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SRI was initially developed to counter the endemic hunger and poverty in Madagascar, as seen in Chapter 3. But it was evident that millions of Malagasy households when seeking to reduce their hunger and poverty with shifting cultivation were on a collision course with that country’s magnificent biodiversity, endangering its precious and precarious rain forest ecosystems. Once Tefy Saina joined with CIIFAD in the Ranomafana project, SRI took on significance in Madagascar beyond its agricultural importance.

An agricultural innovation that could raise the yields of that country’s staple food by multiples rather than just by increments, while at the same time reducing the amount of water required to grow this crop, would alleviate pressures on the country’s vulnerable ecosystems and could help to conserve the abundance and diversity of its unique fauna and flora.

One of the claims made by Dr. Norman Borlaug on behalf of Green Revolution technology is that its use has kept millions of hectares of uncultivated natural habitat from being converted into arable farmland at the expense of nature’s biodiversity.[1] SRI can have the same effect. Further, SRI methods reduce agriculture’s competition with natural ecosystems for scarce water resources, whereas the technologies of the Green Revolution were ‘thirsty’ and required more water.

By reducing the application of agrochemicals, SRI cultivation could also protect the biodiversity in healthy soil systems and avoid contamination of the soil and water.  There have been a number of countries beyond Madagascar where SRI methods have been introduced to bolster the conservation of biodiversity, both for protecting endangered species and for preserving indigenous rice varieties.



CIIFAD and Tefy Saina began their collaboration in the mid-1990s under the auspices of an integrated conservation and development project funded by USAID seeking to protect the precious fauna and flora within the Ranomafana National Park. The project was expected to preserve especially the populations of lemurs endemic within the park, and also to protect rare chameleons, butterflies, reptiles and other creatures there.

Giving farmers better means to produce rice than by continuing their slash-and-burn cultivation was intended to take destructive pressures off the rain forest ecosystems there. Ranomafana is now a well-established center for ecotourism and research on biodiversity.[2] Since 2000, wildlife conservation has become a collateral if not central purpose for SRI extension efforts in some other countries.​


One of various SRI initiatives in this country was the NGO World Education’s promotion of SRI starting in 2000 through farmer field schools that it assisted in Java and Sumatra. With this experience, World Education secured some additional funding from USAID’s program on orangutan-habitat conservation, which extended its development work in Indonesian Borneo (East and Central Kalimantan).

This funding source was established by a special US congressional appropriation for work that linked agricultural development to conservation of forest zones in Indonesia.[3] The main component of the World Education project was cocoa agroforestry, but with expanded funding it introduced also upland rice production with modified SRI practices. These made demonstrable improvements in yield simply by changing farmers’ planting practices.

In 2013-14, the UN’s Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and World Bank made a small grant of $20,000 to a local NGO in Java, Kelompok Kerya Aksi Konservasi Badak, which was trying to conserve the endangered Java rhinoceros.[4] This project attempted to reduce encroachment on forest areas that was reducing the habitat and population of this rare species. It introduced SRI for the same reason that SRI was promoted around Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar. The project report on GEF’s website lists the project as ‘successfully complete.’[5] But we do not have more information on this.


The largest effort to introduce SRI methods to support wildlife conservation has been around South Luangwa National Park in the northeastern part of the country. The Wildlife Conservation Society, an international NGO, has been trying to stop human encroachment on what is considered to be one of the best and largest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, with elephants, zebras, lions, wildebeests and other beasts in abundance.[6]

The poaching of wildlife within the park is a big problem because villagers in the communities around its boundaries live with considerable poverty and disease. Hunting and trapping inside the park has provided some fairly easy sources of income even if forbidden. Policing such a large area presents the park managers with an almost impossible task.

To assist them, WCS set up an innovative program called COMACO, Community Markets for Conservation. This works with members of these communities to improve their cropping and other livelihoods such as beekeeping, provided that the villagers pledge not to intrude within the park and to farm in environmentally-benign ways.[7]

WCS has set up marketing channels for food and other products to be transported to and sold in urban areas in Zambia under the COMACO trademark ‘It’s Wild.’ One of the most popular and successful products is an aromatic traditional rice, known as Chama rice, produced for many years by farmers in the lowland areas around the park.[8]

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After the COMACO project leader Dale Lewis learned about SRI during a visit to Cornell in 2009, SRI-Rice arranged for Erika Styger and SRI colleague in Zambia, Henry Ngimbu, to visit the Luangwa area and to assess the feasibility of introducing SRI for rice production there. Erika and Henry saw no reason why SRI should not perform well there.

In November 2009, Henry presented a training program on SRI for COMACO farmers in Chinsali district.[9] The following June, WCS engaged Henry full-time as a SRI trainer in the project area for one year to get SRI started on a larger scale, so that farmers could upgrade their cultivation methods and increase their  production of Chama rice. In February 2019, a COMACO blog reported that the number of farmers using SRI methods in cooperation with its agricultural development and marketing program had reached 35,000, with yield increases 3-4 times their previous yields, which were, to be sure, very low.[10]

As the production of this rice is without chemical inputs, it commands a higher market price. Also, because of its quality, COMACO with support from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Norwegian Embassy has begun developing export opportunities for this organically-grown rice. This represents a convergence of SRI value-chain development and SRI’s contribution to the conservation of biodiversity. Below is a picture of SRI rice being grown in northeastern Zambia.

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The Wildlife Conservation Society has had initiatives in a number of countries where it promotes agricultural practices that are compatible with and supportive of wildlife conservation. The other country where WCS includes wildlife-friendly rice production as part of its conservation strategy is Cambodia, where it is supports an Ibis Rice Project to protect the habitat of the critically-endangered giant ibis.[11] The habitat of this rare bird is also home to wild elephants, deer, and some other critically-endangered bird species.

The project requires participating households to use certified organic farming methods and to commit to not engaging in poaching or any unplanned and unauthorized deforestation. That SRI methods give higher yield without relying on agrochemicals has made it attractive to the WCS project, which markets both jasmine rice and rice snacks.[12] Farmers receive a 45% premium for their organically- grown rice, which is processed for sale to consumers at premium prices, generating income for this conservation effort. As with the WCS work in Zambia, this represents a convergence between wildlife preservation and SRI value-chain development such as discussed in the preceding chapter which can benefit farmers and consumers as well as the environment.



Over and above supporting wildlife conservation, SRI can contribute to the preservation of whole ecosystems endangered by excessive water extraction and by chemical pollution of soil and water resources by reducing crop water requirements when producing rice and also agrochemical use.

In Chapter 30, we report on a UN Development Program project in India that introduced SRI in coastal districts of Maharashtra state to conserve the mangrove ecosystems there that harbor unique plant and animal populations. Because rice grown with SRI methods can tolerate higher levels of salinity in the soil and water, this permits growing more rice to provide food and livelihoods, thereby reducing pressures on the human population to encroach on the fragile coastal mangrove ecology.[13]

In Tanzania, the Africa Wildlife Society, seeking to protect and restore forests to conserve wildlife habitat, has promoted SRI to reduce pressures to expand cultivation areas. A report in 2021 on its project activities in Tanzania featured a woman farmer with only two acres of land, who reported that in addition to reducing seed requirements from 45 kg to 4 kg, raised output from 8 bags to 30 bags, enabling her to stop cutting tree to make charcoal and to support her family (better) with her available land.[14] Her picture is shown below.



One of the advantages of SRI is its versatility. As discussed at the beginning of Chapter 10, application of SRI principles can improve the productivity of most kinds of rice, including traditional varieties that have not been altered by crop breeding efforts or transgenic modifications. The applicability of SRI management to growing heirloom varieties of rice became quickly apparent once farmers tried out SRI practices with their own local landraces which are often preferred for their resistance to stress and their grain qualities such as flavor and texture.

The Green Revolution’s high-yielding varieties (HYVs) that were widely promoted by government extension services and by commercial seed salesmen from the mid-1960s on were bred to be responsive to higher doses of inorganic fertilizer. They were bred mostly for their yield characteristics, not for other traits like taste or texture. Being shorter-stalked, HYVs did not fall over and lodge when plied with fertilizer. Most traditional varieties, on the other hand, were either not very responsive to chemical fertilizer or would grow abundant leaves and stalks but would not produce much grain when inorganically fertilized.

Over the past 50 years, there has been massive displacement of ‘old’ varieties by ‘new’ ones, with thousands, even tens of thousands, of the traditional varieties being lost, or maintaining a fugitive existence in small plots or patches, grown mostly for ceremonial use or home consumption. This reduction in the available genetic diversity of rice species has been lamented by plant breeders who would like access to the genetic resources of such plants for their various traits of stress-tolerance or ability to grow well under certain adverse conditions.[15] However, this means that such qualities are valued for their possible contribution to new and better HYVs rather than for their own merits, such as medicinal and health uses.

