method with other ecological approaches such as conservation agriculture, integrated pest management, and agroforestry, to name a few. This will help to create diverse, healthy and productive farming systems with an improved resilience under a changing climate.

Erika Styger works as Director of Programs, SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice), Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. E-mail her on: eds8@cornell.edu Photos: Erika Styger

Harvest in Thai Nguyen province Northern Vietnam

Baobab | March 2013 | 19


STORKSTORY

Good afternoon all, today we shall be learning about the SRI technology for rice-farming

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Baobab | March 2013 | 21


OPENCOLUMN1

Farmers SRI in

Paul Odhiambo in an SRI rice field in Nyakach

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Steadily Embrace Ahero, Kenya By Winfred Nkatha and Benson Kimathi

It is a bright Friday morning as we drive through the access road that traverses the vast rice fields of Ahero, in Kisumu County. On either side of our grey pickup truck, farmers have stacked their straw of harvested rice in heaps and are threshing away. A few, who have completed winnowing, have packed their paddy rice in nylon bags ahead of transportation to the millers.

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preading to the horizon, the carpet of yellowish-green rice plants evokes a serene feeling. But we are not here to savour just any rice. Our target is Block N of the expansive paddy field, which has exploited the relatively new rice farming technique known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). Every farmer is talking about SRI. But what is SRI? Some people say that it is a new genetically engineered rice variety. Some claim that it is an odd strain of rice which like beans, can be grown without much water. But all this is inaccurate.

One Woman’s Experience with SRI

Grace Auma is a veteran rice farmer and an SRI enthusiast, who embraced this technology two years ago. One advantage of SRI, Grace explains, is its low cost. “Per SRI acre, you plant 5 kg compared to 25 kg for the conventional system,” she says. “At Sh. 60 per kg of rice, you spend only Sh. 300 on grain per acre compared to Sh. 1,500 per acre for the conventional system.” Grace turned to it when Professor Bancy Mati, who spearheaded SRI’s introduction in Kenya, taught them about this viable system of rice-farming. “I am never turning back to conventional rice farming,” she stresses.

Misconceptions A common misunderstanding

that the experts are quick to correct is that SRI is a new rice variety and that SRI precludes the need for water. Ahero-based National Irrigation Board (NIB) researcher, Jeremy Njoka, is emphatic that SRI is purely a technique of rice-farming. He says, “SRI is simply a new way of growing rice using less water and less seed per unit area.” The system is advantageous in that it increases rice productivity and income and yet it is less labour-intensive. The basic technique entails using younger and fewer seedlings per hole; wider spacing and intermittent rather than continuous flooding. Rice is planted in rows for easier weeding. Rotary weeding is recommended. Besides aerating the soil, rotary weeding has the benefit of blending the weeds with the soil, forming green manure. “In SRI, as much as 40 per cent of water is saved, and the seeds and manure used in the old system may be used in SRI. Significantly, the farmer achieves 50 per cent or more yield,” notes Njoka.

Baobab | March 2013 | 23


Grace Auma in a rice field in Ahero

Less Diseases, Increased Yields Lorna Anyango, affirms that SRI has sufficient benefits. “The SRI crop has more tillers (lateral shoots or branches), each of which produces additional grains and it is heavier,” she says. Of interest, Grace notes, is that SRI works with nearly all rice varieties. William Owino, a researcher with NIB, who oversees SRI efforts in Western Kenya Schemes, says rice blast fungus and yellow mottle virus, diseases that commonly affect the rice crop, are less of a problem for SRI. The advantages - and the food security that SRI portends - also account for the recent move by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to popularise it among farmers.

SRI’s Adoption However, not all farmers have

adopted SRI as it is a relatively new technology. Some farmers have adopted a tentative, wait-and-see approach. Angelius Otieno, the Secretary of Western Kenya SRI Schemes, says many farmers only embraced SRI after seeing successful results. The scheme’s Chairman, Paul Nyakatch, says that today many new farmers are calling SRI experts for guidance. “Tillers are voluminous,” he says. “Where I was getting four bags per heap, I now get seven. Now many farmers want to know how they can adopt SRI.” Mr. Kennedy Ouma, NIB’s staff member who is based in West Kano, attributes the slowness in adoption to natural human resistance. “SRI has a few challenges like weeding, intermittent irrigation and transplanting of very young seedlings,” he says. In West Kano, he explains, the higher fields were designed for sugarcane and are not necessarily level. “Some parts are left with water after you drain the paddy field.” To resolve the problem, NIB has had to level some fields. Njoka indicates that the SRI irrigation plan involves flooding the paddy field for three days and letting it dry out for seven days. “When you need water again after the seventh day, the water pump may be broken and the crop suffers.” Weeding is another barrier to SRI adoption. Njoka explains that the permanent flooding in the old system was effective weed control. With intermittent irrigation, there is a dry period when weeds grow uncontrollably. Related to this is the unavailability of rotary weeders in the local market. Also problematic is that SRI seedlings are transplanted when small.“Handling small seedlings and sticking them in the mud is not an easy task,” observes Njoka.

Winfred Nkatha is a Nairobi-based marketer and writer. She does part-time writing and literature searches. She can be contacted through: winnie@professionalskenya.com

Lorna Anyango in an SRI rice field in Ahero

24 | Baobab | March 2013

Benson Kimathi is a local journalist and can be contacted through: mail@bensonkimathi.com


KAPAP: Focusing on the smallholder farmer When Baobab arrives at the office of Dr. Samuel Muigai, the National Coordinator of the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Programme (KAPAP), he is on phone talking about the well being of the ordinary farmer. Throughout his phone conversation, Dr. Muigai is emphatic about a theme that keeps recurring: the state of the smallholder farmer.

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hen he hangs up, he almost immediately makes it clear that his one overriding intent as the National Coordinator of KAPAP is the small holder farmer. “My interest is the Otieno, the Wambui and the Kiplagat—the ordinary farmer,” he stresses, adding that conversation about abstract policies and theories does not interest him. Only matters that impact directly on the life of the everyday farmer will stir his attention. Without doubt, assisting farmers to adopt technologies that would enable them to enhance their productivity and earn higher incomes is the job that Dr. Muigai oversees from his simple, seventh-floor office at Capitol Hill Towers in Nairobi. Enhancing productivity by farmers entails linking them to credit sources and to markets, and adding value to the produce so as to increase their worth in terms of cash and shelf life. It was this same concern for the welfare of farmers that, in 2004, led to the birth of the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Programme (KAPP), which is a 12-year programme jointly supported by the Government of Kenya and the World Bank. The Programme is implemented in phases and KAPAP, which is currently under implementation (2010-2015), is the second phase of the programme. KAPAP is implemented in 20 counties across Kenya under the framework of the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS). It aims at consolidating and up-scaling the achievements of KAPP Phase I (2004-2008), which was a pilot phase. The pilot phase resulted in the formulation and review of a number of sector policies, including the National

Agricultural Sector Extension Policy (NASEP) and its implementation framework, a National Livestock and Dairy Policy, a draft National Agricultural Research System (NARS) policy. Agricultural research also received support, resulting in the release of new technologies. Some of the enterprises receiving KAPAP support include aquaculture research, meat, cereals, dairy, and fruit & vegetables value chains in the project’s operational areas. The project is also supporting agribusiness development as well as the establishment of off-grid energy so as to promote agro-processing in rural areas to spur economic growth. The objective of KAPAP is to increase agricultural productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers from agricultural and agribusiness activities. This is to be achieved, largely by supporting improvement of agricultural research and extension systems and their linkages to sector priorities through effective partnerships and collaboration. The activities include implementation of ASDS; putting the National Agricultural Sector Extension Policy (NASEP) and the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) policy into operation; as well as improved planning, funding and coordination of public agricultural programmes. Through its focus on policy; research; value addition; and empowerment of agricultural extension officers, farmers and other stakeholders, KAPAP is indeed adding to the overall national food security, while making a difference in the lives of smallholder farmers.

Baobab | March 2013 | 25


OPENCOLUMN2

Various Uses of Rice Residues Across the East African Region By Noah Lusaka

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fter cultivating and harvesting rice, there are two main residues: husks and straws. Rice husks are the main by-product after rice is milled whereas rice straws are the remnant plants one has after harvesting the crop in the field. In many ricegrowing areas, it is common to see farmers burn the straws and husks in a bid to dispose them off. In the process, the smoke and the gas pollute the environment contributing to the complex climate change scenario. Many are unaware of the huge commercial value that these by-products have and that is why they burn them. With sufficient information, farmers can be taught how to re-use the by-products to ensure that they can earn income from them and at the same time utilize the available natural resources to improve their livelihoods. We have diverse examples and experiences on how farmers in the East African region have been able to successfully re-use by-products and earn livelihoods.

