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In the story of SRI, the roles of government agencies and political leaders have been important although not in the preeminent way that official actors are often represented in sagas of development. Preceding chapters have shown that government organizations and leaders who have agriculture within their purview have only sometimes given leadership for the application of SRI ideas and methods, which has made SRI a bottom-up innovation partly by default.

And when agencies and governments have provided leadership, it has seldom been a matter of large organizations making supportive decisions and then following up with implementation. Rather, the impetus for official involvement has almost always come from one or a few individuals within governments or their agencies who maneuvered their organizations into taking initiative once it was understood how and why SRI ideas and methods can be beneficial. The history of SRI shows a different mode of operation than the idealized conception of how governments function, where they are trying to optimize the welfare of the public through systematic planning and rational deliberation.

In this chapter, we consider where, how and why government agencies and personnel in various countries have taken an interest in SRI and have given impetus for its acceptance within their respective jurisdictions. This chapter considers also the roles played by some political leaders, from legislators to administrators, ministers, and even a few prime ministers. In the chapter that follows, we review what donor agencies of the governments in richer countries have done to disseminate SRI opportunities where these would be beneficial.[1]

A region-by-region review of governments’ initiatives will give some appreciation of what government agencies and actors have done, or not done, to assist the acceptance and impact of SRI. This chapter considers also what political leaders in various governments have done or not done for SRI, given that political and administrative processes are usually woven together.




Since this country is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rice, one might have expected the Chinese government to take a major interest and role in SRI acceptance and use. We saw in Chapters 23 and 27 how Chinese universities and research institutions have played important roles in this process. The overall structure of government in China is such that the acceptance and application of SRI was not a matter of central government responsibility, however, because agriculture is a subject formally delegated to provincial and lower-level governments to deal with.

 In 2004, the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing recommended to central government authorities that SRI should be designated as one of a half dozen strategies for improving rice productivity, the promotion of hybrid rice varieties having the topmost priority.[2] This was as far as the central government went on behalf of SRI as far as we know, leaving any follow-through to the provincial governments.

The acceptance and use of SRI was quickest and most significant in the provinces of Zhejiang and Sichuan largely because researchers at the China National Rice Research Institute in Hangzhou and at the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Chengdu were some of the first to do evaluations of SRI (Chapter 27). Once persuaded of its merits, they worked with the extension leadership and personnel in their respective Provincial Departments of Agriculture, getting these agencies to provide the human and financial resources needed to promote SRI.

The data on this promotion and its effects are most extensive from Sichuan province. Once its Provincial Department of Agriculture got involved with SRI, the use of SRI methods in Sichuan expanded from 1,133 hectares in 2004 to 383,533 in 2012, according to Department reporting. The average yield increase attributable to SRI methods was calculated to be 1.67 tonnes per hectare, from an already-high level of production.

This increase in yield, with lower costs of production and with less water consumption, added up to a production increase of 2.88 million tonnes of paddy rice during this period, worth over US$ 500 million.[3] This benefit from using the new methods accrued to farmers rather than to the government, while the dissemination of the methods depended largely on the efforts of the Department.

There were similar production and income increases in Zhejiang province, but the PDA there did not compile the kind of detailed data on SRI that were kept track of in Sichuan. Other provinces followed suit, especially in southern China, although as far as we know there was not the same scale of effort and impact.

The experiences in Sichuan and Zhejiang showed what could be achieved with SRI when there was cooperation between researchers and government extension personnel, when a government agency was well-informed and its resources were enlisted in a systematic extension effort. Below is a picture of the signboard erected by CNRRI researchers in the village of Bu Tou where some of the first SRI field trials and demonstrations in Zhejiang province were conducted.[4]

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Elsewhere in East Asia

In contrast in Japan, Taiwan and Korea, governments and their research institutions took little interest in SRI. Perhaps this was because these countries are already reasonably self-sufficient in rice, and this crop is subsidized so that surpluses in production would be fiscally costly for the governments. That SRI methods raise the productivity of the seed, water and other inputs used in rice production could in the future prompt some interest in these three countries in order to make rice cropping more profitable for farmers. More motivating than yield increases could be SRI’s reduction of water pollution and also of greenhouse gas emissions because environmental concerns are becoming more preoccupying in these countries. Such a focus could make SRI more attractive to these governments in the future.[5]

In Japan, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries hosted a seminar on SRI in 2003 at its headquarters in Tokyo, arranged for me by an SRI colleague at Ryukoku University in Kyoto. But no apparent interest was sparked by the presentation.[6] Even less official government interest has been observed so far in Taiwan and the Republic of Korea.