Data on the losses of rice genetic diversity are hard to come by and can never be very exact anyway. An internet search came up with the following kinds of information. It is reported that 90% of the indigenous rice varieties in India have been lost since 1900, and 90% of such varieties in China since 1950. A 1993 report of the US National Research Council’s Board of Agriculture noted that the number of rice varieties grown in Sri Lanka had declined from about 2,000 to less than 100, while IRRI reported 10 years ago that 95% of that country’s rice area was being cultivated with modern varieties.[16]

According to one report, Indian farmers were planting 110,000 different varieties of rice as recently as 1970, when the Green Revolution began in earnest. This number is now less than 6,000, with more than 80% of India’s rice area planted with modern varieties. In Bangladesh, the number of rice varieties being grown has declined from 7,000 varieties to about 400, most of the ‘unimproved’ varieties now being cultivated just in small or marginal areas. These numbers, even if only approximate, portray a dire picture of a huge decline in the genetic resource base of one of the world’s most important food crops.

This erosion of biodiversity and loss of genetic variety and potential was one of the things that prompted Lotus Foods to promote the production and consumption of heirloom rice varieties. Because these varieties’ grains have so many desirable qualities of taste, texture, aroma, cooking characteristics, and also intrinsic nutrition, consumers benefit from conserving the immense diversity of rice varieties, which once numbered probably over 200,000 just in India.[17] 

Sri Lanka

At the beginning of Chapter 10, we saw how Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture found out personally that under SRI management an ‘unimproved’ rice variety (Pachchaperumal) could give a yield of 13 tonnes per hectare, which far surpassed the yield of most ‘improved’ varieties in his country. The usual Pachchaperumal yield was 2-3 tonnes per hectare at the time. This traditional variety commanded a higher market price because of consumer preferences, so with SRI methods it was more profitable to cultivate this heirloom variety rather than a modern variety that could yield 16 tonnes per hectare under SRI management.

The opportunities that SRI methods opened up for indigenous varieties to become competitive with modern varieties were already being discovered by farmers in some Sri Lankan communities by the time I visited that country in January 2002. I was taken to visit a group of young farmers in Lunuwila who had formed their own Paraboowa Environmental Farming Association. They proudly showed me the indigenous rice varieties that they had started growing with SRI methods, seen below.

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With SRI methods, these varieties were producing 5 to 7 tonnes per hectare instead of their usual 2 to 3 tonnes, the farmer association chairman, Rasika, told me. Using the same kind of plastic packaging in which Sri Lankan spice growers often sell an assortment of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black peppers, etc. to tourists, they displayed for me and others the array of varieties that they were growing.

When I returned to Sri Lanka two years later, I again met Rasika, who proudly reported that since my previous visit, the group had shipped 17 tonnes of their ‘wild eco-rice’ to buyers in Italy, much as Kolo Harena members in Madagascar has exported some of their red rice to Europe through Slow Food Movement connections.

My trip report from that visit stated: “The group says that it practices SRI for more than profit as it is seeking to preserve traditional rice varieties which have superior taste, texture, keeping, and other qualities, and thereby to maintain rice biodiversity.’[18] These young farmers felt that with SRI management they had an opportunity and a mission: to make sure that these preferred varieties would remain available for present and future consumption, preserving them for coming generations.



As noted above, this country has experienced a massive loss of rice genetic resources as a consequence of the Green Revolution and due to government efforts to increase the production of large quantities of rice irrespective of its quality. Several Indian rice-biodiversity activists were quick to recognize how disseminating SRI methods could strengthen farmers’ incentives to continue growing heirloom varieties, particularly Jacob Nellithanam in the state of Chhattisgarh and Sabarmatee in the state of Odisha.