Rice husks as fuel for burning bricks

Farmers in Shinyanga region in Tanzania for instance, use husks and straws when burning bricks for housing rather than the firewood which is the norm. Initially, bricks are made and dried in the sun. They are then burnt to strengthen them. The dried bricks are neatly arranged, leaving hollow spaces where the husks and straws are inserted and later lit to burn them. This largely also reduces deforestation as most communities use firewood to burn their bricks.

Rice straws as livestock feed and bedding Shinyanga is a dry area and sometimes

getting pasture for livestock is a challenge. Farmers here however, have realized the importance of rice straws as they use them to feed their animals. They collect them from their rice fields, store them and feed them to their cattle. At times, the farmers leave their livestock to roam in the rice paddies as they feed on the straws. This is a good substitute for pasture. At Mwea irrigation scheme, many farmers collect the dry straws and sell them to farmers who own livestock. They package the straws inn stacks like hay bales and sell them along the road. Farmers can also place the husks in the cattle sheds as bedding material for livestock which later decomposes and mixes well with cow manure, enriching it.

Straws as thatching material For poor

farmers who are unable to afford iron sheets to construct houses, straws can be used. The straws are collected by farmers and used as thatching material as they have excellent insulation properties. The thatch is renewed every three to four years depending on the depreciation level. Their insulation capabilities enable them to keep the thatched houses warm during cold seasons and cool during the hot season. Some farmers who have acquired this knowledge over a period of time, are now able to generate income from this activity.

Affordable and alternative building material In Baobab 54, we

featured an article on how a group of widows in Katito-Nyando, Kisumu County are using husks for the construction of low cost houses. Women from the region are now involved in construction work by making local blocks. They mix some clay soil with the husks’ ash Rice husks used for firing the bricks in Shinyanga, Tanzania


A house built by rice husks in Katito, Kisumu County

to make the blocks. What was once regarded as a waste of time has now been turned into a resource as it has been able to provide opportunities for wealth creation through employment. The low cost houses are durable and enhance the status of widows in society.

Rice husks ash used as alternative cement The widows in Katitu-Nyando are also using

and many more. A lot of research is required to ensure that communities get maximum benefits from growing rice and also ensure that viable commercial enterprises that are environment friendly are developed. Noah is the projects Manager at ALIN. You can contact him on nlusaka@alin.net

the husks innovatively as an alternative to cement. They collect the abundant husks from the millers and burn them in open fire until they turn to ash. The ash is then sieved to remove large objects. It is then sieved and used as a bonding material when mixed with cement at a ratio of 1:1. This reduced the cost of cement by half especially when constructing low cost houses. In addition, the widows also make improved stoves and use the husk ash as an excellent binding material of the metal cladding with the ceramic liner. The rice husk ash being a poor conductor of heat, is an excellent binding material.

Organic mulching materials Both husks and straws can be used as mulching materials especially for small-scale vegetable production. Mulching material when applied on farms helps to conserve soil moisture, moderate soil temperatures, suppress weed growth as well as controlling soil erosion. When it eventually decomposes, it adds organic matter to the soil, improving its quality.

Conclusion As illustrated above, rice residues can be used or processed. Advanced low cost technologies can also be used to make other products like briquettes that can be used to provide energy as alternatives to charcoal

Building blocks made from rice husks.

Baobab | March 2013 | 27


OPENCOLUMN3

Northern Uganda Reaping From Upland Rice

Rice bags in Gulu town

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orthern Uganda is a region recovering from 20 years of brutal conflict. The people who felt the brunt of the war have now returned home and are trying to settle in their pre-displacement villages. Over 1.7 million people were internally displaced. Food security has been a major issue during this process. For over 15 years, the community was relying on relief food from World Food Program (WFP). While this has been a concern for individual households, the Government of Uganda and the various international and local development partners are focusing on food security and infrastructural development as a post-conflict development strategy.

By John Opira

Pabbo Sub-County and Rice growing

As one travels in Northern Uganda through Gulu and Amuru districts towards the South Sudan border of Nimule, one will spot a busy trading center called Pabbo. Many trucks loaded with sacks of rice will definitely catch your attention. Rice is the major cash crop of Pabbo Sub-County. The climate is similar to that of Northern Uganda. Rains are normally expected between the months of March and June and early August to November for the second season. This is a favourable weather pattern for rice and maize growers in the region. However, most farmers in Pabbo depend on rice as it pays better.

