Sharing the Gift of Improved Rice Yields in Cambodia

Sharing the Gift of Improved Rice Yields in Cambodia

Farmers in Cambodia celebrate their rice harvest in December. This year, a farmer named Dia has much to be thankful for. Despite a tenuous year for rice farmers, along with drought after the initial rains began, Dia was able to harvest a good crop using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). Dia is a member of one of the twelve Farmer Field Schools started by World Renew in the Cambodia-South Program with funding from Foods Resource Bank (FRB).

Dia has learned SRI and many other farming techniques through the Farmer Field School in his village, and he has put many of them into practice. Dia said, “Before,I just wandered around visiting people and didn't really put any effort into my farming. Now that I've learned these new methods from the Farmer Field School, I have been much more successful and motivated to try new things.”

Recently Dia had the chance to pass his blessings along to others. Twenty-seven farmers from four different villages came to Dia's home to hear about his experiences using the SRI method. He explained how he prepares the land well, making sure it is level. He then puts compost on the seed bed to help the little seedlings grow strong. He transplants the seedlings at a younger age than he would using the traditional rice planting method, and he plants them individually instead of in clumps of four or five. He also plants them further apart. These things are done so that the plants can establish better root systems and send up more shoots with more seeds on them. Finally, he weeds the field regularly rather than just waiting for harvest time and uses natural fertilizer rather than huge amounts of chemical fertilizer like he used to. 

Dia also told us that by using the SRI method, he is able to use less seed (half of what he used to use), less labor, and less chemical fertilizer (less than half of what he used to use), while getting a greater yield. All of this change seemed too good to be true, so we went to see for ourselves in the field. We harvested three sections, one square meter each, in Dia’s SRI field and then did the same in his neighbor’s field which had been planted using traditional methods. We took all of the crops back to the house to thresh and weigh.

The results spoke for themselves. The SRI field yielded an average of half a Kg per square meter, while the traditional field yielded an average of a third of a Kg per square meter. Multiply that out, and you end up with a difference of two metric tons per hectare (2.5 acres). Only eight of the participants had done SRI before, but when I asked how many would try it next year, nearly all hands were raised. 

A woman named Nith had tried SRI in the past, but had given up on it, believing it would not work in drought years. She said, “Today we saw good results even though it was a drought year, so I will try SRI again next year.” 

Rom had never tried SRI before, but she had heard of her neighbors doing it. She said, “I have seen other people doing SRI, but didn't know how much yield they got. Now I see clear differences between SRI and traditional methods. I want to do SRI next year because you get more yield and use less chemical fertilizer.” Teaching new methods like SRI is one way that we can help people renew the resources they already have. Having enough to eat truly is a gift--and being able to share that gift with others is even better. 

Rachel Brink, World Renew Cambodia (Read Rachel's blog post on the World Renew website)

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02/13/2013 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment