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In this chapter, some of the activities and accomplishments of farmers who have played leading roles in the SRI story are considered. This draws on my knowledge of farmers whom I have met during SRI travels or whom I learned about during visits or from written accounts. Since there are millions of SRI farmers whom I do not know, this is just a sampling of farmer leadership for SRI.

This chapter will give readers some idea of how this innovation has gained acceptance and spread not just from the efforts of persons who worked with and assisted farming communities or from government or non-governmental organizations. There has also been a great deal of initiative, ingenuity, dedication, and sometimes bravery from the farming communities in dozens of countries. In Chapters 19 and 20, there has already been acknowledgment of important contributions that farmers made through modifications of SRI practices and equipment that made the original ideas and methods of SRI more suited to and productive in their respective environments.[1]



We learned something about the life and SRI contributions of Duddeda Suganavva in Chapter 15.  She is a remarkable farmer whose family in Andhra Pradesh state had access to only 0.8 hectare of rented-in rice land and 0.6 hectare of unirrigated upland. Its poverty was exacerbated by the household’s inferior social status. When through her use of SRI methods, her family’s economic standing and security were improved, she started training other farmers like herself, becoming a role model for woman farmers in her state.

In October 2010, WWF brought Duddeda to Des Moines, Iowa, for the World Food Prize symposium, and then Oxfam America flew her to Washington, DC together with SRI farmers from Mali and Vietnam to make presentations at USAID and the World Bank. Duddeda had never traveled previously outside of her district in India and knew little about the US and its power structure. Nevertheless, during the trip, at her own initiative, Duddeda sought out and spoke about SRI’s merits to some very influential figures.

First, she told the director of the Gates Foundation’s agriculture division, Prabhu Pingali, about her experience with SRI when she met him in Des Moines, speaking in their mutual mother tongue, Telegu. Then when she saw the Administrator of USAID Rajiv Shah on a sidewalk in Washington, walking from his car to his office building, she left her group to intercept him and tell him her story. (She had seen and heard him speak at the symposium in Des Moines two days before). Few people of any background would have showed such boldness and commitment, let alone a dalit woman farmer from halfway around the world. Duddeda also boosted SRI in her home area by making modifications to the mechanical weeder so that it would be more suitable for women’s use, as shown below. In Chapter 15, we noted some additional remarkable parts of her biography.

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Similar to Duddeda’s story is that of Jyoti Devi, a farmer in Bihar who as a result of her local leadership for SRI was elected to the Bihar State Assembly in early 2010, winning the election by 23,000 votes in her first run for public office. An article on her ascent to office was written up in a Times of India article whose headline made implicit reference to Ms. Devi’s belonging to the Musahari caste, a social grouping ranked below the four major castes in the traditional Hindu social order.[2]

Jyoti Devi learned about SRI from the NGO PRADAN whose work in disseminating SRI has been reported on in other chapters. With the new methods, she was able to increase the paddy yield from her small landholding by as much as five times, which motivated her to spread knowledge of SRI methods within her Musahari community and beyond.

Having become one of the most respected champions of SRI in her district, the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, shrewdly invited her to be his party’s candidate for the State Legislature from that constituency. This nomination was unprecedented not only on caste grounds, but because Jyoti Devi was illiterate. Fortunately, her husband of the same caste was literate enough to be able to help her in situations where literacy was necessary.

In 2011, my wife Marguerite and I had the privilege of meeting Jyoti Devi and her husband in Bihar and of visiting several villages with them. We heard her speak to several hundred women who had come to a meeting on SRI. While not a spell-binding orator, her directness and her presence commanded the rapt attention of her entire audience, which appreciated what she had done and how she was representing them in the Bihar State Assembly.

Below are pictures of Jyoti Devi speaking to that meeting (left) and of her and her husband holding up a large SWI wheat plant with the farmer who had grown it (in orange sari) and myself and others looking on (right). Farmers in that village alternated between growing SRI rice in the summer and SWI wheat in the winter season as done in many parts of Bihar. Jyoti Devi was an inspiration to farmers, and especially to women farmers, throughout the state.[3]

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In Chapter 10, we learned about the SRI experience of Sumant Kumar, another Bihar farmer in the village of Darveshpura. In the 2011 kharif summer season, he achieved probably the highest rice yield ever produced, 22.4 tonnes per hectare. Four neighboring farmers who used SRI methods also surpassed the previous world record of 19 tonnes per hectare.[4]

All five farmers, in their early 30s, would be considered as ‘middle’ farmers for having between 2 and 3 hectares of land to cultivate and 10 years of schooling, plus some additional training in agriculture. Their accomplishment was achieved in a season with very favorable weather, with enough rain but no flooding, so that the soil could be kept reasonably moist but mostly aerobic. These favorable conditions do not diminish the accomplishment of Sumant’s getting a yield that was 10 times higher than his state’s average.

Sumant, whose picture and harvest are shown in Chapter 10, could be justifiably proud of his achievement knowing that it had been measured by state government technicians, not himself. They used the standard method for calculating yield, demarcating and harvesting an area of 50 m² in the middle of his field (0.4 ha). This record yield was not repeated in subsequent years as growing conditions were not as ideal again. However, Sumant and his neighbors showed what could be accomplished when SRI methods are used skillfully with a suitable environment both above and below ground.

A detailed story of farmer initiative to start SRI in a coastal village in West Bengal state has been written up by Saikat Paul, secretary of the NGO PRASARI that got the process started. This account tells so much about the process of SRI spread that it is included here in a box.

Paresh Das lives with his wife and four daughters in Shambhunagar village of Gosaba Block in the Sundarban delta, in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. He runs a tea shop which hardly secures 6 months of food for him and his family. Taking land on lease for rice cultivation is thus a necessary practice to enable the family to manage food for their remaining six months.

His wife, Kalpana, is a member of a women’s self-help group (SHG) which is promoted by a local voluntary agency, Shambhunagar Sarbik Manunnayan Samity (SSMS). Kalpana and Paresh began practicing SRI together for the second season in 2008-09 after they had experimented with the new methods in the summer season 2008. Here is Paresh’s story about SRI:

When I started with the new methods, people started calling me “Paresh pagal” (Mad Paresh), but I have proven these people wrong. My name is Paresh Das, and I am owner of a small tea shop in front of the Shambhunagar High School. My parents left me when I was eight, and I owe my entire presence to the late Mr. Nandalal Banerjee, our neighbor under whom I was brought up and from whom I learned about agriculture. I constructed my home with the help from the Banerjee family, and gradually I started the tea shop at my home. 
Income from the tea shop does not suffice to meet the basic requirements of my family, however. Hence I have always to take agricultural land on lease from big farmers. Not only the land must be rented, but fresh tank water for cultivation in the summer season has to be purchased in advance too. This is how I have to run my family affairs.


Goutam, who figures prominently in Paresh Das’s story, is a local boy who has been voluntarily working for SSMS for the last ten years. He and his SSMS colleagues have made a huge contribution to local welfare by promoting and nurturing 87 women’s SHGs in adjacent villages. Goutam attended an SRI training programme at Kultali in 'South 24 Parganas' district. The training programme was organized and facilitated by the NGO PRASARI for representatives from eight NGOs operating in three districts of West Bengal. What Goutam learned in that training programme created a lot of impetus in his mind. He was quite convinced that the SRI technique has the potential to give at least doubled return of rice in the Sundarban area.

Bubbling with his new learning, Goutam floated the concept in Paresh’s tea shop one evening. People were literally laughing at him. But he did not give up hope and finally was able to convince Paresh a bit. The next morning, Goutam again met Paresh, who strongly refused the proposition of adopting SRI on his field. But Goutam was willing to shoulder the risk himself and told Paresh:

If you get a lesser harvest through SRI, I will pay you the amount equivalent to the yield that you used to get in other years. Also, I will arrange another Rs. 1000 to pay for the cost of the lease.

This was persuasive enough that Paresh was ready to test the new techniques on 10 decimals of land [about 400 m²], planting the first SRI seedlings in the soil of Sundarban. Paresh says in his own words:

Last summer I started a mysterious rice cultivation practice on my land. Initially this prompted my neighbors to call me mad. Admittedly, when I first heard of the details of the SRI technology, I was pretty skeptical. However, my own analysis suggested that it may be practically possible. So, I decided to put SRI in place on 10 decimals of land. 
However, when I discussed the matter with my wife, she refused and reacted very strongly. She said that planting a single seedling with such wide spacing can never produce any yield, and she objected that gambling with staple food supply is not acceptable for poor families like us. I was literally cornered within my own family and at odds with the village itself. The challenges and comments from the people around me, however, made me angry and eager to jump into the practice.

Paresh had to encounter a lot of objection from his family and the neighbors when he planted a nursery using only 400 grams of saltwater-tested seeds. [This method of seed selection ensures that only dense, well-developed seeds are used.] The nursery bed was 20 ft by 4 ft. With the nursery growing nice and green, however, comments from other people were still tolerable. But the peer environment became worse when he transplanted single seedlings at intervals of 1 ft (30 cm) apart. The women engaged for the transplanting were very skeptical. They were not prepared to transplant single seedlings of such a young age. It took a lot of convincing and supervision to get this done, according to Paresh. Again in Paresh’s own words:

Those 12 days after I had I transplanted the single seedlings were the worst part of my life. In the initial couple of weeks, at least 10 times I thought of replanting the field with the conventional method. My wife who has shared with me all the pains of poverty all throughout our lives even stopped talking to me. For the first time in my life, I was afraid of a drop-off in the customers to my tea shop.
My wife never visited the plot until 15 days after the SRI transplantation. However, during those 15 days I used to visit my plot every night, when nobody could see me nurturing the plants. To my great surprise, after 15 days the plants started behaving differently. Distinctly I could observe that the vigor of the SRI plot was better than with the conventional practice beside it. I saw this and started thanking God for the blessings. But I did not dare to share this feeling with my wife. Still, I started believing that this rice crop can really grow. 
One day -- I think it was at 20 days -- I requested my wife to provide the irrigation to the SRI plot. I told her, ‘I am not well today. Can you do me this favour?’ She responded there was no point in putting further money and labour into that plot. But finally she agreed and left for the SRI field. Almost immediately, at most after some 15-20 minutes, she came back very excited and shouting in joy. ‘Have you seen the field? It has got miraculous growth. It is astonishing. How can there be more than 10 tillers from a single seedling?’ I could not control my tears at that point of time.
The game started since then. Every day I paid a visit to my field and could see more and more tillers. Gradually I discovered people were commenting favorably on the SRI plot, and they were paying more number of visits to my plot than me. As the crop was growing, many times I felt like applying urea and NPK to enhance its growth, but there was very strong recommendation from Goutam not to apply anything apart from 20 kgs of mustard oil cake and 6 bags of cow dung.


At the end of the season, the plot ended up having on average 40 tillers per plant, as compared to the 10 tillers with conventional practice. It became a topic of discussion in the village. What is miraculous in the new technique? What produced the 240 kgs of rice instead of 115 kgs that people are used to getting through the conventional system? How could Paresh get doubled yield using such a minimum of nutrients, instead of the conventional 20 kg of NPK (10:26:26) and an added dose of 10 kg of urea which farmers generally use for this same size of plot?

“I feel proud whenever unknown faces come up to me and ask: ‘Paresh, how could you do this?’   I never thought Paresh would become a known name in the area, even as a farmer,” Paresh said. This kharif season (2009), there are 152 farmers practicing SRI across the Shambhunagar Gram Panchayat with field support from PRASARI and financial support from the Sir Dorabji TataTrust.

Paresh concludes:

In this kharif, I have done SRI on 2.5 bighas (83 decimals) of land and am expecting a return almost equal to that I could previously get from 5 bighas of land that I take on lease. From this time onwards, I don’t need to approach multiple farmers to take a larger area on lease. I have already booked the freshwater for next summer to practice SRI again.
Smiling, Paresh confides: “The best part is that my wife is with me from day one in this kharif season.”

In 2011, I was able to visit Paresh Das’ village with my wife Marguerite, Erika Styger and Muazzam Husain, coordinator for the national SRI network in Bangladesh. We went to his teashop and his field. We learned that his SRI was somewhat inhibited because the landlords from whom he rented in rice land each year had decided not to rent the same land back to him again, thinking that he had improve the soil fertility of the plot so much that they wanted to capitalize on it for themselves, although they would not get so much improvement without using the same set of SRI practices. So, each year he had to start with an unimproved plot, when he knew that if he could practice SRI on the same soil each year for several years, the management would boost its fertility to his advantage.

After the field visit we had tea in his stall, and his wife made and served some of the delicious puris to accompany the tea that made their stall well-patronized in the village. Kalpana confirmed the account above. The tea stall and puris are seen below, with Paresh standing and his wife sitting.

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Another SRI farmer in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Kishan Rao, who would be considered a large farmer by Indian standards, worked closely with the NGO WASSAN (Chapter 24), helping to spread SRI methods to small farmers in his and other states. Kishan recognized that the conoweeder being recommended at that time for SRI use was not very suitable for some kinds of soil, and it was not easy for women to use. Accordingly, he designed a more versatile weeder that combined design elements from several existing weeders. This integrated design, shown in Chapter 19, Kishan called the Mandava weeder, giving it the name of his village.

This simple and inexpensive implement has proved beneficial to millions of farmers in India and also in some African countries. Because this weeder can be easily made by local blacksmiths or fabricators, this has facilitated the decentralization of manufacturing SRI weeders.[5] In 2007, the Aga Khan Foundation program in Afghanistan brought Kishan to Baghlan province in the northeast to conduct SRI training there, so he has taken his SRI experience far afield from his farm in Andhra Pradesh.

In southern India, in Salem district of Tamil Nadu state, Pandurangan Baskaran in the village of Thambal organized the first SRI farmers’ association in India.[6] He was also an innovator, adapting SRI methods and ideas to improving the production of an important spice crop, turmeric (Chapter 14).