Jacob, a farmers-rights activist who has headed the Richharia Campaign,[19] attended the first national SRI symposium for India, held in Hyderabad in 2006, and called participants’ attention to the successes that he was having with SRI methods when growing indigenous varieties. He also publicized civil-society efforts that were being made in India to conserve these varieties. His interventions raised my and others’ awareness of opportunities that SRI was creating to help conserve rice genetic diversity beyond what I had learned previously in Sri Lanka.[20]

In the neighboring state of Odisha, another center of rice biodiversity in India, Sabarmatee through the NGO that she was leading, Sambhav, was also engaged in the collection and conservation of indigenous varieties along with the promotion of SRI. When my wife Marguerite and I visited the Sambhav center in 2008, she showed us her NGO’s facilities for cataloging and maintaining over 400 ‘unimproved’ rice cultivars, to be kept available hopefully for many future generations to come.[21]

Recognizing the limitations of maintaining seeds in a seed bank, Sambhav has established a novel system for conserving these different varieties. Farmers willing to participate in the program ‘adopt’ a particular heirloom variety on behalf of all fellow farmers and undertake to preserve these genetic resources in perpetuity.[22] These farmers and their families commit to growing that local cultivar on a part of their land, season after season, so that it is maintained in a natural habitat as well as in Sambhav’s gene preserve.

In the summer season of 2010, Sabarmatee evaluated the performance of 99 indigenous varieties when they were grown with SRI methods. The average yield for all of these varieties under SRI management was 6 tonnes per hectare, which is 50% more than the average yield from ‘modern’ varieties in India, about 4 tonnes per hectare.[23] Among the 99 local cultivars, three were found to give very high yields, 9, 10 and 11 tonnes per hectare, respectively. Such yields are seldom attained with modern varieties. Below are shown some of the indigenous varieties being grown at Sambhav.

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Recognizing the potential of ‘unimproved’ rice varieties and the value of conserving their genetic potential, the National Consortium for SRI, a loose coalition of institutions and individuals wanting to see SRI more widely known and utilized in India, has focused some attention on the productivity of these varieties under SRI management. In 2013, the Consortium sponsored a thorough study that documented the agronomic merits of growing these varieties with SRI management. It also included accounts of various admirable seed-saving efforts in India, including that of Sambhav.[24]

Unfortunately, the study did not go into the economic impacts of growing traditional varieties under SRI management. If rice biodiversity is to be conserved, this will ultimately not be as well protected by gene banks, legislation, or altruistic appeals as if there is demonstrated profitability for farmers to continue growing these ‘old’ varieties because of consumer preferences and the attractive prices that producers can receive.

Anyone who has eaten and savored heirloom varieties of rice knows their virtues compared to the ‘white stuff’ that for many generations has sustained billions of people around the world simply as a source of calories to fill empty stomachs. There are a huge number of rice varieties that in addition to being a palatable staple food can be used appetizingly in soups, salads, desserts, snacks, condiments, and other foods. So, it is not certain that demand for and consumption of rice will decline in the future as people’s incomes rise over time.

This is the current prediction of economists who have documented how people’s consumption habits change as they earn higher disposable incomes. People usually appreciate a more varied diet and will diversify it if they can afford to do so. However, because there are so many different kinds of rice and so many uses for rice, demand for this grain, though a staple food, should increase rather than contract if SRI methods can, through large gains in productivity, make a diversity of rices available at prices that are affordable to consumers at all income levels while growing these rices is properly remunerative to farmers.[25]

These considerations link back to the development of value-chain capacities discussed in the preceding chapter, serving the interests of both producers and consumers and also of the environment. The connections that SRI knowledge and practice can forge among farmers’ profitability, consumers’ satisfaction, and environmental protection should help to make the spread of SRI more rapid and more beneficial.



There is a third focus for biodiversity conservation that can benefit from SRI methodology. This is on the smallest creatures which are definitely uncharismatic: the bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that live underfoot in the soil. As reviewed in Chapter 5, the abundance, diversity and activity of such organisms is one of the explanations for SRI’s effectiveness. Microbial abundance is now relatively easy to assess, but diversity is something for which the data are limited because of difficulties in measurement.

There have been remarkable advances in the technology for measuring the abundance of the soil microbiota, with second-generation sequencing of DNA and metagenomics analysis. These methods make it possible to assess total numbers and concentrations of soil microbes using broad categories. But such methods do not differentiate individual species, so the numbers of species, and thus microbial biodiversity, cannot be determined simply.[26]

We know that SRI’s soil management practices, together with its water and nutrient management, will increase microbial abundance.[27] But the study of soil ecology gives an understanding of how important is the variety of organisms in the soil and of the relationships among them.[28] While total numbers are important, it is whole communities of organisms that sustain both them and the so-called higher organisms of the plant and animal kingdoms.

