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Chapter 25: CIVIL SOCIETY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM INDIVIDUALS
Civil society is usually talked about as being an assemblage of groups and organizations that function outside of the realm of government. Within civil society, however, there is a great deal of individual assessment, aspiration, and initiative that fills the interstices of associational space. When citizens advocate and take action in a private or personal capacity – not making any claim to be exercising governmental authority, instead seeking to create, redistribute or protect public goods rather than pursuing their own personal gains -- they are acting as part of what is considered as civil society.
Such persons are operating within neither the public sector nor the private sector. Instead, they are acting on some middle ground that overlaps with either, both, or neither of these sectors. Individual activity need not be undertaken at the bidding of some organization. Individuals can proceed without depending on organizational backing, engaging in relatively autonomous action, at the same time that they seek to enlist organizational, business or governmental support for their initiatives.
Individual efforts benefit, of course, from being able to draw upon various kinds of organizational resources. Persons’ initiatives become more effective to the extent that resources can be mobilized for the causes that they are promoting. Considering individuals’ initiative and actions makes it clear that while associational efforts are important for introducing and consolidating change, personal endeavors are invariably essential for this. Individual agency thus should not be obscured by the abstraction of organizations, and neither should it be left out of evaluations of how civil society functions.
An important part of the SRI story derives from what large numbers of individuals have done on its behalf, at their own initiative and mobilizing institutional resources when, where and however they could. Their getting organizations to act has had more effect on outcomes than have organization decisions that caused these or other persons to act. The story of SRI would be incomplete if we did not give some attention to the roles that individuals have played with their own motivation and resources. They have advanced scientific understanding of SRI as considered in Part I, particularly in Chapter 9. And they have also been crucial for gaining broader acceptance for SRI and for contributing to its spread, as reported on in Part III.
It is certainly not possible to recognize and account for all of the persons who have stepped forward to advance the acceptance and dissemination of SRI. Some started out regarding SRI very skeptically, but once satisfied by evidence, they became some of the most active and most effective proponents. This and the following chapter in the SRI story, on farmer initiatives and leadership, report on the engagement of diverse individuals with SRI. Because there is such a large number of individuals, the persons who are profiled in this and the next chapter should be considered as representative of hundreds and even thousands of others.
This chapter presents a diverse set of persons who have worked with and for farmers, respecting them and wanting to assist them. As Robert Chambers has pointed out, not all professionals do respect farmers. Both this and the next chapter complement the institution-focused framing of civil society in the preceding chapter which considered civil society in the usual way as being comprised of organizations. While organizations are essential for the effectiveness of civil society, this should not obscure the roles of individuals.
Hundreds of persons could have been included in this chapter and the next. Many of these other persons, although not all (that would be impossible), are recognized in other chapters of this memoire and particularly in Part III. This and the next chapter express appreciation for the personal initiatives that have contributed to the emergence of SRI in these persons’ respective countries and beyond. This review is thus a sampling rather than an inventory, starting appropriately with Madagascar.
Any consideration of individual roles in SRI has to begin if not with Fr. Henri de Laulanié, discussed in Chapter 3, then with his close friends Sébastien Rafaralahy and Justin Rabenandrasana, who carried on the dissemination of SRI after Fr. Laulanié’s death in 1995. As noted in their mini-memoires, both came from rural communities (their picture is in Chapter 3.
To attend primary school, Sébastien had to walk 8 kilometers each way every day, with no lunch. Because Justin’s home village was 100 kilometers from the nearest market town, he got primary schooling in his village and then managed to get himself admitted to a junior high school in the regional capital Fianarantsoa.
Sébastien’s outstanding academic performance led to his getting a scholarship to attend a high school in France. His grades there qualified him to continue his studies, attending a French college of engineering and becoming the first African student to earn one of its degrees. During this period, Justin went to the national university in Antananarivo after completing junior high school, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
With his engineering degree, when Sébastien returned to Madagascar he became the first director-general of a new National Center for Malagasy Craft Industries, set up to develop local manufacturing capabilities. It was in this role that he came to know Fr. Laulanié. At that time, Justin was serving as the director of a Jesuit-supported Artisanal Center for Rural Promotion [i.e., development], where he too became acquainted with Fr. Laulanié. Soon all three were well-acquainted, and a firm friendship ensued, with Justin leaving the training center in Fianarantsoa to join Sébastien’s center near Antananarivo.
In 1989, both Sébastien and Justin relocated to a new school for rural youth that Fr. Laulanié had been able to get established at Antsirabe, the Centre de Formation Gènèral Rurale. This school, 160 kilometers south of the capital Antananarivo, provided free basic education for rural youths, not following the formal French curriculum. Every morning there was practical training in agriculture on the school’s farm, with academic instruction during the other half of the day. It was at this school is that the SRI methodology was synthesized during the 1980s. The school also offered correspondence courses for Malagasy youths who could not attend in person. Sébastien and Justin were particularly involved in this mode of instruction, reading, correcting and returning the papers that far-away students had sent in by post.
As reported in Chapter 3, in 1990 Fr. Laulanié with Sébastien and Justin and some other colleagues formed the NGO Association Tefy Saina. Sébastien and Justin served as its president and secretary while Laulanié, whose health was failing, became Tefy Saina’s advisor. Sébastien and Justin carried on most of the work with little staff but many volunteers, working out of several rooms in Justin’s house in Antananarivo.
In 1994, Tefy Saina began working with CIIFAD on a USAID-funded project to establish and safeguard Ranomafana National Park, and this helped Tefy Saina to expand its efforts. CIIFAD arranged for overseas presentations on SRI by Justin to an NGO workshop in the Philippines in June 1998 (Chapter 24), and by Sébastien in Baltimore, USA, four months later at a special conference on sustainable agriculture, organized by the Agronomy Society of America with World Bank support. The following January, Sébastien gave a talk on SRI at a sustainable agriculture conference held in St. James’s Palace in London, invited by Jules Pretty. In 1998 and 1999, Sébastien and Justin hosted and trained visitors from Sierra Leone and Indonesia whom CIIFAD directed to them, and they later travelled to Rwanda to do SRI training there under IFAD auspices.
Both were utterly dedicated to SRI dissemination, so dedicated indeed that a report from Madagascar to IRRI headquarters in the Philippines in 1998 described their efforts as “zealous,” with the implication that this made SRI not worthy of serious consideration by scientists.
After Sébastien died in 2014, at age 77, Justin continued to work on SRI promotion, their NGO having survived a crisis in which one faction of the staff took control for several years. Tefy Saina was reconstituted with a new generation of leadership that valued the work of Sébastien and Justin. Without their initiative and persistence, there would be no story of SRI.
When considering individual contributions, recognition must be given to Professor Robert Randriamiharisoa, director of research for the agricultural faculty at the University of Antananarivo, the person who started the scientific validation and explanation of SRI. Although he was himself trained in chemistry and for a while was director of Madagascar’s laboratory for evaluating indigenous plants for their medicinal and other properties, Robert became thoroughly engaged in agricultural matters once he moved to the university faculty.
In March 1997, when Glen Lines and I visited Prof. Robert in his office at the university in Antananarivo to see if some university students could conduct rigorous evaluations of SRI under the Ranomafana project auspices, Prof. Robert quickly agreed. He said that he would get top students in their respective graduating classes to do their research for their baccalaureate theses on selected aspects of SRI if our project could cover their field research expenses, quite a bargain. Scientific contributions made by the first of these students, Joeli Barison, are reported in Chapters 4 and 6.
The two sets of factorial trials summarized at the beginning of Chapter 7 were also conducted under this arrangement. Even though travel was difficult for Robert because of serious leg infirmities, he made fortnightly visits to these students’ field trials, first at Morondava and then at Anjomakely, wanting to make sure that their evaluations were conducted properly.
Prof. Robert visited Prof. Yuan Longping’s China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center with me in 2001 and then participated in the Sanya conference in 2002, presenting the findings of his and his students’ research done to date. The following week, he participated in a IRRI-Wageningen workshop at Los Baños. Sadly in 2004 Robert’s intellectual leadership for SRI was lost when he died from complications with diabetes, harder to manage in a country like Madagascar than in the US or Europe.
One might say that Robert was just doing his job as a university professor (Chapter 23) rather than contributing as a civil-society actor. But he took more interest and invested more of himself in the SRI enterprise than any of his colleagues at the university. Indeed, his involvement with SRI was in opposition to the head of the university’s agronomy department, who expressed his disapproval of SRI in newspaper articles as well as in person. Robert’s institution accepted but did not encourage his work with SRI, so his initiative and effort set him apart from his peers.
The first SRI validation outside of Madagascar was in China, at Nanjing Agricultural University, but after Cao Weixing left the university to take a position in the provincial government, nobody at NAU provided the kind of leadership for SRI that was contributed then by two scientists at the China National Rice Research Institute, Zhu Defeng and Lin Qianxing.
The involvement of Zhu and Lin with SRI gave it a foothold within ‘China’s IRRI.’ After learning about SRI from the 1999 LEISA article by Justin Rabenandrasana, they did their own field trials and studies which satisfied them of SRI merits. Zhu and Lin then worked with the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Agriculture to get SRI further demonstrated and promoted. In 2003, they organized a national workshop on SRI, held in Hangzhou, and in 2006, with other Chinese colleagues, they published a book on SRI in Chinese.
Already in 2003, Zhu began informing counterparts in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) about SRI during his technical assistance visits there. In March 2010, he and Lin organized a workshop on SRI in Hangzhou, assisted by SRI-Rice and The Asia Foundation, to which four DPRK rice specialists were invited. SRI colleagues from Sichuan and Heilongjiong provinces also participated in the event, sharing with the North Korean participants their respective experiences with SRI methods in these other parts of China. (There is a picture of all the workshop participants in Chapter 9.)
One of their most important contributions was research that Lin and Zhu published in 2009, with CNRRI’s director-general Shihua Cheng and myself as co-authors. It was published in a new Chinese journal after Field Crops Research rejected it without even sending it out for review. The article used the same methodology that Lin and Zhu had employed in an article that had been previously accepted and published by Field Crops Research. But that earlier article was on irrigation, not on SRI (Chapter 28).
With data from two years of trials using two different hybrid varieties, the research showed that greater rice yield could be produced with less seed, less water, and less nitrogen fertilizer. It documented SRI’s claims quite unambiguously, making clear that Chinese farmers were wasting seed, wasting water, and incurring unnecessary cost for inputs. Moreover, China was incurring tragic costs from groundwater pollution caused by the over-use of N fertilizer.
This was important research that did not get the attention it deserved because it did not appear in a well-established journal. But that was not the fault of Zhu and Lin. Others in China like Zheng Jiaguo and Lu Shihua in the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Li Xiaoyun and Zhang Fusuo at China Agricultural University, and Cao Weixing at Nanjing Agricultural University also made important contributions.
Zhu’s and Lin’s roles were particularly crucial because they worked within a key national institution that was otherwise mostly focused on hybrid rice, on the improvement of genotypes, and on optimizing external inputs. This was not a very easy environment for SRI promotion, although the director-general of CNRRI, Cheng Shihua, was favorably disposed toward SRI, despite virtually all of his institute’s funding coming in for work on these other subjects of research.
Rena Perez was one of the first persons to pick up the SRI flag and carry it outside of Madagascar. In 2000, when SRI was just getting started internationally, Rena retired from Cuba’s Ministry of Sugar after working in it for three decades as a specialist in animal nutrition. Her assignment had been to help sugar cooperatives and farmers better use of sugar-factory by-products to feed their livestock so as to boost the country’s meat production.
Upon her retirement, the Ministry of Sugar asked Rena to continue as a part-time consultant on food security, helping it to carry out the government’s policy of autoconsumo (self-provisioning) which required all employers on the island to provide all of their workers and the workers’ families with at least one good meal a day to help Cubans meet their nutritional needs. As rice is the main staple consumed in Cuba, this meant that the Ministry would need to find ways to produce or procure enough rice to feed 400,000 people daily. As Rena had grown up on a farm in upstate New York, she had little acquaintance with growing rice.
It just happened that one of Rena’s former professors at Cornell University, where she completed an undergraduate degree in agriculture in 1958, visited Havana in March 2000. (This was for a National Geographic Society committee meeting at a time when Americans were able to visit Cuba for scientific and educational exchanges.) When Prof. David Pimentel and Rena met again after many years, she expressed some personal dismay at the daunting task of helping the Ministry of Sugar to procure enough rice to feed several hundred thousand persons each day.
Prof. Pimentel told her about SRI which he had learned about from recently reviewing and publishing an article on the new methodology that I had submitted to a journal that he edited. After getting my email address from him, Rena immediately wrote to me for more information on SRI, and although she was an animal scientist by training, not a plant scientist, she quickly grasped the essentials of this new approach. There ensued 20 years of email correspondence and four visits to Cuba and several to Cornell.
Rena’s many years of assisting sugar cooperatives and farmers in Cuba had built up many contracts and large reserves of good will, so she could get some of the farmers she knew to try out the new methods (Chapter 46). Progress was slow because almost everything in Cuba is done at government direction. But Rena was nevertheless able get some evaluations and demonstrations of the productivity of SRI. Although she was a Norteamericana, she had many acquaintances and informal acceptance within government circles in part because her Cuban husband had been a much-respected governor of the country’s national bank. Below is a picture of Rena (center obviously) with one of the farmers whom she had gotten to try SRI methods, Roman Armelo, on his porch when we visited his farm in 2004.
There is not much ‘civil society’ in Cuba, so individual, proactive efforts such as Rena’s represent the kind of initiative, taken without any backing from government authority, that qualifies as civil society in that country. The introduction of SRI in Cuba has been more of a one-person operation than in any other country, in part because there is so little organizational civil-society presence in Cuba.
Nicolas Duriez is a businessman living in Lille who first visited Madagascar in 2001 with his wife Laurence to meet a grand-uncle, Fr. Etienne Duriez, who had spent 50 years in Madagascar and who happened to be a Jesuit colleague of Fr. Laulanié. When visiting Madagascar again the next year, he learned about SRI from a friend of Laulanié’s, Frère Michel Hubert.
Appreciating what SRI knowledge could do to help needy people and communities, Nicolas became a supporter of this innovation and of Association Tefy Saina. Through his Rotary Club chapter in Lille-Est, Nicolas mobilized support for Tefy Saina, helping to set up a website for it on the internet and doing fund-raising. In 2008 he got the World Social and Economic Forum that convened in Lille to invite a master SRI farmer from Madagascar Edline Ravelonirina and myself to participate on a panel presenting SRI to an international audience.
In 2004, Nicolas wrote a letter on behalf of SRI to the Secretary-General of FAO. While this letter did not gain the desired support from FAO for SRI work, this is the kind of thing that individuals can do and that sometimes succeed. Below Nicolas is seen on the right with Association Tefy Saina officers Justin Rabenandrasana and Sébastien Rafaralahy in the middle, and a Tefy Saina staff member on the left during one of Nicolas’ 17 visits to Madagascar.
Another European who went well beyond his job assignment to assist SRI was George Deichert, a rural development advisor in the German development cooperation agency originally known as GTZ but now named GIZ. Georg was posted in Cambodia in the early 2000s when he learned about CEDAC’s initial efforts to spread SRI. In Phnom Penh, he became acquainted with Y.S. Koma, president of CEDAC, and also Le Minh, who was Oxfam America’s representative in Southeast Asia based in Phnom Penh, both profiled below, who had already become involved with SRI.
George was able to get SRI incorporated into a large EU-funded rural development project in the eastern part of the country, and then he, Minh and Koma worked out a proposal to establish an SRI Secretariat within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. GTZ and Oxfam were able to provide funding for this entity for its first three years with the Ministry providing office space and staff for it, while CEDAC provided technical support. This move coincided with the Ministry’s decision I 2006 to make SRI part of its five-year development plan for the agricultural sector, so this support was very timely.
When GTZ reassigned Georg to Timor Leste (formerly East Timor) in 2007 to serve as advisor for one of its projects there, he worked with the Timorese Ministry of Agriculture to get SRI trials and demonstrations started. In 2008, he brought three of his Timorese colleagues, including the Secretary of State for Agriculture, to Indonesia to meet with counterparts there, to observe SRI crops in the field, and to participate in SRI events in Lombok and Bali.
From Timor Leste, Georg was transferred by GIZ to Vietnam, with a posting in the Mekong Delta where there had been little SRI progress because most SRI activity had been focused in the north. The field studies that he planned and oversaw were reported in a 2013 document co-published with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Among other things, the evaluations of SRI showed farmer net incomes per hectare rising by over 150% when SRI methods were used, and significant reductions in methane emissions per hectare as well as a slight reduction in nitrous oxide. (The latter reduction was not statistically significant, but there was no measured an increase in N2O as was expected.) When this GIZ project was finished, Georg was reassigned to Ethiopia to advise on a watershed improvement project there. Unfortunately, there were no opportunities to work on rice and SRI in this new assignment, but he remained in touch with the SRI community.
Henry Ngimbu grew up in a village in Zambezi district in northwestern Zambia and went to high school in Solwezi, the provincial capital. After he won first prize in a national science competition during his final year of high school, with a project to make better use of underutilized plants that grow around Zambian villages, a desire took shape in Henry’s mind. As he wrote in a biosketch, he wanted “to find ways for improving the livelihoods of local rural people and making them sustainable out of their own resources.” Not able to proceed for studies at the national university, Henry participated in training programs offered by the British Council, USAID, and the Zambian Bureau of Standards, and then worked for eight years as a local manager for donor and NGO rural projects.
In 2004, Henry learned about SRI from the LEISA magazine article discussed in Chapter 24, and he sent an email to me at Cornell to find out more. We had no funding to provide him, so he had to find his own ways to assess SRI under local conditions. Henry was able to persuade the dozen members of the Esek Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Solwezi, six men and six women, to try out SRI methods on some uncultivated land in the bush, using their own labor, and diverting water from a nearby stream to provide some irrigation.
