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SRI can be considered as a civil-society innovation because it originated from the work of a French priest engaged with small farmers in Madagascar rather than from a government research institution or a university. As seen in Chapter 3, the impetus for SRI’s initial spread in Madagascar came from a small non-governmental organization (NGO) that the priest and some of his Malagasy friends established in 1990, Association Tefy Saina. It should not be surprising, then, that the greatest support for SRI’s acceptance has come from a variety of NGOs as well as from rank-and-file rice producers, over time in many countries. That support is the focus of this chapter and the following two chapters.

A distinctive feature of the SRI story has been its multi-sectoral provenance. However, central and often crucial roles have been played in most countries by what is now called ‘civil society’ -- agencies and actors that proceed without the authority of the state and without primarily commercial interests. Civil society is characterized by people’s voluntary initiatives and by their collective action to achieve mutual benefits. These benefits can include generating some profits, but the primary focus of civil society is on creating public goods rather than on producing private goods.[1]

The civil-society organizations that have been involved with SRI have been local, regional, national, and international. Many different kinds of organizations have played noteworthy roles in the acceptance and spread of SRI. Some can be described generally as development-oriented NGOs, while others are somewhat specialized, such as agroecological NGOs, environmental NGOs, or faith-based NGOs. Some NGOs are policy or advocacy organizations, but most of those involved in this story have worked directly with farmer organizations and communities at the grassroots. A number of farmer associations of various sorts have become involved directly with SRI dissemination and are also noted in this chapter.

Civil society includes also individuals who seek to promote some common good beyond their own. They act with neither official status nor profit motive, but with a desire to contribute to improvements in other people’s lives. The crucial role and extent of individual initiatives, with or without organizational support, warrants concurrent consideration, so this is covered in the two chapters that follow this one. Chapter 25 presents examples of the contributions made by diverse professionals in many countries, while Chapter 26 recounts the variety of farmers who have played important leadership roles for SRI, recognizing that in civil society, the efforts of organizations and individuals are thoroughly interwoven.

This chapter can provide only an overview of the multitudinous organizational initiatives and dynamics that comprise the SRI story. It is not possible to account here for all of such involvement with SRI because so many of these efforts proceeded with little or no recognition. This and the next two chapters thus are at best representative of a larger effort rather than being comprehensive accounts. Mini-memoires supplement the accounts in these three chapters with more detailed and personal reports of civil-society as well as other engagement.



When ‘development NGO’s are referred to as a category, usually the large international NGOs like OXFAM and CARE come most readily to mind. But we begin with national and lower-level NGOs because they played some of the first and most important roles for getting SRI tried out by farmers in fields beyond Madagascar, mostly in Asia. Their efforts showed both practitioners and scientists how the ideas and practices of SRI could have application in diverse environments.



The first report to reach Cornell of SRI being used outside of Madagascar came from this country where its civil society took the lead in introducing SRI. Subsequently, various universities and government agencies were drawn into the effort, but it was civil-society organizations and actors who gave the most impetus to SRI’s acceptance and continued to be its main proponents.

In late 1999, Chrissy Guerrero, a Filipina student who was studying at Cornell for a master’s degree in international development, sent me an email from the province of North Cotabato to which she had returned for doing field research for her thesis. While doing fieldwork, she had happened upon some SRI fields, easily identifiable visually because of the square planting of single small seedlings.

By inquiry, Chrissy found out that a small NGO in Cotabato, the Consortium for the Development of Southern Mindanao Cooperatives (CDSMC), had learned about SRI the previous year at a national seminar on rice improvement organized by the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR).[2] Association Tefy Saina’s secretary-general had been invited from Madagascar to participate in this seminar, and he had spoken to participants about SRI through a translator from the Dutch NGO ILEIA.[3] CDSMC staff who attended the seminar were impressed by the ideas of SRI, and upon returning to Mindanao they had gotten farmers there to try out the new methods in the next season.[4]

From 2002 on, IIRR’s national affiliate in the Philippines, the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), provided a base of operation for the largely NGO-based national SRI network that became known as SRI-Pilipinas (Chapter 39). When in 2002 the first international conference on SRI was convened in China, the Philippines was represented by an NGO in the Visayas region, Broader Initiatives for Negros Development (BIND).[5] In Chapter 13, it was reported how BIND undertook pioneering experiments with systematic data-gathering to adapt SRI methods to rainfed rice cultivation. In the Philippines, it is clear that SRI was taken up largely as a civil-society innovation.


In the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Myanmar, the main steps for introducing and scaling up SRI were initiated by two large and effective national development NGOs. In 2000, the founder and president of CEDAC,[6] Yang Saing Koma got 28 Cambodian farmers with whom he had already begun working on rice improvement to try out the SRI methods. (In the previous season after reading about SRI in the ILEIA bulletin, he had tried the methods out on his own fields to satisfy himself that they were valid.) The good results that these farmers achieved prompted CEDAC to launch an SRI program which expanded to 400 farmers the next year, and in succeeding years it grew to 2,100 and 9,200, reaching 16,844 in 2004.

CEDAC began working also with other NGOs in Cambodia and several donor agencies on SRI extension, and it was able to get support from the Ministry of Agriculture, whose Minister became an articulate advocate for SRI. In 2006 the Minister made promotion of SRI part of his sector’s national five-year development plan. Within 10 years it was no longer possible to know how many Cambodian farmers were using SRI methods, but the number was probably over 250,000 as many other organizations and the government became involved with its dissemination (Chapter 40).

While cooperating with other institutions, CEDAC maintained its own SRI program which established a national farmer network, the Farmer and Nature Net, discussed later in this chapter. This network supported organic farming methods and the economic advancement of small farmers. CEDAC stores in Phnom Penh, assisted by Oxfam America, sold FNN members’ organic rice and other organic products at premium prices to urban consumers.

Below is a picture taken in 2013 of Koma, on the right, with the Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun on the left and myself in the center. We had just spoken about SRI to over 400 farmer representatives from all parts of the country who were participating in a 4th National Farmer’s Convention convened by the Ministry of Agriculture in Phnom Penh. The rapid spread of SRI in Cambodia would not have been possible without the work of CEDAC at both national and local levels, amplified by government and other NGO support that it was able to enlist.[7]

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In northern Myanmar, the Metta Development Foundation in 2000 engaged as its agricultural advisor a former staff member of the Philippines-based IIRR, Humayun Kabir, a Bangladeshi agronomist. Humayun had learned about SRI from his time as a rice advisor for IIRR. Metta was planning a farmer field school-based development program in the northeast of the country. Between 2001 and 2003, training and demonstrations on SRI were conducted in rainfed Kachin and Shan states for over 5,000 farmers, with 258 FFS groups trained in SRI methods. In this program, farmers’ performance was closely monitored and evaluated.[8]

Based on calculations of the spread of SRI beyond the FFS trainees, it was estimated that by 2006, 29,000 farmers in the two states were using SRI methods. In 10 villages that were carefully studied, where one-third of the farmers had received training on SRI, it was found that after four years almost 100% of these villages’ farmers were using the new methods.

Thereafter, Metta began introducing SRI also in the Irrawaddy delta, the main rice-growing region of Myanmar.[9] Other NGOs also joined in the effort, but without government support, in this country where regime influence is very strong, SRI did not spread in Myanmar in the same way as in Cambodia, although there is now more acceptance by the Myanmar government (Chapter 40).[10]


This was the next country where NGO initiative propelled SRI acceptance. A prominent national NGO known as PRADAN[11] was the first to respond to SRI opportunities, as reported in Chapter 13. Like BIND in the Philippines, CEDAC in Cambodia, and Metta in Myanmar, the field staff of PRADAN in the Purulia district of West Bengal state adapted the original SRI ideas to make improvements in farmers’ rainfed rice production. This adaptation enabled them to deal with some of the starkest hunger and poverty in the region. PRADAN teams working in other states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand) subsequently established SRI programs in other impoverished parts of India’s northeast, and PRADAN lobbied for SRI acceptance at the national level.[12]

Shortly after PRADAN started working with SRI methods, two other respected national development NGOs got involved with SRI evaluation and extension: WASSAN[13] in central India, and the People’s Science Institute[14] in northern India. Both played major roles along with PRADAN in establishing a national network for SRI, with an SRI list-serve that has served all of India.[15]

Whereas in some countries, such NGOs might have a competitive relationship, in India these NGOs were fully cooperative. A number of state-level NGOs played regional roles for gaining SRI acceptance such as PRAN based in Bihar state,[16] AMEF in Karnataka state,[17] and PRAGATI and SAMBHAV in Odisha.[18][19]  

It is not possible to enumerate all of the NGO activity in India on behalf of SRI. At one point, the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, as discussed in Chapter 35, was assisting 78 NGOs in northern and northeastern India to promote SRI in communities in 65 districts across 7 states.[20] In contrast to China, where there is little NGO presence and activity, India abounds with NGOs, and they have played major roles in getting SRI understood and accepted there.