In 2009, the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea responded very quickly when I contacted its delegation to the United Nations in New York City about having a visit to share SRI ideas and experience with its rice specialists, granting me a visa. The Asia Foundation, based in San Francisco, agreed to support a trip to Pyongyang. Unfortunately, the trip could not be completed as planned because of a health problem that I encountered in Beijing en route to North Korea.

However, a year later the DPRK government sent a delegation of North Korean rice specialists to Hangzhou in China for a workshop on SRI that was organized by the China National Rice Research Institute and CIIFAD to share with these visitors the SRI experience in China and elsewhere. A picture of workshop participants is shown in Chapter 27.

The DPRK government which regulates all foreign NGO activity very closely permitted NGOs from the US, Canada and New Zealand to introduce SRI with North Korean cooperatives that these organizations had been assisting.[7] At the beginning of 2019, a DPRK government agency listed SRI as the first of several “modern technologies” that should be promoted to raise rice production in North Korea.[8] In 2021, an article in the Pyongyang Times reported that SRI has been introduced widely to farms across the DPRK.[9]

Overall, national governments in East Asia apart from China and DPRK have shown little interest in engaging with SRI opportunities. Those with surplus or subsidized rice production having less reason to be interested in SRI than those with a deficit, unless they understand that SRI makes more improvements than just higher yield.




The NGO CEDAC took the lead on introducing SRI here, starting in 2000 (Chapter 13), but within a few years, the Minister of Agriculture, Chan Sarun, became personally interested in SRI, making it one of the four ‘pillars’ of his National Agricultural Development Plan for 2006-2010.[10] The Cambodian government was thus the first government to give official endorsement to SRI.

In 2005, Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries established an SRI Secretariat at its headquarters in Phnom Penh to collect and consolidate information on SRI and to give it visibility and leadership in the country. This operation, funded mostly by Oxfam America and the German aid agency GTZ (now GIZ), functioned for only about five years, but it gave an important boost to SRI when this was needed.

As discussed in Chapter 40, Cambodia became one of the most successful cases of up-scaling SRI, going from 28 farmers in 2000 to over 250,000 fifteen years later. This was attributable first to NGO initiative but also to government support, nudged by some donor encouragement and backing. For a while, the Prime Minister Hun Sen was endorsing SRI adoption whenever he spoke to farmer audiences.

However, official support for SRI did not last much beyond Chan Sarun’s incumbency as Minister of Agriculture. Below is a picture of Chan Sarun (on left) with myself and Y.S. Koma, director of CEDAC, after he and I had spoken to a national farmers’ meeting held at the Ministry in 2014. In 2021, the director-general for the General Directorate of Agriculture within the Ministry was one of the early promoters of SRI in Cambodia, who saw a connection with the Ministry’s work for integrated pest management.[11]

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SRI got started here with university and NGO initiative, but national leadership was quickly taken up by the Plant Protection Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). PPD’s director Ngo Tien Dung had previously given exemplary leadership to the introduction and spread of integrated pest management (IPM) in Vietnam. He had learned about SRI from IPM colleagues in Indonesia. In 2003, Dung started getting on-farm evaluations of SRI performance done in three provinces; then he spread the on-farm trials to more and more provinces in succeeding years.

By 2007, with results well-documented in on-farm evaluations, Dung persuaded the leadership of his Ministry to designate SRI as ‘a technical advance.’[12] In the preceding year, 2006, Oxfam America had begun assisting Dung’s initiative by funding expanded trials and demonstrations in several locations that helped to strengthen the case for official acceptance of SRI.[13]

Once the government endorsed SRI, it began putting more of its resources into SRI extension, and Oxfam America expanded its support for the PPD’s program for SRI. Within four years, the number of Vietnamese farmers using SRI methods had surpassed 1 million.[14] The government role in this was thus huge, but the catalytic NGO role was also very important.

There was a bureaucratic problem to be dealt with in Vietnam because the section of the Ministry that had responsibility for rice production (rather than for plant protection) remained preoccupied with promoting the use of improved varieties and ‘modern’ inputs. It was not interested in SRI.