When the crop was mature, Henry got the government’s Principal Secretary for the Northwestern province to travel 300 miles to preside over a harvest ceremony that was attended by some 300 people. The pictures below show the land being prepared for cultivation; the SRI nursery; the construction of a channel to bring water from a nearby river to their 12.5 x 12.5 m plot, and the ripened crop. The crop’s yield was calculated to be 6.144 tonnes per hectare (dry weight) in a region where paddy yields are usually only 1 to 2 tonnes.
This first success gave impetus to further SRI work. The next year the Esek cooperative displayed its SRI accomplishment at a provincial agricultural show and was awarded second prize. In 2008, Henry joined me in neighboring Zimbabwe for a workshop on SRI that was organized in Bulawayo by an NGO there. Then in 2010, Henry established his own NGO, the Centre for System of Rice Intensification Initiative (CSRII), which the following year received a grant from the US Embassy’s Special Self-Help Programme to introduce SRI in Zambezi district. Also in 2010, Henry did some SRI training for World Vision/Zambia and then for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s COMACO program around Luangwa National Park (Chapter 18).
During 2013, Henry made three trips to Cameroon, sponsored by the British NGO Skills for Development, to introduce SRI use in the Ndop region in the northwest (Chapter 44). Then in 2015, with assistance from a US Peace Corps volunteer, CSRII got a grant from the US Embassy to purchase rice milling equipment that would give SRI farmers around Solwezi more value-added from their rice production.
Funding for CSRII initiatives has been more difficult to mobilize than anticipated. Still, Henry has kept up working on SRI as best he could, continuing to do training and advising for the COMACO program and any agency or community interested in utilizing SRI opportunities. His initiatives exemplify individual civil-society efforts that proceed without authoritative sanction or commercial operations. Below is a picture of Henry with his arm in a cast and sling after a motorcycle accident that happened while he was working in the field, and two pictures from his report to the U.S. Embassy on the work in Zambezi district.
In 2002, Gerald Aruna was working as an agricultural instructor at a vocational institute in Lunsar run by the St. Joseph Fathers and also farming two hectares of land in Mabethor village, when he received a paper on SRI through one of the Josephite priests. After several years of his own trials and experimentation, he started teaching SRI to other farmers in 2006. But because he had no mechanical weeder, the rapid weed growth under Sierra Leone’s tropical conditions was a hindrance, and his results without active soil aeration could not match those in Madagascar.
This constraint was alleviated after he attended a workshop put on by instructors from the Njala School of Agricultural Technology who knew about mechanical weeders and could give him one. With help from Catholic Relief Services, he was able to get more of these implements fabricated locally so that SRI methods could begin giving better results under local conditions.
Gerald practiced and taught SRI on his own in northern Sierra Leone, having no contact with the worldwide SRI community until 2014, when he read a Food Tank blog on the internet written about SRI. Upon reading this blog, he emailed the president of Food Tank, Danielle Nierenberg, to say that he had been working with SRI methods for more than a decade with demonstrable success, and that he had developed manuals for farmers and for trainers based on his Sierra Leone experience. Danielle immediately put Gerald in touch with us at Cornell.
Once Gerald’s expertise on SRI became known, he became part of the SRI community and was brought into the SRI initiative of the West African Agricultural Productivity Program (Chapter 8) as one of its ‘champions’ for SRI dissemination in Sierra Leone. In 2015, he made presentations on SRI at the International Exposition in Milan, Italy, and also in that year, a British video company made videos on Gerald’s work that were posted on YouTube.
In addition, Gerald adapted SRI/SCI ideas to improving the production of a locally-produced and widely-consumed green leafy vegetable known as krain krain (mallow), as discussed in Chapter 14. While Gerald has worked with and through a variety of civil-society organizations, his efforts have been initiated and undertaken personally.
That Bancy Mati, a professor at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi, was not a typical university professor is evident from her having served previously as program manager for the large IMAWESA network, Improved Management of Agricultural Water in Eastern and Southern Africa, sponsored by several CGIAR centers. In that capacity, she was in contact with and often visited colleagues in the 23 countries covered by the network supported by IFAD.
After learning about SRI from a chance meeting that we had at FAO headquarters in Rome, Bancy got SRI trials and demonstrations started in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme in 2009. As a professor of soil, water and environmental engineering, she was initially attracted to SRI by the large savings of water that it made possible. The largest irrigation system in Kenya (Mwea) did not have enough water for farmers to grow rice over its entire command area if they used conventional irrigated-rice practices. Relishing working directly with farmers, Bancy was able to get a variety of organizational partners involved in introducing SRI not only at Mwea, but then in the other major irrigation schemes in Kenya.
To get better returns to farmers and to increase their incentives to adopt SRI methods, so that Mwea’s irrigated area could be expanded, Bancy undertook value-chain development for SRI rice as reported in Chapter 17. A documentary film on SRI that she planned and produced in Kenya received the first prize at a continental film festival organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and held in Accra, Ghana in 2013. In December 2015, Bancy participated in an international climate-change conference in Paris (COP 21) on behalf of the SRI community, showing her film: ‘SRI: Growing More Rice with Less Water – Experiences from Kenya’. Below is Bancy being interviewed at COP 21.
These activities show how multi-faceted has been her involvement with SRI, along with publishing articles on SRI, a number of them with her PhD and master’s students. In 2019, in cooperation with SRI-Rice, Bancy set up an SRI website for Africa (http://sri-africa.net) based at her university to support an Africa-wide SRI network that will give focus and energy to the dissemination of SRI ideas and opportunities on a continent-wide basis.
In this country, the consumption of rice is more important than is its production. So, SRI ideas have been more relevant to improving other crops, thanks to the efforts of several individuals. Next to India, the most contributions to the System of Crop Intensification (Chapter 14) have come from Ethiopia.
In 1995, Sue Edwards together with her husband Tewolde Berhan established an NGO, the Institute for Sustainable Development based in Addis Ababa, before this concept had become very widely known and emphasized. As director of ISD, Sue worked with colleagues in the very dry northern province of Tigray, and they found that under these conditions, wide spacing and soil organic supplements were effective for raising crop yields, particularly of finger millet. She was thus primed by her field experience to pick up on SRI ideas and extend them to other crops.
Working with farmers and Ethiopian colleagues in Tigray, Sue found that most grain crops and many vegetables can benefit from adapted SCI methods, which they christened as ‘planting with space’ because ‘SCI’ did not translate very well into Ethiopian languages. In 2011, Sue was awarded the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development, sharing the prize that year with Kofi Annan, formerly secretary-general of the United Nations. That year she also traveled to India to share her SCI experience with Indian colleagues in a national meeting on SCI in Patna, Bihar.
In 2009 Sue started working with Tareke Berhe, discussed next, on the adaptation of SRI ideas to teff, the main cereal crop in Ethiopia. Sadly for everybody, Sue passed away in February 2018, but her organization and colleagues have continued working with these ideas. She had a great influence on agroecological approaches throughout Ethiopia, and through her participation in various forums on organic agriculture she helped to make SRI and SCI better known internationally.
Tareke Berhe grew up on a farm in Tigray in dry northern Ethiopia. After earning a first degree in agriculture at Alamaya College and working at the Debre Zeit research station, he was given a fellowship by FAO to spend eight months at CIMMYT in Mexico studying wheat breeding under Norman Borlaug. With a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship, he then earned a master’s degree at Washington State University and a PhD at the University of Nebraska. One of his early distinctions was to be the first plant breeder to hybridize teff, the indigenous grain in Ethiopia, now highly-prized as a health food in Europe and the United States.
With this training, Tareke worked on African agricultural improvement from a Green Revolution perspective for the next 25 years, with INTSORMIL, IITA, and Sasakawa/Global 2000. When he learned about SRI in the mid-2000s, he started some greenhouse research on transplanting teff and doing row seeding at a reduced seed rate. He was reassured of the potential benefits of SRI methods for teff when we had a long discussion while I was visiting Addis Ababa in July 2008. During that visit he also got to know Sue Edwards. Tareke continued applying SRI ideas with teff, and by the next summer as reported in Chapter 14, he had impressive results that he reported in a seminar at Cornell the next summer.
With a small grant from Oxfam America in 2009, in cooperation with Sue and working with his colleague Zewdie Gebresadik, Tareke sought through demonstration trials to get official understanding and acceptance of what he called the System of Teff Intensification (STI, discussed in Chapter 14). Even though STI could produce 3-4 times more yield than farmers were getting with their current methods, broadcasting 100 times more seed on ploughed soil, a less labor-intensive version of STI, with widely-spaced direct seeding instead of transplanting, gained support from the Ethiopian government and the Gates Foundation. This version of STI (called TIRR, standing for Teff/Improved variety/Reduced seed rate/Row planting) increased farmers’ yields and income substantially, although not by as much as was possible with more intensive crop management of teff.
Tareke and Zewdie worked with the government’s Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) developing and promoting TIRR during 2011-2013.When Tareke became seriously ill in 2014 and had to return to the U.S. for treatment, his colleague Zewdie continued working on TIRR development. By 2018, over one million Ethiopian farmers were using TIRR practices with average yields of 2.8 tonnes per hectare, almost double the national average yield of 1.5 tonnes. Without Tareke’s and Zewdie’s initiative and persistence, STI would not have come into existence. And while STI was valuable in its own right, it was important also for further demonstrating the broad applicability of SCI concepts.
Moving to Southeast Asia, readers learned about Y.S. Koma in Chapter 24 in connection with the work of the national NGO (CEDAC) that he helped to establish in 1997 with assistance from the French NGO GRET. Koma had been incredibly fortunate to survive beyond childhood after his father, brother and brother-in-law were killed by Khmer Rouge guerilla forces that were victimizing the educated classes in rural areas during the latter 1970s.
Koma’s outstanding academic performance in high school got him a scholarship to study at a university in Communist East Germany before the big political changes in that country. Upon returning to Cambodia with a PhD in agronomy in the early 90s, he passed over career opportunities in the government and at the national university to work instead in the non-governmental sector, first with the Japanese Overseas Volunteer Center, and then with the French NGO known as GRET.
When Koma learned about SRI from the LEISA magazine, having a PhD agronomist’s skepticism about the methods at first, he tried out the system on his own plots before getting farmers to do trials on their own fields. The significant yield enhancement and substantial cost reduction led ultimately to the widespread use of SRI methods in Cambodia, enlisting government, donor agency and NGO partners in this effort. The value and impact of Koma’s work was recognized in 2012 by his being given the Ramon Magsaysay Award, an award often referred to as ‘the Nobel Prize for Asia.’ Koma was only the sixth Cambodian to receive this all-Asian honor over a period of six decades.
The value-chain improvements that CEDAC has introduced to improve households’ incomes from their SRI rice production are described in Chapter 17 as is CEDAC’s introduction of ‘multi-purpose farming’ (MPF) to diversify SRI farming systems in Chapter 20. While using SRI productivity gains to provide a foundation for improving rural livelihoods in Cambodia, where almost half of the population produces rice, Koma has also become active in grassroots politics in recent years as there is a strong desire within his country for its democratization.
When Robert Verzola, known by the nickname Obet, first learned about SRI in 2001, he was secretary-general of the Philippine Greens. As his wife Flor still had access to her family’s rice lands in Luzon, they tried out the new methods on her family’s farm. Once Obet and Flor had seen the productivity and resilience benefits of SRI, it became a preoccupation for Obet until he died in May 2020. Although his formal training was as an electrical engineer, Obet quickly retooled intellectually by immersing himself in agricultural knowledge and practice.
Because he was in the underground resistance to President Ferdinand Marcos’ rule by martial law in the 1970s and got captured, Obet spent three years in prison for this. As it happened, this gave him a wide network of acquaintances throughout the government and civil society that made him widely and well connected. He also had a good sense for how to build and operate organizations with very little funding. The organizational structure that he and colleagues in the SRI-Pilipinas network constructed was exemplary for linking NGO and other professionals with farmers. Before long, it had links in practically every municipality in the country.
For several years, Obet led a national campaign to get the Philippine government and Filipinos generally to use the cost-free UNIX operating system, instead of Microsoft’s patented MS-DOS, championing ‘open-access’ computer programming. He saw this as something parallel to SRI’s ‘open-access’ agricultural methodology. In recent years, Obet supported his work on SRI by taking on consultant assignments for renewable energy in rural areas, drawing on his training in electrical engineering, while working also on a master’s degree in economics at the University of the Philippines. These multiple parts of Obet’s biography are emblematic of his civil-society engagement and commitment, which greatly benefited SRI progress in his country.
Abha Mishra first learned about SRI while she was studying agronomy and soil biology in Australia. When she embarked on PhD studies at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) near Bangkok, she decided to do her thesis on SRI, combining precise, controlled greenhouse experiments at the AIT greenhouse station along with farmer-participatory research in farmer field schools in Cambodia piloted by FAO’s IPM program to gain realistic insights into the phenomenon of SRI. Her husband, Prabhat Kumar, was working with the FAO program in the Southeast Asian region, so she developed connections with Jan Ketelaar in the FAO regional office in Bangkok. For better adaptation of SRI at farmer level, the three of them worked together to develop empirical knowledge from complementary perspectives, integrating SRI and IPM principles within a FFS framework. Several articles published from Abha’s thesis research were some of the first to get international attention.
After completing her PhD degree, Abha and Kumar formulated and proposed an Asian Center of Innovation for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (ACISAI) to be established at AIT, which the administration of AIT agreed to. ACISAI was planned to have a substantial but not exclusive focus on SRI and SCI. Fortunately, an ambitious proposal by Abha and Kumar was successful in getting substantial grant funding (3.4 million euros) from the European Union for a five-year project that covered in 33 districts in 11 provinces of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam (Chapter 8). Both FAO and Oxfam America joined as partners in this project, and SRI-Rice gave advisory support.
The main thrust of the project was farmer-participatory action research with experiments and evaluations carried out by farmers. Eventually more than 2,500 farmer field trials were conducted across the four countries involving 15,000 farmers directly and reaching out to another 30,000 in the communities. In addition to comparing the results of SRI practices with their own usual methods, farmers concurrently evaluated combinations of practices that they agreed upon among themselves after discussion, usually something less than a full SRI protocol. They could then see for themselves the effectiveness of the full set of SRI practices which, averaged across the four countries, gave 52% higher yield than the farmers’ own practices. Their chosen intermediate sets of practices gave rice yields that were 21 to 33% higher than usual practices.
Universities and government agencies were involved in the field implementation and evaluation so that these results became directly known to them as well as to participating farmers and their neighbors. The project laid the foundations for farmer organizations within and among the four countries, and established SRI linkages with government agencies and universities across the region. It was very sad and unfortunate that Prabhat Kumar, who helped launch and manage the SRI-LMB project, could not see its fruition.
Key roles for SRI acceptance here emerged from very different institutions. Ngo Tien Dung, deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Plant Protection Department, had previously successfully spearheaded the push for integrated pest management (IPM) in Vietnam during the 1990s. Through IPM connections in Indonesia, he learned about SRI and began evaluating it in Vietnam in 2003 in three districts. In 2006, Oxfam America began supporting larger-scale evaluation and demonstrations in Ha Tay province, and the number of provinces where SRI was evaluated on farmers’ fields was expanded to 17.
By 2007, Dung had gathered enough evidence to persuade the Ministry that it should designate SRI as a ‘technical advance.’ Within four years, the number of Vietnamese farmers using SRI methods exceeded 1 million, with about 20% of them doing ‘full’ SRI and 80% ‘partial’ SRI. Most of the latter were not able to implement SRI’s water management recommendations because of difficulties in controlling water within the existing irrigation systems.
The average yield increase was accordingly less than in most other countries, only 10-15%, at least in part because of insufficient water control. But farmers’ incomes were enhanced by more than this because SRI methods lowered their costs of production. A significant benefit was the significantly lower incidence of pests and diseases as well as the rice crop resilience to extreme weather events that are reported in Chapter 12.
Dung was given two national awards by the Ministry, one for his promotion of SRI, and the other for his developing of a rotational cropping system (SRI rice alternated with no-till potatoes) with assistance from FAO and Oxfam that proved to be very profitable and resilient (Chapter 33). Dung’s initiatives were some of the SRI story’s most impressive examples of government support. But his leadership role emerged not from any instructions from his administrative or political superiors. Rather it came from his own conviction that the new methods would improve the productivity and sustainability of Vietnam’s rice sector while enhancing the well-being of the producers and consumers who depended on it.
Dung’s efforts, as indicated above, were supported by Le Minh, a Vietnamese national who had joined the staff of Oxfam America after earning a degree from Williams College in the US, and then working for several international development organizations (FAO, the World Bank, and DFID). Eventually she became Oxfam’s Global Agriculture Advisor.
While she served as Oxfam’s resident representative in Cambodia in the early 2000s, as indicated above, Minh got Oxfam to assist in creating a stronger institutional base for SRI there, in cooperation with Koma and CEDAC. Then when she became Oxfam’s representative in Vietnam, Minh worked closely with Dung to get the merits of SRI demonstrated so impressively that the Ministry of Agriculture put its stamp of approval on SRI in October 2007, leading to one of the most rapid expansions of SRI use anywhere.
As Oxfam’s global agriculture advisor, Minh worked closely with SRI-Rice to get more acceptance of SRI worldwide, and particularly in Asia, where most of the world’s rice is produced and consumed. Oxfam America at Minh’s initiative co-sponsored SRI events preceding the International Rice Congresses in Hanoi (2010), Bangkok (2014) and Singapore (2018). The joint SRI booths that Oxfam and SRI-Rice set up at these events gave the innovation a visible presence at the congresses and a place where persons working on SRI, or just curious about it, could meet. A picture of the joint Oxfam/SRI-Rice booth at the Singapore IRC was shown in Chapter 22, and one of Minh at that booth is seen below.
Completing a kind of government-NGO-university triad for SRI spread in Vietnam was the involvement of Hoang Van Phu, a faculty member at the Thai Nguyen University north of Hanoi. Phu first learned about SRI from a German NGO staff member in Thailand who befriended him during his master’s studies at Chiang Mai University, and he learned more about SRI from faculty at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños during his PhD studies there. When he returned to Vietnam and joined the faculty of Thai Nguyen University, he started SRI trials and then demonstrations in mountainous areas.
