Dear Friends and Colleagues
Impressive Yield and Income Increases from SRI Project in West Africa
Rice is an important staple crop in West and Central Africa but West Africa currently consumes more than it produces and has been importing rice from other parts of the world. To address this, the ‘Improving and Scaling Up the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in West Africa’ (SRI-WAAPP) project was implemented from January 2014 to December 2016 as part of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) of the West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF).
The results have been impressive, with significant impacts (Item 1). The project benefited more than 50,000 farmers directly and reached more than 750,000 people in total¾of whom 31.6% were women¾at 1,088 sites on 13,944 hectares across 13 participating countries in West Africa.
The average SRI yield for irrigated rice was 6.6 t/ha compared to 4.23 t/ha for conventionally grown rice, a 56% increase. For rainfed lowland systems, SRI yields averaged 4.71 t/ha, compared to 2.53 t/ha for conventional rice, an 86% increase. In the 2015-2016 growing season, SRI project sites produced an additional 20,113 tons of milled rice, valued at about US$10 million.
An independent socio-economic impact assessment showed increased yields of 54% under irrigated systems, 65% in the rainfed lowlands, and 153% in the rainfed upland systems. The average income for farmers using SRI was 41% higher than for those using conventional practices. The study concluded that the project “has proven that SRI can contribute successfully to improving agricultural productivity in West Africa.”
“The involvement of the rice stakeholders in the 13 countries since the design of the project was the key factor of success during its implementation,” said Dr. Gaoussou Traoré, the project’s Regional Coordinator (Item 2). Dr. Traoré explains that the SRI-WAAPP project used a conceptual framework based on the four defining principlesof SRI, adapted to local conditions: (a) encourage early and healthy plant establishment; (2) minimize competition among plants; (3) build up fertile soils rich in organic matter and soil biota; and (4) manage water to avoid both flooding and water stress.
The project shows that if SRI is to make a real contribution to rice self-sufficiency in West Africa, many more farmers must adopt it. The 50,000 SRI farmers who achieved the good reported results represent only 1.1% of the total number of rice farmers in West Africa. If 100% of rice farmers in West Africa had used SRI in 2017, rice self-sufficiency would already have been achieved with a 5% surplus (29.88 million tons of paddy produced compared to 28.48 million tons consumed), rather than the 54% it was in reality. The second phase of SRI-WAAPP is expected to focus on scaling up. SRI is currently practised today in more than 55 countries.
With best wishes,
50,000 FARMERS IN 13 COUNTRIES: RESULTS FROM SCALING UP THE SYSTEM OF RICE INTENSIFICATION IN WEST AFRICA
and Regional Perspectives for SRI
Styger E. and Traoré G.
In 2010, West Africa produced 7.9 million tons of milled rice and imported an additional 5.7 million tons to satisfy demand. The ECOWAS Rice Commission estimates that by 2025 yearly rice consumption in West Africa will increase to 24 million tons (value of 12 billion USD ), triple the 2010 production. The ECOWAS States – through their “Rice Offensive,” supported by the National Rice Development Strategies – target self-sufficiency in rice production by 2025. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), an agro-ecological, climate-smart and low-input methodology for increasing rice productivity, can play a crucial role in closing the rice production gap in West Africa.
Developed in Madagascar and practiced today in more than 55 countries, the SRI methodology allows increased yields, often by 50% or more, while using 90% less seed, 30-50% less water and less agro-chemicals. Based on the principles of early plant establishment, reduced competition among plants, soils rich in organic matter, and reduced water use, rice plants can better express their genetic potential compared to conventional approaches.
SRI trials in West Africa, beginning in 2000, have confirmed these advantages. Larger-scale expansion of SRI began in Mali in 2007, and by 2010, Malian SRI practitioners started to train farmers and agricultural technicians in other West African countries. Given the growing interest in SRI across the region, the first phase of the regional project “Improving and Scaling up the System of Rice Intensification in West Africa” (SRI-WAAPP) as commissioned and supervised by CORAF/WECARD , as part of the West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP), supported by the World Bank under the institutional umbrella of ECOWAS.
WHERE AND HOW WAS THE SRI-WAAPP PROJECT IMPLEMENTED?
The SRI-WAAPP project ran from January 2014 to June 2016, covering two main rice-growing seasons in 13 ECOWAS countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Country-specific activities were funded through the national WAAPP programs and implemented with assistance from a national SRI facilitator and SRI champions. The project was coordinated by the National Center of Specialization on Rice, Institute of Rural Economy (CNS-RIZ/IER), Mali, and the SRI-Rice Center, Cornell University, USA. The regional coordination team provided training, technical assistance, monitoring and evaluation support, a communication platform, supported institutional set-up, and organized regional workshops to plan activities and share results. Field activities were largely defined at the country level, but used similar research and development approaches that integrated technical training, on-farm exchange visits, monitoring of field performance and economic outcomes, and applied field research.
SUCCESSES AND BENEFITS OF THE PROJECT
By June 2016, 50,048 farmers – of whom 33% were women – grew rice using SRI at 1,088 sites on 13,944 hectares across the 13 countries. The project trained 33,514 people, mostly farmers, but including 1032 technicians. The number of institutions working with SRI (including government services, NGOs, farmer organizations, and bi-lateral projects) increased from 49 to 215. The project reached more than an estimated 750,000 people in West Africa, through field visits, word-of-mouth, the press, radio and television.
SRI was implemented in both irrigated and rainfed lowland systems, at 40% and 60% of the sites respectively. Adaptations to upland and mangrove systems are underway. Yields from 733 SRI and adjacent conventional rice plots were evaluated across all countries and agro-ecological zones during the life of the project. The average SRI yield for irrigated rice was 6.6 t/ha compared to 4.23 t/ha for conventionally grown rice (N=292 sites), a 56% increase. For rainfed lowland systems, SRI yields averaged 4.71 t/ha, compared to 2.53 t/ha for conventional rice (N=441), an 86% increase. The estimated total additional quantity of rice produced with SRI at the SRI-WAAPP sites compared to conventional rice during the 2015/2016 growing season alone was 31,458 tons of paddy, or 20,113 tons of milled rice, representing a value of 10.07 million USD dollars.
OUTLOOK AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Slightly more than 50,000 SRI farmers achieved these results. But these farmers represent only 1.1% of the total number of rice farmers in West Africa. If 100% of rice farmers in West Africa had used SRI in 2017, rice self-sufficiency would already have been achieved with a 5% surplus (29.88 million tons of paddy produced compared to 28.48 million tons consumed), rather than the 54% it was in reality. Replacing rice imports with rice grown in the region would have saved 4.16 billion USD in foreign exchange for 2017 alone.
If SRI is to make a real contribution to rice self-sufficiency in West Africa, many more farmers must adopt it. How many farmers must be reached before we reach the “tipping point” where SRI becomes the standard for rice cultivation in West Africa? A possible target -- the second phase of SRI-WAAPP could consider -- might be a farmer adoption rate of 33%, reaching 1.5 million rice farmers and 2.43 million hectares. The base has been established with the first phase of SRI-WAAPP; the second phase can now focus on scaling up. For this we recommend reinforcing national and regional coordination, working directly with farmers and farmer organizations, improving and refining technical training and the monitoring system, emphasizing adaptations and innovations, and expanding the communication and advocacy platform.
A new report from the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF) describes the results from “the largest System of Rice Intensification (SRI) project ever undertaken in the world,” according to technical lead for regional coordination Dr. Erika Styger. It reveals higher yields for rice farmers in West Africa using SRI. SRI is an adaptable rice farming methodology for reducing the need for inputs, including agrochemicals, while increasing yields.
Rice is an important crop in West and Central Africa—most of the 430 million people living in the region depend on it as a staple—but West Africa currently consumes more than it produces and has been importing rice from other parts of the world, such as Asia. A regional offensive initiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aims to change this by increasing regional rice production.
