by Loren Hyatt
The Guardian recently posted an article on their website titled “India’s Rice Revolution” that discusses how farmers in India’s poorest state, Bihar, are growing world record amounts of rice. These farmers typically grow four to five tons of rice per hectare. However, during a recent harvest, one farmer discovered that he had grown more than 22 tons of rice on one hectare of land! (By comparison, the average rice yield in the United States is 7.9 tons per hectare.[source])
Scientists and government officials have determined that the reason for these “super yields” is a method of growing rice that Lutheran World Relief is using called “System of Rice (or Root) Intensification” (SRI). Through SRI, farmers carefully plant and nurture fewer rice seedlings. They then transplant these seedlings into fields where they are spaced at particular intervals in regularly weeded, drier soil.
In Bihar, nearly half of state’s households live below the Indian poverty line, and 93 percent of families depend on growing rice and potatoes to survive. Following the recent successful rice harvest, one of the record-breaking farmers said:
“In previous years, farming has not been very profitable. Now I realize that it can be. My whole life has changed. I can send my children to school and spend more on health. My income has increased a lot.”
LWR’s partner Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN) is training farmers in the SRI method. Through PRADAN, LWR has worked to increase income and food security among small-holder farmers through innovative farming practices in Bihar State.
Between April 2011 and September 2012, in partnership with PRADAN, LWR reached approximately 11,500 people in 90 villages through its agriculture program in Bihar. LWR provided training to local farmers and enhanced the capacity of village leaders to share information on innovative farming practices, including SRI. LWR also helped more than 1,600 families attain food security for at least 11 months of the year. LWR’s project also helped more than 760 families increase their income through the sale of vegetables and goats.
As the article in The Guardian notes, with SRI, “farmers use less seeds, less water and less chemicals but they get more without having to invest more. This is revolutionary.” LWR is glad to be a part of this rice revolution in India. In 2013, we are continuing to invest in rural farmers, helping the world’s 500 million small-scale farmers and the 2 billion people who depend on them.
LWR began working in India in the 1950s by sending relief supplies to address the needs of those affected by famine and disease. LWR’s work has evolved significantly over the decades to focus on long term development needs. Continue reading about LWR’s work in India»