Benefits for People & Planet

More From Less

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, almost one-third of the world's population depends on rice and its products for 60-70% of their daily calories! Consumption of milled rice has increased 40% in the last 30 years and demand is expected to increase another 30-40% by 2030. That's closer than you think.

A big problem is water. Fully one-quarter to one-third of the planet's annual freshwater supplies are used to irrigate and grow the global rice crop. And in Asia, where most rice is grown and eaten, about 84% of water withdrawal is for agriculture, mostly for irrigating rice. Water scarcity is having an increasingly significant impact on agriculture. According to the WWF, "The SRI method for growing rice could save hundreds of billions of cubic metres of water while increasing food security." More Rice with Less Water: The System of Rice Intensification

How LESS means MORE benefits for people and the planet

Less Seed: Conventional rice cultivation in developing countries requires 60-70 kilos of seeds per hectare (a hectare is about 2.5 acres), SRI just 5-7 kilos. That's 80-90% fewer seeds – a huge savings of rice to eat or sell.

Less Water: Conventional irrigated paddy rice production requires 3,000-5,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of rice. That is the equivalent of four months of one person's daily water requirement (according to per capita minimum water requirements designated by the World Bank). With SRI, water use cut in half, freeing up water for household and ecosystem use. Reducing the amount of water in paddies also decreases methane emissions into the atmosphere, which contribute to global warming. Cultivation of rice in non-flooded fields improves men's and women's health and reduces populations of water-borne disease vectors like malarial mosquitoes.

Less Chemicals: Farmers do not need to purchase expensive fertilizer and pesticides. In fact, organic materials (compost, manure or any decomposed vegetation) improve soil structure and boost yields. Farmers report that when SRI methods are used correctly, rice plants are better able to resist damage from pests and diseases, reducing or eliminating the need for chemical protection. This reduces the amount of poisonous chemicals stored near houses, seeping into wells and waterways, and absorbed in soils. Reduced chemical use for health reasons has been a big driver of SRI adoption.

Less Cost: Since farmers do not need to buy seeds or high-yielding varieties — they can use saved seed of their locally evolved rices — and fewer or no agrochemicals, production costs are lower. And with 50-100% increase in productivity, this means no debt and no dependence on input sellers or moneylenders.

Less Land: By raising staple-crop yields, land and water resources are freed up for production of a more diverse diet of fish, fruits and vegetables. Producing more food from the same amount of land also takes pressure off uncultivated ecosystems, thereby protecting important centers of biodiversity and endangered plants and animals.

Less Labor: As communities learn how to use SRI, more labor can be required for careful transplanting and weeding, or to improve infrastructure for water drainage. However, as farmers gain skill and confidence in SRI methods, it can be labor saving. Working with smaller seedlings in puddled rather than flooded fields reduces drudgery.