Elsewhere in South Asia

In Bangladesh, BRAC, the largest NGO in the world,[21] helped to get SRI started by hosting the formation of a national SRI network in 2002. It then headed up a two-year evaluation of SRI funded by IRRI (Chapter 7) and incorporated SRI into some of its field programs.[22]

For a while, the Bangladesh Rice Foundation housed the national SRI network, and other NGOs also participated and collaborated. The SAFE Development Group, an offshoot of the international NGO CARE, assisted the operation of the national SRI network from its inception and continues to do SRI training for government and other programs.[23]

In Sri Lanka, there are also many NGOs involved with SRI, but the main leadership on SRI acceptance for a number of years came from the Australian affiliate of Oxfam, Community Aid Abroad. This organization’s Sri Lanka program, like PRRM in the Philippines, provided a platform for the informal national network that linked national and local NGOs as well as farmer associations working with SRI ideas.[24]

That there has been less NGO activity on behalf of SRI in Pakistan reflects the fact that NGOs are generally not as influential in this country as elsewhere in the South Asian region.

In Nepal, SRI got started in mountain regions through initiative from the Himalayan Permaculture Centre.[25] Below is a Nepali farmer in Humla district, Hanse Buddha, who learned the new methods from the Centre and grew SRI rice successfully at 2,650 m above sea level. Various other NGOs have been involved with SRI as well, the most prominent being the NGO SAPPROS.[26]

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In Nepal, however, initiatives for SRI have come more from the university and government sectors than from civil society. The situation is similar in Bhutan, although the Sandrup Jongkar Initiative, a civil society organization, has begun giving leadership for SRI there.[27]

Middle East, Africa, and Latin America

Given that national development NGOs are less common in these regions than in many Asian countries, it is not surprising that NGOs have played smaller roles in SRI acceptance in these parts of the world. In Afghanistan, as noted below, an international faith-based NGO, the Aga Khan Foundation, had a leading role. In Iran, Iraq and Egypt, it has been national research institutions that took a lead on SRI rather than civil society (Chapter 27).

In Kenya, the African Institute for Capacity Development (AICAD) partnered with a faculty member at the Jomo Kenyatta University in introducing and evaluating SRI in the Mwea irrigation scheme.[28] In Liberia and Sierra Leone, it was faith-based NGOs that have taken initiative for SRI introduction, as discussed below. In Liberia, the Community of Hope Agricultural Project (CHAP), provided training between 2013 and 2015 for staff from BRAC in Bangladesh on how to use SRI methods in its seed multiplication project. In Sierra Leone, there was some assistance from Catholic Relief Services for a local initiative on behalf of SRI.

In Latin America, Ecuador is so far the only country where a national development NGO, FUNDEC, has taken the lead in introducing SRI. In Colombia, the national federation of rice growers, FEDEARROZ, has worked with IICA on SRI evaluation and demonstration, and has assisted with training within the region.[29] But in these three world regions, the roles of national and local development NGOs have been less than seen in Southeast Asia and South Asia. The roles of national NGOs have not been significant in East Asia.


The launch of SRI outside of Madagascar, as noted above, got started with the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction in the Philippines inviting Tefy Saina to make a presentation on SRI to a national NGO seminar on rice improvement that it convened in June 1999. Tefy Saina’s secretary, Justin Rabenandrasana, spoke through an ILEIA interpreter, who then invited Justin to write an article about SRI for its LEISA magazine published in the Netherlands.[30]

IIRR has had national affiliates in a dozen Asian, five African, and four Latin American countries. As noted above, an Bangladeshi rice specialist with IIRR, Humayun Kabir, started up SRI in Myanmar through the Metta Development Foundation after he left IIRR. He then furthered the use of SRI in Afghanistan under FAO auspices (next chapter). Currently IIRR has SRI activities in its programs in the Philippines, Myanmar and Cambodia, but not throughout its whole international network. In any case, IIRR’s role in getting SRI started beyond Madagascar was very important.

The international NGO that has been most engaged with and supportive of SRI is Oxfam, a development NGO whose affiliates in 13 countries have programs in dozens of developing nations. The SRI initiatives in both Cambodia and Vietnam benefited greatly from the support given by Oxfam America. This Oxfam affiliate helped to finance the establishment and operation of an SRI Secretariat within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Phnom Penh, and it funded an ambitious SRI demonstration program at village level through grants made to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Hanoi. This initiative led to the Ministry’s making SRI a national strategy in Vietnam.

Oxfam America supported the introduction of SRI in Haiti through its program there, and it helped to launch the System of Tef Intensification (STI) in Ethiopia (Chapter 14) through a grant made in 2009-2010 to an Ethiopian development NGO, the Institute for Sustainable Development. Below is a picture of the Rice Dragon Weeder that Oxfam had designed and field-tested especially for women’s use, and then promoted, in Cambodia and Vietnam.[31]

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Oxfam America also collaborated with the SRI-Rice center at Cornell in making presentations on SRI at World Food Prize events in Des Moines, Iowa in both 2010 and 2015, and at three of the quadrennial International Rice Congresses organized by the International Rice Research Institute (Chapter 21). These congresses were convened in Hanoi (2010), Bangkok (2014), and Singapore (2018). Backing for SRI from Oxfam America’s president, Ray Offenheiser, and the many years of support from Oxfam’s global agricultural advisor Le Minh have been of immeasurable value for gaining SRI acceptance.[32]

The start-up of SRI in Laos was spurred by Oxfam’s affiliate in Australia, at the time known as Community Aid Abroad.[33] Also, CAA provided a platform and staff support for the SRI national network in Sri Lanka, as mentioned above. While Oxfam New Zealand did not start SRI activity in Timor Leste, it provided valuable support for several years.[34] Oxfam Great Britain assisted the SRI-Pilipinas network at a critical time and also supported a local SRI program in Bangladesh. Oxfam Quebec provided some assistance for SRI work in Vietnam for several years.

While the family of Oxfam organizations as a whole did not make SRI a programmatic thrust, Oxfam affiliates operating in their constitutive decentralized manner made many important contributions to SRI’s spread. At the same time, Oxfam’s showing effectiveness in reducing poverty and hunger through its SRI initiatives was beneficial for its efforts to mobilize private financial contributions toward this goal.

Some other development-oriented NGOs have undertaken SRI activities, starting with CARE Bangladesh through a staff member who participated in the 1999 agroecology conference at Bellagio in Italy. Sylvie Desilles brought a conference paper on SRI back to Bangladesh. This got SRI started through CARE’s program in Kishoreganj district which collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture’s deputy director for extension in that district.[35] The good results from the CARE and government trials in that district got SRI launched in Bangladesh.

After the Bangladeshi staff member who had managed CARE’s initial SRI activities in Bangladesh left that international NGO to establish his own national NGO, there was no further CARE work in Bangladesh. As CARE was one of the largest international NGOs, it was approached about SRI several times when SRI was getting started beyond Madagascar, but there was no evident interest. Some 15 year later, however, there are reports of CARE introducing SRI methods through its programs in India and East Africa, and maybe elsewhere.[36]

A number of other international development NGOs based in more-developed nations have undertaken SRI initiatives in several of their country programs, even if none have tried to diffuse the new methods systematically through its international programming.

  • Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organization with headquarters in Portland, Oregon, USA, has undertaken SRI activities in Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Myanmar and Timor Leste.[37] Partners in Relief and Development, having a home office in Denver, Colorado, has operated an SRI program in Myanmar.[38] Another international development NGO based in Denver, International Development Enterprises, helped to get SRI started in Cambodia and Vietnam. But there was no wider effort.