Rice store in Gulu Town According to Nyeko,

a rice farmer in Pabbo, “the most common rice variety is Sindani (needle like).” It gets the name from the piercing shape it has. It takes five months to mature, has a ready market and is slightly cheaper. Most of the rice is bought by traders plying South Sudan route, and some of the buyers come from Kampala”. Nyeko admits that much as the crop is grown on relatively high altitude. It also needs good timing and reliable rainfall. Weeding the crop also improves yield. Most growers still use traditional planting methods. They do not follow systematic approaches, like planting in rows to allow for easy weeding. Tony Awany notes: “The area is also known for growing a rice variety called Super. This variety does well in areas characterized by heavy rainfall. In some areas of Northern Uganda (Nwoya District) the Super variety of rice is usually grown during the second season and takes five months to mature.” It is a highly marketable variety and people like it because of its good flavor. The grains are thick unlike Sindani and Nerica type which tend to break into pieces during hulling. 1 kg costs on average Ushs 2,500 while Nerica variety and Sindani cost Ushs 2,000 per kg.

Introduction of Nerica Variety The

Ugandan Government with support from the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) and the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) are promoting growing of upland rice, the now famous New Rice for Africa (NERICA). Under the JICA Project, small-scale farmers are put into groups and provided with skills to enable

them to grow this variety. They are also supported with farm inputs (hoes, pesticides and spray pumps). The most common varieties are the Nerica 4 and 10 which are drought resistant and yield highly. It often takes three months to mature. The National Agriculture and Advisory Sector (NAADS) and National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) have been instrumental in researching on these varieties to identify suitable areas where they can favourably grow. Northern Uganda and North Central have been found suitable for this variety.

Rice Replacing Traditional Foods The districts of Gulu, Amuru and Pader have started reaping from this initiative. Increasingly, rice is replacing traditional food and cash crops in the region. Acholi sub-region is known for traditional crops like finger millet, sorghum, cassava, maize and groundnuts. With the introduction of upland rice, areas of Anaka, Pabbo and Amuru sub-counties have taken up the crop as one source of revenue and a new food source. Upland rice grows in dry land, unlike the traditional rice grown in swampy areas. The advantage therefore is that it conserves the wetlands. In Uganda, large areas of swampland have increasingly been encroached on in different parts of the country. Upland rice has undergone adaptability tests and the climate in the region is favourable. Farmers have two harvest seasons for the crop.

Challenges Although most farmers are subsistence growers, they are increasingly moving towards commercial agriculture. Areas of Nwoya district have recorded a number of commercial farmers growing upland rice. Harvesting and postharvest handling of rice is a challenge. Most farmers still use rudimentary technologies and pests and diseases are not well controlled, the new rice variety being a new crop. There is need for more capacity-building for farmers to improve the farming techniques and to learn bestpractices of handling the crop. John Opira is the Country Manager, ALIN Uganda. He can be reached through: jopira@alin.ent

Baobab | March 2013 | 29


AGROBIODIVERSITY@KNOWLEDGED

Beyond higher Enhancing agrobiodiversity A key goal of the joint Hivos/Oxfam Novib Knowledge Programme, Agrobiodiversity@knowledged, is to share knowledge and experience about farming practices from all over the world that use and enhance agricultural biodiversity. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is usually promoted as a successful approach for increasing productivity and decreasing costs. The Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) has demonstrated that SRI can also contribute to the conservation and wider dissemination of local and indigenous rice varieties, with positive outcomes for both farmers’ livelihoods and biodiversity. S. Subhashini, K. Perumal, K. Vijayalakshmi and A.V. Balasubramanian

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ndia is home to a vast array of wild and cultivated crops. Over the past 50 years, as a result of the Green Revolution, high-yielding seeds have been increasingly selected for their responsiveness to the application of fertilizers. The consequences of these selection priorities have been felt all over India. In the state of Tamil Nadu, as in many others, farmers have realised that they were losing the indigenous paddy varieties, which previously offered them a wide array of advantages such as resistance to pests, diseases and drought.