With his gregarious personality and his ability to work outside of the university, both with farmers and with colleagues in other kinds of institutions, Phu became some of the ‘glue’ that brought and held the SRI network in Vietnam together, also finding time to write and publish articles on SRI with colleagues, for example, evaluating SRI greenhouse gas emissions and integrated farming systems.
The contributions of Shuichi Sato to SRI acceptance in several countries show how private-sector actors can function as part of civil society, taking initiatives that go beyond the job descriptions given them by their employers. When Sato learned about SRI in 2002, he was a water resources engineer heading a technical assistance team from the Japanese consulting firm Nippon Koei. It was assisting the Public Works Ministry in implementation of a large Japanese-funded irrigation management project in eastern Indonesia. Once he saw that the methods could both raise yield and reduce demand for irrigation water, Sato began trying to get SRI taken up by farmers within his large project area that spanned eight provinces, and also to make SRI better known and understood beyond his project area.
Recognizing the limits of relying entirely upon government or donor agencies, Sato collaborated with some Indonesian colleagues to start an NGO that would disseminate organic SRI, which led to the SRI training center discussed below. While Sato recognized the merits of organic SRI and wanted to promote it, however, within his project he settled for disseminating what he called ‘basic’ SRI, which cut chemical fertilizer applications by 50%, but not 100%.
Because Sato appreciated the organic version of SRI, he teamed up with a government agronomist Alik Sutaryat (see Chapter 31) to form an NGO that could promote organic SRI, calling the organization Aliksa, combining their names. They were subsequently joined by Ahmad Jatika, discussed next, and Aliksa morphed into NOSC. Below is a picture of 15 agriculturalists from Timor Leste who were sent to Sato’s project in Indonesia for training on organic SRI in 2008. Alik (blue shirt) did most of the training while Sato (white shirt) handled the logistics for the course. Travel support for the team was mobilized from GTZ by a third SRI colleague, George Deichert, discussed above.
Within his company, Nippon Koei, Sato got a colleague working on an irrigation project in Laos, Kazuyuki Shimazaki, to take initiative to promote SRI there. (Before his professional training as an engineer, Kazu had served as a Japanese volunteer in Laos, so he knew the country and language very well.) Also, while on Nippon Koei assignments in Senegal, Ghana, Philippines and Kenya, Sato talked up SRI to get it better known among irrigation management professionals in these countries.
During home leave in Japan, Sato made university and government contacts on behalf of SRI. Working with professors Eiji Yamaji and Masaru Mizoguchi at the University of Tokyo, he was instrumental in establishing the Japan SRI Association (J-SRI), which now has over 250 members. Sato has continued to serve as the secretary of J-SRI. He also helped to set up the Indonesian SRI Association (Ina-SRI).
Working with Shimazaki, Sato got the Japanese NGO, ProNet-21 mentioned in Chapter 24, to start an SRI project in Laos, mobilizing funding for this initiative from the Japanese aid agency JICA. After retiring from Nippon Koei in 2017, Sato took over from Shimazaki as overseer of the NGO project and began visiting Laos three times a year to support its progress with SRI. Such engagement shows how the line between civil society and the private sector can become blurred, with private-sector actors working effectively in a voluntary, non-profit mode over and above their business-oriented tasks.
Ahmad Jatika was one of Sato’s partners in the Indonesian SRI NGO mentioned above. He had already had quite a successful career in business, having set up an air freight company with operations in a number of Asian countries. This success was not fully satisfying, however. Wanting to make more concrete and positive contributions to society, Jatika redirected his thinking and energy, as well as some of his financial resources, to establishing a training center for organic SRI that would promote these methods on a national and even international scale. The Nagrak Organic SRI Center (NOSC) was initially named for the town south of Jakarta where the center was established, but it then became the Nusantara Organic SRI Center -- Nusantara being the Indonesian word for ‘archipelago’ and referring to all of the islands that composed this country, and even to Pacific islands beyond.
Having business experience, Jatika was entrepreneurial in finding new ways to promote SRI in Indonesia. One of his initiatives was to get paddy landowners who wanted a good return on their investment in land but who did not want to be burdened with management tasks, to transfer their land provisionally or permanently to NOSC to convert it to SRI production. The owner would get one-third of the net income instead of the usual one-half, but he or she would no longer have to spend any time in management or any money for providing production inputs. If SRI methods doubled the yield, which was quite possible, one-third of this larger total income would be more than an owner would get from half of the yield with the traditional practices of sharecropping.
Farmers who received SRI training and supervision from NOSC would get one-third of the total rice income rather than the usual one-half given to tenants. With SRI’s higher productivity, this could give them more net income while the labor required from them was reduced. As important, there was less risk for the farmers because NOSC guaranteed them at least their former income. With its third of the profits, NOSC could pay for the training and supervision and for the inputs (now less). As these expenses should not require the full one-third, the residual income would help NOSC to fund and expand its operation.
To supplement the central training facility at Nagrak in Western Java and to have more outreach, NOSC developed a network of regional and local SRI training centers that were funded and operated, respectively, by NGOs, farmer groups, or like-minded businessmen in affiliation with the Center. This was a kind of ‘franchising’ of SRI training.
Also, NOSC took advantage of a new national law that required large companies to devote at least 5% of their net profits to public-benefit programs as a matter of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Knowing well how to work with private-sector actors, early funding was mobilized from the largest tobacco products manufacturer in Indonesia, Sampoerna (now taken over by Philip Morris), and then the national airline Garuda Airways and Marathon Oil along with other private companies.
NOSC established close links with Ina-SRI, the Indonesian SRI Association, and its coordinator Prof. Iswandi Anas, a professor at the Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) became a member of NOSC’s Founding Council. Jatika’s NGO assisted research on SRI by providing trial plots and facilities to students from IPB. NOSC also undertook training for SRI programs in neighboring Malaysia and facilitated SRI training in the Solomon Islands in 2009 by an Indonesian farmer, as discussed in the next chapter. This kind of social entrepreneurship is not usually thought of as ‘civil society,’ but it meets most civil-society criteria. Below is a picture of the NOSC center at Nagrak, which became a hub for SRI activity in the country.
Another private-sector supporter of SRI was introduced in Chapter 17, Emily Sutanto. Emily was a young Indonesian living and working in Singapore as a singer and dancer in 2007 when she learned about SRI and about the difficulties that SRI farmers in the community of Tasikmalaya were encountering when trying to sell their organic SRI rice for as high a price as its quality warranted. From a successful career in the arts, Emily pivoted into becoming an entrepreneurial organic SRI rice exporter, making hers one of the most unexpected stories in the development of SRI. It is noted again in this chapter as an example of the diverse contributions that individuals have made to SRI’s acceptance.
SRI was slow to get started in this country, perhaps because not much importance is given to raising rice yields in Taiwan, which were already quite high. However, reducing water consumption and curbing chemical degradation of water resources are salient concerns, as are lowering farmers’ costs of production and combating adverse environmental impacts.
Yu-pin Lin, a professor in the Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering at National Taiwan University, learned about SRI through his involvement with the International Society for Paddy and Water Environment Engineering (PAWEES). Although he is an engineer rather than an agronomist, Yu-pin quickly grasped the significance of SRI and gave it boosts in several ways.
Yu-pin has been very active in PAWEES and other professional societies, getting coopted to edit professional journals because of his wide interests and his thoroughness. So, while chief editor of PAWEES’ journal Paddy and Water Environment, Yu-pin suggested that I put together a special issue on SRI for the journal. He actually suggested this twice, but we were so busy with SRI tasks that his invitation at first seemed more like a distraction than a boon. Still, Yu-pin did not give up, and when he asked a third time, I agreed and got Amir Kassam to share the editorial duties.
This special issue in 2011 brought together scientific research findings and operational experience from nine countries: Afghanistan, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Mali, Pakistan, and Panama. The topical articles covered SRI plant morphology and physiology; nutrient uptake and water use efficiency; organic fertilization and rhizosphere dynamics; rice root growth, physiological responses, and nutrient-use efficiency; and SRI enhancement of the populations of beneficial soil organisms. The introductory and summarization articles by Amir and myself were joined in, respectively, by two eminent CGIAR scientists, Richard Harwood and Willem Stoop.
All of the SRI colleagues who were invited to contribute articles responded quickly and positively. All of the articles merited publication in good journals, but having a special issue speeded up the process of getting them published as the peer reviewers were prompt. And having all of these contributions to the literature on SRI together in one place produced a whole that was more than the sum of its parts if they were widely scattered.
Two years later when Yu-pin was serving as editor for the journal Taiwan Water Conservancy, he invited us to put together another special issue. Although this journal is not very well-known, it had been publishing for over 60 years, and was not one of the many start-up journals that are currently diluting and even debasing the scientific literature. This was an opportunity to bring together research and operational findings on water as a factor in SRI, and Amir Kassam and Amod Thakur were willing to share in the editorial duties.
This issue was a good place to publish an extensive meta-analysis that had been completed of scientific articles on SRI’s water productivity and water saving in eight countries, plus articles from Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Kenya, diverse environments in which rice is grown with different kinds of water constraints. The issue concluded with three articles evaluating SRI impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, a matter of growing concern. Yu-pin saw these special issues as good both for the journals that he was editing and for getting SRI better known and accepted. Both of his invitations turned out to be very helpful for SRI.
In Taiwan, another SRI colleague emerged, Yu-Chuan Chang, a faculty member at Hsing Wu University, who was willing to support an SRI network within Taiwan. We later learned that Chang was an adjunct professor in the Graduate of Frontier Studies at the University of Tokyo, and thus a colleague of Eiji Yamaji, discussed above. In July 2016, the network was expanded to become the Society of Conservation Agriculture and System of Rice Intensification, with its own website (http://www.ca-sri.org/), a first example of the kind of convergence discussed in Chapter 19. Chang also oversaw translation into Chinese language of our 2015 book on answers to frequently-asked questions about SRI.
This country’s joining the SRI community and taking a leadership role within the Southeast Asian region has been largely due to efforts of Anizan Isahak, a professor at the National University of Malaysia (UKM). How she got involved with SRI was quite serendipitous. Anizan’s husband along with two colleagues had learned about SRI from Victor Lee, an SRI proponent who had several country bases in Asia, one of them Malaysia. They got the idea of establishing a company that would do SRI training in Malaysia. Having arranged a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture to get his blessing for this venture, they contacted me and offered to pay my way to Kuala Lumpur if I could come and join in the meeting. So, I made the trip Malaysia and worked in a visit to Indonesia as well.
Anizan’s husband suggested that she come along with him to an afternoon meeting where I was going to brief him and the others before our appointment with the Minister the next morning. Twice she declined because she had term papers to read and grade. But at the last minute, when invited a third time, she decided to come along to the meeting, being bored with reading papers. For the first 20 minutes of our discussion at the meeting, she was not much engaged, according to her recollection.
But then she started to understand the essentials of SRI and to see its multiple benefits, economic, environmental and social, and she became interested, listening to the discussion and joining in. The next morning she came along to the meeting with the Minister. Then she attended a late-morning presentation on SRI that I made at the Malaysian Agricultural and Rural Development Institute after spending an hour with the Minister. During this morning session, she made quick use of her cell phone to set up an impromptu meeting on SRI that afternoon with some of her faculty colleagues at her university. Ten of them came on short notice, and soon there was an interdisciplinary core group at the university to take SRI forward.
From there, a diverse group of faculty and students and also some interested persons in government service, in the private sector, or retired, came together to form a national SRI network, SRI-Mas. Within two years, the network was able to host a national conference with 175 persons in attendance. From there, SRI was well launched in Malaysia. SRI-Mas has also hosted meetings with SRI colleagues from other Asian countries, seeking to make SRI more of a regional movement. None of this would have happened without Anizan getting involved to understand and promote SRI.
A crucial actor here and elsewhere was Humayun Kabir, a Bangladeshi agronomist whom I met in 1998 at the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) headquarters in the Philippines. At that time, he was IIRR’s advisor for rice improvement. When that position had to be cut because of IIRR budget constraints, Humayun moved to Cambodia where he tried out SRI for himself. But the results were not very good, apparently because the plants were planted too late in the season.
In 2000, Humayun was engaged by an NGO in Myanmar, the Metta Development Foundation (Chapter 24), as its agricultural advisor for its rural development program in Kachin and Shan states. These states in the northwest of the country with mostly tribal populations had been embroiled in conflict with government forces for several decades over issues of local autonomy and secession.
Humayun embarked upon an ambitious SRI program using farmer-field-school methodology, a hands-on, farmer-participatory strategy for evaluating and disseminating new agricultural practices. From each of the first three training cohorts of FFS groups, 10 groups were selected for detailed monitoring, each with about 20 members. Thus, 612 representative farmers were selected and followed over a four-year period to obtain detailed information on SRI impacts and spread. This provided the data base for a PhD thesis that Humayun wrote on the introduction of SRI in the Karen and Shan states.
During Metta’s four years of FFS training, over 5,000 farmers gained instruction and confidence in SRI methods. Humayun’s research showed that the paddy yields of farmers who had been trained by the project were doubled on average. Other farmers in their villages who learned SRI practices from those who had been trained had yield increases that averaged 50%. They did not use SRI methods as fully or as well as FFS participants, but having learned SRI methods farmer-to-farmer there had been no any project expenditure. This spread was in effect ‘free.’ In villages where one-third of its farmers had been trained in SRI methods, by the end of four years, 98% of the farmers in these villages were using the new practices.
Humayun’s efforts to get SRI accepted extended beyond Myanmar. In 2003, he traveled to Ajrestan district in central Afghanistan on behalf of SRI-Rice where local leaders had asked for training on SRI methods. Unfortunately, contact was lost there after the area became more contested. In 2008, the German NGO Agro-Action brought Humayun back to Afghanistan to advise and train farmers under its SRI initiative. Then in 2012, he resumed working in Afghanistan, providing leadership within an FAO project that had support from the Norwegian government for its SRI and SWI components. Both of these innovations were quite successful. Humayun would have extended his work in Afghanistan for a second phase of the project, but donor complexities and indecision ultimately precluded this.
Mention should be made also of Thein Su, who joined the SRI community rather late but had begun working with SRI ideas and methods 10 years before his work became known outside Myanmar. Thein Su was a professor of agronomy at Yezin Agricultural University when he first learned about SRI in 2008. But he never made contact with the rest of the SRI community; he simply read what he could from the SRI website and began experimenting and demonstrating the new methods on his own for a decade, with no support from anyone.
After he retired from the university, Thein Su had more time to devote to his SRI work. In 2018, we learned about his training and dissemination efforts and made contact with him. He joined a SRI-Rice team that that the Minister of Agriculture had invited to come to Myanmar in April of that year. Thein Su was able to vouch for what other team members reported about SRI by referencing his own experience within Myanmar.
Thein Su also translated into Burmese language our 2015 book on frequently-asked-questions about SRI. He dropped some of the longer parts that would be of less interest to Myanmar readers and put in some of his own sections of text and pictures to ‘localize’ the presentation and make it more familiar for Burmese readers. In April 2019, Thein Su launched on Facebook a ‘Network of SRI Friends’ in Myanmar that quickly had more than 300 subscribers. I learned in November 2020, in an email that he sent from a hospital in Myanmar where he was recovering from Covid-19, that he was planning to resume his SRI training the next month. During 2020, he produced on his own one of the most thorough and beautiful manuals on SRI, adding a section on the production of biofertilizers and bioinsecticides that farmers could make to enhance their SRI cropping. This is, unfortunately for most persons, in Burmese language and script, but the pictures tell much of the story.
There are surely other ‘champions’ of SRI like Thein Su about whom we have had no knowledge, operating on their own in various countries. Including him in this chapter is a reminder that the SRI spread has proceeded with a great variety or persons, some of whom have not been known beyond their sphere of action. Below are two pictures from Thein Su’s book that show SRI in use in Myanmar.
Just as individuals in the private sector can make a difference functioning as civil society actors, so can persons in the public sector. Gamini Batuwitage was an Additional Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture when he learned about SRI in 1999. We discussed it while we were both participating in an Asian Productivity Organization workshop held in a beach resort outside Colombo, having known each other since the 1980s through our mutual interest in participatory irrigation water management.
Gamini immediately grasped the significance of SRI for Sri Lankan farmers, and the next year he hosted a visit by Joeli Barison, a young Malagasy agronomist whose research was reported in Chapters 4 and 6 and who at the time was in master’s degree program at Cornell. Joeli was able to spend 10 days in Sri Lanka during his January semester break to talk with farmers and officials about SRI, his trip supported by CIIFAD.
The government’s rice scientists were, however, quite disinterested in and even antagonistic toward SRI. They wanted no part of the visit, although they did agree to a presentation and discussion on SRI at their rice research center at Batalagoda, where they dismissed it completely. Fortunately, Gamini got the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Salinda Dissanayaka, himself a rice farmer, interested in SRI, and together they arranged for Joeli to make a presentation on SRI over Sri Lanka’s national radio station.
As reported at the beginning of Chapter 10, the deputy minister himself subsequently validated Joeli’s claims on his own rice farm, which was located right next to the Bathalagoda station. His results were, however, ignored by the government rice researchers even though one of their own modern varieties (BG-358) developed at their station gave the deputy minister a yield of 16 tonnes per hectare under SRI management.
Below is Gamini looking at one of the deputy minister’s rice plots. After Gamini gave a briefing on SRI to the Sri Lankan prime minister, Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga, she telephoned the manager of her own rice farm to ask him to start using SRI methods. Even this initiative was thwarted, however, by some government rice specialists who persuaded the farm manager not to get involved with the new methods.
Subsequently Gamini hosted visitors from India and Pakistan, thereby helping to get SRI work started in those two neighboring countries, and in 2003 he traveled to India to make a presentation on SRI at a conference on agriculture in Tamil Nadu. When he became director of Sri Lanka’s national poverty-reduction program in 2006, Gamini promoted SRI demonstrations and training in some of the country’s most poverty-stricken villages.
In 2008, Gamini helped to establish a national SRI network, and in 2013, he and other network members assisted in setting up a large farmer-managed SRI demonstration area quite near the National Parliament building (Chapter 31). None of this was done as part of his government job, although he had support from some higher officials in doing this. It was done because of his commitment to spreading SRI opportunities.