To some extent the abundance of soil microbes may be considered as a kind of proxy for overall biodiversity. But this remains an inference. Most of the research on SRI’s effects on the soil microbiota have focused on their abundance when rice crops and soils are managed with more organic and fewer inorganic inputs. Inorganic fertilizers provide an abundant supply of the macronutrients that plants need – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK). But their application can also unbalance the mix of nutrients available to plants (and soil organisms). Even though micronutrients like iron, zinc, copper, magnesium et al. are required in only small, trace amounts for good nutrition, they are essential, as unbalanced ratios of macro- to micronutrients can cause various kinds of plant malnutrition.[29]

Soil microbes need these same micronutrients, albeit in miniscule amounts, so they can be considered as competitors with plants for these scarce elements. But both plants and microbes are dependent on each other, so they have evolved various mechanisms for symbiotic coexistence. Microbes are able to mobilize and make available micronutrients that exist in the soil in forms that are unavailable to plants, not being dissolved in the soil solution (the water in the soil that is available to plant roots). These nutrients can be in ionic forms that are not absorbable by plants or they can be in inaccessible places such as microscopic cracks and crevices in soil particles that cannot be reached by plant roots or by flowing or osmosing water.

Microbes, being so tiny, are able to acquire such mineral elements for their own nutrition, and when they expire these elements are released into the soil system and into the soil solution. Microbes in effect ‘mine’ the soil for its micronutrient reserves. The earth’s soils have been nourishing plant life for over four hundred million years, with micronutrients being extracted and recycled back and forth between plants and microbial life forms all this time. With more complex cycling, animals consume and digest plant materials, and then their excretion and eventually-expiring life forms re-enter the massive, continuous flow of nutrient elements among different life forms after decomposition.

This flow requires energy which is ultimately of solar origin, processed through photosynthesis into energy bundles that drive the metabolism of microbes, plants and animals.[30] The abundance of the living organisms in the soil is obviously important, to be understood as a ‘soil food web’ in and through which macro- and micronutrients flow and have flowed for eons of time. But it is the diversity of soil organisms that makes these flows greater and more resilient.[31] Abundance, diversity and activity are the three parameters of microbial contribution to the soil’s regeneration and resilience.

There has not been very much research done on how or how much SRI practices influence the diversity of life in the soil largely because of measurement difficulties. Since the application of agrochemical biocides intended to kill pests and pathogens inflicts collateral damage on other microorganisms and soil biota, their use will reduce or suppress many populations beyond the target species. Reducing the use of such agrochemicals will enhance the soil’s biodiversity.

Further, supplying macronutrients through synthetic fertilizer benefits and accelerates the growth of some species in the soil more than other species. As the favored populations expand more rapidly, they consume more of the nutrients that are needed by other species to subsist, thereby changing the ratios and balances among all the soil communities. Having more abundance of some species with others receding can adversely affect the functioning and resilience of soil food webs.


The most detailed experimental research done on the impact of SRI management practices on microbial communities and their diversity has been carried out in Thailand.[32] The first articles published assessed changes in soil bacterial populations over a growing season, comparing the effects of SRI vs. conventional rice crop management.[33] This research looked at the abundance of microbes in the soil and at their effects on the nitrification process, rather than at microbial diversity per se.

The plot diagrams below show the changes in soil bacteria that could be determined from analyzing amplified DNA samples from the microbes that were extracted from soil samples taken at monthly intervals (sampling 5 times) at two different depths of the rice plot soils, at a depth of 0-10 cm (A) or 10-20 cm (B). The data points for SRI and conventional management are indicated in the diagrams by black and white, respectively. The results in plots that received compost amendments are indicated by circles, and those that did not receive compost are shown as squares. The numbers at each data point indicate the month for which the microbial populations were calculated, from the 1st moth to the 5th month at the shallower (A) or deeper (B) soil depths. Bacterial populations are shown on the left-hand diagrams, and measurements for archaea appear on the right.

Analysis quickly gets very complicated. As all the treatments were replicated, the research design was obviously difficult to lay out and to manage, and analyzing the results was even more complex. Explaining the diagrams below would require more effort at writing and reading than is necessary for the purposes of this memoire. The articles from which the diagrams were taken give more detail and draw multifactorial conclusions.

What can be seen at a glance is that bacterial and archaea populations in SRI-managed soils differ from those in conventionally managed soils. Differentiation for bacteria started at sampling time 2 in the upper soil depth (A) and from sampling time 1 in the lower soil depth (B). Archaeal populations began differentiating from the second sampling time in both the upper and the lower soil depths.