Multiple advantages

As in India as a whole, the state of Tamil Nadu has a growing population while the total farming area is diminishing. Over the past seven years, CIKS has been conducting research at various levels to increase rice productivity. Amongst other things, we have been promoting SRI, convinced that it can help increase productivity and decrease costs for paddy cultivation. Our experience, however, has shown that SRI can also contribute enormously to the conservation of indigenous rice varieties. One of the reasons why the use of SRI has been taken up by a large number of farmers in this region is because

24 | Farming Matters | March 2013 30 | Baobab | March 2013

they are able to see direct and immediate benefits, even if they are only “partial adopters”. A short field survey run by CIKS showed that only 7% of SRI farmers fully followed the different principles; 57% were “medium adopters” and 36% “low adopters”. Our survey also found some of the reasons behind these different adoption rates. As awareness levels were initially low, many farmers considered the large spacing in between each plant a waste of space, and feared that crop growth in the nurseries was not appropriate. Farmers also mentioned that, in general, there is a lack of skilled labourers in some villages for transplanting at the right time. The additional labour required discouraged many farmers, especially when time was short. Yet there has been little disagreement about the overall benefits of SRI. In all cases, SRI showed higher yields: those of the “full adopters” went up by 30-35%. Those of the “medium adopters” went up by 15-20%, and even when adoption was “low”, farmers saw their yields increase by at least 10%. Apart from higher yields, another main advantage is that the approach requires the use of far fewer seeds. Moreover, since the seeds are initially sowed in nurseries with appropriate spacing between each other, there is less risk of getting the varieties


yields

through SRI mixed up if it rains immediately after sowing. Additionally, since there are fewer seedlings, they can be handled more efficiently. The farmers are therefore aware of the purity of the seeds, and it is easier to select good quality seeds manually, which was not always the case in the past. Lodging takes place at a later stage than when grown with conventional methods. Consequently, the earheads form properly, and it is therefore possible to spot and remove admixtures of other varieties in the field itself. Moreover, the water requirements are low, which implies that several varieties can be planted in the same season. As a result, more seeds can be produced and saved every harvest – contributing enormously to the conservation and wider dissemination of local and indigenous rice varieties.

CIKS’ Seed Bank Programme

The Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems has been working for the past 20 years to set up seed banks in villages across Tamil Nadu, as a way of promoting a more sustainable agricultural system. Our programme aims to identify important traditional seed varieties and, together with farmers and all members of a community, promote their conservation and use. We soon realised

that SRI could be a key component of these efforts. Our work is showing how the cultivation of these varieties serves to enhance the security of small-scale and marginal farmers’ livelihoods. As part of this programme, a large network of farmers is exchanging seeds and information and seeds are being stored in community-level seed banks. Members of these seed banks are using part of their land for growing different varieties. CIKS provides them with an initial supply of seeds, and we discuss the necessary steps to manage their production organically. At the end of the season, farmers have to return twice the quantity of seeds they were initially provided with. The following season, these seeds are given to other farmers. This has a multiplying effect, and over time the community can manage the seed bank independently. Our work has shown that the establishment of a seed bank programme can help increase the availability of local or indigenous varieties of rice and many other crops. Working together with CIKS, farmers are showing that this has immediate benefits. When CIKS first started, there were only a handful of indigenous varieties left. We work in villages where farmers grow 130 varieties of paddy and 50 varieties of indigenous vegetables in their fields and experimental plots. Farmers who are producing SRI rice seeds in an organic way have reported yields of up to 5.5 tons/hectare. These are now doubly certified (as organic and also certified by the Government’s Seed Certification Department), and can therefore be sold at a higher price. It is thus not surprising that SRI is described as a “very handy innovation”. S. Subhashini, K. Perumal, K., Vijayalakshmi and A.V. Balasubramanian. Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, CIKS. E-mail: info@ciks.org. For more information about the programme, please write to Sarah Doornbos, Knowledge Officer, Agrobiodiversity@knowledged. E-mail: s.doornbos@hivos.nl

The benefits are easy to see: evaluations and group discussions. Photos: K. Vijayalakshmi / CIKS

Farming Matters | March 2013 | 25 Baobab | March 2013 | 31


GMO

Kenya Bans Importation of GM–What Next?