By reducing the planting material for turmeric by 80%, giving plants wider spacing, and cutting irrigation by two-thirds, he was able to raise the yield of this crop by 20%. While this was not a very big improvement in yield, there was enough reduction of costs so that net income per hectare was almost doubled. On his own, Baskaran produced a manual on this System of Turmeric Intensification and sent it to SRI-Rice, which published it in 2012.[7] Baskaran also became an innovator in improving sugarcane production in his area using SSI methods and making an instructive video on SSI in Tamil language.[8] In Chapter 24, an account was given of the local farmers’ SRI association that Baskaran got formed in Salem district and served as president of, the first of its kind in India as far as we know.

Baskaran’s efforts exemplify the kind of bottom-up innovation and promotion of new methods that has come from farmers themselves. There have been many more farmers in India who demonstrated leadership for SRI on behalf of others, but these five farmers give an idea of the kinds of initiative that have helped to spread SRI practice more widely than in most other countries.



The first farmer to try out SRI methods in this country was elderly Mey Som in Kandal province, seen below. In 2000, he was the first farmer whom CEDAC’s director Y.S. Koma could persuade to evaluate SRI practices for himself. When the methods more than doubled his harvest, he began on his own to promote the innovation in neighboring villages, walking around meeting farmers with an SRI plant in one hand and a typical plant in the other. These plants he used as visual aids to engage farmers in conversation about how they could improve their rice production just by changing their practices. His grown daughter took over managing his fields for him along with her own rice paddies so that he could spend more time spreading SRI use. These exertions earned him an affectionate nickname among farmers, The Professor.[9]

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When the Farmer and Nature Net was formed in Cambodia (Chapter 24), Mey Som was chosen by fellow farmers to be its first chair. He was also one of the first Cambodian farmers to take up the innovation of ‘multi-purpose farming’ discussed in Chapter 20.[10] He also popularized a practice for improving the quality of compost made from rice straw. Before composting the straw, he put it on the floor of the pen for his cattle so that it would absorb nutrients from their urine and faeces to make the resulting compost richer.

Another Cambodian farmer who pioneered multi-purpose farming was Ros Mao, whom I was able to visit twice.[11] His was one of the five farms selected for evaluation with detailed reporting in a manual on the diversification of multi-purpose farming systems that CEDAC produced in 2007.[12] From his rainfed farm of one hectare, Mao took 15% of the area out of rice production to construct a pond to catch and conserve rainfall. He then devoted another 20% of the area to the production of vegetables, fruits, and small animals. This part of his small farm served also a catchment area for channeling rainfall runoff into the pond.

Mao’s out-of-pocket investment to diversify his income sources amounted to US$ 112.50. The investment enabled him produce fish, frogs, eels, pumpkins, squash, beans, and other products that complemented the rice crop which he produced on the other two-thirds of his farm area. Of course, there was also considerable investment of unpaid household labor (‘sweat equity’) over several years. With SRI more than doubling his yield of rice, these expenditures plus good management, skillful labor, and marketing acumen enabled Mao to transform his farm into quite a profitable enterprise (see Chapter 20 for more details).

Previously Mao’s farm had met his family’s subsistence needs with an added annual income of US$ 70-75 from the sale of its small surplus production. With his new configuration of activities, Mao was netting US$ 735 a year in 2007 when the manual was written, a whole order of magnitude more than before. Since then, his net household income has grown to US$ 2,000 or more.[13] Some of this income was received from visitors who came to see his diversified-intensified farming operations. Like Mey Som, Mao also received a nickname from his fellow farmers -- Doctor Farmer.[14]

As noted in Chapter 20, this strategy of ‘intensification with diversification’ has been spreading in Cambodia. Because it does not require the installation of expensive irrigation systems and canals, just building a pond and forming on-farm channels to utilize otherwise-unused water collected during the rainy season for use in the dry season, this is a very profitable use of available resource, something that Mao and farmers like him can invest in and manage for themselves. CEDAC provided impetus for this innovation, but the ideas and investments all came from the farmers themselves. Use of this intensified diversification has expanded from dozens of farmers to hundreds and now thousands in Cambodia.



Probably the SRI farmer most widely-seen around the world is Miyatty Jannah who lives in Crawuk village, Ngawi district of East Java, because the picture below has been used widely on the covers of several books on SRI[15] and in Lotus Foods’ labeling and advertisement of SRI rice (Chapter 15). Miyatty has thus become more than anyone else ‘the farmer face of SRI’ internationally.

Miyatty inherited 3 hectares of rice land from her father, operating one of these hectares herself and renting out the other two.[16] As a single mother her household had limited labor power, so she had to hire labor for operations on even the one hectare that she managed herself. After learning about SRI from Shuichi Sato, the Japanese engineer working in Indonesia discussed in the preceding chapter,[17] she invited three Indonesian SRI trainers to come to her village for four days to introduce SRI to her and her farmer-neighbors.

Miyatty provided the trainers with room and board in her home at her own expense while they trained 35 of her neighbors in the new methods. Of these, only ten farmers were willing to try out the new practices. These farmers nearly changed their minds early in the season when the seedlings were still small and sparse, but Miyatty persuaded them to persevere with the new methods, and they did. Their good results launched SRI in Miyatty’s locality.[18]

Miyatty was a skilled farmer, so her average paddy yields were already 5 tonnes per hectare. Using SRI methods, she raised her yield to 7 tonnes in her first season. And because the rice buyer who came to her village could see the higher quality of her rice, he offered and paid her 15% more per kilogram for it, without her asking for such a premium. This was a bonus on top of her increased production, so her income was increased by 60%.

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Miyatty was an outstanding SRI farmer not only because of her training initiative, but because of her innovativeness. Appreciating that transplanting young seedlings raised productivity, she experimented with younger and younger seedlings until she transplanted seedlings only four days old, shown below on left. She also experimented with making improvements in composting methods so that it became easier for her and others to enhance their soil’s organic matter.

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When I met her again in 2011, she gave me the picture seen in Chapter 1 which showed her and her neighbor’s adjacent rice fields after both fields had been hit first by a brown planthopper pest attack and then by a tropical storm. Her organically-managed SRI field resisted both hazards and gave her a yield of 8 tonnes per hectare (800 kg from 1,000 m²), growing a traditional aromatic variety of rice that had a high market price. Her neighbor who used a modern rice variety with fertilizer and agrochemical protection got practically no yield that season, despite his much greater expenditure.

In 2010, the Ministry of Agriculture in the Solomon Islands asked to have an Indonesian SRI trainer come and give instruction to officials and farmers on the new methods. Without hesitation, I recommended Miyatty for this assignment, although some Indonesian colleagues were reluctant to send someone who did not have even a high school education. In the event, Miyatty carried out the assignment more than satisfactorily, with confidence and precise knowledge based on her extensive experience and success with SRI.