It was fortuitous that in Vietnam an IRRI staff member who was responsible for improving pest-management strategies, had previously worked closely with the Plant Protection Division on its IPM program. K.L. Heong had helped the PPD to demonstrate to the government and to farmers the economic, health and environmental benefits of reducing farmers’ reliance on agrochemicals for pest control, an approach consistent with SRI. The acceptance that IPM had gained among Vietnamese decision-makers in the agricultural sector over the previous decade made it easier for them to understand and accept SRI when it was proposed and explained, even while the rice production department within the Ministry remained focused on the promotion of new varieties and chemical inputs.

In 2012, Dung and his Plant Protection Division were given the Ministry’s first National Golden Rice Award for their promotion of SRI. This helped to equalize prestige between the new-variety and crop-management approaches to rice improvement. Below we see the award being presented to Dung at the award ceremony.[15] It should be mentioned also that during this time there was high-level political support given to SRI by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Bui Ba Bong, which helped to bolster Dung’s initiative within the bureaucratic structure.[16]

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Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, there was similar experience in both Indonesia and the Philippines where the ministries responsible for agriculture were at first rather equivocal about SRI, possibly because of close ties to IRRI, while the government agencies responsible for irrigation took a more favorable stance toward SRI. The Ministry of Public Works in Indonesia and the National Irrigation Administration in Philippines were both more willing to get involved with SRI than were their counterparts, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, respectively, a differentiation seen also in several states of India.


This country’s Agency for Agricultural Research and Development was the second organization to undertake SRI trials outside of Madagascar and to validate SRI methods, starting as early as 1999. However, AARD’s rice research station at Sukamandi, where the SRI trials were done, had been previously one of the incubators for the Green Revolution in Southeast Asia, and its directors were less hospitable to SRI ideas than were some of their staff who did the evaluations.[17]

Of critical importance in Indonesia, the section of the Ministry of Agriculture that was responsible for improving rice production, the Directorate for Food Crops (later the Directorate-General for Food Crops), took a hands-off attitude toward SRI, or at best an ambivalent posture. It did not accept and work with SRI methodology to the extent that the evaluations done by its own rice research institute justified.

Fortunately, the Ministry’s Directorate for Land and Water Management, which had responsibility of protecting the country’s natural resources for agricultural use, took a more positive stance toward SRI. This showed once again that bureaucracies are seldom monolithic and can have significant internal differences and divisions. The land and water management directorate undertook a large training program for promoting organic versions of SRI on a national scale. Its rationale was that this would improve soil health and conserve water in Indonesia. Meanwhile the Food Crops Directorate continued mostly to ignore SRI.[18]

Partly because of SRI’s water-saving possibilities, but also because of the initiative of a Japanese technical assistance team that was implementing an irrigation management project in eastern Indonesia, the Ministry of Public Works (Pekerjaan Umum, PU) took a leading role in testing and disseminating SRI in eight provinces in the eastern part of Indonesia. The results demonstrated the effectiveness of SRI in ways that leadership in the agricultural sector could not ignore.[19]

The Minister of Agriculture in the early 2000s, Dr. Sjarifuddin Baharsjah, and several of AARD’s directors-general were somewhat cross-pressured about SRI because they had become good friends of mine while I was director of CIIFAD and had coordinated a collaborative program on sustainable agriculture and rural development with the Ministry and with AARD. At the same time, they were very close to IRRI, and most of their technical personnel were not favorably disposed toward SRI.[20] So despite its own positive trial results, the Ministry refrained from endorsing the new methods and promoting them in the early 2000s.[21] However, as more and more evidence of SRI’s effectiveness accumulated, governmental acceptance of this innovation grew.

Indonesia’s president from 2004 to 2014, S.B. Yudhoyono, was an unusual national leader in several ways. Of relevance here, he had done graduate study in agriculture during his previous career as a military officer. When he learned about SRI, SBY as he was popularly known took a personal interest in it, and he presided at an SRI Harvest Festival in West Java in July 2007. Below is a picture of SBY while addressing an audience of 800 farmers and several hundred officials at Cianjur. His remarks included this strong endorsement:

… with good farming and good technologies such as SRI, it is hoped that we will be able to preserve the environment, and thus we can be a part of saving the world, and not be a part of the destroying force towards the environment. … I am saying this quite frankly, and I hope that the journalists will emphasize this in their reports, that together with other efforts for preserving the ecosystem, this SRI method of rice farming will really contribute towards saving our planet, our world, and our country.[22]

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After such a resounding endorsement, the tone of government officials’ remarks about SRI w became generally more positive. In 2009, Minister of Agriculture Suswono made supportive comments about SRI when he addressed an SRI colloquium in Jakarta organized with the Ministry of Public Works. In 2012, the government reported that SRI use had spread to over 200,000 hectares, and there were plans to expand this to 250,000 hectares in the next year, and to reach 500,000 hectares by 2014.

