Farming the Future
Upscaling agrobiodiversity-based rice farming systems through the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Malaysia
A #SRI4Diversity project
Written by Aniizan Isahak
On 29 June 2018, SRI-Mas was awarded by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Project (GEF-SGP) to carry out a two-year project titled “Upscaling agrobiodiversity-based rice farming systems through the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Malaysia”.
The project aims to protect and promote agrobiodiversity by upscaling the practice of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and FFSs in Malaysia through an ecosystem-based approach guided by three key principles: environmental capacity, social capacity and institutional capacity. SRI enhances soil conservation and improves crop growth with less water, less seeds and less external inputs. It also enhances food safety by reducing or eliminating the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and benefits the natural environment by relieving pressure of agriculture on ecosystem’s water resources. Moreover, it conserves rice biodiversity and promotes its sustainable use by discouraging monocropping.
Instead of relying on the conventional top-down linear approach for learning new technologies, in which farmers are viewed only as beneficiaries, the project will adopt social learning as an approach for agricultural extension and innovation. As an ecosystem-based approach farming system, SRI will increase farmer self-reliance upon on-farm resources and give them back their decision-making powers. The farmer-based learning approach will strengthen farmers’ capacity to observe, measure and understand the agroecological dynamics and benefits of sound rice management, particularly of SRI.
SRI integrates a gender-sensitive approach by lessening farmers’ burden from farming, reducing their exposure to chemicals and unsanitary working conditions and enhancing their self-sufficiency. A central component of social learning is building social capacity that supports people in becoming agents of their own development. It also facilitates the inclusion and empowerment of participants of mixed gender in terms of their competence, autonomy, independence and control. Thus, the social capacity of SRI promotes better living conditions and safer working environments for women and the community, free from the potential health hazards commonly associated with agrochemicals.
This project aims to initiate an alternative institutional structure (from farm to market) for agroecological-based rice production and supply chain. It focuses on the institutional arrangements through which agricultural extension services play critical roles in enhancing the visibility of sustainable rice value chain. Institutional capacity also pushes for well-equipped facilities and infrastructure that promotes local innovations and procurements, while leveraging on enabling policy environments for agroecological interventions in the country. Rice farming communities and key stakeholders in the project will realize the importance of shared values and aspirations of Malaysians in embracing sustainable transformation in agriculture. Institutional building at community level also encourages the establishment of community-based market structures such as agricultural cooperatives or social enterprises, formed through innovative processes that facilitate social learning. Knowledge transfer will be made available in the project to rice farmers through farmer to farmer exchange in a nature field environment.