  • GRET, a French development NGO which was instrumental in the formation of CEDAC in Cambodia, brought CEDAC’s director, Y.S. Koma, to the Rakhine region of Myanmar in 2004 to introduce SRI methods there.[39]

  • SNV, the Netherlands Development Organization, has been active in promoting SRI in Vietnam as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supported by Australian aid.[40

  • VECO, a Belgian NGO now known as Rikolto, was one of the first SRI promoters in Indonesia and has supported SRI activities also in Vietnam, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.[41]

  • AgroAction, a German NGO, introduced SRI methods through its program in Afghanistan in 2007, assisted by Humayun Kabir who had gotten SRI started in northern Myanmar. While the results in this initiative were not all good, one farmer reached a yield of 9.8 tonnes per hectares with SRI, showing its potential in the area.[42]

  • Welthungerhilfe, another German NGO, has introduced what it calls SVI, the System of Vegetable Intensification, among marginal households in Madhya Pradesh state of India.[43] In Liberia, it has worked on SRI spread with CHAP, a national NGO there which is discussed below among faith-based organizations.

  • MAZAO, an Italian NGO, set up an ambitious value-chain program in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo based on SRI.[44] Another Italian NGO that supports vocational training in developing countries, ENGIM, has provided support for SRI in Sierra Leone through its country representative, Gerald Aruna.[45]

  • ActionAid, a development agency started in the UK but now headquartered in South Africa with programs in many countries, has supported some SRI work in Bangladesh.[46] In 2010, Skills for Development, which has its office in London, funded the introduction of SRI into northwestern Cameroon by bringing in an SRI trainer from Zambia for three training visits.[47]

  • Pro-Net 21, a Japanese development NGO, is in the third phase of a program that it started in 2007 to spread SRI within Laos, with support from JICA.[48]


These are surely not all of the country-specific initiatives by development NGOs. Nobody can know them all. But these examples give an idea of the diverse engagements of such organizational arms of civil society that have helped to get SRI ideas and methods accepted and used.



Not many NGOs have a primary focus on agroecological innovation, but not surprisingly, once SRI began to move outside of Madagascar, these organizations were particularly helpful in bringing SRI to the attention of other civil-society actors as well as to farmers.

The Netherlands-based organization ILEIA is self-described as a center for learning on sustainable agriculture and dedicated to “strengthening family farming rooted in agroecology.” ILEIA learned about SRI as a co-sponsor of the IIRR rice workshop in the Philippines in 1999, noted above. Its magazine, the LEISA Newsletter, invited an article on SRI from Tefy Saina that sparked SRI trials in several countries, and it featured a number of articles on SRI in the following years.[49]

In 2013, ILEIA put together a special issue on SRI that was published concurrently in four languages in six editions from Wageningen, Bangalore, Nairobi, Dakar, Lima, and Kunming.[50] Very unfortunately, ILEIA had to close down its operations in July 2017 for lack of funding to sustain its work – paradoxically just at a time when FAO was starting to take greater interest in the agroecological approaches that ILEIA had helped to foster for many years. Fortunately, the LEISA newsletter had by this time been transmutated into a quarterly magazine published by a consortium of NGOs operating under the name AgriCultures Network.[51]


Also early in SRI’s emergence from Madagascar, the NGO known as ECHO took an interest in SRI.[52] It has a history of supporting agricultural innovation and particularly the work of agricultural missionaries outside the US. In 2001, it published an SRI manual in its ECHO Development Notes, making SRI more widely known around the world.[53]

In 2010 and 2013, ECHO’s leadership invited SRI-Rice to make presentations on SRI at its annual conferences in Fort Myers, Florida, and also at its regional conferences in Southeast Asia (Thailand) in 2009 and in West Africa (Burkina Faso) in 2010. ECHO and ILEIA have been particularly helpful in projecting SRI knowledge onto the world stage among persons who already have an interest in the kinds of agricultural improvement that SRI offers.

SRI got introduced and validated in Brazil when a staff member of Centro Agroecólogico an environmental NGO in Rio Grande do Sul state, got farmers to try its methods there.[54] At least some of the farmers who undertook SRI practices got good results, such as Juarez and his wife seen below who were able to double their rice yield with SRI methods. Most Brazilian rice farmers have fields much larger than in Asia and Africa, so SRI uptake in Brazil will mostly depend on appropriate mechanization (Chapter 19), something that agroecological NGOs may not be particularly well-positioned to accomplish.

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In recent decades, there has often been conflict or at least tension between civil society actors who are concerned with increasing agricultural production and those who seek to protect and conserve our natural resources – water resources and the water cycle, soil resources and their health, air quality, the biodiversity of flora and fauna, and the natural ecosystems that harbor and sustain all of these. The advance of agriculture and particularly its chemical-dependent forms of ‘modern’ agriculture are seen by many environmentalists as inimical to the functioning and even maintenance of vulnerable ecosystems.

As recounted in Chapter 3, the impetus for evaluating and supporting SRI in the Ranomafana project was to give smallholding farmers in Madagascar an attractive alternative to continuing their intrusion on threatened rainforest ecosystems, endangering their endemic biodiversity. As seen in Chapter 18, SRI methods have been used in a number of countries to help protect wildlife and the ecosystems that sustain them. But overall, there was less interest in SRI evident among environmental NGOs than might have been expected – with one very important exception.

In 2004, as reported in Chapter 8, Biksham Gujja, the director of a collaborative project on ‘food, water and environment’ based in Hyderabad, India, took an active interest in the potential of SRI to abate the diminution and degradation of natural resources, particularly water resources. This project was a joint undertaking by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)[55] and the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (Chapter 22).

Biksham and WWF were concerned that the further construction of mega-dams in India to expand the area of irrigated agriculture would have adverse impacts on remaining natural ecosystems as well as on the human populations that would necessarily be relocated. When he learned that SRI crop management could increase rice production with much lower water requirements, he concluded that this could reduce political and economic pressures on the government to build large dams that would both expand irrigated area and compete with natural ecosystem for limited water supplies, as well as disrupt human communities.

When he first learned about SRI, Biksham did not just start promoting it. He got WWF to fund three years of thorough evaluation that involved a multidisciplinary group of scientists at the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) where the WWF-CGIAR project was based, and from Andhra Pradesh’s state agricultural university (ANGRAU) and the Directorate of Rice Research for ICAR, India’s national agricultural research establishment. Conveniently, the three institutions were co-located in Hyderabad.

Once the empirical justification for SRI practices was validated, Biksham and his project associate Vinod Goud organized a series of national symposia on SRI, starting in 2006 in Hyderabad, then in Agartala in 2007, and in Coimbatore in 2008. These events brought together civil society representatives, researchers, policy-makers, and farmers from all over India. Over the three years, participation expanded from 150 to 250 to 350 as the number and depth of presentations grew. By the third year there were participants from states and territories that represented 98% of India’s population.[56]

A major contribution of the WWF/ICRISAT project was to publish seven newsletters that were very substantive, not just reports on activities.[57] Further, the project made small grants that supported SRI demonstrations and evaluations in different parts of India, such as Punjab, Odisha, and Jammu and Kashmir. It sponsored an electronic discussion group (SRI-India) with a website that was managed by WASSAN, an Indian national development NGO discussed above, also in Hyderabad.[58]

In 2010, when WWF’s dialogue project with the CGIAR system expired, there was not enough interest in either sponsoring organization to extend it further. But by this time, the WWF/ICRISAT project had gotten SRI launched as a national phenomenon, assisted by national agencies like the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) (Chapter 31) and the Tata Trust (Chapter 35). As a civil-society organization, WWF had mobilized and enlisted these other institutions to expand upon and sustain its efforts.

Most of the team that had conducted this dialogue project redirected their efforts into a social-entrepreneurial consulting firm called AgSri which carried on the WWF work (Chapter 34). AgSri has expanded its efforts beyond SRI to include SSI which makes sugarcane production more environment-friendly (Chapter 14). Neither SRI nor SCI could have advanced as much as they have in India if WWF, a conservation NGO, had not played such a proactive role.[59]

Another environmental NGO that has taken up SRI methods to support its conservation activities is the Wildlife Conservation Society, whose uses of SRI in Zambia and Cambodia are discussed in Chapter 18. Other conservation NGOs have also known about SRI but have not gotten involved, perhaps because of the controversy associated with SRI, or perhaps because they considered improving agriculture as something outside of their mandate and purview.



While Oxfam and WWF have played the largest civil-society roles in supporting the acceptance and use of SRI, NGOs with a religious orientation have been widely active in bringing SRI knowledge and opportunities to farmers and communities around the world. This is not surprising considering that SRI originated from the life’s work of a Jesuit priest living and working in Madagascar. The range of faiths and variety of denominations has been remarkable. This section is more of an overview than an inventory, showing how these various NGOs have contributed to the acceptance of SRI under a wide range of conditions, often assisting rural households that live in particularly marginalized and insecure circumstances.