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Nitrification rates in the soil were consistently higher in the SRI-managed plots. However, the SRI yields that resulted were unexpectedly lower than those from the conventional (flooded) plots. This was subsequently explained by examination of the plants’ roots. The SRI plant roots had galls which indicated significant damage from root-feeding nematodes, which became more abundant and active in SRI’s more-aerobic soils, an undesirable kind of biodiversity for agriculture.[34]

This research was valuable for making clear how much impact that the water and nutrient management practices of SRI can have on the abundance and diversity of soil organisms during the course of a season. It also showed that the patterns and dynamics of communities of archaea, another major biological kingdom, were basically similar to the patterns and dynamics of bacteria.

Subsequent research compared the indigenous mycorrhizal fungi that inhabit rice plant roots in Thailand to address further the question of microbial biodiversity associated with SRI management. Some of the same researchers who had studied bacterial and archaeal communities then looked at the fungal communities in the roots of rice plants grown in SRI-managed plots. They found that these communities were more diverse than in rice plant roots than in the roots of rice plants grown with conventional rice cultivation practices. The latter had mycorrhizal fungi of only one genus (Glomus), while SRI roots hosted fungi in both the Glomus and Acaulospora genera.[35]

A study in neighboring Vietnam comparing the phytoplankton and zooplankton in the root zones of rice plants under SRI vs. conventional rice crop management found more species of phytoplankton, but not of zooplankton, in the rhizospheres of SRI-grown plants.[36] The phytoplankton density and Shannon-Wiener diversity index were both higher for SRI. Zooplankton density was also higher but the diversity index was not different, according to the abstract of the study.

*    *    *     *    *    *

Studies of how subterranean biodiversity may be affected by agricultural practices like SRI are still not very well-developed. The current advanced techniques for assessing microorganisms’ presence in the soil have made huge advances over previous methods, but they are still fairly gross, differentiating categories of organisms but not certain species from one another. Thus, it may take some time to accumulate evidence in detail on SRI’s impact on underground biodiversity.

But given what is known about the relationships among plants, soil, water, nutrients and microbes, there is every reason to think that SRI management, compared to ‘modern’ agriculture, will increase rather than diminish microbial diversity. This would be a bonus for soil biodiversity in addition to the conservation of diversity for endangered species of wildlife and for rice varieties which is easier to denominate and demonstrate.


[1] J.R. Stevenson, N. Villoria, D. Byerlee, T. Kelley and M. Maredia, ‘Green Revolution research saved an estimated 18 to 27 million hectares from being brought into agricultural production,’ Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences USA, 110: 8363-8368 (2013).

[2] See current Wikipedia entry on Ranomafana National Park. TripAdvisor gives it strong marks, with the strongest criticism that it can be crowded, something unthinkable 20 years ago. With 12 species of lemurs residing in the forest, it has the greatest abundance of these rare primates in Madagascar. It also has 90 species of butterflies, 98 kinds of frogs, and 350 varieties of spiders. The State University of New York at Stony Brook with leadership from Patricia Wright has established Centre ValBio for biodiversity research and conservation in Ranomafana.

[3] Information from personal communication with Matt Zimmerman, Country Director for World Education from 2001 to 2007, and its chief of party for the project activity in Kalimantan. Matt knew about SRI from his doing a master’s degree at Cornell in the 1990s. While at Cornell, Matt was the teaching assistant for a graduate course on agricultural and rural development that I taught together with several other faculty.

[4] The name of this organization Kelompok Kerja Aksi Konservasi Badak means Action Working Group to Conserve the Rhino.

[5] See the GEF website.

[6] The Park has a great variety of wildlife, including also hippopotamuses, giraffes, Cape buffaloes, and the rare shoebill stork.

[7] See Dale Lewis et al., ‘Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) links biodiversity conservation with sustainable improvements in livelihoods and food production,’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, 108: 13957-13962 (2011). (Six of the 16 co-authors of this article are members of the Cornell University faculty.) One of the conditions for participation in COMACO’s producer groups and training programs is that guns and snares used for poaching be given over to the program. This had netted already about 1,500 guns and 61,000 snares.

[8] COMACO advertises Chama rice as one of its leading ‘It’s Wild’ products.