Another activist for SRI from Sri Lanka was C.M. Wijayaratna, Wijay for short, who had been my counterpart for introducing participatory management into the Gal Oya project in the 1980s. After he did a PhD in agricultural economics at Cornell, he joined the staff of the International Water Management Institute, and after heading the implementation of a USAID project for integrated and participatory development of irrigation schemes in Sri Lanka, went into professional consulting.
When Wijay was involved in the design as well as implementation of a large irrigation project in Chhattisgarh state of India on behalf of the Asian Development Bank, 2006-2012, he combined the introduction of SRI with the formation of farmer companies. He also got farmers to revise their farming system because SRI methods enabled them to cut the water requirements for their rice crop. By not relying on irrigation during the summer rainy season, much water could be saved through SRI and used for growing another crop during the water-short winter season.
More than 100,000 ha were brought under this system, for 130,000 families organized in almost 100 water user associations. Average rice yields over six seasons rose from 2.8 tonnes per ha to 5.9 tonnes, while the area cropped in the winter season within the irrigation command area went from 6% to 52%, using the water saved from the summer. The result was that household incomes were more than doubled. Wijay credited this to both SRI and farmers’ collection action.
When the EU-funded project on farmer-participatory rainfed SRI development in Southeast Asia held its concluding conference, Wijay as a keynote speaker looked ahead to how combining farmer organization with SRI could amplify the agronomic benefits of the latter through collective action. Wijay’s next major undertaking was in Pakistan to help the Asian Development Bank and the provincial government of Baluchistan design a project for integrated management of arid and semi-arid watersheds in the western part of the country. Rice production is not a possibility in this region as there is little water to save, so Wijay planned a major project component for introducing the System of Crop Intensification, SRI applied to other, non-irrigated crops. This is the most ambitious use of SCI concepts and methods to date.
SRI use had advanced most broadly in this country, so it is to be expected that quite a large number of individuals played important roles here. The person who got SRI started in India was T.M. Thiyagarajan, known to everyone as TMT, an agronomist on the faculty at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. In 2000, when he first learned about SRI through the Wageningen University project described in Chapter 8, he was director of TNAU’s Centre for Soil and Crop Management, a center of expertise that advised the state government and its extension service on best agricultural practices. His mini-memoire gives more information on his career up to that point.
TMT’s high standing in India was amplified by his strong professional linkages with IRRI scientists, with whom he had much interaction. He quickly became the most prominent voice in India concerning SRI. He attended the 2002 conference in China and presented the country report from India. Then in 2003, with IRRI and Wageningen University, he organized an international conference on ‘Transitions in Agriculture for Enhancing Water Productivity’ convened at the Killikulam campus of TNAU, which gave much attention to SRI.
In 2004, research by TNAU that TMT set up and supervised in two watersheds confirmed the SRI advantages reported from elsewhere (Chapter 7). Later that year he attended an International Year of Rice conference convened by the China International Rice Research Institute in Hangzhou and also the World Rice Research Conference sponsored by IRRI and held in Tsukuba, Japan.
TMT did further evaluations of SRI after he moved in 2005 to Tirur as director of TNAU’s Rice Research Station there. During this time, he began working together with Biksham Gujja, discussed below, and in 2012 they published a book on SRI that pulled together Indian research and experience with the new methods.
After 2017, TMT served for three years as dean of agriculture in the new SRM Institute of Science and Technology in Chennai. The next year, TMT offered to host an all-India SRI meeting to which SRI colleagues from around the world would also be invited, to be held during 2019 or 2020. He and Indian colleagues undertook the task of mobilizing the necessary funding for this, but unfortunately their efforts were not successful. TMT’s first retirement from TNAU in 2008 was not really much of a retirement.
The next major recruit for SRI in India was Alapati Satyanarayana, at the time the director of extension for Andhra Pradesh’s state agricultural university, ANGRAU. He had previously worked for 20 years as a plant breeder at the state’s largest agricultural research stations, serving for his last 5 years there as the station’s director. In 2002, he received, together with ICRISAT, the prestigious King Baudouin International Development Prize for accomplishments in breeding pulse crops that fitted very productively into rice farming systems.
When visiting Hyderabad in May 2002 and talking with that state’s Secretary of Agriculture, I suggested that he select two rice specialists to visit Sri Lanka, where SRI was already established, so that they could see and evaluate SRI methods and impacts for themselves. Sri Lankan SRI colleagues had already agreed to host visitors from India, and I said that CIIFAD would cover their local costs.
The Secretary asked Satyanarayana to be one of those to go to Sri Lanka and see SRI for himself, but he declined the invitation, saying that he was not a rice specialist. Satyanarayana considered himself a legume plant breeder by profession. However, the research station that he had directed served 2 million hectares of rice land, so he was thoroughly acquainted with rice cropping.
Knowing how capable Satyanarayana was, the Secretary asked him a second time to make the trip to Sri Lanka, and Satyanarayana declined again, with some other excuse. But then, as he told me later after visiting Sri Lanka, when the Secretary asked him for a third time to make the trip, he had to agree. “You cannot say ‘no’ to your boss three times,” he explained.
When Satyanarayana and a colleague visited Sri Lanka in January 2003, Gamini Batuwitage (discussed above) hosted the visit. Satyanarayana told me afterwards he had been very skeptical, indeed arrogant, when he got to Colombo, thinking to himself, “What can Sri Lankans teach us about rice? We Indians have been growing rice for thousands of years.” And by his own account, for the first three days while he visited fields and talked with farmers as Gamini had arranged, he was seeing impressive rice crops, but still was not taking SRI seriously.
At the end of the third day, Gamini took his visitors to his home for a Sri Lankan rice-and-curry dinner. As they walked from the bus stop to Gamini’s house, they passed many rice fields that were brown because this was a water-stressed year. Ahead Satyanarayana saw a bright green field, which as Gamini’s SRI plot. (To gain personal experience with SRI, Gamini had planted his own SRI rice field that season.)
When they got to that field, Satyanarayana pulled up at random a tiller of rice from Gamini’s plot and another from a neighboring rice plot. Satyanaranana counted their number of grains: 125 grains on the rice panicle conventionally grown, and 510 on the SRI panicle. “Even this difference did not break through my thinking, however,” Satyanarayana told me later.
Absent-mindedly, Satyanarayana pulled off a leaf from the SRI rice plant and began running it through his fingers, he said, as he had done hundreds, even thousands of times before because he liked the softness of rice leaves. Suddenly he was surprised to see that the sharp edge of the SRI leaf had cut the skin on his thumb and had drawn blood!
“That was what finally got my attention,” said Satyanarayana. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. He could see (and feel, a bit painfully) that the SRI plant was different from other rice plants -- tougher, stronger, presumably because of greater silicon uptake. He spent his remaining two days in Sri Lanka collecting pictures, data, and powerpoint slides from Gamini that he could use when he returned to Andhra Pradesh.
Once back at ANGRAU, as its director of extension, Satyanarayana commissioned systematic evaluations of SRI methods to be done all over the state, as described in Chapter 7. The results of these evaluations were reported to the Department of Agriculture and written up in an article with TMT and myself.
When the journal Nature published an article on the SRI controversy in 2004, Satyanarayana wrote a data-based letter to rebut claims made in the article on SRI by IRRI scientists. When Satyanarayana reached the mandatory retirement age for Indian university faculty, ANGRAU’s vice-chancellor declined to give him a contract extension to continue in teaching and administration. So this ended his time at the university.
Satyanarayana returned to his profession of plant breeding and moved into the private sector as director of research for a large seed company. A few years later, he moved into the ‘middle sector’ as the director of a foundation established by non-resident Indians (NRIs) who from their expatriated positions abroad wanted to help promote development in Andhra Pradesh, including development of the agricultural sector. Satyanarayana’s part of the SRI story was one of the most dramatic, and it showed again how much serendipity was involved.
In Chapter 7, we got acquainted with Biksham Gujja, who became engaged with SRI while he was a senior scientific advisor for the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF-International) based in Gland, Switzerland. His work with WWF as a wetlands ecologist had gotten him involved in several major international water-related initiatives such as the World Commission on Dams, the World Water Commission, and the World Water Forum.
After he started WWF’s Global Freshwater Program, Biksham worked out with the CGIAR system an agreement for a joint ‘Dialogue Program on Food, Water and the Environment.’ This program was based at ICRISAT in Hyderabad, India, and he was spending half of each year there while his family continued living in Switzerland.
The three-year evaluation of SRI that Biksham commissioned was a collaborative one with data gathered and analyzed by scientists from the Indian Council for Agricultural Research’s Directorate of Rice Research, the Andhra Pradesh agricultural university, ANGRAU, and ICRISAT, all of them located in Hyderabad. Once Biksham had three years of evidence in hand that confirmed the beneficial effects of SRI, he became the one of the most visible and active proponents of SRI in India. A particular service was his convening national SRI symposia in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and setting up a website for the SRI-India network that the Dialogue program sponsored.
When the agreement that established the Dialogue program came to an end in 2010, its renewal was not supported by either WWF or the CGIAR. So Biksham and several colleagues in the program established a private company, AgSri, to promote sustainable agriculture and water resources management.
In 2009, Biksham started to study and spread the application of SRI ideas and methods to the production of sugarcane because this crop consumes large amounts of freshwater and also inorganic fertilizer. What Biksham called the Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) became a major focus for AgSri, developing appropriate technology for sugarcane seedling production and disseminating knowledge of SSI practices and results. As noted in Chapter 12, Biksham himself transferred SSI knowledge to several countries in Africa and Latin America.
One of the most active and articulate proponents of SRI in India was C. Shambu Prasad, trained in the cross-disciplinary field of science and technology studies. When we first met in 2003, Shambu was part of a CGIAR research team based at ICRISAT in Hyderabad that was studying the history of technological change in agriculture. He saw SRI as ‘current history’ that could be observed as it unfolded. He was particularly interested in how and why many established scientists resisted the new ideas, even not wanting to evaluate them with standard scientific methods. In 2006, he wrote an ‘early history’ of SRI, that was published by the WWF/ICRISAT program that Biksham Gujja was heading up.
When Shambu joined the faculty of the Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar in 2006, he pulled together a number of institutions working with SRI in Odisha state into what they called a ‘learning alliance’ to facilitate their sharing of experience and insights. While at XIMB, Shambu also played an active role in forming the National Consortium for SRI (NCS). He also advised four Indian PhD students on their field research for theses for Wageningen University.
In 2013-14, Shambu spent a sabbatical year at Cornell with SRI-Rice on a Senior Fulbright Research fellowship, getting a better view of SRI worldwide while doing his own writing. In 2016, he moved to the Institute for Rural Management at Anand (IRMA) in Gujerat state, where he continued to support NCS initiatives as a good example of someone who moves outside the bounds of academia to play civil-society roles.
The researcher who contributed the most to advancing our scientific understanding of SRI was Amod Thakur, a senior plant physiologist at ICAR’s Indian Institute for Water Management in Bhubaneswar. His research work is reported in Chapters 9, 11 and 20, so little more need be added here. In 2011, he was awarded a USDA Norman Borlaug fellowship that enabled him to spend 3 months at Cornell with SRI-Rice. Then two years later he spent 10 more months at Cornell on a Senior Fulbright Research Fellowship. Many of his publications on SRI are noted in the endnotes to various chapters.
Two senior civil servants played key roles in getting SRI accepted within the Indian government, Rita Sharma and Bhuban Barah, both of whom happened to be Cornell alumni (Chapter 31). Rita as a member of the Indian Administrative Service served in the Uttar Pradesh cadre of the IAS after she completed a PhD degree in agricultural economics at Cornell. As her work in that state’s agricultural sector was highly regarded, she was transferred to New Delhi to become assistant secretary for administration in the central government’s Ministry of Agriculture.
In 2000, when I was in New Delhi for a World Bank conference, Rita arranged for me to give a seminar on SRI at the Ministry, the first discussion of SRI at the central government level in her country. In May 2002, with Bhuban’s assistance, she arranged for a presentation on SRI at ICAR’s National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP) in New Delhi. Then in November of that year she organized a second seminar on SRI at the Ministry of Agriculture. Given her senior position and the high regard that her peers had for her, she was very good at opening doors for getting SRI considered.
By 2007, Rita was promoted to become Secretary for the Rural Development Ministry with responsibility for anti-poverty programs across India, into which SRI could be introduced. In February of that year, again with Bhuban’s cooperation, she set up a presentation on SRI for the staff of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and also a meeting with the Secretary to the Prime Minister. (The Prime Minister, who came from Punjab, could be interested in the water-saving aspects of SRI because of the declining water table in his home state.) The next year, Rita arranged for an SRI presentation to her senior Ministry of Rural Development staff in New Delhi, and she continued to be supportive of SRI in various ways.
In 2006, when the 2nd International Rice Congress was held in New Delhi, Bhuban hosted an informal meeting of Congress participants who were working with SRI or who were just interested in it. This meeting was convened at the NCAP headquarters near the conference site (see picture of the group in Chapter 22).
Bhuban was promoted to serve as the director of NCAP before he retired from the Indian Administrative Service according to civil-service age limits, having done and published several economic assessments of SRI. After his retirement, he was appointed as the NABARD Chair Professor at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi. From this position, he served as the first convener for the National Consortium for SCI (NCS) in India, pulling together diverse colleagues across this vast country. While at IARI, Bhuban also took initiative to get the first scientific evaluation of SWI wheat undertaken and completed.
Many other Indians also played important personal roles in their country’s SRI history. Many will be mentioned in Chapter 41. One not very visible but important contributor was Nemani Chandrasekhar, a communications specialist with the Hyderabad-based NGO WASSAN, mentioned in the preceding chapter. Nemani set up the SRI website and electronic links for WASSAN and for the WWF-ICRISAT program when the SRI-India network was formed in 2008. These sites became repositories of information on SRI from all over India with material from field manuals, research papers, and diverse experiences.
When the Jai-SRI Network for India was established after the WWF program was wound down, Nemani continued to be a communications hub for SRI across India from his WASSAN base, assisting with problem-solving, helping people source equipment, etc. Jai-SRI along with its Google group became the main platform for SRI networking in India. Nemani served as moderator for the group, connecting hundreds of people from farmers to scientists, and bringing more people to subscribe to the SRI Google group.
The work of Anil Verma should be noted. Being very modest, he would be the first to give others credit for the remarkable spread of SRI and SWI across Bihar state. Poverty, misery and corruption in this state were legendary until the government of Nitish Kumar took control of state institutions by electoral victory in 2005. Nitish Kumar’s contributions to SRI as a political leader are noted in Chapter 31. Anil as leader of a PRADAN team in Gaya district started the introduction of SRI in 2007 with 128 farmers on 30 hectares. These numbers indicate that the first plots for SRI averaged just one-quarter of a hectare, less than two-thirds of an acre. This reflects the extremely limited access to land that most farm households in Bihar have.
By working with farmers and various state agencies and spurred by remarkable results, the number of households using SRI methods in Gaya and Nalanda districts expanded to almost 20,000 within three years, and the uptake of SWI methods for wheat was even faster. Then within another three years, with the state government and the World Bank getting involved in SRI and SWI dissemination, the number of households benefiting from these methods in Bihar grew to over 350,000.
To respond to the needs and opportunities in Bihar, PRADAN assisted Anil in setting up a new NGO in 2012. PRAN focused on expanding agroecological knowledge and practice among farmers. Before long, with the support of several foundations as noted in Chapter 35, PRAN’s training and advisory work had expanded to 10 states.
Two other NGO leaders who played major roles similar to Anil’s in other parts of India are discussed in Chapter 41: Debashish Sen, who now heads the People’s Science Institute in Dehradun working in the states of Uttarkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh; and Adusumilli Ravindra, Ravi for short, executive director of WASSAN, the Watershed Support Services and Activities Network, based in Hyderabad and working particularly in Andhra Pradesh state (part of which is now Telangana state). Both Debashish and Ravi did PhD studies at Wageningen University under the program described in Chapter 32, as did Sabarmatee, profiled below.
A huge but silent contribution was made by Biswanath Sinha, a PRADAN staff member who after considerable experience of doing development work in the field was recruited to the administrative staff of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust in Mumbai, and who eventually became associate director of the Tata Trusts (Chapter 35). With first-hand knowledge of SRI and NGO capabilities, Biswanath was instrumental in getting large-scale foundation funding for SRI dissemination in northern and eastern India focused on poverty reduction among low-income and tribal communities.
Another NGO leader who played a large role within the Indian SRI movement was Sabarmatee, who prefers just a single name. The NGO that she and her father founded in 1989 and which she was leading -- known as Sambhava, the name meaning ‘Possibility’ -- is based on a farm established on over 30 hectares that were just wasteland (‘jungle’) when it was acquired. Wild animals are still a hazard to the rice and other crops there. Under agroecological management, this landholding was made a large productive area for rice, fruits, and vegetables.
The Sambhava center has good facilities for farmer training and for conserving indigenous varieties of rice. More than 400 varieties have been acquired, catalogued, and are being preserved there (Chapter 18). One attraction of SRI for Sabarmatee has been that its methods significantly enhance the yield of the heirloom varieties that she and Sambhav are preserving.
Sabarmatee introduced an innovative participatory program whereby motivated farmers in the region each ‘adopted’ a specific heirloom variety to conserve personally in perpetuity. By producing it every year on part of their respective farms, volunteer families multiply the seed and make some available for other farmers to use. This in-vivo conservation of rare varieties complements the preservation of seeds in Sambhava’s repository at its center, making the perpetuation of these rare varieties more certain and more natural.
As discussed in Chapter 15, for her PhD thesis, Sabarmatee researched the strains and hazards for women engaged in rice production, documenting how muscular stresses are alleviated and injuries minimized with SRI practices. Having data on these effects made her a more effective advocate for improving the conditions of Indian women who work in rice agriculture. Below is Sabarmatee being presented the Nari Shakti Puraskar (Women’s Power Award) by the President of India in 2018.
There are dozens of other Indian colleagues, mentioned in Chapter 41, who could also have been mentioned here, but this dozen gives a good idea of their diversity and of the diversity of their contributions. That India has been the country where SRI ideas have had the most impact is attributable to there being such the large and diverse informal cadre of SRI activists who have worked amicably together.