In northern Sumatra in the province of Aceh is another remarkable SRI farmer, a young man named Mauliddin. He grew up helping his father raise rice on their small paddy field and did no proceed beyond elementary school because of his family’s poverty. The Aceh region had been embroiled for decades in an armed struggle between a secessionist movement (GAM) and the Indonesian army. Mauliddin was recruited by the GAM guerillas for a while, but then he was captured and forced to assist the army for some time. After a ceasefire agreement between the two armed forces was signed in 2003, he returned to his village, which had been abandoned. The fields were overgrown, and resuming agriculture was thus very difficult. Then to make matters worse, in December 2004, the coastal region of Aceh province was struck by a huge tsunami.[19]

In the aftermath of this natural disaster, the Catholic NGO Caritas from the Czech Republic as part of the a rehabilitation effort began training farmers in SRI methods. Mauliddin and his neighbors were very skeptical when first introduced to the new practices, but they agreed to try the methods on one hectare. Getting a yield of 6.5 tonnes per hectare where before they had gotten only 1-2 tonnes persuaded them to expand their SRI area the next year to 13 hectares, and Mauliddin became a volunteer SRI trainer.

Mauliddin’s enthusiasm and effectiveness led Caritas to hire him as a trainer for its project, and he was successful in helping to accelerate acceptance of SRI in the region to where a majority of farmers in many Aceh villages were using the new methods. In 2011, he was invited to the Presidential Palace in Jakarta to receive a National Outstanding Farmer Award from the President of Indonesia. This presentation is seen below, along with a picture of Mauliddin showing women farmers how to use SRI transplanting methods.

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One of the first and best farmers to use SRI methods in China was Nie Fuqiu who lives in Bu Tou village in Tiantai county of Zhejiang province. He was introduced to SRI by researchers from the China National Rice Research Institute in Hangzhou, Zhu Defeng and Lin Xianqing, who twice took me to meet Nie and see the progress with SRI in his village.[20] Below is a picture of Nie in his field, and then standing in the center of a group in front of CNRRI’s sign that publicized the SRI demonstration trials going on in Bu Tou village. Farmers and local officials are standing around Nie, with CNRRI senior scientist Zhu Defeng (in white T-shirt) and myself behind him. Nie was someone whom everyone recognized and respected as an innovator.

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On my first visit, Nie showed me trial plots in which he was comparing five versions of SRI, each having a different kind of management: (1) SRI with direct-seeding by hand, no transplanting; (2) SRI with direct-seeding by a machine, which he had designed and built himself; (3) SRI with direct-seeding by hand and zero-tillage; (4) SRI with direct-seeding by machine and zero tillage; and (5) SRI with 50×50 cm spacing between hills.

When I came again next year, he reported that the average yield from experiments (1) through (4) was 11.1 tonnes per hectare, 70% more than the township’s average of 6.5 tonnes. Zhu Defeng mentioned to me that in the preceding year Nie had achieved with SRI methods the highest paddy yield in all of Zhejiang province.

The direct-seeder that Nie built planted seeds with spacing of 22.3×30.5 cm, establishing about 15 plants per m², or 147,000 plants per hectare.[21] He said that with this implement one hectare could be seeded with just one 8-hour day of labor. Nie also told us that neighboring villages had begun asking him to come and instruct them on SRI. One of the most important effects that they had seen was how SRI-grown plants resisted storm damage. Also on the second visit, one farmer showed me his use of the ‘triangular method’ of SRI crop establishment, discussed next.

This ‘triangular method’ resulted from the innovativeness of a different kind of farmer, a farm manager Liu Zhibin in Sichuan province. Liu managed the farm of the Meishan Seed Production Company that produced hybrid rice seed for Prof. Yuan Long-ping (Chapter 21). Liu grasped SRI ideas quickly and sought to achieve both larger root systems and greater plant density per m². This he did by planting in each hill three seedlings spaced 7-10 cm apart in a triangle pattern. To compensate for having more plants per hill, Liu planted only half as many hills per m² as with SRI’s recommended square-planting of single plants at 25×25 cm. This planting geometry gave 50% more plants per m² but with all of them having access to sufficient soil volume for vigorous root growth.

With this modification, SRI methods have given a yield of 13.4 tonnes per hectare in Sichuan, 55% more than the already-high comparison yield of 8.6 tonnes.[22] Liu also experimented with crop rotation and no-till cultivation, alternating SRI rice in summer with potatoes in the winter on permanent raised beds as seen below on left.

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This cropping rotation was beneficial for both crops, Liu reported, as we also saw in Madagascar and Vietnam.[23] The difference in plant growth that results from planting three rice seedlings in a hill in a triangular pattern with wide spacing among them vs. planting three seedlings clustered together in a hill as is the usual practice can be seen above on the right.



There has been no direct contact between the SRI community and farmers in North Korea. SRI was introduced there starting in 2005 with encouragement from the American Friends Service Committee, an NGO formed and operated by American Quakers. In 2018, we learned about the leadership given for SRI in her country by Kim Ri Hwa, when she was recognized as one of five ‘model farmers’ selected from across all of Asia by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.[24]

Born and raised in a city, Kim decided at age 17 to devote her life to agriculture after becoming acquainted with her country’s need to raise food production to alleviate hunger and poverty. After joining the Taepung agricultural cooperative, her exemplary work got her appointed as a team leader. She studied on her own to become qualified as an agricultural crop engineer. When she transferred to the Maejon cooperative farm, where soil conditions were very poor, she introduced Conservation Agriculture (Chapter 20) to begin cropping improvement.

Upon learning SRI ideas through contacts with the AFSC, Kim as farm manager got the 80 families in the cooperative to take up the new methods. Raising the farm’s average paddy yield from 3 tonnes per hectare to 7 tonnes and then to 10 tonnes brought the cooperative’s success to the attention of government personnel, and Kim was subsequently nominated and then selected for the FAO award. We do not know more than what was reported in the FAO press release, but it indicates how farmers isolated from the rest of the SRI community can take up and use SRI ideas successfully.


H. M. Premarathne has figured in several previous chapters. Prema is an organic farmer who started university studies but did not complete them for economic reasons. His four-acre farm at Mellawalana in central Sri Lanka had developed very fertile soils after being managed organically for 10 years. When he read about SRI in the LEISA newsletter in 1999, he tried the methods for himself, and his paddy yields from two plots were calculated as 10 tonnes and 15 tonnes per hectare.

These results made Prema a strong and persuasive champion for SRI. In 2001 at a public forum where a rice scientist criticized SRI in front of the Minister of Agriculture, he challenged and rebutted the agricultural specialist who was dismissing SRI. In 2002, Prema attended the first international conference on SRI convened in China and presented a farmer perspective on SRI in the opening plenary session.[25]

When I first met Prema at his farm in 2001, he had begun teaching farmers who came to learn about SRI principles and methods in a small open building that he had built on the edge of his rice paddies. While he and I were inspecting his fields, a group of 15 farmers appeared for their weekly lesson on SRI. So, I sat and listened while Prema spoke to them about SRI for an hour, using a makeshift chalkboard for his presentation. He gave free instruction to any farmers who wanted to know about SRI, he explained.

When I asked Prema why he did this, his response was simple: “I want paddy fields to be places where my children can play safely.” As we walked around his SRI fields, he explained that with the new methods, his weed problem had declined considerably. Why? Because now that the paddy soil was kept mostly dry, the ants that lived in the bunds around his rice paddies came into the fields and removed weed seeds for their own sustenance.