[9]   See report on this training by Henry Ngimbu.

[10] The items in this blog are continually changing, so the one on SRI may not be posted for long.

[11] See IUCN report on the status of the giant ibis. This is the website describing the project.

[12] The project maintains a website for these commercially-promoted products.

[13] As this chapter was being written, a blog report was posted by the Lemur Conservation Network on the Wildlife Conservation Society’s work in Madagascar, supporting SRI cultivation as part of its effort to protect endangered lemur species there. It reported average SRI yields of 4.7 tonnes per hectare, almost double the national average.

[14] See report on the African Wildlife Foundation website, commemorating International Day of Forests, posted March 21 (2021).

[15] A. Nourollah, ‘Genetic diversity, genetic erosion and conservation of the two cultivated rice species (Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima) and their close wild relatives,’ pages 35-73, in M.R. Ahuja and S.M. Jain, eds., Genetic Diversity and Erosion in Plants, Springer, Cham, Switzerland (2016).

[16] IRRI reports that it has over 2,000 rice varieties from Sri Lanka among its acquisitions stored in its gene bank at Los Baños in the Philippines, seeking to conserve these genetic resources.

[17] Michael Frei and Klaus Becker, ‘On rice, biodiversity and nutrients,’ University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany (2005); Frei and Becker, ‘Fatty acids and all-trans-β-carotene are correlated in differently colored rice landraces,’ Journal of the Sciences of Food and Agriculture, 85: 2380-2384 (2005); Frei and Becker, ‘Agro-biodivesity in subsistence-oriented farming systems in a Philippine upland region: Nutritional considerations,’ Biodiversity and Conservation, 13: 1591-1610 (2004); Frei and Becker, ‘Studies on the in-vitro starch digestibility and the glycemic index of six different indigenous rice cultivars from the Philippines,’ Food Chemistry, 83: 395-402 (2003).

[18] From page 3 of my trip report, December 2003.

[19] Dr. R.H. Richharia was an eminent rice scientist who served as the first director of India’s Central Rice Research Institute in Cuttack. While director, he collected and curated some 23,000 indigenous rice varieties, 19,000 of them from the state of Chhattisgarh, one of the centers for the origination of rice as a domesticated crop. In the 1960s, he was forced out as director of CRRI because of his resistance to the way in which IRRI’s new varieties were being introduced into India to launch the Green Revolution. He was concerned that ignoring quarantine requirements would permit the introduction of viruses and diseases, but also with the anticipatable loss of biodiversity. See interview with Dr. Richharia in the Illustrated Weekly of India (1986).

[20] See video that Jacob produced on the advantages of using SRI methods with local varieties, and this report on the ‘Save Our Rice’ campaign in several Indian states in which Jacob and others participated in the mid-2000s.

[21] For an account of Sabarmatee’s engagement with SRI, see ‘System of Rice Intensification: Enabling a joyful interaction with nature,’ in C. Shambu Prasad, K. Beumer and D. Mohanty, eds., SRI in Orissa: Towards a Learning Alliance, 37-42, WWF and Xavier Institute of Management and Business, Bhubaneswar. This account is expanded upon in an unpublished paper that gives many details on 36 of the landraces being curated. A recent article and video reports on Sabarmatee’s operation, on bringing a ‘jungle’ out of ‘wasteland’ and on conserving  rice biodiversity.

[22] This system of on-farm conservation of rice biodiversity is described in A. Patnaik, J. Jongerden and G. Ruivenkamp, ‘Repossession through sharing of and access to seeds: Different cases and practices,’ International Review of Sociology, 27: 179-201 (2016).

[23] A. Janaiah, M. Hossain and K. Otsuka, ‘Productivity impact of the modern varieties of rice in India,’ The Developing Economies, 44: 190-207 (2006).

[24] Soumik Banerjee, Study of Performance of Indigenous Rice Varieties under SRI and Conventional Practice, NCS, New Delhi (2013).

[25] Discussion in this book has focused on the most widely grown and consumed kind of rice, Oryza sativa, which originated in Asia and which has three subspecies of cultivars: Indica, Japonica, and Javonica. There is a parallel species of rice that is native to Africa, Oryza glaberrima, which also has a variety of landraces. There are, in addition, a number of diverse ‘wild’ species of rice such as Oryza punctata in Kenya, but these are marginal kinds of rice compared to O. sativa and O. glaberrima.