Seventh-Day Adventists

The first religious NGO to make a big move for SRI was the Adventist Development and Relief Association (ADRA). In November 2001, Roland Bunch, whose contributions to SRI acceptance weave in and out of its story (e.g., Chapter 4), visited an ADRA rural development program in West Timor as a consultant. Having visited Madagascar shortly before coming to Indonesia, Roland explained about SRI to the team leader, Bruce Ewart. Bruce became interested in assessing SRI under local conditions, but he had difficulty getting farmers there to agree to try out the new methods, which seemed so strange to them. Eventually he got seven farmers to agree to give SRI practices a try, some because he said he would cut them off from project services otherwise.[60]

The wife of one of the farmers who agreed to try SRI methods did not want him to participate in the trials. She had formal training in agriculture and considered the innovation nonsense. This farmer later told Bruce that he proceeded to plant an SRI area twice as large as he had agreed to “because I had to show that woman who is boss.” This decision, despite its dubious motivation, turned out quite well because his SRI yield that season was 9.76 tonnes per hectare, more than double the 4.23 tonne yield that he got that season with his usual rice-growing methods. The average yield for the seven farmers was 11.6 tonnes per hectare, two and a half times more than their comparison yields that averaged 4.4 tonnes.

These good results prompted Bruce to get the ADRA project, Mother and Child Health and Agriculture, to engage a small New Zealand videography company to produce a series of three SRI training videos, in both Indonesian and English languages.[61] These are still some of the best videos ever done to promote SRI. Once posted on YouTube, they were widely used also in other countries.[62]

ADRA also introduced SRI methods in an area of Cambodia where it was working in 2002. The following May, we received at Cornell an email from Roland Bunch who had visited this project area as a consultant for ADRA. He wrote that about 100 farmers in one village had tried using SRI methods after ADRA had promised them that if they did not get at least their usual rice yield, about 1 tonne per hectare, ADRA would compensate them for any shortfall. Roland reported with satisfaction that the farmers’ average yield with SRI methods was 2.5 tonnes per hectare -- “and not one single farmer claimed his yield insurance.” [63]

Catholic organizations

Given the origin of SRI, one might have expected there to be particular interest and support from Catholic charities, but they have not been more active than those of other faiths. There have been some significant initiatives from the Catholic NGO CARITAS. We saw in Chapters 11 and 16 how its Czech affiliate introduced SRI in Aceh province of Indonesia in 2005, after a huge tsunami devastated the coastal areas of northern Sumatra in December 2004. To everyone’s surprise, farmers in Aceh whose average paddy yields had been 2 tonnes per hectare were able to get average yields of 8.5 tonnes per hectare with SRI methods.[64] Some of the Aceh residents using SRI methods are seen below.

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The Czech CARITAS affiliate also reported from Samar province in the Philippines that in 2015, when most farmers did not even plant rice because of that year’s El Niño drought, the farmers who used the SRI methods that they had learned from the CARITAS project had yields 30% higher than usual.[65] There have been CARITAS initiatives for SRI also reported from Myanmar, Philippines and Sierra Leone.

In Madagascar, the Catholic Relief Services program was one of the first, along with ADRA, to take up SRI in its development activities. CRS hired a former Peace Corps volunteer, Josh Poole, who had taught SRI to farmer groups under CIIFAD’s second project in that country. Josh brought both experience and conviction to his job with CRS, and one of his contributions to SRI work was to have a local artist draw a set of large cards that illustrated each step of the SRI process. These conveyed to farmers visually what was being explained in words. While the pictures were tailored to agricultural practices and implements in Madagascar, in the early years of SRI’s spread they were used also in some other countries to give farmers images of what SRI practices entailed.

Two CRS staff members presented a report on their Madagascar SRI experience at the international conference held in China in 2002.[66] CRS has included SRI also in its programs in Cambodia, India, Philippines and Sri Lanka.[67] CRS also assisted local SRI initiative in Sierra Leone. As noted in the next chapter, there have also been some Catholic priests working in Southeast Asia who have personally undertaken to introduce SRI in their areas of work.

Protestant organizations

Given the number and variety of Protestant NGOs that undertake development activities around the world, one would expect that they would have worked with SRI methods in a variety of countries. Nobody can know the full extent of this activity. The World Vision program in Sierra Leone was probably the first Protestant NGO to promote SRI (Chapters 16 and 44). World Vision Sierra Leone sent its research coordinator to Madagascar in November 2000 to learn SRI methods directly from Tefy Saina.[68] There are reports of World Vision also working with SRI ideas in Ghana, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia, but these farmers and programs have not connected with the SRI community, so we cannot report any results.

The Lutheran World Federation introduced SRI methods in its programs in Myanmar,[69] Nepal,[70] and Bihar state of India, while the German Evangelische Entwicklungsdienst (Evangelical Development Service, EED) featured SRI impacts in Cambodia in a joint publication with CEDAC in 2008.[71]

The evangelical NGO Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World) began cooperating in 2010 with the European organic-agriculture NGO (FiBL) and with three other Protestant NGOs (the Swiss Brot für Alle, the Church of Sweden, and DanChurchAid of Denmark) as well as with two European universities on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using SRI methods.[72]

In Liberia, a small Protestant NGO Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP) took the lead role in introducing SRI in this country after its director Rev. Robert Bimba participated in the 2012 workshop in Ouagadougou that launched the WAAPP program for spreading SRI in West Africa (Chapter 8).[73]

We cannot know all of the Catholic or Protestant initiatives that have been taken to bring SRI opportunities to farmers in various countries, but these brief descriptions give a picture of the diverse efforts, which also include some individual endeavors reported in Chapter 25.

Other denominations

Other faith-based NGOs have also taken up SRI introduction in various countries. In the fall of 2006, Latter Day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Mormon Church, introduced SRI in Kampong Chhnang province of Cambodia with CEDAC assistance. The 146 small farmers living in 39 villages who used the methods produced an average SRI yield of 4.02 tonnes per hectare, which was four times more than the yield that they had harvested the previous year (1.06 tonne average).[74]

Below are seen the three sons of Hang Hein who transplanted their father’s field of 0.9 ha in just one day; it took more than half a dozen adults to transplant his neighbor’s similar-sized field with traditional methods (seen below on right). Hang Hein’s yield that season was 5 tonnes per hectare, which was four times more than his previous yield of 1.2 tonnes. Unfortunately, SRI dissemination was not taken up elsewhere within other programs of the Mormon organization, despite some email and phone communication.

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The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has long been isolated from the rest of the world. As noted above, after ADRA produced SRI training videos in Indonesia, a group in New Zealand dubbed the videos’ soundtracks in the Korean language to share with friendship groups in DPRK. The American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) through its China office started discussing SRI ideas with North Korean agriculturalists in 2004, although there was no uptake until AFSC took a delegation of North Koreans to China in 2007 to see the new methods in practice. The single-seedling idea was operationalized through the use of plastic trays for growing individual plants to transplant, but not all of the SRI ideas were taken up. Just transplanting more widely-spaced single seedlings gave cooperative farms a 10-20% increase that is much appreciated in food-short North Korea.[75]

In 2014, the Mennonite Central Committee, which works similarly to the AFSC, sought SRI-Rice’s assistance in arranging for a delegation from North Korean cooperatives with which it was working to visit Vietnam and Malaysia to see SRI in practice. SRI colleagues in both countries welcomed such a visit and agreed to host it, but changes in the political climate kept this initiative from reaching fruition.[76]

Within the Muslim faith, there has been support for SRI diffusion from the Aga Khan Development Network, the action arm of the Aga Khan Foundation, which carries out good works on behalf of the Ismaili community within the Shia branch of Islam. Its assistance is offered to all regardless of religious persuasion.

AKF’S most ambitious work with SRI has been in Afghanistan, as discussed in Chapter 43, but there have also been AKF initiatives for SRI in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states of India through the Network’s Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, as well as in Madagascar and Mozambique.

In Cambodia,[77] Haiti[78] and Vietnam,[79] the NGO Buddhist Global Relief has partnered with other NGOs in these countries to introduce SRI to farming communities there. In Ethiopia, BGR has supported Oxfam America to disseminate SCI ideas for increasing vegetable production to improve poor households’ nutrition as well as their livelihoods.[80]

These diverse activities by different faith-based organizations have reflected a credo that believers have a duty to assist their fellow human beings to have better, more secure lives, with an appreciation for the bounty that is inherent in God’s creation. To benefit fully from this potential, however, requires relevant knowledge and human agency. So, the adage that God helps those who help themselves is very apt here. SRI-Rice has been pleased to work with a variety of faith-based NGOs to make SRI knowledge and opportunities more widely available.