Prema added that his problem with rats in the rice fields was also reduced because with wider spacing between the rice plants, the rats felt more exposed to predation by owls and raptors. So, they now preferred to go where there was more vegetative cover.

The second time that I visited Prema’s farm, in 2003, he handed me to a panicle of rice that he said had 930 grains on it. By the time I had counted 300 grains, I was only about one-third of the way through the panicle, so I decided to accept his total since he could count rice grains more expertly than I could. Prema said that this was the largest rice panicle from his previous season’s crop, but in his SRI plot that season the average number of grains per panicle had been about 400.

This huge panicle showed the potential that exists within rice plants when they can express that capacity under near-ideal conditions for growth. In California, having 70 to 100 grains on a single panicle is considered good; having 400 grains on a panicle is exceptional. For this to be an average was spectacular. It may be hard to believe that there can be more than 900 grains on a single panicle of rice, but I have held such a panicle in my hand. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me at the time to take a picture of it for this memoire.

When Community Aid Abroad, an Australian NGO now affiliated with Oxfam, decided to promote SRI methods in Sri Lankan communities to which it was providing development assistance, it hired Prema as its SRI trainer. It was in that role that he conducted SRI training sessions in Batticaloa during an ongoing armed conflict as reported in Chapters 1 and 16. As a Sinhalese farmer he was going daily across a line that separated the government’s armed forces from secessionist LTTE guerillas, seeking to bring SRI knowledge and opportunities to Tamil-farmer counterparts.

One of Prema’s other contributions to SRI was to design a weeder, shown in Chapter 19, that was more versatile than the conoweeder developed by IRRI and Indian engineers and that was more suitable for heavy soils. Prema’s design could be fabricated in Sri Lanka by local blacksmiths for as little as US$ 10. As a weeder could be shared among several farmers, the cost for this implement per farmer was negligible. As seen in Chapter 11, using it several times on an SRI field before the rice crop began forming grain could add several tonnes to farmers’ yield per hectare. So the benefit-cost ratio vis-à-vis the cost of the weeder and the labor for using it was phenomenal.



The cheapest and most inventive solution to weed control that I encountered in my SRI travels was found in Morang district here in 2006. Govinda Dhakal was one of the first farmers in Indrapur village to try out the new methods. But because he did not have access to a mechanical weeder like Premarathne’s, which is recommended for weed control and soil aeration, his results that first season were not very good. Abundant growth of weeds kept his rice crop from achieving its potential yield, and his neighbors thought that Govinda would never try SRI methods again.

But Govinda was a problem-solver. He got the idea of making a simple weeder in the form of a push-broom, with nails instead of bristles on the bottom, as shown in Chapter 19. The cost of his materials, just wood and nails, was less than 25 cents, he said. The next season he found that with this implement, 10 laborers could weed a hectare of SRI paddy rice in one day, whereas to hand-weed the same area with hand-weeding methods required 25-30 laborers. Govinda and his neighbors also found that this tool enabled them to do their weeding more comfortably, standing upright rather than having to stoop over and down to remove weeds by hand. From interacting with Govinda and his neighbors, it was clear that he was a leader for spreading SRI in his area.[26]



The introduction of SRI in this country started in its large Mwea irrigation scheme, which produces 80% of Kenya’s national rice production. The effort was spearheaded by Bancy Mati, a professor at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (preceding chapter). But the uptake among residents in the Mwea scheme was greatly assisted by the initiative of one particular farmer, Moses Kareithi.

When Bancy tried in 2009 to interest Mwea farmers to try out SRI methods, at first there was little interest. Most who participated in the initial SRI training program that Bancy conducted were unresponsive. But Moses and another farmer Matthew Kamanu went ahead and tried the new methods for themselves based on what they had learned. Moses, seen below in his newly-planted field, got had a 38% increase in his rice yield, while Matthew doubled his production.[27]

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Their results encouraged fellow farmers and motivated many to adopt SRI methods. Moses was so energetic and effective at explaining SRI to his peers that the Mwea Irrigation Authority employed him to work as an extension agent for SRI. By 2020, about 80% of Mwea farmers were using SRI methods, and SRI management was being taken up by farmers in all of the other major irrigation schemes in the country.[28] This spread would have taken much longer if Moses had not provided farmer leadership for dissemination of SRI.


On the other side of Africa, a farmer in the Timbuktu region took initiative with SRI that led to a national effort to utilize SRI ideas and methods. In 2007, Mahamadou Hamadou on his own tried these out on his field on the edge of the Sahara Desert and got a yield of 9 tonnes per hectare, as seen below. Somehow he made contact with the representative in Mali for the US-based NGO Africare through whom Erika Styger, who had worked with SRI in Madagascar while doing her thesis research there. learned of his interest.

Mahamadou’s success gave encouragement for doing more systematic assessment of the methods’ validity and application under conditions quite different from all SRI experience before. Erika developed a proposal for such evaluation which the SRI group at Cornell presented to Jim Carrey’s Better U Foundation in California, which made a grant of $80,000 for doing farmer-participatory evaluation of SRI in twelve villages. Farmers in each of the participating villages decided on five of their peers who would carry out field trials on behalf of all the group. The impressive results of these trials attracted government and donor interest so that over the next decade, SRI became well-accepted in Mali, and in December 2020, with German and EU assistance, concerted efforts began to spread the innovation widely.

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One of the single most important contributions to worldwide understanding and acceptance of SRI came from Luis Romero, a farmer with whom Rena Perez (Chapter 25) had worked while she was assisting the Ministry of Sugar to help sugarcane growers improve their livestock production. Partly because of their friendship but also because Luis is a progressive farmer, he was one of the first farmers in Cuba to agree to try out SRI methods.

The picture that Rena took in 2003 of two rice plants on Luis’ farm became iconic in SRI powerpoints and publications all around the world because of the evidence it gave that changing management practices could have a dramatically large effect on plants’ growth and on the health of their root systems. Although the picture below was presented in Chapter 1, it is shown again here with Luis’ hands holding the plants because it tells so much about the potentials of SRI management.

The two rice plants shown are the same age (52 DAS) and same variety (VN2084). The plant on the left, about to be transplanted into the field, had only 5 tillers and limited root growth after growing in the nursery seedbed for 52 days. Its ‘sister’ plant on the right, transplanted from the same nursery when it was just 13 days old into an SRI growing environment, had 43 tillers and a profuse system of roots.

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In his first season with SRI, Luis got a yield equivalent to 14 tonnes per hectare. When I discussed his success with him during a visit to his farm in 2002, I attributed much of this success to SRI plants’ having larger root systems. Luis agreed, and to show me that he already knew this, he took me across the road to one of his rice fields. There, with difficulty, he pulled up the rice plant seen below on the left.[29] The white tips of its vigorous roots cannot be seen, but they extended throughout the soil in which the plant was growing.