While the Ministry of Agriculture, at least its Food Crops Directorate, remained less than enthusiastic about SRI, perhaps because of its attachment to ideas and interests of the Green Revolution, the climate of official opinion in Indonesia has becomee generally supportive over the past decade.


The first response of the Department of Agriculture here was to be resistant to SRI.[23] Although the Philippines had achieved considerable success with Green Revolution rice technology in the 1970s, managing to become a net exporter of rice for several years around 1980, the country has been a net importer of rice for most of the last 30 years, a sore point for the government and for its rice specialists.

Their government response was to try even harder to succeed with the same strategy, repackaging and promoting this strategy based on new varieties and agrochemical inputs under a succession of names.[24] This was reinforced by the many informal links that Department personnel had with agribusiness companies which are quite influential in the Philippines.

The coordinator of the SRI-Pilipinas network, Obet Verzola, and others tried repeatedly to open up dialogue with the Department of Agriculture about SRI from 2002 on, with little response until later years. At first, the Department’s Agricultural Training Institute was supportive of SRI because of the interest of its director, Edwin Acoba. However, after he died in 2003, that institute’s initiative for SRI petered out in all but one of the country’s 16 regions.[25]

The Department’s Bureau of Agricultural Research remained mostly disinterested in SRI opportunities, but the Department of Agrarian Reform, a separate government agency established to support land reform beneficiaries, did take some interest in SRI. So did the National Irrigation Administration which quietly did its own evaluations and promotion of SRI methods.[26] Within the government, however, interest in SRI remained mostly a personal matter among some officials, rather than a matter of official policy.

In the early rice season of 2017, the Department of Agriculture, together with a private association of hybrid seed-producing companies called the Rice Board, sponsored a national rice-growing ‘derby’ on the island of Samar. Farmers (and their sponsors) were invited to compete for a prize that would be awarded to whomever produced the highest yield with a particular rice variety. This was to help the government to choose among the available hybrid rice varieties that were competing for government subsidies and other incentives.

Many different producers of hybrid rice seed entered this competition, wanting to showcase and publicize the performance of their respective varieties. It took a lot of effort and lobbying by Obet Verzola and SRI-Pilipinas to persuade the Department to accept also an SRI entry into the competition, using SRI methods with an inbred variety rather than a hybrid variety.

At the end of the growing season, the SRI plot yielded 6.76 tonnes per hectare and ranked above the median, placing 9th among the 19 competitors. This was achieved with rice seed that was presumed to be inferior to the hybrid varieties in the competition. The PhilRice entry with its best hybrid variety got a yield of only 5.94 tonnes per hectare, placing 17th. SRI had bested PhilRice’s best showing.

Although the entrants in the ‘derby’ were all asked to collect and submit data on their costs of production, no rankings on this or even information on the respective costs of production were ever released. SRI-Pilipinas believed that its cost per kilogram of rice produced would have been by far the lowest. But even just considering yield, the performance of SRI methods in this competition, playing by the Department’s rules, could hardly be ignored.[27]

In November 2018, the Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel Piñol announced at an organic-agriculture event that his Department would like SRI-Pilipinas to conduct SRI training for its staff, two from each of the country’s 16 regions. Unfortunately, Secretary Piñol who gave SRI this opening was forced to resign in mid-2019 due to a disagreement with the President's financial advisers on the matter of rice tariffs. However, prospects for expanded SRI training and cooperation with the Department appear to be improved as the government no longer seems to regard SRI as a pariah innovation.[28]


There was less difficulty in getting cooperation on SRI between the agriculture and irrigation departments here because in Laos they are under the same Ministry. Also, the impetus for SRI activity came from outside, so efforts were made to establish SRI linkages with all stakeholders in rice production and this helped to bridge between the two entities.

A Japanese engineer, Kazuyuki Shimazaki, who was a consultant in Laos helping to implement an Asian Development Bank-funded irrigation project, was also a member of a Japanese development NGO named Pro-Net 21. Kazu helped this NGO get financial support for SRI activity in Laos from the Japanese aid agency JICA. His ADB project role facilitated his establishment of links for SRI with both the Irrigation Department and the Agriculture Department, as well as with their provincial-level offices.