A great variety of farmer organization have become involved with SRI dissemination over the years. We have no way of knowing the full extent of farmers’ civil-society engagement with SRI. But we take note here of some of the organizational manifestations that are known. Chapter 26 reports on some of the commendable initiatives and efforts of individual farmers in different countries to share SRI knowledge.

The first farmer organization to take an interest in SRI was a farmer-based organization in the Philippines known by the Tagalog acronym MASIPAG, which had a number of connections with Philippine academics and with civil society. It was set up about the same time that SRI ideas were first introduced in this country. However, there was little buy-in to SRI from MASIPAG in part because the organization was more concerned with contesting certain issues of plant genetics and varietal development rather than getting better crop performance through improvements in management practices.[81]

The first large-scale farmer organization to take up SRI was the Farmer and Nature Net(work) in Cambodia, which emerged from CEDAC’s campaign to promote broad-based local development with SRI as the leading innovation. At one point, FNN membership across two-thirds of the country’s provinces surpassed 50,000, although subsequent internal divisions set these numbers back.[82] As discussed in Chapter 17, CEDAC and FNN established a value-chain operation for the profitable sale of organically-grown products, particularly rice, with 11 outlets in the capital city of Phnom Penh and also export opportunities.

In Africa, farmer organizations have been less common than in Asia, but the National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi (NAFSAM) began introducing SRI to its members in 2018. And in 2022, it reported that farmers’ rice yields were almost doubling with the new methods.[83]

In northern Myanmar, a large network of less-formal farmer organizations resulted from the farmer field schools that were set up and supported by the Metta Development Foundation from 2001 to 2006, as discussed above. The FFS groups, each with about 20 members, learned SRI methods ‘by doing’ on a field-school plot as well as on their own fields. The results from these demonstration-trials and the practices that produced these results were disseminated to fellow-farmers in >200 villages. Through farmer-to-farmer communication, with 5,000 farmers trained in 258 groups over the first three years of the program, within five years there were 29,000 farmers using SRI methods.[84]

FFS groups have assisted the spread of SRI also in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, set up by FAO’s regional Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program based in Bangkok. But the farmer participation and impacts with these various countries has not been documented in the kind of detail generated in Myanmar.

FFS methodology for group formation and utilization has been used for SRI promotion in a number of countries.[85] The five-year EU-funded farmer-participatory action research project on rainfed SRI in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam plus Thailand (Chapter 8) was also based on FFS groups.[86] We note that the initiative for such groups is usually from outside rather than locally-instigated and farmer-led. So, although these organizations are voluntary, they tend to function more as appendages to the official apparatus than as part of what is generally understood as civil society.

In some situations, farmer cooperatives have been vehicles for SRI introduction and spread. In Timor Leste (East Timor), Oxfam New Zealand worked with 11 cooperatives in three districts there, all operating under the aegis of the Movimento Cooperativo Econômica-Agricoltura, to evaluate and utilize SRI methods. Pictures of their transplanting, weeding and harvest are shown below.

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On average, the Timorese farmers raised their yields from 2.5 tonnes per hectare to 5 tonnes, with their net profits per hectare rising from US$595 to US$2,198. They reduced water consumption by 50%.[87] The next year the cooperative reported that its members produced 165 tonnes of rice from 22 hectares, an average yield of 8 tonnes per hectare. It also built a warehouse to process and store the rice produced to get a better price for it.[88]

In many countries, because of unfortunate past experiences and politicization, ‘cooperatives’ do not have a very good reputation among farmers. One alternative has been the formation of farmer companies that operate as private businesses with farmer-producers as the stockholders and ultimate controllers of their economic activity.

In Chhattisgarh state of India, under an irrigation project supported by the Asian Development Bank, 2006-2012, SRI was introduced and expanded through water users’ associations and producer companies, initially in a pilot area of 25,000 hectares that eventually extended to 100,000 hectares. Paddy yields were doubled, from 2.8 tonnes per hectare to 5.9 tonnes per hectare, with farmer incomes also more than doubled.

These farmer companies were built on top of an organizational base of water user associations that operated at field channel level. A strategic objective of the project was to reduce water consumption during the rainy season by matching crops’ water demand with rainfall. Water saved in the wet season could then be used productively in the following dry season to grow crops other than rice. The project was able to increase dry-season cropping intensity within the command area from 6% to 52%, mostly because of the introduction of SRI in the main season and because farmer organizations coordinated efforts in both seasons.

It was calculated that the value-added from the higher agricultural production in the final year of the project equaled the entire donor cost of the project. SRI’s productivity gains for both land and water were key to the economic success of the project, but farmers’ collective action through their organizations and companies was essential for helping them to get most of the value of their production.[89]

The first SRI Farmer Association that we know of was established in 2007 in Thumbal village of Salem District in Tamil Nadu state of India. This organization was formed with encouragement from the state’s IAMWARM project which had funding from the World Bank and assistance from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. But it was not an outside imposition.

“At first, nobody would come forward to follow the methods of SRI,” the Farmer Association’s president T. Baskaran told the national SRI symposium held at Coimbatore in December 2008. The first year, only a few farmers tried the new methods, he said. But based on observed results, 90% of the farmers in the village took up SRI on 80 hectares the next year.

Officers and members of the Association, shown below, trained also 1,500 farmers from neighboring areas.[90] Baskaran explained how one member developed a better way to use the mechanical weeder, seen below on right, which reduced the time that a farmer needed to weed one hectare of SRI paddy from 12.8 to 7.2 hours.[91] Thambal was also the village where the System of Turmeric Intensification discussed in Chapter 14 was developed by farmers.

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In the Philippines a farmer organization in Iloilo province achieved rapid growth and success based on the organic production of heirloom (pigmented) varieties using SRI methods. The Zarraga Integrated Diversified Organic Farmers Association, known as ZIDOFA, was started in 2014 with the leadership of Joby Arandela who had lived and worked in the U.S. for 20 years.[92] He had returned with a desire to rehabilitate and modernize agricultural production in his home area.

Joby actively sought out connections with the private sector (e.g., Lotus Foods, to explore the possibilities for export markets), with government agencies (to get assistance for procuring modern milling equipment), with universities (for innovations such as in packaging), and with NGOs such as IIRR (for networking with other SRI users in the country and with farmers not using the new methods).

Over time, the farmer organization acquired more solidarity and a willingness to project organic SRI production onto a regional and even national stage. By 2018, there was more market demand for ZIDOFA members’ high-quality heirloom rice than could be met, which gave impetus for expansion of associated farmer groups within the region.[93]

In some other parts of the world, farmer federations have become involved in the evaluation and dissemination of SRI. In the West African country of Benin, the founder and director of an agroecological NGO and training center, Pascal Gbenou, who introduced SRI there, was also the founder and first president of the Conseil de Concertation des Riziculteurs du Benin (the Consultative Council of Rice Farmers in Benin).

One of the commendable innovations in Benin was for 90 farmers, all members of CCRB, to carry out their own evaluation of SRI methods in upland and lowland agroecological zones. These farmers participated in the design of this research, and they then carried out the research themselves, as reported on in Chapter 9.[94]

In Colombia, the National Federation of Rice Farmers (FEDEARROZ) undertook SRI evaluations and demonstrations once IICA, the Latin American organization for agricultural cooperation, began introducing SRI ideas and methods in the region. In October 2017, Fedearroz hosted an IICA regional workshop on SRI with representatives from 10 Latin American countries participating, to share SRI experience and plan together further popularization of the new methods. A major focus of discussion was how to mechanize certain SRI operations so that more farmers could take advantage of SRI opportunities in countries where rural labor was in short supply.[95] FEDEARROZ engagement with SRI should greatly facilitate its utilization in Colombia.

*  *  *  *  *

It can be seen from this sketch of organized farmer activity that engagement with SRI often takes farmers beyond agronomic practices as such. While better practices are often the initial focus for individual farmers, the formation of groups makes collective action easier and more likely. Examples of collective action are developing a value-chain that enables farmers to capture more of their value-added; facilitating the use of SRI methods to conserve irrigation water and use it for other, more productively purposes; devising means of mechanization to reduce farmers’ labor requirements; and extrapolating SRI learning to improve the production of other crops beyond rice. It is basically an individual decision whether and how to use SRI ideas. But individuals’ decisions and activities are likely to be more ambitious and have broader scope within the context of group deliberation and collective action.