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Like Nie Fuqiu in China, Luis did his own experimentation with direct-seeding instead of transplanting. The implement shown above on the right was designed and built by Luis to establish an SRI rice crop by dropping seeds every 40 cm in rows spaced 40 cm apart. This was not successful, unfortunately, because the 40 cm spacing was too wide, allowing too much weed growth for Luis to contend with.[30]

Because Rena and I both knew that in this age of PhotoShop, some people might not give much credence to a still picture, I sent her an inexpensive video camera so that during the next growing season she could visit Luis’s farm week by week to document visually the differentiation between rice plants grown with SRI vs. traditional methods. The video that she produced in shorter and longer versions was posted on the SRI-Rice website so that anyone could see how the growth trajectories of rice plants can diverge over time under SRI vs. standard crop management.[31]

Given the difficulty for farmers to privately employ agricultural labor in Cuba, labor limitations proved to be quite a constraint for Luis. However, given his high yields, he persevered and taught the methods to other farmers in his area. Like Moses Kareithi, Luis was also employed by the nearby government rice research institute (IIA) to assist it in rice improvement.

Getting labor is less of a problem for sugarcane cooperatives in Cuba than for individual farmers. Rena Perez had also worked previously with a sugarcane cooperative in the western part of the island at Bahia Honda. The president of ‘CPA Camilo Cienfuegos’ Antonio Espinosa, known as Nico, and the cooperative’s farm manager Luis Martìnez were both agreeable to trying out SRI practices when Rena told them about the new system.

Under the Cuban economic system, cooperatives have to supply all of the cane that they grow to state-owned factories on a quota basis with controlled prices. So, this is not a very profitable crop. However, any surplus of other crops that they can produce beyond their members’ consumption quotas needs can be sold in local markets, and rice is very much in demand. “Rice is money,” Luis told me during my first visit.[32]

Their entrepreneurial spirit was rewarded already in the first year when they got an SRI yield of 9.5 tonnes per hectare instead of their usual yield of 6.5 tonnes. The following year, they used SRI methods on two larger fields and attained yields of 10 and 14 tonnes per hectare. Fortunately for them, their area had very little weed pressure, so they had little cost for weeding.

SRI was thus a boon for the cooperative. When Rena acquainted them with SSI ideas and practices for improving their sugarcane production, they were very responsive. Unfortunately, their first trial plot was burned before it could be harvested. Possibly this was arson prompted by someone’s jealousy. But a sugar expert from Havana who visited the cooperative estimated that the yield, given the number and diameter of canes, could have reached 150 tonnes per hectare, well above the national average yield that year of 33 tonnes, and the world average yield of 60-70 tonnes. The leaders and members of the Camilo Cienfuegos cooperative were always ready and willing to share their SRI and SSI knowledge and experience with other farmers.



The innovative mechanization of SRI transplanting by Oscar Montero in Guanacaste province in the northwestern part of this country was described in Chapter 19. What makes his participation in SRI particularly interesting is that Oscar had not previously been a rice farmer, but he was intrigued by SRI when he of learned about it (from a Colombian visitor who was a friend Rena Perez in Cuba, whose work with SRI is described above and in the preceding chapter).

Getting a rice yield of 8 tonnes per hectare that was almost twice as high as the national average (4.2 tonnes per hectare) with mechanized operations was quite remarkable. Oscar’s story is told by himself, with technical details, on the SRI website.[33]



In Chapter 10, we learned about the contribution that Ralalarison made to SRI knowledge, living in Soatanana village in the highlands about two hours’ drive from Fianarantsoa, by getting an SRI yield of 2,740 kg of paddy rice from his 1,300 m2 of paddy land in 1999. This was ten times more than a typical yield in Madagascar. Ironically and perversely, this accomplishment proved to be an obstacle for many people to accept SRI, because it was characterized as beyond the biological maximum for rice production.[34] But this was hardly Ralalarison’s fault. The details of his SRI story are shared in Chapter 10.  



A Haitian farmer who made a notable contribution to knowledge about SRI within the top echelons of USAID was Emyl Mil, seen below standing second from the right. In 2011 he hosted a field visit by USAID’s Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, standing in the center wearing a tie. SRI was being promoted in the island by a large USAID project that had the acronym WINNER.

The Haitian technical team leader for WINNER project implementation, Jean-Robert Estimé, is seen on the left. Jean-Robert had previously served as the technical team leader for the USAID project in Madagascar under which Tefy Saina and CIIFAD promoted SRI in the east-central part of the country between 1998 and 2004. The Haitians in T-shirts saying ‘Paysan Vulgarisateur’ are project extension agents.

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Here is what Dr. Shah wrote in a personal blog on the USAID website (September 19, 2011) after visiting Emyl’s farm.

On Thursday, September 15, I had the opportunity to meet Emyl Mil, a rice farmer in Haiti, a focus country for President Obama's Feed the Future Initiative. When I spoke with Mr. Mil, he was excited about the use of a new, innovative approach called System of Rice Intensification. This new technique has significantly increased rice yields using fewer seeds and less water and fertilizer. Mr. Mil has even shared the technique with fellow farmers, who are seeing the same results. This is exactly the kind of work we want to support: providing Haitians with the tools to help themselves and each other in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake…


A few months later, in an article on post-earthquake rehabilitation in Haiti published in the Miami Herald (January 11, 2012), Dr. Shah wrote:

. . . When we piloted a program designed to intensify rice yields in the areas surrounding Port-au-Prince, the results were staggering: Haitian farmers saw their yields increase by almost 190 percent, while using fewer seeds and less water and fertilizer. The farmers cut 10 days off their normal harvest and increased their profit per acre. Today that program is being expanded to reach farmers throughout the country. Instead of importing rice from other countries, Haitians will soon be able to purchase and consume more of what they grow. . .

This was followed with a comment on SRI the next day in an interview on US National Public Radio (NPR), when Dr. Shah elaborated:

. . . In rice, they're using a system called the System of Rice Intensification, which allows them to use less water, less fertilizer, more safe inputs. And they're seeing a big increase, doubling or tripling of yields, and a 75 percent increase in farm incomes because of that program, which has now reached almost 10,000 farm households, and we believe will reach 125,000 over time….

Jean-Robert as head of the technical advisory team probably provided most of the statistics cited by Shah, but it was Emyl Mil’s demonstration of SRI on the ground that made these statistics persuasive to the USAID administrator. Disappointingly, this field visit and the ensuing comments did not prompt any USAID interest in SRI at headquarters level, and unfortunately Shah’s blog was not kept posted on the Agency’s website for very long. But this is not Emyl’s fault; he played his part in the SRI story very well.



In the discussion of agroecological NGOs (Chapter 24), we saw how Juarez was the first farmer to respond to the Centro Agroecológico’s initiative to introduce SRI in the state of Rio Grande do Sol. Given the typical size of rice farms in the state and the cost and scarcity of agricultural labor, however, SRI methods as originally presented were not attractive to many other rice farmers.

Juarez persisted with the new methods, however, appreciating their higher productivity and the contribution that they can make to a healthier environment. With some adaptations made in the methods, Juarez has continued to utilize them for rice seed multiplication, particularly for heirloom varieties. So, SRI still has a foothold in this important agricultural state.