With funding from JICA in hand, Pro-Net 21 began working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in 2007. The Ministry helped Pro-Net 21 introduce SRI activity to its offices for agriculture and for irrigation in three provinces as well as with communities and local governments therein.

Government sanction is a very important consideration in Laos. Receptivity to SRI and resulting impacts of its methods were greatest in Luangprabang province, so SRI promotion was subsequently concentrated there to demonstrate SRI’s effectiveness in the next stage. In 2018, the provincial administration of Luangprabang made the promotion of SRI official policy for the province.[29]



The government here has not been very interested in SRI, perhaps partly because SRI got started later in Malaysia than elsewhere in the region, or maybe because SRI has been clearly a civil society innovation in this country. Some of the SRI colleagues who have given leadership to SRI evaluation and spread in the country were themselves retired senior government officials.[30]

There have been some links established with agricultural parastatal organizations in the country. Presumably as good results accumulate in Malaysia, there will be more government interest in taking SRI seriously, although it remains inclined to give more attention to plantation crops than to smallholder rice production.


There was initially little interest in SRI evident from the government here, even though several approaches were made to the Rice Department during the 2000s. There was then some collaboration with the Department’s APFED showcase project doing on-station evaluations of some of SRI’s management practices. When the SRI-LMB project managed from the Asian Institute of Technology was planned in 2012, due to some delays encountered in working out an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), the project’s formal link was made with the Ministry of Education.[31] As the project was being implemented, the MoAC became engaged without a formal agreement, providing policy support, and the Rice Department assisted in data analysis and discussions, providing insights for improving the project’s action-research in Thailand. The government role in this country has remained rather minimal, however. 


The SRI story here started much as it did in Cambodia. A major development NGO much like CEDAC, the Metta Development Foundation (Chapters 24 and 40), took the lead in introducing SRI in 2001. This was done in two relatively remote states in the northeast, a region with largely tribal populations. Relations with the government did not become as close as in Cambodia because there was armed ethnic insurrection going on in the region, and the government based in Yangon suspected Metta of having ties or sympathies with the insurgents. Still, Metta was able to work with local communities on SRI with considerable success.[32] In 2008 the government welcomed Metta’s assistance in rehabilitating the central delta region after Cyclone Nargis trashed that important area. Introducing SRI methods to devastated communities there was part of the rehabilitation effort.

It was serendipitous that I was able in 2002 to meet a Myanmar official while he and I were both in Sri Lanka on different assignment. This opened up an official channel as well as the NGO channel that Metta provided for informing policy-makers about SRI.[33] Shortly after this, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agricultural Services Department invited me to visit Myanmar and to make presentations to its staff on SRI, with Metta’s agricultural advisor Humayun Kabir.  However, we saw no resulting government support for SRI at that time.

Quite a few years later, in 2018, the then-incumbent Minister of Agriculture invited SRI-Rice to organize a delegation to visit Myanmar to discuss SRI with him and his officials.[34] By including on the team a retired Burmese agronomy professor who had been working on SRI demonstration and training for 10 years at his own initiative (Chapters 25 and 40), the delegation was better able to show SRI’s relevance to Myanmar conditions and needs. Below is a picture of the SRI-Rice team meeting with the Minister of Agriculture in April 2018. The visit opened the door to more government involvement and support for SRI in the future.[35]

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Timor Leste

In this island-nation within the Indonesian archipelago, initiatives for SRI have come mostly from NGOs and donor agencies rather than from the government, although it has been willing to cooperate in some of these steps. Demonstrated beneficial results have not prompted any official efforts to disseminate SRI methodology.[36]

Solomon Islands

Farther to the east, in response to efforts by an expatriate advisor,[37] the Ministry of Agriculture invited me to visit this island country in the Pacific in November 2009 and to meet with the government’s Cabinet to discuss SRI. Below is a picture from the meeting with the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the Solomon Islands.

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This discussion led to government approval a few months later of a White Paper that endorsed SRI.[38] This was then followed by a training visit by an Indonesian SRI farmer, Miyatty Jannah (Chapter 26). However, even with knowledge, encouragement and policy authorization, the government did not follow through with any concerted SRI dissemination that we know of.

This underscores that there are several kinds of policy to be kept in mind: (a) What a government says it wants to do and will do; and (b) What it actually does, subject to many competing objectives and demands for resources. Only the latter has much effect on people’s lives. Then there is also what might be called implicit policy: (c) What is neither said nor done, so that there is tacit policy is established by default. This kind of de facto policy can have more effect on people’s lives than explicit or overt policies. Failing to take action is itself a kind of action.