The efforts of Asif Sharif to mechanize SRI operations described in Chapter 19 will be noted again in Chapter 34. Asif combined SRI with conservation agriculture, the evolved version of no-till cultivation, and organic production methods. A successful businessman who gad imported and sold agricultural machinery for several decades, Asif is also an innovative farmer, for example being the first farmer in his country to laser-level his fields to economize on water use.
Asif was not someone who would be expected to take an interest in SRI, which was developed for small-scale, resource-poor farmers. But from his observations of how ‘modern’ agriculture practices had degraded his country’s soil systems, compacting them with heavy machinery and making them saline through over-irrigation and heavy use of chemical fertilizers, Asif began looking for alternative production methods and systems that could make Pakistan’s agricultural sector both more sustainable and more profitable. When he came across the SRI website in 2008, Asif immediately grasped the innovation’s potentials. He brought to his engagement with SRI an active social and environmental consciousness, as well as practical agricultural knowledge and extensive business experience.
In Punjab province, agricultural labor is in limited supply and relatively costly because so many able-bodied males having migrated to the towns and cities for more remunerative, less arduous employment. Asif set about using his knowledge of agricultural machinery and mechanization to devise or redesign implements that could (a) create permanent raised beds on laser-leveled fields quickly and precisely; (b) facilitate the planting of widely-spaced young seedlings into dry soil, with laborers having reasonably comfortable working conditions riding on the planting machine instead of stooping over in the hot sun; and (c) weed the beds very precisely, removing weeds while vigorously aerating the soil. His weeding machine, shown in Chapter 19, can even be operated by remote control so that no driver is needed.
His innovations resulted in a paddy crop yield of 12 tonnes per hectare from his laser-leveled test plot of 17.5 hectares. This harvest was produced with only 30% as much water as usually used for rice cultivation in Punjab, and with only 30% as much labor. After his adaptations of SRI principles and practices for mechanized rice production, Asif proceeded to apply its ideas and methods to the cultivation of wheat, maize, sugarcane, potatoes, carrots, onions, and other crops, thereby helping to develop a highly mechanized form of the System of Crop Intensification (Chapter 14).
Asif has undertaken training and advocacy within Pakistan for these new agroecological approaches. In 2010, the President of Pakistan took Asif with him on a state visit to China to show off this innovation, although decision-makers in neither China nor Pakistan followed up on the opportunities that Asif demonstrated. His commitment to these tasks and innovations is personal, motivated by the hope that the agricultural sector of his country will be redirected toward greater social equity and opportunity and toward more environmental balance and benefit.
Leadership for SRI in this country came first from within the government service. When we first met in Kathmandu in 2002, Rajendra Uprety, a district agricultural development officer based in Biratnagar in the southern terai (plains), already knew about SRI from having read the 1999 ILEIA article. The results of two years of evaluations done in his region under a DFID-funded irrigation project in the terai are reported in Chapter 7. Farmer-managed trials there had showed SRI practices giving average yields of more than 8 tonnes per hectare, which was 50% more than the farmers got with ‘improved,’ input-dependent methods, and about double what they were achieving with their usual methods. When that project ended, however, SRI was ‘orphaned.’ So, Rajendra took up the innovation.
In 2004, Rajendra was able to get two farmers in Morang district to try out SRI methods on their own land, on plots less than 100 m². Their impressive results prompted to 54 farmers to take up the new methods the next year. Their results showed an average doubling of yield and a 15-day average reduction in the length of the crop cycle (Chapter 11). Also, they found one SRI plant with 185 tillers grown from a single seed, shown below on left.
Also in that year, BBC’s World Service did a report on Rajendra’s promotion of SRI in Morang district (Chapter 29). A picture from that BBC report posted on-line shows Rajendra bove on ritht. In 2005, Rajendra submitted an application to the World Bank-sponsored Nepal Development Marketplace competition which won him a prize of USD20,000 to support the expansion of SRI work. A picture of Rajendra being presented with this award is seen in Chapter 33.
As he had only a master’s degree in agriculture from Nepal’s national university, Rajendra wanted to undertake further studies. He was fortunate to be admitted to a ‘sandwich’ PhD program at Wageningen University in the Netherlands that let him alternate between time there and time back in Nepal. He started these studies in 2011 and completed and defended his thesis in 2016. While at Wageningen, he kept track of SRI work in Nepal, and he was able to speak and act on SRI’s behalf with more status when he returned.
While Rajendra was in the Netherlands, another champion for SRI emerged in Nepal, Ram Bahadur Khadka, who after getting a master’s degree from the institute of agriculture at Rampur like Rajendra had done joined the Forum for Awareness and Youth Activity (FAYA). This NGO was assisting in implementation of a food security program in Nepal’s Far Western region with funding from the EU and FAO. This assignment got Ram working with farmers in the introduction of both SRI and SWI methods in the Far West. This initiative included the first systematic validation and demonstration of SWI methods in the country.
The quality of Ram’s work led to his being hired as a research scientist by the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, which posted him to its regional research center in Khajura, where he continued evaluations of SRI and SWI. He also did research on how SRI practices could improve the production and profitability of a popular indigenous rice variety (Hansraj) which has a good market price and on the effects of combining SRI management practices with Trichoderma inoculation of seedlings.
Ram helped the Nepal Forum for Environmental Journalism produce a video on SRI in 2011 and contributed to another video on SRI in Nepal produced by Flooded Cellar Productions in 2013. Three years later, he took study leave from the Nepal Research Council to do a PhD in plant pathology at The Ohio State University in the US, continuing to support the spread of SRI in Nepal as best he could from afar and completing the degree in 2021.
Much of the acceptance of SRI in this country flowed from the work of Muazzam Husain, who was for some 30 years a professor of agricultural economics at the Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) at Mymensingh. More than a generation of Bangladeshis who got higher education at BAU for their careers in the agriculture sector went through his classes before he retired in 1998.
Given his commitment to agricultural and rural development in his country, Muazzam became first a consultant and then interim director of the research and evaluation division of BRAC, the largest and one of the most respected NGOs in the world. In this capacity he hosted an informal seminar that I gave on SRI at BRAC headquarters in 2000 while in Bangladesh for a different CIIFAD activity. After learning more about SRI, Muazzam devoted most of his post-retirement efforts to getting it better understood and more widely accepted in Bangladesh.
In January 2002, Muazzam arranged and hosted a national workshop on SRI at BRAC’s headquarters in Dhaka which led to the formation of a national SRI steering committee. He then coordinated a two-year, four-organization evaluation of SRI funded through IRRI as described in Chapter 7. That year he also led the Bangladesh delegation to the first international SRI conference, held in Sanya, China. Muazzam has headed the national SRI network for Bangladesh since it was set up in 2006. He has thus devoted two decades after retirement from the university to moving SRI forward in his country.
It was noted in the section above on Myanmar that Humayun Kabir, a Bangladeshi agronomist, played a key role in several SRI initiatives in Afghanistan. The Afghani who has worked most continuously on SRI here has been Ali Muhammad Ramzi. Ramzi started working with SRI in 2007 in the northeastern provinces of Baghlan and Takhar under a Participatory Management of Irrigation Systems project funded by the Aga Khan Foundation. Despite resistance from local Taliban forces (Chapter 16), the project had a reasonable degree of success. In 2008, Ramzi traveled to Coimbatore, India, to participate in the national SRI symposium convened there by TNAU, WWF and other organizations, to share with other participants the SRI experience to date in his country.
In 2012, FAO with Norwegian assistance started a project in Afghanistan in 2012 that included promotion of SRI and SWI, and this project brought in Humayun Kabir as an external advisor. Ramzi joined the technical staff of this FAO project for five years before returning to the Aga Khan Foundation project in the northeast.
During the time that he was away from Baghlan province, Ramzi kept in contact with some of the farmers there even though Taliban hostility made travel to the northeast difficult. Below is the cover of an SRI manual in Dari language that Ramzi developed for the AKF project in 2010, with a farmer showing the phenotypic effects that SRI practices were producing in Afghanistan.
SRI got started here through the initiative of Mohamad Emadi while he was his country’s deputy minister for Agricultural Jihad, as agricultural extension is called in Iran. In 2004, Emadi was able to get the agronomy group in the ministry’s extension and technology development center at Amol in the north near the Caspian Sea to begin conducting SRI trials.
The head of this group, Bahman Amiri Larijani, took a strong interest in SRI, and the results that they obtained with the methods gave Larijani and others in his department confidence in the innovation. In Chapter 4, there was a picture that Larijani sent to Cornell showing the differences that he and his colleagues were seeing between SRI and conventionally-grown rice plants in terms of root size and health.
In 2006, Larijani began providing the SRI-Rice web site with information on Iranian experience with SRI, and training on SRI was included in national courses at the center. After completing his PhD degree in 2011, his thesis research having incorporated SRI methods into his crop modeling analysis, Larijani was made director of the Haraz Extension and Technology Development Center at Amol. Also at that time, Larijani began training agricultural experts and extension workers from Afghanistan on rice production and SRI. Over the next five years, 143 Afghans from 9 rice-growing provinces went through this training to give the innovation a push in this neighboring country.
In 2016, Larijani was appointed for two years to serve as national director-general for agriculture and natural resource extension within his country’s agricultural research, education and extension organization, moving to Teheran. The many responsibilities of this position impeded his working on SRI as much as he would have liked, however. In 2018, he joined the scientific board of the Iranian Rice Research Institute and resumed his responsibilities managing the center at Amol. He has reported that there is large-scale uptake of SRI in the areas around Amol and Mahmudabad cities. Below is a picture that Larijani sent to Cornell of his inspecting the roots of an SRI plant, with the farmer Khalili who grew it standing by, looking on.
Quite by happenstance, Khidhir Abbas Hameed Kirmasha and I got acquainted in 2004 at an international conference on hybrid rice organized by Prof. Yuan Longping in Changsha, China. Khidhir was a senior rice scientist at the Al-Mishkhab Rice Research Station near Najaf in southern Iraq. The circumstances for growing rice there under desert-like conditions were quite unlike most where SRI had been introduced previously, but Khidhir wanted to give the innovative methods a try, their water-saving potential being particularly attractive.
The political and security situations in Iraq at the time were even more inhospitable for agricultural innovation than was the natural environment. But Khidhir began systematic adaptation, research, and then extension, with a number of publications. In 2007 he sent to Cornell the dramatic picture that is shown in Chapter 1 of his trials at Al-Mishkhab station that compared the responses of different rice varieties to SRI methods with those grown with the station’s recommended practices.
The evident phenotypical superiority of rice grown with SRI methods, with substantial improvements in yield, provided the basis for extension work in three provinces where rice is an important crop. Much of the rest of the country was not accessible for government extension anyway. In 2014 he made a presentation on SRI to a regional UNDP workshop in Amman, Jordan, and in 2017 he gave three talks on different aspects of SRI at the 5th Technical Management Committee meeting of the Central and West Asian Rice Center, convened in Iran and attended by representatives from 10 countries.
Following this meeting, a plan was developed with Bahman Larijani from Iran, discussed above, to provide training on SRI for the Central and West Asia member countries where SRI had not yet been introduced. Below is a picture of Khidir (on left) standing with Larijani at the regional rice center in Rasht, Iran. Khidhir and Larijani are reaching parts of the world where few SRI colleagues can get to.
This country has one of the world’s highest average rice yields, 9.5 tonnes per hectare, which can explain at least in part why there was not much initial interest in SRI, although SRI’s water-saving potential should have commanded a lot of attention in a country as water-constrained as Egypt is.
After learning about SRI in 2008, a senior researcher at the Rice Research and Training Center at Sakha, Waled El-Khoby, conducted SRI trials that gave yields of 10.7 tonnes per hectare with inbred rice varieties, and 13.9 tonnes per hectare with hybrids. These yields were 13% and 46%, respectively, above the national average.
Since then, Waled has been promoting SRI evaluation and use in Egypt and beyond. For two years, from 2015 to 2017, he took a leave of absence from his center to work in Nigeria with Olam International as its chief agronomist there, among other things doing trials and demonstrations of SRI. When he returned to Egypt, Waled continued trying to get SRI methods recognized and utilized, but apart from a World Bank project there (Chapter 30) there had been little receptivity to SRI evaluation and extension.
The most active proponent of SRI in this country and indeed in the West African region beyond has been Pascal Gbenou, founder of an agroecological training center, SAIN, established in 2002. As a rice farmer himself, Pascal organized a Rice Farmers Council of Benin and served as its first president, before working to establish in 2011 a Regional Council of Coordination for Rice Farmers in West Africa (CRCOPR). This is a body of federated organizations of rice farmers in 13 countries similar to the organization that had been established in Benin. Since 2019, Pascal has served as president of CIP-RIZ-AO, the Council of Rice Profession Organizations of West Africa.
The research that Pascal organized for his PhD thesis is described in Chapter 9. This engaged fellow rice farmers in systematic evaluation of SRI, using standard methods for research design and data analysis. The 90 farmers from several parts of Benin who participated in planning the research and then in implementing or observing it became fully conversant with and satisfied by SRI methods so that they could share this knowledge with peers in their own communities. The results of the research were published in the European Scientific Journal in 2016.
In this huge and diverse country, there have been many scattered efforts to evaluate and spread SRI, but the most effective work has been initiated by Muhammad Ahmad Adamu in Jigawa state in the far north. In 2006, Adamu established an NGO called Green Sahel and Rural Development Initiative (GSARDI) based at Gamel in Jigawa state. GSARDI organized the first formal SRI training program in Nigeria in July 2011, getting financial support from a USAID project based in Mali. Training participants are shown below with a mechanical weeder that GSARDI had gotten fabricated locally for the training program, and another picture shows trainees holding 10-day seedlings ready for transplanting.
Muhammad’s own trials in 2011-2012 gave a yield of 10 tonnes per hectare, far above the national average of 1.9 tonnes. In 2015, with several colleagues he prepared a poster on this experience for an international food security conference held at Cornell. The next year, GSARDI was able to get a grant from the German agency GIZ to expand its program of SRI training, planning to train 10,000 farmers.
Muhammad led a double life with a ‘day job’ working for the Jigawa State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority as its Director of Technical Services while also setting up and leading GSARDI as its executive director. In 2015, he began serving as the Managing Director of JSARDA, until retiring from government service in early 2020. Muhammad’s NGO and SRI work are thus no longer a kind of sideline career, but a full-time activity.
In 2020, Muhammad’s SRI work was included within the British-funded LINKS project for Jigawa and Kano states, enabling him to undertake SRI training on a larger scale. Below is a picture he sent of his son standing in one of the SRI demonstration fields.
Someone who emerged somewhat later to give leadership on SRI was Aisha Abdulkadir, an agronomist at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), which is also in the north of the country. Aisha is director of the university’s farming systems program in ABU’s Institute for Agricultural Research, and she was part of the ABU faculty and student team that worked with a World Bank-funded project which introduced SRI in irrigation schemes in four northern states, with positive results particularly in Zamfara state. With growing interest in SRI at the university and in the country at large, Aisha has offered to help launch and support a national network on SRI.
In this country SRI has been championed by a minister, a religious rather than a governmental minister, Robert Bimba. He heads an NGO that his father established in 2008, the Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP), set up to empower communities for self-sufficiency, resilience, and good health. Thus, working with SRI methods seemed very natural when Robert learned about them at the 2012 regional workshop that launched the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP). He quickly became the most active and visible proponent of SRI in Liberia under the WAAPP umbrella.
When the first phase of WAAPP’s SRI initiative concluded, Robert was able to get funding from the Japanese government to expand CHAP’s SRI activities in Ebola-affected counties. CHAP also did some training for the BRAC program in Liberia to improve seed production. Recognizing the urgency for his country to reduce its great on rice importation, CHAP launched a campaign in 2018 to get farmers to produce more rice locally (with SRI methods) and for consumers, including Liberians resident overseas, to buy this rice. The slogan for this campaign, discussed in Chapter 17, is “I Liberian Rice.”
The largest SRI undertaking in the whole West African region was under the umbrella of the West African Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP), which has been referred to a number of times and is reported on in Chapter 8. The regional coordinator for this 13-country program was Gaoussou Traoré, a Malian based at the Institute for Economic Research (IER) in Bamako.
Because the SRI program operated within a larger World Bank-funded program, this sub-program had a complicated bureaucratic set-up to navigate, dealing with 13 different ministries of agriculture and national agricultural research systems, plus the World Bank at central and regional levels, and with CORAF, the regional organization for agricultural research.
Gaoussou took on this challenge vigorously, assisted by Erika Styger and Devon Jenkins from SRI-Rice and by his deputy Minamba Bagayoko and colleagues in IER and other institutions. Reaching and assisting 50,000 farmers across West Africa to take up SRI methods within two-and-a-half years was a huge accomplishment. Routine administrative efforts to coordinate such a far-flung initiative could not have achieved so much in this short time.
With his colleagues’ support, Gaoussou improvised, persisted, revised plans, and motivated others continuously, dealing with field situations while having to persuade and convince officials at regional and national levels to gain their cooperation. Adding to the complexity of implementation was the fact that WAAPP operations had to be bilingual for the Anglophone and Francophone countries and partners. Gaoussou functioned fluently and effectively in both languages.
Another leader for SRI in Mali has been Djiguiba Kouyaté, who worked with Erika Styger when she was getting SRI started in that country and he was a rice specialist with the USAID mission in Bamako. He subsequently began working with the German mission (GIZ) in the country, giving leadership to SRI dissemination under the GIZ Centres for Green Innovation program, discussed in Chapter 32. By the end of 2020, the productive potential of SRI had been widely enough demonstrated so that the Ministry of Agriculture pledged government support to SRI’s wider promotion through farmer field schools, with funding support from the European Union.
SRI has had fewer champions in Latin America than in other parts of the world. The first was Rena Perez, discussed at the beginning of this chapter. Ángel Fernández Garcia in Peru was the second, introduced to SRI through his friendship with a Cornell faculty member in plant pathology, Rebecca Nelson. As a consultant on agricultural development, he took an immediate interest in SRI and attended the SRI conference in China, in 2002 at his own expense so that another Peruvian businessman-rice farmer, curious about SRI, could participate with the limited travel funding that was available.
