More and more farmers across the country are reaping rice harvests better than what they were reaping earlier, by following a set of practices, popularly called as System of Rice Intensification.
SRI which is neither a technology nor a variety, is based on altering a set of practices in paddy cultivation resulting in better yields and lesser use of resources.Sounds simple. Yes, farmers who are watching results on others fields have been quick to adopt it, altering practices suiting their conditions, and certainly harvesting enhanced yields.
SRI’s potential to enhance yields is not only being experienced by farmers on fields but was also confirmed by a study conducted by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Hyderabad and Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU).
The study which covered 13 major rice-growing states in India, indicated that fields with SRI on an average yielded 22% higher than the non-SRI fields. This means, if SRI is adopted on all the 42 million hectares of cultivated paddy area should be able to produce an additional 30 million tonnes of rice.
SRI method started its journey in India during the early 2000. Farmers enthusiasm supported by initiatives by development organizations, helped to understand, experiment and promote SRI in certain pockets in the country. While farmers and CSOs were quick to adopt SRI, and adapt it to many other crops like wheat, finger millet, sugarcane, rapeseed, redgram etc., majority of the researchers and the government agencies have largely been skeptical about the results from SRI.
Rice being the staple food of more than half the world’s population of seven billion, upscaling SRI on a war footing becomes the need of the hour to meet the food needs. Several initiatives are being taken up by the Civil Society Organisations, some State Governments, financial institutions like NABARD, philanthropic institutions like Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.
The largest spread is seen in states like Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Bihar through Departments of Agriculture. In states where the government is not playing a pro active role in promoting SRI, the spread is largely through Civil Society Organisations like PRADAN (Anil Verma, p.10), CIKS (S Subhashini, p.25), (T M Radha, p.38) supported by donors such as Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT), Deshpande Foundation, Aga Khan Rural Support Project, etc.
Upscaling is also happening by integrating SRI promotion as a part of larger Rural Livelihood programmes of the State like Jeevika in Bihar, MPRLS in Madhya Pradesh, Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa Livelihood Mission (OLM) in Odisha. (Shambu Prasad and B C Barah, p.16). Interestingly, corporates are also promoting SRI as part of their CSR programmes. (Amitesh Chandra, p.13).
A number of initiatives are emerging for networking, creating platforms for intensive discussions and sharing. The National Consortium on SRI is one such initiative. The National Consortium on SRI is a coalition of practitioners, policy makers, resource institutions and scientists, who have come together voluntarily to advance science, strengthen practice and take up policy advocacy in favour of SRI. (Shambu Prasad and B C Barah, p.16). Knowledge networking through electronic platforms like the SRI Google group (Anibrata Biswas, p.8) have also emerged with the support of SD Tata Trust, enabling knowledge building on SRI.
All this is very encouraging. But in the pursuit of upscaling SRI, one needs to remember what Norman Uphoff says, “SRI story is more than agriculture. It is equally about people, their needs, their capabilities, their limitations, their altruism and their creativity. In many respects, SRI is about potentials – socio-cultural and bio-physical – and about the expression of potentials within plant seeds, within soil systems and within human minds and spirits. And we can gain even more by working across sectors, institutions and statuses”.