To the extent that appropriate mechanization can be developed for the conditions in Brazil, SRI can have a future in this country, and Juarez’s understanding of and support for SRI will have played a role in this. Below is a picture that Juarez sent showing his use of SRI methods for the seed multiplication of traditional rice varieties. For such production, labor-intensive methods can be profitable because with SRI practices, the seed-to-seed ratio is increased ten-fold.

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One of the most enterprising farmers to take up SRI has been Joby Arandela in Iloilo province of this country, who most unfortunately died in early 2020. His 2014 resumé listed his occupations as: “Organic SRI Rice Farmer, Sustainable Agriculture Advocate, Software Architect, Programmer, Technology Professional, Software Engineer, IT Manager, Database and UNIX Administrator.”

Joby became engaged with farming operations in Iloilo in 2011 when he returned to the Philippines after working for 20 years in the United States, first as a tax analyst and programmer, and then as a software architect and data-base administrator for units of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the US Department of the Navy in the state of Virginia. Before going to the US, he had worked as a computer programmer with the National Housing Authority in the Philippines, drawing upon his disciplinary training in mathematics at a regional university. Not a typical background for a rice farmer.

When one of his parents became ill, Joby returned to the Philippines, and with money that he had saved from his two decades in the US, and with many skills gained there, he established himself as a rice farmer with 10 hectares and a vision of redirecting the Philippine rice sector toward organic production. Once he learned about SRI, he saw this as the vehicle for achieving this vision. In 2014, Joby and 42 fellow rice farmers in Zarraga municipality formed a farmer organization, ZIDOFA, the Zarraga Integrated Diversified Organic Farmers Association. A picture from one of its early meetings is seen below.

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ZIDOFA was remarkable for the many connections that it, with Joby’s broad experience, was able to establish with the local government, with regional bodies, the national government, and international actors, as well as with universities, NGOs, and the national network SRI-Pilipinas.[35]

The farmers used SRI methods to produce ‘unimproved’ pigmented (colored) varieties of rice. Initially they hoped to get into exporting high-quality heirloom rice, but all of the rice that they could produce has been bought up quickly by domestic buyers at a premium price. This gave impetus for expansion of their organization and their organic SRI production methods within Iloilo province and beyond.



Most farmers in the US have never heard of SRI methods or have dismissed them because of the stereotype that SRI is relevant only for poor, small-scale rice farmers overseas, or as ’too labor-intensive.’ An organic farmer in the state of Maine, Mark Fulford learned about SRI from the SRI-Rice website and observed it in the field during a trip to the Philippines in 2008. Mark does overseas training on organic farming in addition to operating his own 1.6-hectare organic farm intensively-managed halfway up the Maine coast toward Canada.

Because rice-growing is not very feasible in Maine, Mark tried SWI methods for wheat, and he has had considerable success when extrapolating SCI ideas to vegetable crops like carrots and onions, and even to tree crops. There are pictures in Chapter 14 of his growing wheat and apples with SCI methods.[36] Mark is currently working with both potato growers and wheat farmers in Maine to adapt SRI and SCI principles to solving their problems of low soil productivity and low profitability, making changes in practices that take account of the short growing season in the far northeastern United States.

*    *     *     *     *     *

There have been a number of discussions of farmer innovation and leadership already in Parts I and II, and there will be more in Part III. In the preceding chapter, we learned about two persons who could have been classified as farmers as well as professionals. The line between these two categories can be indistinct. Gerald Aruna is an agricultural instructor and NGO country-representative as well as a farmer in northern Sierra Leone. Asif Sharif is a farmer-businessman who has put his business experience and technical skills to work to devise mechanized agroecological farming systems in Punjab province of Pakistan. Gerald’s inventiveness was seen in Chapter 14 and Asif’s in Chapter 19.

The common stereotypes of ‘farmers,’ mental residues from past centuries, are being shaken by new realities and possibilities in this 21st century. ‘Farmers’ range from landless Dalit women in India who are capable of interacting with the ‘high and mighty’ to a successful large-farmer businessman in neighboring Pakistan who can meet with national political leaders. There are variations from Madagascar to Maine, but many shared interests and capabilities.

The farmers highlighted here have in common their being concerned not just with themselves but for the well-being of others, devoting some of their own time and resources to making SRI knowledge more widely available and to modifying and improving its practices for broader utilization. They also demonstrate a personal commitment to conserving their natural environment and its resources. These are not only essential for sustaining their and others’ livelihoods, but are also essential for the maintenance of their communities and for our planet.

While the acceptance of SRI has been advanced by the many kinds of organizations that are reported on in Chapter 24, it has been propelled by the thinking and actions of persons described in this and the preceding chapter, and by many thousands of other people like them. As noted in the Preface, SRI is more than a matter of agronomic science and practice. It has been and remains a thoroughly human enterprise.


[1] See paper by D.J. Ragu for the World Rice Research Conference in Japan in 2004: ‘Rice farmers’ participatory research has played a key role in implementing the System of Rice Intensification,’ Rice Is Life: Scientific Perspectives for the 21st Century, eds. K. Toriyama, K.L. Heong and B. Hardy, 412-414, International Rice Research Institute (2005); also N.  Uphoff, ‘Farmer innovations improving the System of Rice Intensification (SRI),’ Jurnal Ilmu Tanah dan Lingkungan 9: 45-56 (2007).

[2] The Musahari are considered to be socially inferior because it was believed that traditionally they caught and ate rats. If true which would be an indication of their poverty and destitution for many generations. ‘Beyond the Rat Race,’ The Times of India, December 29, 2010.

[3] See feature story about Jyoti Devi titled ‘Not All Superheroes Wear Capes!’ Opinion Express, April 15 (2019).

[4] Details are given in M.C. Diwakar, A. Kumar, A. Verma and N. Uphoff, ‘Report on the world record SRI yields in kharif season  2011 in Nalanda district, Bihar state, India,’ Agriculture Today, June, 53-56 (2012).

[5] As mentioned in endnote 27 of Chapter 24, a Mandava weeder was sent by the Indian NGO WASSAN to an NGO in Bhutan for replication, enlisting a Buddhist monk to transport the weeder part of the way.

[6] Here is a powerpoint on the Farmers Association and its innovations that Baskaran presented to the 3rd national SRI symposium at Coimbatore in 2009. A Wikimapia posting on the internet reports that Thambal farmers are getting higher yields with a 30% reduction in their costs of production. 90% of the farmers in the village are using SRI methods on over 80 hectares. It says that in the preceding year, 2,500 farmers visited Thambal to learn more about SRI.

[7] The presentation of this manual was polished by SRI-Rice, but Baskaran provided and laid out all of the text, pictures and data for this.

[8] The pictures in this video communicate a lot about SSI even if the words are not understood.

[9] In my trip report from a visit to Cambodia in 2005, page 9, I commented: “Mey Som noted with satisfaction that many of the farmers to whom he had taught SRI are now getting higher yields than his own.”

[10] See 2007 trip report, pages 12-14, for discussion of Mey Som’s diversified farming.

[11] See trip reports for 2006, pages 19-20, and for 2007, pages 7-8.