After the conference, Ángel was able to get trials and demonstrations started in 2003, and by 2007, the SRI area was up to 500 ha, with SRI yields of 10-11 tonnes per hectare, compared with the more usual yields in Peru of 5-7 tonnes, with costs of production lowered by US$200 per hectare. Even so, there was little interest from the government side or the private sector to take up SRI ideas and utilize them in Peru. In 2008, Ángel participated in the 4th international rice conference convened in Havana, Cuba, where he discussed his Peruvian experience with me and others.
Ángel has probably had more frustration than any other proponent of SRI as his continuous and persistent efforts to get fellow Peruvians, and especially agricultural policy makers, to take an interest in SRI gained little traction. He wrote and disseminated many presentations on SRI, but partly because he had no institutional base to work from, SRI in Peru has remained more a possibility than reality, despite impressive demonstrations of yield improvement and Ángel’s sustained exertions on behalf of SRI, all on his own account.
In this country which neighbors Peru, there was no SRI work going on until Jorge Gil Chang, a former government technician and administrator in the agricultural sector, took an interest in it in 2008. This was prompted by his reading a Spanish translation of the New York Times article on SRI discussed in Chapter 29, that was translated and re-published in a Guayaquil newspaper. After a long career in government service, Jorge became executive director of FUNDEC, an NGO that he established to operate as a civil-society organization for agricultural development, viewing SRI as fitting in well with FUNDEC’s mission.
Jorge’s first SRI trial in 2008 gave a yield of 8.8 tonnes per hectare compared to 2.3 tonnes from the control plot. The next year he published a long booklet on SRI in cooperation with Admicorporación S.A. and Greenpeace. He also produced a video of his presentation to farmers on SRI methods that he posted on YouTube in 2012. In 2017, he got an article on SRI published in the national newspaper El Télegrafo.
Jorge also got faculty and students at the Babahoyo Technical University to do research and demonstrations on SRI. Yet despite all of these efforts, much as in Peru, not much momentum could be built up for SRI in Ecuador. The Ministry of Agriculture and private sector took little interest in the innovation, however. This was not because of any lack of effort by dedicated professional agriculturalists like Jorge Gil and Ángel Fernández.
SRI-Rice made an initial effort in 2011 to spur acceptance of SRI within Latin America through a regional workshop that was organized by Erika Styger, hosted by Earth University in Costa Rica and supported by the Better U Foundation. There was participation from 10 countries.
At that time, discussions were started about SRI-Rice collaboration with staff of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) located in Costa Rica. A young professional from Colombia with some experience in using SRI there was posted at IICA’s San José headquarters for six months. But there was no real movement on SRI until two members of IICA’s professional staff, Kelly Witkowski and Diddier Moreira, started working with SRI evaluation and extension through IICA’s program to improve natural resource management and to buffer and ameliorate the effects of climate change on Latin American agriculture.
Kelly, with a background in anthropology and sustainable development, had always been concerned with the intersection between people and nature. She started her career in conservation work but switched her focus to the agricultural sector after spending a year in Sierra Leone, working on the social components of a conservation and development project linked to a national park like the Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar.
Witnessing the struggles of smallholder farmers, Kelly was determined to seek solutions that worked for both people and the environment. In 2013, she started working for IICA in Washington DC, and after hearing about SRI performance from colleagues in the Dominican Republic, she visited Cornell with her project manager David Williams to meet and talk with me and SRI-Rice staff. After learning more about SRI impacts first-hand, she and David decided to take initiative with SRI, mobilizing the funding to test and validate SRI in two countries. Kelly enlisted Diddier, a Costa Rican agronomist, to do training and technical backstopping for the project.
Diddier had worked for IICA as a technical specialist and consultant for a number of years. With his long experience, he was effective in connecting with farmers and policy makers alike, listening and helping them transition to new practices. Diddier acquired in-depth knowledge of SRI methodology and led on-the-ground work in eight countries. His background with agricultural machinery and his ability to adapt it was also important for advancing SRI in the region.
Recognizing the potential for SRI already in their first project, Kelly and Diddier mobilized small amounts of funding and support from various sources to enable the project to assist SRI demonstrations in different countries and promote exchange among countries in the region. With the support of IICA, they were able to advance work in cooperating countries under a broad strategy for advancing SRI in the hemisphere so as to benefit rice producers and help them adapt to climate change.
In 2019, Kelly moved to IICA´s headquarters in San José to take on leadership of IICA’s Climate Change and Natural Resources Program for the Western hemisphere. When IICA started getting involved with SRI in 2014, as far as SRI-Rice knew, SRI’s potential had been demonstrated in only nine countries of Latin America and the Caribbean: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, and Peru. Within three years, Kelly and Diddier were able to get SRI methods validated in another four countries: Chile, Nicaragua, Suriname, and Venezuela.
In October 2017, IICA convened in Colombia a 2nd regional exchange on SRI with more than 10 countries represented, building on the preceding Earth University event in 2011 mentioned above. The meeting was hosted by the Colombian rice growers’ federation, FEDARROZ, broadening SRI’s institutional base.
Having the organizational resources and institutional prestige of IICA backing SRI was important for getting a hearing on SRI, something not easy for Ángel Fernández and Jorge Gil in Peru and Ecuador. IICA has links with and access to Ministries of Agriculture throughout the hemisphere such as no other organization has, and it has been able to secure interest from the ministries and the agricultural research institutes in various countries.
The process benefited from IICA´s network of offices and contacts in each country. Participants in IICA’s discussions on SRI stressed the importance of finding ways (and equipment) for mechanization of labor-intensive operations with SRI since there is a scarcity of agricultural labor in many rural areas. Advances made in this domain will make a positive contribution to SRI acceptance in the region and in other parts of the world as well.
Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic hit the budget of IICA very hard in 2020, and plans for an expanded SRI program beginning in 2020-2021 had to be put on hold for lack of funding for this, although Kelly and Diddier continued to communicate about SRI and promote it with whatever resources they can mobilize.
There has been some important individual initiative for SRI in the US. The contributions of Roland Bunch to the spread of SRI in Indonesia and Cambodia have been noted in other chapters, as well as the light that he shed on SRI’s increase in root systems’ growth by pointing out the work of the Brazilian agricultural scientist Ana Primavesi (Chapter 4).
Roland has spent a lifetime working on the improvement of smallholder agriculture in developing countries. His book, Two Ears of Corn, published in 1982 and translated into 10 languages, has become a manifesto for farmer-to-farmer participatory research and extension. For the past 30 years, he has collected knowledge and experience with green manures and cover crops around the world. One of the remaining challenges for SRI is to integrate other crops such as legumes into rice production where they can enhance both soil fertility and crop yields (Chapter 20).
Roland worked for the NGO World Neighbors in the 1970s and 1980s in Central America. Since working with a Honduran NGO in the 1990s (after a semester of graduate study at Cornell), he has kept himself more than busy as a free-lance agricultural consultant, taking on assignments around the world, during this time also sharing knowledge about SRI as collateral assistance.
Big early boosts for SRI came from Roland’s consulting assignments in Southeast Asia for the Adventist Development and Relief Association (ADRA). He reported from Cambodia on a community where 100 farmers, who had average rainfed rice yields of 1 tonne per hectare, tried out the new methods with ADRA guaranteeing to compensate them if their yield was below their previous level. None asked for any compensation as their average yield was raised to 2.5 tons per hectare. About the same time, Roland persuaded an ADRA project leader in the West Timor province of Indonesia to get farmers to evaluate the new methods on their own fields, with considerable success as reported in Chapter 24.
Two Americans played unexpected and very personal roles in the story of SRI. One was John Jolliffe, a psychotherapist and counselor based in Southern California who for 15 years had broadcast a syndicated radio program in Asia, based in Hong Kong, that provided personal and family counseling over the air. John learned about SRI from an Indonesian friend, Victor Lee, who had done the videography for the ADRA training videos mentioned in Chapter 24 and who had become enthusiastic about SRI.
John happened to be a personal friend of the well-known Hollywood actor Jim Carrey, and he was serving as a senior advisor for the formation of Carrey’s Better U Foundation. When Jim Carrey discussed with John his plans for this new foundation, asking what it could do that could make some really big improvements in people’s lives, looking for things that were not being assisted by anybody else, John told him about SRI. This paved the way for BUF’s making a grant in 2008 that supported SRI’s systematic introduction in Mali (Chapter 44).
This was followed by a generous BUF gift to Cornell University in 2010 that made it possible for setting up the SRI-Rice center that has been providing worldwide support for SRI since then (Chapters 35 and 36). In August 2008, Jim and John traveled to Madagascar for SRI field visits and to meet with that country’s president Marc Ravelomanana to discuss how SRI could contribute more to Madagascar’s development. With funding and technical support provided by the Better U Foundation for five years, an SRI Secretariat was established in Antananarivo Unfortunately, President Ravelomanana was ousted from office in 2009 by a political crisis, so the SRI initiative lost its high-level political support.
Although Jim and John have not been very active with SRI since 2013, their contributions were made at a critical time and changed (upward) the trajectory of SRI as an innovation. The website of the Better U Foundation still features SRI on its homepage. Below, from that homepage are pictures of Jim Carrey carrying SRI seedlings on his head in Madagascar, like the boy in front of him for transplanting, and of Jim joking with children during his visit to Haiti in 2011.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Despite Fr. Laulanié’s affiliation with the Catholic Church, there has not been much involvement with SRI beyond the Catholic NGO support discussed in Chapter 24. But it has been interesting to correspond with several individual priests who, when they learned about SRI, undertook to introduce it in the communities where they were living and working in Southeast Asia, to improve the livelihoods of the people there.
Brother Bernie Taylor, a LaSallette missionary who was born in and grew up in Myanmar when it was known as Burma, started working with SRI methods in 2014. In 2016, we heard from Brother Noel Oliver, a Jesuit working in Battambang province of neighboring Cambodia, who was introducing SRI there. By 2018 he had mobilized support from both the community and from the Battambang Catholic diocese, as well as from overseas in Europe and Australia, to help expand the use of SRI methods.
Below is a picture of the farmer SRI center that Brother Noel established along a fairly well-traveled road in Cambodia showing its construction stage. In the foreground is a building where tourist and transit buses can be attracted to stop for refreshments at a café that also sells local handicrafts, and eventually SRI products. This building has a large meeting room that can be used for farmer meetings and training sessions and for other groups. SRI demonstration fields planted along the road are expected to attract attention from both farmers and travelers.
Brother Noel has devoted much of his energy to improving the primary schooling for children in the area where he lives, including SRI instruction as a central part of the curriculum, under the theme ‘involving schoolchildren in agriculture and ecology.’
Both Father Bernie and Brother Noel took these initiatives as individuals, mobilizing institutional support as best they could, a typical civil-society strategy. In February 2019, Brother Noel sent this news to SRI-Rice, for example: “Jesuit Mission Australia has been very supportive and is assisting us to move to some other districts this year.” By 2021, the SRI training had been established in 8 local schools, with plans to engage schools throughout the region. Individuals within the Catholic Church and other religious bodies can often have more access to financial support for good causes than the average person.
These organizations mostly operate as large bureaucracies in which most of the staff spend most of their time following instructions given from above. Within them, however, there are individuals who make personal judgements and take initiative on their own. They have to do this within the terms and confines of their employment, but they need not be just puppets whose strings are pulled by others. There has been a number of such persons in several organizations, such as Georg Deichert profiled above who expanded SRI work during three different country assignments for the German development cooperation agency GIZ. Within the World Bank and FAO, several persons played particularly helpful roles that should be noted here.
Mei Xie, a water resources engineer by profession, was working within the World Bank Institute when she learned about SRI. While managing a Bank-funded irrigation project in the Philippines for several years, she had been told about SRI by one of her Filipino counterparts, Carlos Salazar, a regional director of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) who was one of the first Filipinos to start using SRI methods himself. Carlos, known by his nickname Bong, invited Mei several times to come visit his farm in Mindanao to see his SRI crop for herself, but she always had reasons not to make the trip.
When Carlos was promoted to become the national administrator of NIA, he invited her once again. This time, Mei said, she really had to accept this invitation and visited his farm. As someone who had worked with irrigation and rice production for many years in China and elsewhere, she found Bong’s SRI crop amazing. As soon as she got back to Washington DC from that trip to the Philippines, she called me in Ithaca, introduced herself, and we had a long and lively phone conversation.
Mei had many questions about SRI. Once satisfied with the answers, she undertook within her World Bank Institute assignment, to get the World Bank program more engaged with SRI, providing training and materials for dealing with climate change. She built up contacts with the large World Bank-funded project in Tamil Nadu state of India (Chapter 30), and then she drew on her knowledge and contacts to get the World Bank office in Nairobi involved in assisting Bancy Mati’s initiative to introduce SRI in Kenya. While the World Bank office did not contribute funding to this, its involvement made several of the early partners in the venture more comfortable with the effort.
In 2009, the World Bank Institute at Mei’s initiative set up a four-way teleconference that linked SRI-knowledgeable farmers and specialists in India and Madagascar, and also SRI-Rice, with Kenyan farmers and technicians in the Mwea irrigation scheme. The former presented SRI experience to and answered questions from the latter. In 2013, Mei worked with World Bank staff in Malawi to get SRI evaluated and then promoted within a large World Bank-funded project there, the Irrigation, Rural Livelihoods, and Agricultural Development Project. Its good SRI results in the field got the innovation started up in Malawi, where no previous interest in SRI had been expressed.
The most visible contribution that Mei made to the acceptance of SRI around the world was her producing in 2008 on behalf of the World Bank Institute, a multimedia kit for SRI dissemination. The World Bank is a very large institution, hard to get moving in any particular direction. But Mei managed to get awareness of SRI elevated within the Bank, even persuading its president Robert Zoellick in 2009 about SRI merits so that he gave SRI a strong endorsement preceding his first visit to India.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is an even larger institution with even more inertia, but within it, the unit promoting Integrated Pest Management (IPM) led by Peter Kenmore took an interest in SRI early on. One of the IPM program professionals, Jan Willem Ketelaar, first working in FAO’s office in Laos and then in FAO’s Bangkok office serving the entire Asia and the Pacific region, became one of the most supportive persons for SRI evaluation and dissemination in the Asian region.
Jan boosted SRI research and application in several ways, joining in several publications, speaking in international meetings, and supporting the development of curricula and learning exercises for SRI exploration by rice farmers within national IPM farmer field school programs. The most effective effort was in Vietnam where Ngo Tien Dung, profiled above, gave leadership for SRI through the farmer field school IPM program there. In 2012, Jan brought the FAO/IPM program into partnership with the Asian Institute of Technology for implementing the EU-supported, five-year SRI project in the Lower Mekong Delta, described in Chapter 8.
FAO’s involvement in this undertaking meant that countries’ ministries of agriculture felt more comfortable affiliating with the SRI-LMB project and engaging in policy dialogue over the project’s findings. Cooperating with persons and organizations working on SRI was certainly within Jan’s IPM mandate, but he went beyond his assigned tasks in being supportive of others’ efforts to make SRI better-understood and better-known.
THE CGIAR SYSTEM
In Chapter 22, we consider roles that various institutions within the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) have played in getting SRI accepted or not, most of the time these roles being less than supportive. But there have been some notable individual sources of support within the CG system who should be acknowledged here.
The first is Willem Stoop, a Dutch agronomist who tells his own story in a mini-memoire originally written for the Dutch Soil Science Association in 2009. In Willem’s long career within the international agricultural research system, he had worked as a research staff member at three other CGIAR centers (CIMMYT, ICRISAT and ISNAR) before he worked with the African Rice Center, at the time known as WARDA, sometimes referred to as ‘the IRRI for Africa.’
When he first learned about SRI, Willem was WARDA’s interim director of research. He was informed about SRI by WARDA’s newly-appointed director-general Kanayo Nwanze before Kanayo arrived in the Ivory Coast from ICRISAT in India to assume his duties. (Kanayo had learned about SRI from the 1996-97 CIIFAD Annual Report, whose cover is shown in Chapter 3.) At Kanayo’s suggestion, Willem and I began corresponding through email, and Willem quickly grasped the essentials and opportunities of SRI.
How most WARDA scientists resisted the testing of SRI ideas, and even misrepresented their results, is considered in Chapter 22, so it is not repeated here. This resistance did not put Willem off the SRI track, however. Especially after visiting Madagascar and seeing SRI in its home area, getting questions answered and reservations allayed, he was more and more supportive. After retiring from the CGIAR system, he continued working with SRI and with SRI colleagues, and he assisted Nepali and Indian PhD students studying at Wageningen University in the Netherlands with their thesis research projects on SRI, also continuing to write scientific papers on SRI.
When Amir Kassam, a British agroecologist born in Tanzania, came to WARDA as its deputy director-general for programs in 1998, he and Willem began together examining SRI theory and practice and became more and more satisfied that this represented a forward step for agricultural science and practice. When Willem and I drafted an article on SRI for publication in Agricultural Systems, Amir offered to join as a third co-author after reviewing the draft for us. This was appreciated because Amir’s perspectives and his seniority within the CGIAR system made the paper less assailable.
Before coming to WARDA, Amir had served as a senior research officer for the CGIAR’s Technical Advisory Committee based at FAO in Rome. He subsequently served until 2004 as interim executive secretary of the CGIAR’s Science Council, which had oversight of the whole system’s scientific work.
Amir worked with colleagues to get convergence between SRI and the Conservation Agriculture (CA) methodology, which he has supported as moderator of an internet CA Community of Practice, so he was in touch with developments around the world on this subject. Amir was also an active advisor and supporter for the four-country SRI project in the Lower Mekong Basin, supported by the EU and implemented by the Asian Institute of Technology, which is reported on in Chapter 8.
Both Amir and Willem worked tirelessly on SRI publication and representation over the years, fitting this work into their already full lives. They could not and did not speak for the CGIAR system, but their articulate explanations and defense of SRI meant that the international agricultural scientific community could not so easily dismiss SRI as a figment of NGOs’ or farmers’ imaginations. Being respected agricultural scientists within the CGIAR system, their statements could not be lightly disregarded.