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n November 2012, Kenya’s Public Health and Sanitation Minister, Ms. Beth Mugo announced a ban on importation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This was a Cabinet’s decision informed by findings of the now controversial research undertaken in France. The report indicated that GM foods taken over a period of time could lead to cancer in humans. Globally, over 7,000 people succumb to cancer daily. Kenya Biodiversity Coalition (K-Bio-C) consequently held demonstrations in Nairobi to petition the Executive and Legislature to ensure labelling of GM products in the market. Information, Liaison and Policy Manager at the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), who is also the Co-ordinator of (K-Bio-C), Wanjiru Kamau commends the government on the ban. By Fiona Imbali

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Prof. Calestous Juma

To label or not to label GM products

Regulations on labeling were effected on 2nd May, 2012 following the ratification of the Cartagena Protocol in 2003. It stipulates that foodstuffs with more than one per cent of GM components should be labelled. Some millers suggest that the labeling rule should be five per cent. However, food sold in restaurants is not subjected to this law. During a recent forum organized by the National Bio-safety Authority (NBA) experts stated that it may be difficult to label all GM foodstuffs. A recent research conducted by K-Bio-C showed up to 30 per cent GM traces in foods sold in supermarkets. In such instances, NBA’s role in protecting consumers is questioned.

Bio-safety Act, 2009 Article 18 of the Biosafety Act (2009) stipulates that a person shall not conduct any activity involving GMOs without a written approval from the Authority. Articles 4(1), 5(1), and 6(1), state that a person wishing to import, export or transit GMOs shall apply for and obtain written approval from NBA and must pack and transport the products as per Kenyan laws. Biosafety authorities assure that cross-border bio-safety inspectors stationed in Mombasa, Namanga, Busia and Malaba borders have enhanced inspection to curb unauthorised GMO importation. The Chief Executive Officer of NBA, Dr. Willy Tonui says that the Act prohibits unlicensed dealing with GMOs either for research, manufacturing, production or importation. “It takes approximately three months for the NBA to review proposals. Penalties for contravening the law are fines ranging from Kshs 2 million to 20 million and or imprisonment of up to ten years.”

Seralini Report Findings Professor Gilles-Eric

Séralini used 33 per cent of GMO food to feed rats and they developed tumours. Biotechnology experts criticised the report for a “wrong” methodology as well as indicating that the species of rats used was susceptible to cancer. “Seralini’s report is not valid as hereditary factors play a big role in cancer,” argues Professor Edward Nguu from the University of Nairobi, one of the critics of the French research.

Risk Concerns of GMOs Independent scientists

have documented health risks as published in Jeffrey Smith’s; Genetic Roulette. In England, rats under 90 days observation were fed on GM potatoes. They developed pre-cancerous cells in their digestive tracts. In Iowa, pigs and cows became sterile after eating GM corn. Gottfried Glokner, a German farmer lost 12 cows after feeding them on Bt corn. Bt GM could remain in the soil for up to 234 days. It is not clear if GM foods allowed in Kenya have been subjected to rigorous tests to avert such health risks. Promoters of sustainable agriculture are worried that overuse of pesticides will affect water sources, destroy biodiversity and biological cycles.

More Readings: Biosafety Act no. 2 of 2009. Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods: Jeffrey M. Smith: 2007. Seralini et al 2012 Fiona Imbali is the Communications Officer at ALIN. Email: FImbali@alin.net

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Emerging Markets

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lmost all small farms produce both for self-consumption and for the market. Successful participation in the market not only depends on factors such as the organizational capacity or the existing infrastructure, but also on how farmers can take advantage of the existing value chains and on how they strike a balance between the monetary and non-monetary economies. Many programmes for rural development focus on developing the value chains that link producers to consumers. Most of them assume that, by connecting farmers to people who can buy, process, package, and market their produce, farmers will increase their incomes. However, increasing the efficiency of value chains does not automatically benefit family farmers, particularly in the face of globalisation or price volatility, so the issue of how farmers can increase their share of the value added, or receive a fair portion of the final price, is often not addressed. Issue 67 of Baobab will look at recent innovations in value chains and emerging agricultural markets. It will look at the ways in which farmers can become more resilient in the face of price fluctuations, climate change, or hostile institutions. What strategies do farmers and their organizations employ to meet the challenges posed by the corporate domination of agricultural markets? This issue will examine the policies and institutional frameworks needed to make value systems work for poor farmers, and how the development of “new economies”, local markets and local value chains can improve rural livelihoods in a sustainable way. This also implies strengthening the autonomy of family farmers and enhancing multi-functionality on agro-ecological farms. We welcome articles on this topic including pictures and suggestions of other people, experts or organisations that can contribute to it. All pictures must be 300 pixel resolution and above and should be in jpeg format. Please write to the Editor fimbali@alin.net cc: info@alin.net by May 31st 2013.