[12] The following information comes from this manual by Chey Tech, Experiences in Multi-Purpose Farm Development in Cambodia: Raising Household Incomes by Utilizing Productivity Gains from the System of Rice Intensification, CEDAC, Phnom Penh (2007).

[13] See this report by ALiSEA on Ros Mao’s operation and also a YouTube video on his farm.

[14] See Ros Mao’s statement at the end of an ALiSEA publication that features his and another SRI farmers’ innovations.

[15] This is a link to the Lotus Foods website and to the SRI book in English, Spanish and Chinese.

[16] Miyatty recounted her life story to me when we first met in 2008, as recorded on pages 16-18 of my trip report. She told me her story in response to my asking her how an Indonesian farmer like her could speak such good English, with so many American expressions in her speech. One slang expression she said she had learned from watching the television show “MacGyver” on television while baby-sitting for a rich household.

[17] Miyatty had previously worked with the Japanese-funded irrigation project for which Sato was head of the technical advisory team.

[18] Here is Miyatty’s account of this experience, as recorded in the trip report. “Only 10 of these [35 farmers] would try out the methods, however; and they encountered a lot of resistance at first, even abuse, she said. ‘The whole village was against us at first. You are stupid, they said when they saw the transplanted SRI plots. You will get nothing.’

     “There was ‘really a strain,’ Miyatty recollected, ‘it was really, really hard. People were talking bad things about SRI.’ She had to convene many meetings among the ten SRI farmers, to discuss among themselves and to keep them all continuing. ‘One husband and wife were not talking with each other. They almost divorce. Even government people were coming and asking about this SRI. I explained what I understood, but they didn’t believe me and didn’t support us. But I continued. There were so many problems. Pak Alik [the trainer] came once again, and only 20 of the original 35 farmers were willing to meet with him.’

     “But when harvesting was done, people came and said, ‘Wow. How did that happen from such small seedlings?’ All the people were surprised. With less water and less money, we had 40 to 50% more paddy. People from other villages came and asked us how we did this. So I went to other villages. But always there is the same problem: at first there are lots of tensions and problems. But the problems go away once they see the results.”

[19] The Aceh SRI story is told briefly in Chapter 10. Mauliddin’s experience is written up in a Caritas report, pages 10-11, and is shown in a very informative YouTube video.

[20] These visits are described in China trip reports from 2004, pages 12-13, and from 2005, pages 2-4.

[21] This is much less than normally used to establish a rice crop. The IRRI Knowledge Bank says that the usual planting rate is 75 to 200 plants per m², which amounts to 750,000 to 2 million plants per hectare. The recommended plant density for SRI is generally 16 plants per m², ranging from 4 to 25 depending on spacing, from 20 to 50 cm apart.

[22] J.G. Zheng, Z.Z. Chi, X.Y. Li and X.L. Jiang, ‘Agricultural water savings possible through SRI for water management in Sichuan, China,’ Taiwan Water Conservancy, 61: 50-62 (2013). For analysis of this methodology, see M. Fan, S.H. Lu, R. Jiang, X. Liu and F.S. Zhang, ‘Triangular transplanting pattern and split nitrogen fertilizer application increase rice yield and nitrogen fertilizer recovery,’ Agronomy Journal, 101: 1421-1425 (2019).

[23] See trip reports on visits to Meishan in 2002 page 2, and in 2004, page 18.

[24] The press release on this award included a short biography on Ms. Kim.

[25] Premaratna’s keynote for the conference is posted on the internet.

[26] See pages 6-9 of my 2006 trip report. “When I discussed Govinda’s experience with him and other farmers at an impromptu meeting at his home in Indrapur: “Govinda asserted without any farmer around him contradicting [his statement] that ‘Nothing is very difficult with SRI.’ The main constraints are in people’s thinking, he suggested.”

     “At this point, someone brought into the courtyard two rice plants to contrast the effects of the alternative sets of practices. The root system on the SRI plant was 5-6 times greater, and its height was almost 2 feet more. Possibly the plants had not been selected randomly; but the difference was striking in any case, showing how different practices can produce very different plant phenotypes.” (page 7).

[27] An interview with Matthew was posted on YouTube in October, 2021, talking about how rice-growing could provide a good livelihood and upward mobility, describing the impacts of SRI adoption.

[28] For a report on the spread of SRI in the Mwea irrigation scheme, see a 2013 Thomson-Reuters report that featured Moses’ contribution.

[29] I was able to visit Luis on his farm four times, described in trip reports from 2002, pages 2-3; 2003, pages 3-4; 2004, pages 1, 3-4; and 2008, pages 2-3.

[30] Luis’ neighbor manufactured a 12-row, ox-drawn direct-seeder similar to that of Luis but larger. That ambitious implement had to be abandoned because the neighbor found it too difficult to get his oxen to pull the device with enough precision so that he could do perpendicular mechanical weeding after the plants germinated.

[31] These videos are available in two versions, a shorter one (35.2 MB) in Spanish (14:00) and a longer video (72.6 MB) with English subtitles (36:00).

[32] Visits to the CPA Camilo Cienfuegos farm near Bahia Honda are described in trip reports from 2002, pages 1-2; 2003, pages 1-3; 2004, pages 1, 11-13; and 2008, pages 9-10.

[33] Oscar Montero’s story is available in English or in Spanish.

[34] See A. Dobermann, ‘A critical assessment of the system of rice intensification (SRI), Agricultural Systems 79: 261-281 (2004); J.E. Sheehy et al., ‘Fantastic yields in the system of rice intensification: Fact or fallacy?’ Field Crops Research 88: 1-8.

[35] As described in this blog report. In addition to its connections with SRI-Rice, ZIDOFA had communication and cooperation with several companies (Lotus Foods, Nutiva, Dr. Bronner’s) and NGOs (Oxfam Germany, Rapunzel, Deutsche Umwelthilfe), and government agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Science and Technology. The latter helped ZIDOFA to procure a rice mill and motorized weeders.

     ZIDOFA cooperated with the Sustainable Rice Platform established by IRRI and UNEP and supported by the German aid agency GIZ and the Department of Agriculture to validate criteria for assessing the sustainability of rice production. While Joby brought great skills and energy to this initiative, ZIDOFA members were actively involved in hosting visitors, doing training of fellow farmers in other communities, and advocating for organic SRI.

[36] The extrapolation to apple production is discussed in Chapter 14. See Mark’s article on ‘My Experience with Crop Intensification’ in The Natural Farmer, Winter, 2013-2014, pages B20-B23, also his report on SCI carrot production in the 2014 season, and a YouTube interview with him by Erika Styger in 2012 discussing his SCI experience.


PICTURE CREDITS: WWF; Marguerite Uphoff (2); Y.S. Koma (CEDAC); Erika Styger; S. Sato (Nippon Koei); Miyatty Jannah (2); CARITAS; Photographer, Merdeka Presidential Palace, Jakarta; Norman Uphoff; Lin Xianqing (CNNRI); Norman Uphoff; Zhang Jiaguo (Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences); Bancy Mati (JKUAT); Rena Perez; Norman Uphoff (2); USAID blog; Juarez (Brazil); Joby Arandela (ZIDOFA).

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