* * * * *
These persons from the public, private and NGO sectors have contributed to the acceptance of SRI in many different ways, coming from widely varying backgrounds in countries around the globe. The work of many other colleagues could also have been informatively summarized here, but this chapter cannot contain all such individual contributions. What many others have done to advance the acceptance and impact of SRI is considered in the country and regional stories in Part III chapters.
From the examples in this chapter, we see also that any conception of ‘civil society’ as being composed just of organizations and associations is incomplete. Civil society resides ultimately in individuals and is manifested in individual actions. This chapter gives support to the trenchant observation offered by the noted American anthropologist Margaret Mead that was cited toward the end of Chapter 2:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
NOTES AND REFERENCES
 Challenging the Professions: Frontiers for Rural Development, Intermediate Technology Publications, London (1993).
 Prof. Robert also at this time explained to Glen and me how nitrogen-fixation by bacteria in the soil is not limited to leguminous plants, something not widely recognized 25 years ago, or at least not much appreciated then. A book that he recommended, by the Brazilian agronomist, Johanna Döbereiner, Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria in Non-Leguminous Crop Plants (Springer, 1987), opened up for us new perspectives on microbes’ contribution to SRI performance as discussed in Chapter 5.
 Robert’s report, among other things, put forward the concept of an ‘incitement threshold’ when compost is applied to SRI fields together with using SRI management methods. His trials showed a big response in tillering and yield when the amount of compost applied was raised from zero to 2 tonnes per hectare. But then there were smaller increases when the rate of application was increased to 4 or 6 or 8 tonnes. This suggested to Robert that some minimum amount of compost is needed to activate (‘incite’) the life in the soil to improve plants’ access to and supply of nutrients; large further increases were not needed. Compost has a positive effect on yield, but there are diminishing returns beyond some minimum threshold.
 See papers presented at the 2002 conference in Sanya: Zhu Defeng, Cheng Shihua, Zhong Yuping and Lin Xianqing, ‘Tillering patterns and the contribution of tillers to grain yield with hybrid rice and wide spacing’; and Tao Longxing, Wang Xi and Min Shaokai, ‘Physiological effects of SRI methods on the rice plant.’
 Interactions with Zhu and Lin are reported on in several trip reports: 2004 (pages 4-7), 2005 (pages 1-4) and 2007 (pages 13-20). These reports also recount interactions in Sichuan province with Zheng Jiaguo and Ma Jun, who also worked with the provincial department of agriculture there to get SRI demonstrated and disseminated.
 Here is a report on the 2003 workshop.
 D.F. Zhu, X.Q. Lin X.Q., X.Y. Jin, H. Xiong and H.Z.Chen, eds., The Theory and Practice of SRI, Chinese Publishing Company of Science and Technology, Beijing (2006), in Chinese.
 X.Q. Lin, D.F. Zhu, H.Z. Chen, S.H. Cheng and N. Uphoff, ‘Effect of plant density and nitrogen fertilizer rates on grain yield and nitrogen uptake of hybrid rice (Oryza sativa L.),’ Journal of Agricultural Biotechnology and Sustainable Development, 1: 44-53 (2009).
 X.Q. Lin, W.J. Zhou, D.F. Zhu and Y.B. Zhang ‘Effect of SWD irrigation on photosynthesis and grain yield of rice (Oryza L.),’ Field Crops Research 94: 67-75 (2005).
 This was a paper that I had written for the 1999 Bellagio conference on agroecological innovations (Chapter 12), published as ‘Agroecological implications of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Madagascar,’ Environment, Development and Sustainability, 1(3-4): 297-313.
 An account of this introduction was given by Rena at the 2002 Sanya conference on SRI.
 See pages 3-8 of 2008 trip report.
 J. Dill, G. Deichert and Le T.N.T., eds., Promoting the System of Rice Intensification: Lessons Learned from Trà Vinh Province, Vietnam. GIZ and IFAD, Hanoi (2013).
 See this powerpoint that Henry prepared reporting on the initial trial and demonstration.
 See Henry’s powerpoint on the Eseks Cooperative’s competing in a Ministry of Agriculture regional contest for development innovation and winning second prize for the large Northwestern Province.
 See CSRII’s report to the US Embassy in 2011 on the success of this initiative, and a powerpoint presentation that Henry prepared which shows this work in the field.
 Reports on the training that Henry conducted for World Vision and COMACO have been posted on the Zambia page of the SRI-Rice website.
 How to Help Rice Plants Grow Better and Produce More: Teach Yourself and Others, a manual that was prepared by Association Tefy Saina and CIIFAD in 2001.
 This blog which went out to the Food Tank’s worldwide network of over 300,000 subscribers reached Gerald in northern Sierra Leone. Food Tank describes itself as ‘The Think Tank for Food.’
 Gerald’s manual for facilitators, originally published by Catholic Relief Services, is posted on the SRI-Rice website.
 Declan McCormack of Flooded Cellar Productions (Chapter 31) when in Sierra Leone on a video assignment for IFAD asked whether he could make contact with SRI colleagues in that country. He visited Gerald for three days and made two versions of a video on the SRI work that Gerald was doing, a short version (4 minutes) and a longer one (13 minutes).
 A report on this innovation is posted on the SRI-Rice website.
 Gerald has also been serving as the Sierra Leone country director for the Italian NGO ENGIM Internazionale (noted in Chapter 24) which supports vocational education in developing countries.
 A report on Bancy Mati’s participation in COP21 activities is posted on the SRI website.
 B.M. Mati, R. Wanjogu, B. Odongo and P.G. Home, ‘Introduction of the System of Rice Intensification in Kenya; Experiences from Mwea Irrigation Scheme,’ Paddy and Water Environment 9: 145-154 (2011); M. Nyamai, B.M. Mati, P.G. Home, B. Odongo, R. Wanjogu and E.G. Thuranira, ‘Improving land and water productivity in basin rice cultivation in Kenya through System of Rice Intensification (SRI), CIGR Journal 14: 1-9 (2012); J.A. Ndiiri, B.M. Mati, P.G. Home, B. Odongo and N. Uphoff, ‘Comparison of water savings of paddy rice under System of Rice Intensification (SRI) growing rice in Mwea, Kenya,’ International Journal of Current Research and Review 4: 63-73 (2012); J.A. Ndiiri, B.M. Mati, P.G. Home, B. Odongo and N. Uphoff, Adoptions, constraints and economic returns under the system of rice intensification in Mwea, Kenya,’ Agricultural Water Management 129: 44-55 (2013).
 Sue was born and educated in Britain with university studies as a botanist, but she moved to Ethiopia after finishing her studies and made that country her home.
 See this ISD report on ‘planting with space,’ which improves the productivity of wheat, barley, sorghum, tef and chickpea in addition to finger millet. Also Sue Edwards, Hailu Araya, A. Asmelash, H. Legesse, T. Assefa, G.H. Zibela and M. Endris, ‘SCI: Planting with space,’ Farming Matters 29; 35-37 (2013).
 This is the report on the Gothenburg award in 2011.
 This latter program was led by Norman Borlaug and Jimmy Carter and was supported financially by the Sasakawa family in Japan.
 One of the most vivid memories from that visit to Ethiopia was of Tareke coming up to me during the first teabreak at the workshop at the University of Addis Ababa and saying: you know, if CGIAR scientists [with whom he had worked for several decades] would have listened carefully to such an explanation of SRI, they should have had no objections to it.
 For background on CEDAC, see its website.
 Koma’s speech reviewing CEDAC’s work with SRI in Cambodia when accepting the Magsaysay Award is posted on the CEDAC website.
 As secretary-general of the advocacy NGO, Obet led a non-violent protest in 2003 organized by a coalition of NGOs against the Department of Agriculture’s plan to approve genetically-modified (GM) maize before as much evaluation had been done as civil-society skeptics called for. After his hunger strike of 29 days, during which time he lost 10 kilograms of weight, there was a face-saving agreement whereby the Department agreed to further evaluations.
 Obet broke his long silence on the abuses and torture that he had survived while in prison when a book about the Marcos era of martial law was published in 2016.
 One of Obet’s civil-society initiatives was to help organize a nationwide network of volunteer poll-watchers at each voting place in the country to monitor the results of local government elections, notoriously influenced by corruption and malfeasance. This initiative called Halalong Marangal set up a central office in Manila to receive election results, ballot box by ballot box, phoned in by the poll-watchers with their cell phones, including pictures of the voting-place returns. Software that Obet developed, Precinct Count Optical Scanners, created an immediate and unfiltered count of the votes that had been cast as a deterrent to subversion and misrepresentation of the results. This could not eliminate all of the election manipulation, but it could reduce the distortion of results through the volunteered efforts of thousands of poll-watchers, at very low monetary cost.
 See report on SRI-Pilipinas’ strategy and follow-through that Obet gave to a meeting of Southeast Asian SRI-network representatives at a meeting in Malaysia in 2015.
 It was a tragic loss for the SRI community that Obet died of complications after surgery in May 2020. An obituary, ‘Robert Verzola, ‘Father of Philippine Email’ Dies,’ Rappler, May 7. 2020, tells more about Obet’s remarkable, productive, and brave life.
 A. Mishra, M. Whitten, J.W. Ketelaar and V.M. Salokhe, ‘The System of Rice Intensification (SRI): A challenge for science, and an opportunity for farmer empowerment towards sustainable agriculture,’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 4: 193-212 (2006); A. Mishra and V.M. Salokhe, ‘Seedling characteristics and early growth of transplanted rice under different water regimes,’ Experimental Agriculture 44: 1-19 (2008); A. Mishra and V.M. Salokhe, ‘The effects of planting pattern and water regime on root morphology, physiology and grain yield of rice,’ Journal of Agronomy and Soil Science 196: 368-378 (2010); and A. Mishra and N. Uphoff, ‘Morphological and physiological responses of rice roots and shoots to varying water regimes and soil microbial densities,’ Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science 59: 705-731 (2012).
 A. Mishra, Boosting Yields, Raising Incomes, and Offering Climate-Smart Options: The System of Rice Intensification Paves the Way for Farmers to Become Successful Agripreneurs: Learning from the SRI-LMB, Final Report for ‘Sustaining and Enhancing the Momentum for Innovation and Learning around the System of Rice Intensification in the Lower Mekong Basin’ (SRI-LMB Project), ACISAI, AIT, Bangkok (2019).
The report gave these summary numbers: 15,000 farmers trained and 2,634 field trials at 582 sites in the 11 districts, mostly rainfed. Average yield increase of 52%, with average income increase of 70%; 64% greater labor productivity, 59% higher water productivity, and 34% reduction in energy inputs, with 14 to 17% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. See also A. Mishra, P. Kumar and J.W. Ketelaar, ‘Improving rice-based rainfed production systems in Southeast Asia for contribution towards food security and rural development through sustainable crop production intensification,’ AIMS Agriculture and Food, 1: 102-123 (2016); also A. Mishra, J.W. Ketelaar, N. Uphoff and M. Whitten, ‘Food security and climate-smart agriculture in the lower Mekong basin: Evaluating impacts of the System of Rice Intensification with special reference to rainfed agriculture,’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 19: 152-174 (2021).
 Prabhat contracted a severe case of leptospirosis during fieldwork in 2016 and tragically passed away after a long struggle. Abha had THEN to take full responsibility for directing ACISAI and the EU project when it had been designed for shared management by two professionals.
 This is the official declaration, dated October 15, 2007. Here is Dung’s report summarizing his four years of evaluation. Among other things, SRI methods reduced costs of production per kg of paddy rice produced by 22% in the spring season and 26% in the summer.
 I learned this background when Phu hosted my visit to Thai Nguyen University in 2006; see trip report, pages 8-13.
 E.g., H.V. Phu, H.X. Linh and L.T. Tra, ‘The advantages of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in environmental protection and climate-change mitigation in rice production: A review,’ TNU Journal of Science and Technology, 22: 11-21 (2021); H.V. Phu, H.X. Linh and D.H. Ha, ‘Adaptive research on rice/potato rotation model (SRI for rice, minimum tillage for potato) in paddy land of Phu Binh district, Thai Nguyen province,’ TNU Journal of Science and Technology, 22: 240-249 (2021).
 Sato was given a paper on SRI that I had a week before given to a colleague Ed Vander Velde at the AIT workshop. Ed had worked with me on participatory irrigation management in Sri Lanka and was serving as a consultant for the irrigation management project in Indonesia whose technical assistance team Sato was heading.
Sato’s first response was to dismiss the ideas as too improbable. But one of his consultants from the UK, Harry Clark, encouraged him to at least evaluate the new methods. Small trials were set up in West Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi provinces. The average yield of 5.6 tonnes per hectare represented a 30% increase over usual yields with a big reduction in water requirements.
The yield increase was not spectacular, but it satisfied Sato that the project should assess SRI on a larger scale, particularly for its water-saving impact. The results of nine seasons of evaluation (2002-2006) from 12,133 on-farm comparison trials covering 9,429 hectares were summarized in an article by Sato and Uphoff, ‘A review of on-farm evaluations of system of rice intensification methods in Eastern Indonesia,’ CAB Reviews 2:054 (2007).
 The distinction between ‘basic’ and ‘organic’ SRI is discussed in the article referenced in the preceding endnote.
 J-SRI activities are reported in English on the SRI-Rice website.
 Sato once explained to me that the agronym ‘Ina-SRI’ was chosen so as not to preempt the acronym ‘I-SRI’ for an international SRI association.
 See NOSC website.
 This scheme is discussed in a 2011 trip report, pages 1-2.
 A feature article in the Hongkong magazine Prestige described Emily as “gorgeous” (which she is) as well as a “driven” social entrepreneur.
 See interview with Australian radio service in 2013. Farmers indicated that their incomes were doubled by their increased marketing access. About half of their production was exported, 30% was consumed in the community, and 20% was sold in Indonesian markets.
 P. Jagannath, H. Pullabhotla and N. Uphoff, ‘Meta-analysis evaluating water use, water saving, and water productivity in irrigated production of rice with SRI vs. standard management methods,’ Taiwan Water Conservancy 61: 14-49 (2013).
 https://www.yesasia.com/us/system-of-rice-intensification/1057527681-0-0-0-en/info.html (2017).
 H. Kabir and N. Uphoff, ‘Results of disseminating the System of Rice Intensification with Farmer Field School methods in northern Myanmar,’ Experimental Agriculture 43: 463-476 (2007).
 A.M. Ramzi and H. Kabir, ‘Rice production under water management constraints with SRI methods in northeastern Afghanistan,’ Taiwan Water Conservancy 61: 76-85 (2013).
 The book The System of Rice Intensification: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (2015) is available on-line in Burmese language, thanks to Prof. Thein Su.
 The address for the network in Myanmar is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/240853769933747/, with many pictures posted.
 Fortunately, Thein Su’s infection was not as debilitating as it could have been for someone his age. He listed the 22 training programs that he had already conducted during 2020, with 1,695 participants. During the preceding year, he reported that he had conducted 80 training sessions with 1,000 participants. During 2016-2018, he has 1,550 farmers trainees in 27 sessions. All of this was done with his own or others’ resources. Thein Su also produced a beautiful SRI manual (in Burmese language) at his own expense in 2020, blending his own pictures of SRI use in Myanmar with pictures from elsewhere.
 This manual is accessible from the SRI-Rice website.
 Described in my book Learning from Gal Oya: Possibilities for Participatory Development and Post-Newtonian Social Science, Cornell University Press (1992), and our joint article, ‘Demonstrated benefits from social capital: The productivity of farmer organizations in Gal Oya, Sri Lanka,’ World Development, 28, 1875-1890 (2000).
 ‘Un-noticed Green Revolution in Chhattisgarh: Doubling Farmers’ Crop Output and Returns through Collective Action,’ report by C.M. Wijayaratna (2013).
 See pages 21-22 of the SRI-Lower Mekong Basin project final conference report.
 Thiyagarajan and Gujja, Transforming Rice Production with SRI (System of Rice Intensification) Knowledge and Practice: Reducing Agricultural Footprint and Ensuring Food Security, WWF-ICRISAT, Hyderabad (2012). Before this, Gujja and Thiyagarajan published New Hope for Indian Food Security, IIED Gatekeeper Series 143, International Institute for Environment and Sustainability, London (2009); and Gujja and Thiyagarajan, ‘Producing more with less: Exploring farm-based approaches to improve productivity and providing options to farmers in adapting to climate change,’ in Proceedings of Workshop on Advanced Technologies of Rice Production for Coping with Climate Change, 1-8, IRRI, Los Baños (2010).
 A. Satyanarayana, T.M. Thiyagarajan and N. Uphoff, ‘Opportunities for water saving with higher yield from the system of rice intensification,’ Irrigation Science, 25: 99-115 (2007).
 The article was ‘Feast or famine? Proponents call it a miracle, detractors call it smoke and mirrors,’ Nature, 428: 360-361 (March 25, 2004). Satyanarayana’s letter was ‘Rice, research, and real life in the field,’ Nature 429: 803 (June 24, 2004).
 An extension for Satyanarayana’s faculty appointment could have been given at the discretion of the vice-chancellor, but the recently-installed VC had been the successful candidate for this position for which Satyanarayana had also been a contender. Indian academic politics are such that rivals are often exiled or retired.
 See bio of Satyanarayana posted by NRI Agritech, Technology Outreach on its website.
 See B. Gujja, U.S. Natarajan and N. Uphoff, ‘Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative: A new methodology, its overview, and key .challenges,’ Achieving Sustainable Cultivation of Sugarcane, ed. P. Rott, Burleigh-Dodds, Cambridge, UK, pp. 45-76 (2017).
 The position of Thomas Sinclair on behalf of IRRI that SRI should not even be considered, let alone evaluated (‘Agronomic UFOs waste valuable scientific resources,’ Rice Today, July-Sept 2004, p. 43), seemed particularly inconsistent with scientific norms.
 System of Rice Intensification in India: Innovation History and Institutional Challenges, WWF-ICRISAT Dialogue Project, Hyderabad (2006).