SRI, a set of six interrelated practices

1 2 3

Transplanting very young seedlings – between 8 and 15 days old to enhance their potential for tillering and rooting. Planting single seedlings very carefully and gently, rather that plunging clumps into the soil together, which can invert the root tips.

Spacing seedlings widely with gaps of at least 20 x 20cm and in some cases even 50x50 cm

34 | Baobab | March 2013

4 5

Using a simple mechanical hand weeder (“rotary hoe”) to aerate the soil as well as to control weeds.

Keeping the soil moist, but not continuously flooded, during the plants’ vegetative growth phase, up to the stage of flowering and grain production.

6

Use of (preferably) organic manure or compost to improve soil quality.


BOOKREVIEWS

NERICA: The New Rice for Africa – A Compendium The New Rice for Africa (NERICA) has been spreading rapidly in the SubSaharan Africa (SSA) Region since the first seed of these high yielding rice varieties was introduced in 1996. In 2006, about 200,000 hectares were on NERICA varieties in SSA. The compendium brings together the results of scientific research on the NERICA varieties. It gives insightful information on choice of land and its preparation, planting, plant diversity, integrated crop and pest-management strategies, harvest and post-harvest operations, agroprocessing technologies and NERICA nutritional quality, and adoption impact on rice farmers’ livelihoods. It highlights how drought screening of upland rice took place and 11 NERICA varieties were screened together with 87 other genotypes sourced from Africa Rice Center (WARDA), International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to improve the quality. It gives an overview of rice in Africa while addressing the challenges of low productivity in African rice ecologies. From plant to plate segment shows the varieties of foods and their recipes that can be made from rice. From rice pancakes, butter cookies, cocoa biscuits as well as ginger biscuits. This is a book that would be beneficial to farmers, scholars and various stakeholders interested in the rice production processes. The editors of the compendium are Professor Shellemiah Keya, Eklou Somado and Robert Guei. The publication builds on the work of many individuals within and outside (WARDA) with support from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the Sasakawa Africa Association, who compiled this compendium. For more information visit www.warda.org

Women in Rice Farming This is a publication of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). It highlights the work women do in rice fields in Asia, women and infrastructure technology, the changing roles of women in Japanese agricultural development, China, Philippines, Java, Bangladesh, India as well as the Sub- Saharan Africa. Rice is life itself to almost a third of the world’s 7 billion people and a secondary staple for a further 800 million; but the average annual income of rice consumers in the developing nations was less than US $200 in the 90’s. These factors combined with the continual rise in the world population and the demand for more food, has put an increasing burden on small-scale rice farmers. The book shows the important role of women in rice cultivation, post harvest processing and marketing throughout the world. It shows how rural women work long hours in domestic and agricultural production because they frequently have primary responsibilities for both household subsistence and child welfare while recommending technologies that could increase women’s productivity to allow them to work less and earn more for the benefit of rural livelihoods. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is a non-profit organisation which was established in 1960 by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations with an aim to improving the quality and quantity of rice.

Baobab | March 2013 | 35


“If 22 bushels (1,300 pounds) of rice and 22 bushels of winter grain are harvested from a quarter acre field, then the field will support five to ten people each investing an average of less than one hour of labour per day. But if the field were turned over to pasturage, or if the grain were fed to cattle, only one person could be supported per quarter acre......” Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw revolution

“At first, farmers were skeptical about SRI, but they are increasingly getting interested after seeing its success. By the end of 2012, we had over 4,000 farmers practicing it and over 20,000 who had been reached through various awareness fora. Currently, 3,000 acres are under SRI in Mwea, Kenya.” Bancy Mati, Professor of Land and Water Management, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture And Technology (JKUAT), Nairobi.

“I have met farmers in Rwanda whose rice production has more than doubled using SRI methods. I am not sure whether this qualifies as a miracle in your eyes, but for the farmers whose production and income has increased so dramatically, I can assure you it is miraculous” Kanayo F. Nwanze, IFAD President at the Chatham House “Food Security 2012” conference. London, December 10, 2012.

“Some people question the validity of SRI. I would say to those people, go to the fields and see the evidence for yourselves. There are now close to a million hectares under SRI, and that cannot be regarded as an illusion. It is real” Amir Kassam, Visiting Professor, Department of Agriculture, University of Reading, United Kingdom, in an interview with the World Bank Institute.

Enabling Access. Creating Knowledge

Empowering People

SRI: More Rice, Less Water  

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