Indeed, this is basic premise for civil society, that there can be positive-sum outcomes from cooperation and collective action. Actions by individuals that are self-initiated with the purpose of creating benefits for others, not just for one’s self, should also be considered as part of civil society’s impact on economic, social and political affairs.

There have been references made to such initiative in many of the reports on organizational activity above. Organizational activity is more visible and evident than what is done by individuals. But individual initiative has been such an important part of the SRI story, and it is reviewed in the following two chapters, not as complete accounts, but as reports on some of the more interesting and unexpected, indeed often inspiring, contributions to getting SRI accepted that have been made by individuals while a coherent understanding of how these beneficial effects are produced was being constructed.


[1] On the civil-society nature of SRI, see Uphoff and Lines, ‘A remarkable civil society contribution to food and nutrition security in Madagascar and beyond,’ in Food and Nutritional Security in the Process of Globalization and Urbanization, eds. U. Kracht and M. Schulz, Lit-Publisher, Münster, Germany (2005). Civil society has been a central concern in much of my work as a political scientist, e.g., ‘Grassroots organizations and NGOs in rural development: Opportunities with diminishing states and expanding markets,’ World Development 21:4 (1993); and ‘Civil society and public sector institutions: More than a zero-sum relationship’ with Anirudh Krishna, Public Administration and Development 24:1 (2004).

[2] The International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, discussed below as an international development NGO, is based in the Philippines. IIRR’s acronym is often confused with that of IRRI. IIRR was founded in 1948 when Dr. James Yen and his associates relocated to the Philippines after the Communist revolution succeeded in China. In the 1930s before the Chinese Communist Party was ascendant, Yen and Mao Zedong were considered as rivals with competing strategies to achieve rural development in China.

     When I had visited IIRR’s headquarters in Cavité in early 1997, I discussed SRI with its vice-president, Julian Gonsalves, a former student at Cornell, and with Humayun Kabir, IIRR’s rice specialist at the time, who was subsequently instrumental in the spread of SRI in both Myanmar and Afghanistan. IIRR was one of the first NGOs to take SRI seriously.

[3] ILEIA, discussed below, is an agroecological NGO center based in the Netherlands. Its newsletter, LEISA, is an acronym for ‘low-external-input and sustainable agriculture.’

[4] Chrissy reported in a follow-up email in February 2000 telling me what she had learned from CDSMC’s technical advisor, Ronald Cobalquinto: “The results he gave me over the phone are the following. (1) The fields are now in their productive stage. (2) They have succeeded in using zero chemicals so far. (3) They have not been able to get tillering up to 40-60 as done in Madagascar; their average is 25-27. Ronald says that the farmers feel that the reason behind this is that the soil is adjusting still to having no fertilizers and other inputs. (4) All the farmers that started with smaller plots have expanded their [SRI] areas. (5) They built rotary weeders to use on their land but were not able to get at all the weeds. They were not able to eradicate mull crickets, but the damage they caused was only 5%. (6) There was one area where, unfortunately, the plants turned red for some reason. Ronald fears that this may have been caused by water contamination. (7) Two other coops that are members of the federation had exposure trips to the SRI areas. They have committed a total of 2 hectares to SRI trials in their own areas for the next cropping [season]. (8) He says the one farmer that experimented with direct seeding has good results so far. That’s it for now.”

     Ronald reported in April that the first 10 SRI farmers had achieved an average yield of 4.96 tonnes per ha, considerably more than the average yield in the area, about 3 tonnes.

[5] BIND is reported on the FAO website, but SDSMC no longer has a presence on the web.

[6] This is the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture; the acronym is based on its name in French.

[7] Some leaders of FNN subsequently tried to convert the farmer network into an NGO that could legally sign contracts and receive grants, an organizational model divergent from the FNN’s original conception and purpose. Those FNN members who wanted priority given to agroecological development and to farmer empowerment disengaged from FNN and kept working with CEDAC.

[8] Detailed data on 10 FFS groups, each with about 20 members, selected from the first three cohorts of FFSs (612 farmers in all) were obtained for 1-3 years so as to do a very thorough evaluation; see published report on this program. The 30 farmer field school demonstration plots where SRI methods were used as recommended had average yields of 6.5 tonnes per ha. On their own fields with SRI methods, but not necessarily using all of the methods, FFS farmers averaged 4.2 tonnes per ha. These results were triple or double what farmers typically produced with customary methods, 2.1 tonnes per ha.

[9] The founder and director of Metta Development Foundation, Seng-Raw Lahpai, was given the Magsaysay Award in 2013, often referred to as the Nobel Prize for Asia, although this was not conferred primarily for Metta’s work for disseminating SRI. Koma in Cambodia was given this prestigious award the previous year, 2012, in large part for CEDAC’s effective work on SRI.

[10] See the government’s Department of Agriculture Research website. In 2018, the Minister of Agriculture invited SRI-Rice to send a delegation to Myanmar to discuss SRI dissemination.

[11] PRADAN’s formal name is Professional Assistance for Development Action, established in 1983. Its multidisciplinary teams operate in seven states of India, in 7,400 villages containing almost 600,000 households, with its national office in New Delhi.

[12] See, for example, articles on SRI in a special issue of PRADAN’s magazine, News Reach, March-April 2013.

[13] This NGO, the Watershed Support Services and Activity Network, officially registered in 1999 and is based in Hyderabad. It has activities in nine states and 650 villages, often working with and through local NGOs that are acquainted with local conditions. It also engages in policy dialogues with government agencies to affect the use of public resources, especially land and water.

[14] People’s Science Institute, established in 1988 and based in Dehradun, works mostly in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, although increasingly also in Madhya Pradesh. On PSI’s initiatives and results for SRI and SCI, see this report.

[15] The manager of this list-serve based with WASSAN is Nemani Chandrasekharan who has played an invaluable role in disseminating knowledge about SRI knowledge and results within India and beyond (Chapter 23). WASSAN helped to catalyze an Andhra Pradesh SRI Network.

[16] Preservation and Proliferation of Rural Resources and Nature is an NGO offshoot from PRADAN based in Gaya. It spearheaded the expanded use of SRI from 130 farmers in 2007 to 335,000 farmers just five years later, working closely with the state government and other NGOs in Bihar. Most of the work for this expansion was done by these other organizations since PRAN itself is not a large organization.

[17] The Agriculture-Man-Environment Foundation was set up in 1991 by a Cornell alumnus, R. Dwarakinath, who was previously Director of Agriculture for Karnataka state and then vice-chancellor of the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore. AMEF hosts the Indian edition of the LEISA magazine, discussed below. It also helped develop and spread rainfed SRI, as noted in Chapter 13.

[18] PRAGATI-Koraput has received national and international awards for its work focused on impoverished and mostly tribal villages in Koraput district of Odisha state.

[19] See essay on this by SAMBHAV’s director, ‘System of Rice Intensification: Enabling a joyful interaction with nature,’ in Towards a Learning Alliance: SRI in Orissa, pp. 37-42.

[20] See report on this Tata Trust program which started in 2006 and which paralleled the National Food Security Mission of the Indian government. A recent report shows the impact of the Tata Trust support for SRI in Manipur state through NGO partners.

[21] The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee is now known simply as BRAC.

[22] These initiatives were attributable particularly to the efforts of Dr. Muazzam Hosain, who after his retirement from the faculty of the Bangladesh Agricultural University served as head of BRAC’s research wing in 2000-2002.  BRAC has also cooperated with researchers from Monash University in Australia and from Cornell in 2016-17 to evaluate the acceptance of SRI by farmers when they were given incentives with or without conditions.

[23] The founder of SAFE, Gopal Chowhan, when asked for an update on the SRI situation in Bangladesh replied by email in September 2018: “You might know that our long-time assistance to many NGOs and farmer groups through training, field days, national-level workshops, and visits has already created large impact in the country for applying SRI principles in rice cultivation. Now farmers generally plant tender-age seedling with one or two seedlings per hill, with larger gap between plant and rows. There has been awareness on using of organic matter in soil, but materials shortage remains in many areas. Farmers in most cases are using less water in paddy field for enhancing rice plant tillering. All these have been possible by our last two decades of endeavor on promoting SRI principles in the farming community and among researchers, extension workers of NGOs, and government including the policy- makers’ level. But I feel at this stage, more advanced work is still needed on learning and practicing of SRI concepts.”