In this region there have been a number of government initiatives for SRI, but there have been also many other institutions in this region with capacity to act – universities, research institutions, NGOs, and private sector. Thus, the role of government in this region has resembled that ascribed to the British Prime Minister – primus inter pares, first among equals. This makes government agencies prominent but not necessarily the dominant actors.



Like China, this is a mega-country in which state governments like the provinces in China are major actors, but they have to interact with many other actors, and state governments have less comprehensive authority than counterparts in China. Also, central governments in India are not as stable or strong as their equivalent in China, so they are less able to direct the course of events. Still, both central and state governments in India have considerable ability to shape events, if only by inertia and impedance.

Central government

SRI had the good fortune to have early on a champion at a high level in the Indian government, Dr. Rita Sharma, who knew about SRI by being a Cornell alumna. In 2000, when she was the Ministry of Agriculture’s Additional Secretary for Administration, Rita arranged for me to make the first presentation on SRI in India, at the Ministry’s headquarters in New Delhi.

This was followed by several more presentations within the Ministry of Agriculture in New Delhi in following years. By the time she retired from the Indian Administrative Service ten years later, Rita had risen to the position of Secretary for Rural Development, which meant that she had a voice at the highest levels of government, and even after retirement could be helpful.[39]

In her support for SRI, Rita was joined by another well-placed Cornell alumnus, Dr. Bhuban Barah, who after getting his PhD in agricultural economics joined the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Analysis (NCAP), a unit of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR). By the end of his career, Bhuban had become the director of NCAP. Then, after retirement he became a chair professor at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi and served as voluntary convener for the National Consortium on SRI. Thus, there were at least two persons well-placed within the Indian government who understood SRI and could help get it recognized.

As discussed in Chapter 41, most of the initiative for SRI in India came from the state level and even district level and below, not from the center. But several central government initiatives supported the introduction of SRI at state and district levels. The first was the National Food Security Mission, an inter-agency central initiative that in 2007 allocated US$ 100,000 for SRI promotion in 133 districts where there was most poverty and distress.

Unfortunately, the NFSM’s approach to disseminating SRI was conventional and not very effective. Its top-down campaign set up demonstrations and doled out equipment and inputs, something that government personnel are used to doing. There was not the kind of experimental and educational approach that was recommended for SRI, to elicit farmers’ participation and adaptation, not simply adoption. The latter is easier to measure and report, of course, but the numbers generated are often superficial and even spurious. Thus, the NFSM support for SRI had little real impact as far as we know. It did, however, indicate Indian government acknowledgment that SRI could help to improve the country’s food security.[40]

The NFSM was followed by a National Rural Livelihoods Movement which built upon effective state-level innovations for reducing poverty.[41] It was much less conventional than its predecessor, working with counterpart poverty-reduction agencies at the state level. The NRLM supported the spread of self-help groups (SHGs) such as had been developed in Andhra Pradesh and promoted the use of SRI as well as SWI and SCI which were being successfully utilized by the JEEViKA program in Bihar.[42]

Some of the experience and talent from the SRI experience in Bihar was drawn on to disseminate these innovations in states throughout India where poverty reduction was most needed. It had been learned in Bihar that it is advantageous for government agencies to work with and through NGOs to achieve their objectives. This became an effective mode of operation for the NRLM in the states where it became engaged.

It is not clear why the central government’s Directorate of Rice Development is located in Patna, Bihar, but this Directorate became an early ally for SRI work in India because its director, Dr. M.C. Diwakar, took a personal interest. This directorate was more quickly favorable toward SRI than its counterpart research institution, ICAR’s Directorate of Rice Research based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.

One reason for Diwakar’s support was that he was an atypical government official, that is, someone who enjoyed getting into the field and interacting with farmers himself. Early on, he became satisfied that SRI offers farmers real advantages from his traveling out of his office to observe SRI fields and talk directly with SRI farmers.

It was Diwakar who brought to my attention the world-record-setting SRI yield of Sumant Kumar in Darveshpura village of Bihar in 2011 (Chapter 10). He then provided the official data with which an article on this achievement could be written and published. At a time when most Indian officials were still averse to associating themselves publicly with SRI, Diwakar agreed to be the lead author for an article on this achievement published in an important journal.[43] In general we can say that with regard to SRI, the central government’s response was, like India itself, sprawling and diverse.