 See publication from first meeting, C.S. Prasad and Koen Beumer, eds., SRI in Orissa: Towards a Learning Alliance, WWF-ICRISAT Dialogue Project, Hyderabad (2007), with papers from the various organizations.
 Rita came to Cornell in 1984-85 as a Hubert Humphrey Fellow under a program of the US government for mid-career professionals in developing countries. I was assigned to be her academic advisor for the year because of my previous work in India. She stayed on at Cornell to do a PhD in agricultural economics. Bhuban followed her in the agricultural economics PhD program by a few years and took my course on the planning and management of agricultural and rural development in the early 1990s. So we had personal connections well established.
 This meeting was facilitated also by another of my former students, R. Gopalakrishnan, who had also been a Humphrey Fellow at Cornell. After he returned to India, he served for a while as Joint Secretary to the Prime Minister. The meeting was attended also by the director-general of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, Mangala Rai, a strong supporter of improved varieties for raising agricultural production.
When asked directly by the Secretary whether what I was saying was correct, Mangala responded that if all of the methods that I outlined were used properly, the results that I had reported could be attained. Afterwards, as we stood in the parking lot outside the Prime Minister’s office, with Rita and my wife listening on, Mangala said that what I had reported to the Secretary had better be true because his head was now “on the block,” drawing a finger across his throat. I assured him that his head was safe.
 In 2014, for example, Rita Sharma published an op-ed piece in The Hindu, July 7, ‘More rice with less water.’ She also served on the Board of Trustees for the International Rice Research Institute but was less successful in that role in trying to open doors for SRI.
 Such as B.C. Barah, ‘Economic and ecological benefits of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Tamil Nadu,’ Agricultural Economics Research Review, 22: 209-214 (2009); B.C. Barah, Shipra Singh and Amit Kumar, ‘Adoption and dis-adoption of System of Rice Intensification: A study of the dynamics,’ NewsReach, PRADAN, New Delhi, 14: 18-30 (2014).
 The NABARD chair is endowed by India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development to bring outside perspectives into IARI’s research and teaching.
 S. Dhar, B.C. Barah, K. Vyas and N. Uphoff, ‘Comparing System of Wheat Intensification (SWI) with standard recommended practices in the northwestern plain zone of India,’ Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science, 62: 994-1006 (2015). The lead author of the paper that published these results, a senior IARI agronomist, told me that he initially resisted getting involved in the research because reported SWI results sounded improbable. But with two seasons of results from replicated trials done on-station, he was now persuaded. In 2014, Bhuban took Marguerite and me at sundown to see the test plots, when nobody else would be around, because scientists at IARI did not want it publicized that they were doing research on SRI or SWI.
 Anil Verma, ‘SRI in Bihar: From one to 350,000,’ Farming Matters (2013).
 The acronym PRAN stands for Preservation and Proliferation of Rural Resources and Nature; see PPT presentation on PRAN. Anil’s work has been written up in a profile and in a book on what are referred to as ‘social workers’ in India.
 See video presentation on this (23 minutes) by Biswanath Sinha in 2012. See also a case report of SRI performance benefiting marginalized farmers in Manipur state, ‘Maxim: Maximum,’ Tata Trust Horizons, 33-34, March, 2019.
 In comparison trials conducted at the Sambhava farm in 2010 evaluating the response of 99 different varieties to SRI management, all produced over 5 tonnes per hectare, and three yielded respectively 11, 10 and 9 tonnes per hectare.
 This program for 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).
 An account of Sabarmatee’s encounter with SRI and her involvement with the innovation is in Prasad and Beumer, SRI in Orissa: Towards a Learning Alliance, WWF-ICRISAT Dialogue Project, Hyderabad (2007).
 Among the many lines of farm equipment that Asif handled were Ford, New Holland, Case-International Harvester, Fiat, and Ursus. The latter, a Polish line of implements, he began manufacturing in Pakistan in 1989.
 Asif Sharif, ‘Technical adaptations for mechanized SRI production to achieve water saving and increased profitability in Punjab, Pakistan,’ Paddy and Water Environment 9: 111–119 (2013).
 See Adhikari et al., ‘System of crop intensification for more productive, resource-conserving, climate-resilient, and sustainable agriculture: experience with diverse crops in varying agroecologies,’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 16: 1-28 (2017). More information on Asif Sharif is available on his LinkedIn site.
 With a new government taking over in Pakistan in 2019, it appeared that there might finally be official interest in these mechanical and agronomic innovations. Asif has thought through the institutional arrangements whereby machinery services could be made available to small farmers so they could benefit economically from his inventions.
 ‘Nepal farmers reap bumper harvest,’ BBC World News, Sept. 2, 2005.
 Agricultural Intensification in Nepal, with Particular Reference to Systems of Rice Intensification, PhD thesis, Wageningen University (2016).
 A project document, FAO-EU Food Facility Programme: After One and a Half Year in Nepal (2011), reported SRI yields of 6.0 to 8.4 tonnes per hectare, increasing usual average yield by 48 to 153%. The average increase in net economic returns to farmers was 89%.
 K.R. Dahal and R.B. Khadka, ‘Performance of rice with varied age of seedlings and planting geometry under System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in farmer’s field in Western Terai, Nepal,’ Nepal Journal of Science and Technology 13(2): 1-6 (2012).
 R.B. Khadka, H.P. Adhikari and N. Uphoff, ‘Performance of landrace and mproved varieties under the System of Rice Intensification management in Bajhang district of Nepal,’ Journal of Agriculture and the Environment 15: 1-10 (2014). DOI 10.7717/peerj.5877
 R.B. Khadka and N. Uphoff, ‘Effects of Trichoderma seedling treatment with System of Rice Intensification management and with conventional management of transplanted rice,’ PeerJournal (2019) DOI 10.7717/peerj.5877
 The first video was for a popular program shown on national Nepali television, Akhinjhyal. The Flooded Cellar video was produced in two versions, full (12:29) and condensed (4:54).
 V. Thomas and A.M. Ramzi, ‘SRI contributions to rice production dealing with water management constraints in Northeastern Afghanistan,’ Paddy and Water Environment 9:101-109 (2011); A.M. Ramzi and H. Kabir ‘Rice production under water management constraints with SRI methods in Northeastern Afghanistan,’ Taiwan Water Conservancy 61: 76-85 (2013).
 Here is the presentation that Ramzi made on SRI work in Afghanistan at the Coimbatore symposium in 2008.
 The word Jihad means ‘campaign’ or ‘struggle,’ not religious crusade as some interpret it. Here is another good example of serendipity in the SRI story. Emadi and I first met in Australia in 1994, when I spoke at an international conference held at Hawkesbury University, where he was completing his PhD degree in agricultural extension. He happened to have read my book on participatory irrigation management in Sri Lanka, Learning from Gal Oya, and wanted to discuss it.
Four years later in 1998 we met again at an Asian Productivity Organization workshop in Sri Lanka, the same one mentioned above where Gamini Batuwitage learned about SRI. By this time, Emadi was a junior minister in the Iranian government, responsible for agricultural extension in the country, and able give some support to SRI. But he had to find some agronomists who were willing to evaluate the new methods since his training was in the social sciences.
 K.A. Hameed, A.J. Mosa and F.A. Jaher, ‘Irrigation water reduction using System of Rice Intensification compared with conventional cultivation methods in Iraq,’ Paddy and Water Environment, 9: 121-127 (2011); K.A. Hameed, F.A. Jaber, A.Y. Hadi, J.A.H. Elewi and N. Uphoff, ‘Application of System of Intensification (SRI) methods on productivity of jasmine rice variety in southern Iraq,’ Jordan Journal of Agricultural Science, 7: 474-481 (2011); K.A. Hameed, F.A. Jaber and A.J. Mosa, ‘Irrigation water use efficiency for rice production in Southern Iraq under System of Rice Intensification (SRI) management,’ Taiwan Water Conservancy, 61: 86-93 (2013).
 K.A. Hameed, Iraq’s Strategy for Innovative Rice Irrigation and Water Management, UNDP workshop on Integrated Drought Risk Management, Amman (2014).
 This regional organization is relatively new, started as a network in 2011 with a center opened in 2016 in Rasht, Iran.
 Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Considerable adaptation of SRI methods would be needed for such different agroecosystems, but SRI principles should be amenable to adaptation, as understood by Khidhir and Larijani.
 This farm-school, Solidarités Agricoles INtegrées (SAIN), was based on and is located at an agroecological farm that Pascal got started in 1998 at Kakanitchchoé. In 2003, the farm came under the umbrella of an NGO, the Association Agro-écologique d’Action Communitaire, that Pascal had also established to get further spread of agroecological ideas in Benin.
 This West African regional association, the Cadre Régional de Concertation des Organizations de Producteurs de Riz de Afrique de l’Ouest (CRCOPR), is affiliated with the Réseau des Organisations de Producteurs d’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA). Pascal has been serving as president of CRCOPR, handing over responsibilities for the Benin national organization.
 The French acronym CIP-RIZ-AO stands for Coordination des Interprofessions de la Filière Riz en Afrique de l’Ouest.
 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).
 These pictures are from the powerpoint presentation made by Adamu to the WAAPP workshop in Ouagadougou in July 2012, reporting on the start-up of SRI in Jigawa state. A month before the training program, Adamu made a presentation on SRI to a regional rice workshop organized by AGRA (Another Green Revolution for Africa), sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and promoting the development and use of new varieties. He said that he found little evident interest there.
 There is also an interview with Adamu on YouTube from the 2012 workshop, so readers can ‘meet’ him virtually.
 Iro Suleiman, Y.I. Ilu, A. S. Isah, M. Adamu and A. Ibrahim, Expanding Rice Production through an NGO: A Study of SRI in Nigeria, Implemented by Green Sahel and Rural Development Initiative, poster for 2ⁿᵈ International Conference on Global Food Security, (2015).
 Here is a summary description of this GSARDI initiative.
 See report from June 2021 on SRI training being given by GSARDI with British aid.
 See video on SRI in the Zamfara irrigation scheme under project auspices.
 Robert’s father James Bimba had the title of Apostle as one of the leaders of the apostolic Christian community in Liberia. Here is a powerpoint on CHAP that Robert Bimba prepared in 2019.
 An interview with Robert Bimba at the 2012 WAAPP workshop in Ouagadougou was made and posted on YouTube, similar to that with Muhammad Adamu. Two years later, another video was posted in which Robert describes the process of his introducing SRI in Liberia.
 BRAC, a large and effective NGO mentioned above with regard to Muazzam Husain, has become and international development organization based in Bangladesh.
 CORAF, the French acronym for the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (WECARD), is based in Dakar. The coordination of the SRI program from Mali, with technical backstopping from SRI-Rice in Ithaca, NY, had to deal with both Senegal and Washington, DC on many decisions. CORAF has 22 country-members, but the SRI program covered the 13 country-members of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States.
 See project report and FoodTank blog on the WAAPP SRI program.
 Such as this document in 2008 and this article in 2014.
 Actually, Jorge had heard about SRI in 2005 from reports about the 2002 conference in China, but in 2008 he received from the Food Resource Bank, an American NGO, a Spanish translation of the New York Times article on SRI which ignited his interest.
 Jorge worked in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock from 1965 to 1991, with responsibilities for tobacco, banana and rice during this time, leaving the Ministry after serving as its executive director for banana production, Ecuador’s main export after petroleum.
 FUNDEC is an acronym for Foundation for the Agricultural Development of Ecuador.
 See report.
 This is the 68-page booklet.
 The video is in two parts: Part I and Part II.
 See article.
 The conference is reported on this website.
 Two Ears of Corn: A Guide to People-Centered Agricultural Development (1982) has been made available free on-line by World Neighbors.
 See Bunch’s chapter on ‘Green manures/cover crops for recuperating soils and maintaining soil fertility in the tropics,’ in Biological Approaches to Sustainable Soil Systems (2006); and his book, Restoring the Soil: A Guide for Using Green Manures/Cover Crops to Improve the Farming Systems of Smallholding Farmers, provided online by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (2019).
 ‘Farmer-to-farmer experimentation and extension: Integrated rural development for smallholders in Guatemala,’ in Anirudh Krishna et al., eds., Reasons for Hope: Instructive Experiences in Rural Development, 137-152, Kumarian Press, West Hartford, CT (1996); ‘Increasing productivity through agroecological approaches in Central America: Experiences from hillside agriculture,’ in N. Uphoff, ed., Agroecological Innovations: Increasing Food Production with Participatory Development, 162-172, Earthscan, London (2002).
 This was reported in the previous chapter, in the section on ADRA. This is the email sent and received in May, 2003.
 See John Jolliffe’s website as he continues such counseling over the internet while maintaining a practice in California.
 This is the link to the Better U Foundation’s home page. In 2010, Jim Carrey spoke about SRI at a Clinton Global Initiative forum in New York City, with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on the same panel (sitting to Carrey’s left) and listening. Unfortunately, it seems that Jim Carrey’s message made no impression on the Secretary as there was no follow-up from the USDA.
 See report online from Father Bernie in 2014.
 See this report posted on the Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference website. One of the first farmers to try the new methods had a six-fold increase in the yield from her small plot which gave impetus to the work. During 2018, Brother Noel mobilized resources for his SRI center from contributors in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Australia and England.
Confirming the truism that this is indeed a ‘small world,’ from our email exchanges I learned that Brother Noel knew two of the three other Jesuit priests with whom I had gotten acquainted during my years of development work in Asia, and he knew also some of the persons with whom my daughter worked when she taught in a Khmer refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border in the late 1980s. Small world.
 With the email conveying this news, Brother Noel attached a report with pictures on how this SRI center was progressing. In May 2020, he wrote to say that the number of farmers using SRI in his area of Cambodia has increased to 240, from 80 the previous year. He also had been approached by a Catholic Diocese in Germany to get information on SRI to a training center in Tanzania run by the Franciscan Sisters of Charity.
 See Noel Oliver, ‘New generations ready for livelihood success,’ Jesuit Mission, February (2021). The café at the demonstration farm was named SORIYA! for System Of Rice Intensification YA! There were plans to integrate SRI into the curriculum for a regional teacher training center that the Battambang Diocese was creating.
 This is reported on the SRI-Africa website.
 Here are two videos produced by the project and government and posted on YouTube in 2015 (Harvesting More with Less; The Muona Story).
 The main part of this kit was a video was in two parts: Improving Rice Productivity and Achieving Water Savings and More Crops per Drop, the first being a summary and overview of SRI, and the second being more of a ‘how-to’ video.
 In a guest column in the Hindustan Times, Robert Zoellick made this statement about SRI: “Everyone cites India’s Green Revolution. But I’m even more intrigued by what is known as SRI, or system of rice intensification, and I know this is also an area of interest for PM Manmohan Singh. Using smart water management and planting practices, farmers in Tamil Nadu have increased rice yields between 30 and 80 per cent, reduced water use by 30 per cent, and now require significantly less fertilizer. This emerging technology not only addresses food security but also the water scarcity challenge that climate change is making all the more dangerous. These are all lessons for our world.” (December 2, 2009)
 Peter Kenmore, by that time leading FAO’s Global IPM Facility team based in Rome, participated in the 1999 conference at Bellagio, Italy, on agroecological innovations described in Chapter 35, where SRI was first discussed in an international forum. As noted in Chapter 22, he called international attention to SRI during his speech at opening plenary session of the International Year of Rice conference at FAO headquarters in Rome in 2004. In 2013, as FAO’s representative in India, he attended a national workshop on SRI organized in New Delhi under a Wageningen University project and made positive statements about SRI.
 By chance, Jan and I had lunch together in 2002 during the one-day workshop on SRI that the IRRI representative in Laos, Mr. Karl Goeppert, had organized in Vientiane. Given the agroecological foundations shared by SRI and IPM, Jan grasped SRI ideas quickly. Also, he was working with Prabhat Kumar, who was a consultant for the Asian IPM program (and husband of Abha Mishra, profiled above). Jan provided logistic and some financial support for the SRI action-research part of Abha’s thesis research, which in itself was a contribution toward helping Cambodian farmers learn about SRI.
 The first was A. Mishra, M. Whitten, J.W. Ketelaar and V.M. Salokhe, ‘The System of Rice Intensification (SRI): A challenge for science, and an opportunity for farmer empowerment towards sustainable agriculture,’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 4: 193-212 (2006).
 In addition to the seminar article cited in the following endnote, ‘The scientific case for the System of Rice Intensification and its relevance for sustainable crop intensification,’ International Journal for Agricultural Sustainability, 9: 443-455 (2011); ‘The SRI controversy: A response,’ with A. Kassam, Field Crops Research, 91: 357-360 (2005); ‘Scientific underpinnings of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI): What is known so far?,’ with A. Thakur and N. Uphoff, Advances in Agronomy, 135: 147-179 (2015); ‘Opportunities for ecological intensification: Lessons and insights from the system of rice/crop intensification – their implications for agricultural research and development approaches,’ with others, CAB Reviews, 12: 036 (2017), among others.
 ‘A review of agricultural research issues raised by the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) from Madagascar: Opportunities for improving farming systems for resource-poor farmers,’ Agricultural Systems 71: 249-271 (2002).
 Amir and I first met in 1993 when he recruited me to join an external review team evaluating the work of the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka. Amir served as staff director for the team’s assignment on behalf of the CGIAR’s Technical Advisory Committee.
 Amir has also served as coordinator for the Conservation Agriculture community of practice, based at FAO, which makes for a strong personal link between SRI and CA (Chapter 20). In 2005, Queen Elizabeth conferred on him the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his lifetime of service for international agricultural development. That lifetime of service continued well beyond 2005, not being cut short by one of the most dreaded of diseases there is, pancreatic cancer, which Amir survived.
PICTURE CREDITS: Association Tefy Saina; Rena Perez; Nicholas Duriez; Henry Ngimbu (7); Bancy Mati; Lucy Fisher; Shuichi Sato; Nusatenggara Organic SRI Center; SRI-Rice; Thien Su (2); Norman Uphoff; Sambhav; Rajendra Uprety; BBC website; Aga Khan Foundation; Bahman Larijani; Khidhir Hameed; Mohammad Adamu (2); Better U Foundation (2); Noel Oliver.