[24] See minutes from a formative 2008 network meeting with follow-up reports in 2010 when the network was most active. The Gemidirya Foundation was a government-sponsored poverty-reduction program.

[25] This Centre with both national and local activities was established by Chris Evans working on behalf of the British NGO, Appropriate Technology Asia. This initiative was reported on at the Sanya conference in 2002 along with a review of government initiatives.

[26] Support Activities for Poor Producers in Nepal is headed by Shreekrishna Uphadyay, a former general manager of the Agricultural Development Bank of Nepal who also served on Nepal’s National Planning Commission and was for a while its chair.

[27] The Initiative has been working with SRI since 2014. A good example of civil society collaboration occurred in 2015. Through its contacts with The Bhutan Foundation, SJI indicated to SRI-Rice its urgent need for a soil-aerating weeder that could be replicated by local blacksmiths if they had an example in hand. Indian NGO colleagues were quickly responsive when SRI-Rice circulated this request through the Jai-SRI network in India. WASSAN in Hyderabad arranged to send a mandava weeder to New Delhi from where a Buddhist monk who was visiting Delhi took the weeder with him back to Bhutan for SJI to make copies and disseminate.

[28] AICAD is a regional development NGO, supported by the governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, with funding also from Japan through JICA, but its national programs operate rather independently.

[29] See 2017 report on this cooperation.

[30] This article, ‘Revolution in rice intensification in MadagascarLEISA: The Newsletter for Low-External-Input and Sustainable Agriculture, 15(3/4):48-49, prompted evaluation of SRI methods probably in more countries than we know about. We know that it prompted trials of SRI in Cambodia, China, and the Philippines. Because Justin’s English was not very strong, I helped him prepare the article for LEISA. The workshop proceedings are available on line.

[31] A video on this weeder is posted on the internet.

[32] Of much importance was an attractive booklet on SRI that Oxfam America, together with the World Wide Fund for Nature and Africare, produced I 2010 for the International Rice Congress in Hanoi and for the World Food Prize events, with SRI-Rice assistance: More Rice for People, More Water for the Planet: System of Rice Intensification (SRI) (2010).

[33] This was reported at the international SRI conference in China in 2002.

[34] See report of Oxfam’s SRI work with a Timorese cooperative: System of Rice Intensification: Trial and Potential in Timor-Leste – Oxfam and Movimento Cooperativo Economico-Agricola, Oxfam New Zealand, Auckland (2014). Unfortunately, Oxfam New Zealand ended its support for the cooperative MCE-A in 2017 when the NGO changed program priorities. Since NGOs are not accountable to anyone but themselves (and indirectly their contributors), they are free to make such arbitrary decisions. This is not the only such example in the SRI history of promising initiatives not being supported long enough to become established.

[35] These initiatives were reported at the international SRI conference in China in 2002.

[36] In 2003, I wrote to the president of CARE (who, coincidentally, had been a classmate of mine in the MPA program at Princeton), seeking support from CARE for a second international SRI meeting; but there was no acknowledgment. Eventually SRI did find its way into CARE’s program portfolio, e.g., ‘Improved Agricultural Practices Helped Put an End to Migration,’ a report from CARE’s Climate Change and Resilience Information Center (2019); A Win-Win for Gender and Nutrition, policy brief from CARE’s African Center for Gender, Social Research, and Impact Assessments, focusing on gender and agriculture program for East Africa, particularly with action research in Burundi (2021).

[37] See blog report on Mercy Corps experience with SRI in Sri Lanka.

[38] Partners for Relief and Development has a posting on its SRI program in Myanmar on its website.

[39] It was GRET’s 1986 publication of a book on rice (endnote 22 in Chapter 3) that informed Fr. Laulanié about phyllochrons (Chapter 6), and this spurred his efforts to arrive at a scientific explanation for the SRI effects that he was observing.

[40] See SNV website reporting a 23% reduction in emissions per hectare, evaluated in CO₂ equivalence.

[41] See report on the results of a VECO SRI program in Tanzania. Rikolto (VECO) provides a link to search its website for SRI reports.

[42] See Kabir’s report on this program in Afghanistan written in 2008.

[43] See report by V. Rai, ‘Farmers turn to organic farming in Bundelkhand,’ Welthungerhilfe website, Nov. 23 (2017).

[44] See video on MAZAO’s supply-chain approach to introducing SRI and enhancing farmers’ income and security.

[45] This NGO became involved with SRI through the initiative of Gerald Aruna, whose work with SRI is discussed in the next chapter. This is an example of an individual mobilizing an organization rather than vice versa.

[46] See minutes of Bangladesh SRI network that ActionAid hosted in Dhaka in 2006.

[47] See report on this introduction posted on the Cameroon page of SRI-Rice’s website.

[48] See web report on Pro-Net 21 program in Laos.

[49] There were articles on SRI in 2001: 17(4):15-16; in 2002: 18(3): 24-29 and 18(4): 22-24; in 2005: 19(4): 10-13; and in 2006: 20(4): 6-8. These reached a readership already self-selected for interest in agroecological innovations.

[50] See special issue of Farming Matters (29:1, 2013) on ‘SRI: Much more than rice.’ The additional editions in English were LEISA India (Bangalore) and Baobab (Nairobi), with a French edition Agridape (Dakar), a Spanish edition LEISA: Revista de Agroecologia (Lima), and a Chinese edition (Kunming). These other editions had most of the same articles as in the Netherlands edition, but included some additional SRI articles of particular regional interest.

[51] This magazine through its affiliated editions which are published on four continents reaches an international readership of 14,000 around the world.

[52] ECHO, a Christian faith-based organization dedicated to “helping small-scale farmers overcome tired soils and difficult conditions,” grew out of efforts to aid Haitian communities in the early 1970s. Its original name -- Educational Concerns for Haiti Organization -- was soon eclipsed by its much shorter acronym, ECHO.

[53] With assistance from CIIFAD, Dawn Berkelaar wrote ‘SRI, the System of Rice Intensification: Less can be more,’ ECHO Development Notes, 70, 1-6. This newsletter goes to 3,500 agricultural workers in diverse roles and organizations in 180 countries. In June 2019, the ECHO newsletter for West Africa published a special issue on SRI in French, written by Togolese SRI promoter Jean Apedoh.

[54] The staff member, Andres Gonçalves, who got Juarez to try SRI methods, had completed his PhD degree in Natural Resources at Cornell, where he learned about SRI from one of his academic advisors (me). Centro Agroecólogico has a well-developed program in Rio Grande do Sol state of Brazil.

[55] This WWF, an international organization based in Gland, Switzerland, has the same acronym as the World Wildlife Fund which is its American affiliate based in Washington, DC.

[56] These presentations are posted on line for 2006, 2007 (29 PPTs) and 2008 (33 PPTs, including reports from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Indonesia, and Nepal).

[57] The first six newsletters, from 2008-2009, are available on-line. A seventh newsletter in 2010 is also available. These newsletters were some of the most substantive publications on SRI ideas and results during the latter 2000s.

[58] This JAI-SRI website currently functions on behalf of the National Consortium for SRI.

[59] Unfortunately, as seen in Chapter 22, an effort by WWF to get IRRI and the CGIAR system interested in SRI opportunities, considering evidence from evaluations in India, Indonesia and elsewhere, had no discernible impact, as there was little participation by IRRI staff.

     WWF has not completely dropped involvement with SRI. In July 2018, for example, WWF-Malaysia included SRI training in a workshop for environmental protection. A video on WWF’s introduction of SRI in Brunei was premiered on YouTube on August 1, 2020. In 2021, there was a report on a WWF project in Indonesia introducing SRI in villages around the Ujong Kulon National Park (TNUK) which was established to protect an endangered species, the Javan rhinoceros.

[60] See email reporting on results dated June 24, 2002. Such a coercive approach has never been recommended, but the results were so good that there were no hard feelings.

[61] The three videos were very professionally done by Eye-to-Eye Video Productions, operated by Dana Hemingway: Part I gives an overview; Part II starts with seed selection and nursery management; and Part III covers weeding, soil and water management.

     One serendipitous benefit was that Victor Lee, an Indonesian who assisted with the videography, became quite persuaded about SRI. He subsequently informed a friend in Hong Kong about SRI, John Jolliffe, who happened to be a friend of the actor Jim Carrey. This led eventually to Carrey’s Better U Foundation making a gift to Cornell in 2010 to establish the SRI-Rice Center (Chapter 35).