State governments


One of the elements that contributed to the large-scale spread and success of SRI in this state, reaching hundreds of thousands of farmers within a few years, was the fact that Bihar’s state government declared 2011 to be ‘The Year of SRI Vidhi,’ that is, ‘the year of the SRI method.’ Some government spokespersons even talked about the SRI Kanthi, ‘the SRI revolution.’

The Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, learned about SRI results in 2009 when meeting with farmers, and one woman farmer reported at length on her own super-yield with the new methods.[44] This information directly from the grassroots got the state’s top political leader to promote SRI strongly, even passionately.

Support for SRI was thereafter articulated from the top of the state government and at all levels below, and there were resources provided for intensive extension campaigns across the state. However, personnel of the Department of Agriculture, being imbued with Green Revolution attachments, were at first not very supportive of SRI. So, it fell to the Department of Rural Development initially to provide staff for SRI promotion in the field.[45] Once political support and good results in the field were evident, the Agriculture Department got on board working along with the Department of Rural Development, which was working through a poverty-reduction agency (JEEViKA) aligned with the NRLM.

SRI had been introduced in Bihar first in 2007 by the NGO PRADAN which worked with state agencies as well as with farmers. The first year, only 128 farmers would try the new methods, but within three years, almost 20,000 farmers were using SRI methods, plus almost 50,000 using SWI methods for growing wheat. After the state government endorsed SRI and SWI, both of the state agricultural universities, which had been hesitant before, endorsed these new methodologies and began including information on them in their advisory materials for farmers.

Within six years’ time, the number of households using SRI and SWI methods grew to more than 350,000. Thus, Bihar is the best example of how political leadership can promote the acceptance of SRI if willing to get engaged. Below we see the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visiting an SRI/SWI display at a farmer fair and discussing these methodologies with Anil Verma (on right), the NGO leader who initiated their introduction into Bihar state (Chapters 24 and 41). See also Anil Verma’s mini-memoire.

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Tamil Nadu

After the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University had conducted a persuasive evaluation of SRI in 2004 (Chapter 7), this state’s Department of Agriculture was satisfied that the new methods could both raise crop yields and reduce farmers’ need for irrigation water. The latter result was considered almost as important as the first. Promotion of SRI was thus included in two successive large World Bank-funded irrigation and agricultural improvement projects, the first started in 2007.

Together these two projects totaled almost one billion US dollars in World Bank and state government funding, although the SRI component was dwarfed by the other project expenditures such as on infrastructure (Chapter 30). The first project (TN-IAMWARM) added over 288,000 hectares under SRI management in Tamil Nadu state, with an average yield increase of 32% and a similar percentage reduction in water consumption.[46]

In 2013, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa, established an annual prize for the farmer in the state who achieved the highest yield with SRI methods. The winning farmer the first year, Solai Malai, had an SRI yield of 20.68 tonnes per hectare. He is seen below, on the left, receiving his award from the Chief Minister, which was 500,000 rupees in cash, over US$ 700, a large amount for a farmer, plus a gold medal. The 2016 awardees are shown below on the right, with the Chief Minister standing in the center.[47] Her personal attention and encouragement for SRI cannot be quantified, but this surely had a positive impact upon SRI’s acceptance in her state as she was then a very popular Tamil leader. In December 2020, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu announced that the annual award for best SRI farmer in the state would be named after a revered farmer leader in the state. This was welcome not only for linking the award more visibly to the farming community, but also institutionalizing it within the state government. The award is given each year on Independence Day in January.[48]

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This was the first state government in India to officially promote SRI methods. Tripura is a small state in the hilly northeast of the country, with large tribal populations, extensive poverty, and mostly small landholdings. The initiation and spread of SRI there is attributable mostly to the energetic and dedicated efforts of an official in the Department of Agriculture, Baharul Majumdar, who went far beyond his job responsibilities to evaluate and then to disseminate SRI.

Baharul first learned about SRI in 2001 when a friend gave him a xeroxed copy of one of our first SRI papers to read. It had been photocopied so many times, he told me, that it was not very legible. He had to take a pencil and fill in many of the letters on the blurry pages in order to read them. When he told me several years later about this personal investment of effort, with a laugh in his voice, I knew that I was not talking with a typical public employee.

In the first four years of his on-farm trials with farmers whom he persuaded to cooperate, Baharul increased their number from 44 to 88, then to 440, and then to 880, as seen in the table below. The good results enabled him to enlist more and more farmer cooperation on a voluntary basis, and he kept careful records even though this was not being done as a formal research project.