Organizations and farmers are working toward this goal through initiatives such as the “Improving and Scaling up the System of Rice Intensification in West Africa” project (SRI-WAAPP). This three-year project involved more than 50,000 rice farmers, more than 1,000 sites, and 13 West African countries. It was coordinated by the National Center of Specialization on Rice in Mali along with Cornell University through the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP)—a program of CORAF. The project is “one of the most successful in the CORAF portfolio,” says CORAF’s Executive Director Dr. Abdou Tenkouano. “This SRI project has been groundbreaking in its participatory design and implementation.” “The involvement of the rice stakeholders in the 13 countries since the design of the project was the key factor of success during its implementation,” Dr. Gaoussou Traoré, the project’s regional coordinator, tells Food Tank when asked about this participatory design. Dr. Traoré explains that participants of the SRI-WAAPP project used a conceptual framework based on four defining and unchanging principles—“the backbone of SRI”—while agreeing that “the rice production practices or techniques used to implement the four principles may vary and need to be adapted to local agro-socio-economic conditions.”
According to the report, use of SRI shows promise for helping rice farmers meet the growing demand in the region. In fact, authors Styger and Traoré write that complete adoption of this method in 2017 would have eliminated the need for rice imports. They also estimate that just in the 2015-2016 growing season, use of SRI produced more than an additional 20,000 tons of milled rice at the project sites, valued at about US$10 million.
The report details yields for farmers using SRI compared with farms using conventional growing practices. An independent evaluation in five countries found that yields increased by 54 percent, 65 percent, and 153 percent for irrigated, rainfed lowland, and rainfed upland systems, respectively. It also found a 41 percent average increase in farmers’ incomes. The project team’s assessment of overall results found even higher yield increases for irrigated and rainfed lowland systems, at 56 percent and 86 percent, respectively. Given these findings, the authors advocate for further scale-up of SRI in the region: “If SRI is to make a real contribution to rice self-sufficiency in West Africa, many more farmers must adopt it.”
However, “successful expansion of SRI will depend on adapting SRI practices to local environments,” say Styger and Traoré. Because SRI is an approach based on a set of principles—rather than a static technology—it is adaptable to farmers’ diverse circumstances, such as irrigated or rainfed systems and different ecological characteristics. “The practices, of course, should always be adapted to suit local conditions,” says Norman Uphoff, Senior Advisor for the SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice) program at Cornell University. “We see SRI more as a menu than as a recipe.”
Though SRI is far from full adoption, the methodology has been spreading around the world and is used in more than 50 countries. Consequently, SRI is used in a wide variety of socioeconomic contexts and can look different between communities and between farms. For example, in some cases where SRI decreases labor requirements, people have raised concerns that its economic benefits will not extend to groups like landless farm laborers. On the other hand, sometimes SRI intensifies labor requirements, particularly while farmers become familiar with it and learn what practices work best for their farms.
CORAF’s Regional Gender and Social Development Adviser Dr. Mariame Maiga worries that SRI’s labor intensity could place additional burdens on women who already have significant responsibilities in addition to agricultural work, including cooking, obtaining water, and caring for children. “Women have to work very hard with SRI to produce rice,” she tells Food Tank. Dr. Maiga recommends that steps be taken to prevent SRI adoption from overburdening women and exacerbating gender disparities. In response, the team adopted a labor-saving weeding technology from India to help make SRI more convenient.
This is just one example of how projects can adjust their SRI implementation, and farmers and organizations all over the world have been finding new ways to adapt SRI. Because the SRI-WAAPP project was so large, the team was able to foster cross-border collaboration: “The regional nature of this project made it possible to connect researchers, extension staff, and farmers working under similar conditions across West Africa and help them to identify and share innovations,” say the report’s authors. “This enabled faster dissemination, adaptation, and adoption of SRI to different rice production systems, ultimately leading to better results.”