     Another anomalous feature of the ADRA videos is that they were partly financed by a well-known Indonesian pop singer, Maya Rumantir, who was at the time romantically engaged with the son of Indonesia’s President (Suharto). Both the son and father were later mired in scandals after the father was forced from office in 1998. As a sponsor of these videos, Maya did a personal introduction and made an endorsement of SRI (no longer on the YouTube versions). This added some short-lived glamor and celebrity to the introduction of SRI’s new methods in Indonesia.

[62] As of June 2020, the three videos had had 84,000, 55,000 and 40,000 views, respectively, and since they were also put on and available on CDs, there was even wider distribution. An NGO in New Zealand dubbed them with a Korean language soundtrack to transfer SRI knowledge to communities with which the NGO had contact in North Korea (DPRK). The videos were also reproduced with subtitles in Bangla language for use in Bangladesh.

[63] See Roland’s email on this, May 22, 2003.

[64] Gilliam Cook with Tim O’Connor, ‘Rice aplenty in Aceh,’ Caritas News, 118: 10-11 (2009).

[65] This report is on the Czech Republic CARITAS website.

[66] Their report is available as part of the Sanya conference proceedings. See also an undated report on CRS promotion and impact with SRI in Madagascar.

[67] In December 2017, CRS arranged a worldwide webinar for its staff to inform them about SRI, in which I made a PPT presentation with slides that were subsequently distributed within the organization.

[68] This initiative and its results were reported at the Sanya conference in 2002.

[69] See report on the experience of a Myanmar farmer introduced to SRI methods by LWF in 2010. LWF posted in 2022 a very compelling and beautifully produced video of a husband and wife in Myanmar who had benefited from their use of SRI, greatly raising production and income from their small holding, enough to build a new house.

[70] See 2018 report from LWF-Nepal reporting farmers being able to produce 3 months more of staple food for their households with SRI methods and harvesting this higher yield from a 120-day variety in just 90 days.

[71] Reiche Ernte: Eine Erfolgsgeschichte aus Kambodscha (Rich Harvest: A Success Story from Cambodia) (2008).

[72] This collaborative effort is reported on the FiBL website.

[73] CHAP’s and Robert Bimba’s efforts are reported on the Liberia page of the SRI website.

[74] See detailed report on these farmers’ experience posted on the SRI-Rice website.

[75] See video on this produced by the AFSC, and a 2014 news report on this work. In 2019, the DPRK government included SRI as part of its national strategy to raise food production. In 1998, a Cornell alumnus and an AFSC associate, Randy Ireson, brought two North Korean rice specialists to Cornell to look for ways to improve food production in the DPRK. The four of us talked about SRI for an hour or so in my CIIFAD office. The younger specialist seemed very interested, but the older one, possibly a Party representative, showed little interest. Nothing came out of that visit as far as we know.

[76] Representatives of both the AFSC and MCC participated in the 2010 workshop in Hangzhou that was organized by the China National Rice Research Institute and SRI-Rice to share Chinese SRI experience with a delegation of four rice specialists from the DPRK.

[77] See BGR report on its SRI work in Cambodia.

[78] On BGR’s SRI activity in Haiti, see this report.

[79] The BGR program in Vietnam is reported here.

[80] This BGR report from Ethiopia includes two case studies.

[81] For a current report on MASIPAG, see its website. MASIPAG farmer representatives attended the presentation on SRI that I made in 1999 to the agronomy department at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños. The new organization was focused on countering the government’s push to get Philippine farmers to plant new rice varieties (HYVs) with associated greater use of chemical fertilizer and agrochemicals.

As an alternative, MASIPAG championed farmer initiatives to do their own breeding of ‘improved’ varieties derived from indigenous landraces, a worthy undertaking. But this effort went in a different direction from SRI, which makes modifications in cultivation methods to utilize more fully the genetic potentials of existing rice varieties. That SRI was ‘variety-neutral’ was not in sync with MASIPAG efforts to get farmers to improve their own varieties. So, this farmer NGO did not play as much of a role in gaining SRI acceptance in the Philippines as was initially anticipated.

[82] A report for an FAO conference in 2015 on agroecology for farmers in irrigated areas said that FNN had 53,266 members in 16 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces, organized in 1,281 savings groups and 320 producer groups, growing organic products in 863 villages. Through various marketing arrangements, these commodities and especially SRI rice were sold not only in urban areas, but were also exported to the US, Germany, Vietnam, Hongkong and Singapore. As noted above, this membership has not been sustained, and its stable membership is apparently around 40,000. Sales activities have continued.  There is a website for FNN from 2009-10.

[83] ‘Prospering together with rice,’ The Nation, Jan. 18, 2022.


[84] On the Farmer Field School groups and their effectiveness in spreading SRI use, see Kabir and Uphoff, ‘Results of disseminating the System of Rice Intensification with Farmer Field School methods in northern Myanmar,’ Experimental Agriculture 43: 463-475 (2007).

[85] FFS groups were used in Nepal to disseminate SRI under the PARDYP project of ICIMOD, the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu. In Karnataka state of India, the NGO AMEF used FFS methods and groups for its introduction of rainfed SRI (Balamatti and Uphoff, ‘Experience with the System of Rice Intensification for sustainable rainfed paddy farming systems in India,’ Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 41: 6, 2017). FFS groups have also been used with SRI in Tanzania (Nyamonge Kenya, The Role of Farmer Field Schools in Adoption and Adaptation of Recommended Rice Production Practices in Mvomero District of Tanzania, MSc thesis, Bunda College, Malawi, 2016). In the Philippines, an FFS initiative for SRI promotion was sponsored by the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute. There have probably been many more ‘marriages’ of FFS with SRI in other countries.

[86] A. Mishra, J.W. Ketelaar, N. Uphoff and M. Whitten, ‘Food security and climate-smart agriculture in the lower Mekong basin of Southeast Asia: Evaluating impacts of the system of rice intensification with special reference to rainfed agriculture,’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 19:152-174 (2021).

[87] System of Rice Intensification: Trials and Potentials in Timor-Leste, Oxfam-New Zealand and Movimento Cooperativo Econômico-Agricoltura, Auckland (2014).  “The increase in income through increased productivity and rice sales has not previously been possible for many farmers. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the trial process resulted in greater community cooperation and involvement, with families feeling hopeful that SRI will provide increased production and economic sovereignty. Overall, feedback from participants indicates a sincere desire to continue with SRI” (page 14).

[88] See MCE-A report for 2015.

[89] A report on this project by the technical assistance team leader, C.M. Wijayaratna, is posted on the SRI-Rice website.

[90] See Baskaran’s powerpoint presentation on the Thambal SRI Farmer Association in 2008 at the Coimbatore SRI symposium in Tamil Nadu.

[91] This method known locally as ‘The Raji method’ had a farmer stand between two rows of rice plants and reach over and weed between the adjacent rows, putting one hand on the lower part of the weeder handle and the other hand on its center. The weeder was moved in both directions from the same position, and then the farmer moved to another position down the row, making it unnecessary to push the weeder in perpendicular directions. This innovation became popular in the Thambal area.

[92] During his time in the US, Joby worked with accounting firms, computer software companies, the US Navy, and NASA, accumulating a wide range of operational experience. He self-identified himself as an organic rice farmer, however, as seen in Chapter 26. Very sadly, Joby died in early 2020, so his dynamic leadership is no longer being provided in the Philippines.

[93] See poster on ZIDOFA’s philosophy and strategy that was prepared for the 5th International Rice Congress in Singapore in 2018.

[94] P. Gbenou, A.M. Mitchell, A.B. Sedami and P.R. Agossou, ‘Farmer evaluations of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) compared with conventional rice production in Benin,’ European Scientific Journal, 12: 30 (2016). Gbenou was also instrumental in forming the Cadre Regional de Concertation des Organizations de Producteurs de Riz de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (Consultative Council of Rice Producers’ Organizations of West Africa, CRCOPR) and served as its first president. This West African rice-growers’ regional federation is allied with the Réseau des Organisations des Paysans Producteurs de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA). In 2013, it hosted a U.S. Peace Corps training of trainers program for West Africa that SRI-Rice helped to plan and conduct.

[95] See the IICA report on this regional event.


PICTURE CREDITS: Y.S. Koma; Chris Evans; Andres Gonçalves; Juarez; CARITAS; John Lyman; Oxfam/New Zealand (4); P. Baskaran (2).

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