     For commercial reasons or sometimes technical preferences, O. glaberrima has been displaced by O. sativa in some places in Africa. Happily, SRI methods have proved beneficial for growing practically all kinds of rice (Oryza), so when we refer to conserving rice genetic diversity through the impacts of SRI, this refers to conserving rice across the board.

[26] Advances in the analysis of genes, as discussed at the end of Chapter 5, have enabled researchers to identify which particular genes may be up- or down-regulated within plant or microbial genomes. Such precision is not yet attainable in the study of microbial populations in the soil.

[27] N. Uphoff, I. Anas, O.P. Rupela, A.K. Thakur and T. M. Thiyagarajan, ‘Learning about positive plant-microbial interactions from the System of Rice Intensification (SRI),’ Aspects of Applied Biology 98: 29-53 (2009); I. Anas, O.P. Rupela, T.M. Thiyagarajan and N. Uphoff, ‘A review of studies on SRI effects on beneficial organisms in rice soil rhizospheres,’ Paddy and Water Environment 9: 53-64 (2011).

[28] See David Coleman, D.A. Crossley Jr. and P.F. Hendrix, Fundamentals of Soil Ecology, 2nd ed., Academic Press, New York (2004); J.E. Thies and J. Grossman. ‘The soil habitat and soil ecology,’ in N. Uphoff et al., eds., Biological Approaches to Sustainable Soil Systems, 59-78, CRC Press, Boca Raton FL (2006); and J.K. Whalen and L. Sampedro, Soil Ecology and Management, CABI Publishers, Wallingford, UK (2010).

[29] P.S. Bindraban, C. Dimkpal, L. Nagarajana, A. Roy and R. Rabbinge, ‘Revisiting fertilisers and fertilisation strategies for improved nutrient uptake by plants,’ Biology and Fertility of Soils 51: 897-911 (2015).

[30] This is laid out in Andy Ball’s chapter on ‘Energy inputs in soil systems,’ in Biological Approaches to Sustainable Soil Systems, 79-90, CRC Press, Boca Raton FL (2006).

[31] Janice Thies and Julie Grossman, ‘The soil habitat and soil ecology,’ in Biological Approaches to Sustainable Soil Systems, 59-78, CRC Press, Boca Raton FL (2006).

[32] It was fortunate that a young Thai researcher Thanwalee Sooksa-nguan (nicknamed Jijy) connected with a microbiologist/soil ecologist at Cornell, Janice Thies, for external supervision and advising of her PhD thesis. Her thesis research was funded by the Thai government. Jijy and Janice in turn made connections with Dr. Phrek Gypmantsiri at Chiangmai University, who had attended the SRI conference in Sanya, China, which Janice also attended in 20902. This collaboration led to a number of published articles.

[33] T. Sooksa-nguan, J.E. Thies, P. Gypmantsiri, N. Boonkerd and N Teaumroong, ‘Effect of rice cultivation systems on nitrogen cycling and nitrifying bacterial community structure,’ Applied Soil Ecology 43: 139-149 (2009); T. Sooksa-nguan, P. Gypmantsiri, N. Boonkerd, J.E. Thies and N. Teaumroong, ‘Changes in bacterial community composition in the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Chiang Mai, Thailand,’ Microbes and Environment 25: 224-227 (2010).

[34] Nematodes as aerobic soil organisms which require oxygen to survive are suppressed by the continuous flooding of rice paddies. Jijy’s experimentation produced some unanticipated but useful knowledge for SRI management. Where root-feeding nematodes are endemic in paddy soils, adjustments need to be made in the water management regime. It needs to be determined empirically what amounts and timing of irrigation water will suppress these organisms and minimize their infestation of rice roots.

[35] N. Watanajojanaporn, N. Boonkerd, P. Tittabutr, A. Longtonglang, J.P.W. Young and N. Teaumroong, ‘Effect of rice cultivation systems on indigenous arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal community structure,’ Microbes and Environment 28: 316-324 (2013).

[36] Hồ Vũ Khanh, ‘Assessment of economic efficiency, soil characteristics and plankton on SRI model, and traditional intensive rice model in Tan Hiep, Kien Giang,’Ho Chi Minh City University of Education Journal of Science, 17, 2130-2142 (2020).


PICTURE CREDITS: Wildlife Conservation Society (2) (COMACO, Zambia); Norman Uphoff (Cornell); Sabarmatee (Sambhav)

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