In 2005, with impressive standing crops on farmers’ fields, Baharul got the state’s Chief Minister and his Ministers for Agriculture and Finance plus the Secretary for Agriculture to come visit the SRI fields and talk with farmers to hear their personal evaluations of SRI. As background, it should be noted that the Chief Minister during his 2000 election campaign had made a pledge that his government, if elected, would make Tripura self-sufficient in food grains by the year 2010. The period of this promise was already half elapsed, and the state’s rice and wheat production had only inched upward with a conventional approach.

The Chief Minister told Baharul on the spot that he would reallocate funds in the government’s budget for rice development in order to accelerate SRI promotion. He put at Baharul’s disposal about one-third of state’s allocation for rice promotion remaining for the budget year. There were just six weeks before the start of the next planting season, Baharul told me with a chuckle, saying that he had gladly taken up the challenge.

Baharul told me, in a non-boastful way, that for the next 42 days he had slept in his car each night, rather than at home, because if he returned to his house every night, he could not have covered all of Tripura state with SRI information in the six weeks before planting started. (Further evidence that I was talking to an unusually dedicated public servant.) The number of farmers using SRI methods jumped from 880 in that year to over 70,000 farmers in the next season, as shown below.

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In October 2007, after the first year of this crash program, my wife Marguerite and I were able to spend four days in Tripura state visiting villages with Baharul, 15 villages in all. Although we were used to seeing government extension efforts that were rote and repetitive, even sometimes lethargic, everywhere that we went in Tripura with Baharul we saw energy, excitement, and engagement.[49] This was in the early stage of expansion when SRI use jumped in one season from a fraction of one percent of the state’s rice area to more than 40 times that much.

Within seven years, there would be another seven-fold increase, showing what could be done by motivated and capable individuals in government roles who worked deftly with their superiors and collaboratively with farmers. Also, Baharul was good at getting cooperation with and through the local government units (panchayats).[50] One of the extension methods that was used was to put up yellow flags on fields where SRI methods had been used properly so that anyone could see the differences in crop performance.

The Department of Agriculture data below show something often seen; when agricultural programs are expanded rapidly, especially under government auspices but this also happens with NGO initiatives, the effectiveness of the extension work is likely to fall off. After several years, the relative impact of SRI in Tripura was not as great as achieved in the first years of effort. However, the SRI yield advantage remained large even if not as much as at first.

Extension campaigns are usually more intensive at the outset, and personal factors are more important when an operation is smaller in scale. The work is more novel and exciting, so learning and motivation are greater, not routine. The yield advantage of SRI diminished in Tripura as the new ideas and methods were diffused. Possibly the methods were not as well presented, understood, and applied. Also, many farmers’ practices may have become influenced by their observing the new methods and adopting some of them, given that partial or incremental acceptance of SRI practices can produce benefits for farmers even if they are not fully utilizing SRI recommendations.

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This does not diminish the remarkable accomplishment of Baharul and the Tripura state Department of Agriculture. In 2012-13 and again in 2015-16, Tripura was given the central government’s Krishi Karman award for the outstanding increases achieved in food production. The award citation noted that already by 2012-13, the rice being grown with SRI methods constituted 42% of the state’s rice production.[51]

The picture below shows Baharul demonstrating to farmers in North Bharat Chandra Nagar village during our 2007 visit to Tripura the phenotypical differences between SRI-grown and conventionally-grown rice plants. This gives a visual impression of the vigorous, even joyful extension efforts that Baharul led in Tripura. He wanted farmers to note the big differences in the root systems of the two plants. His impact in the state showed what can be achieved by government personnel who take their public responsibilities seriously and go beyond their job requirements. This is not common, but it is possible, as seen also in the Nepal section below.

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This Indian state earned the reputation of being agriculturally progressive for its leading role in the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. It remained, however, with one commendable exception, rather unreceptive toward SRI, and toward SWI. The deputy director of the Agricultural Technology and Management Agency (ATMA) in Gurdaspur district, Amrik Singh, was notable for his persistence as an innovator that set him apart from his colleagues.

Amrik learned about SRI from a short course that he attended in 2005 at the National Academy for Agricultural Research Management in Hyderabad, supported by the WWF-ICRISA program. Somehow, unlike for others in attendance, SRI ‘clicked’ in his mind, and he began SRI trials as soon as he got back to his station in the Punjab.

The next year at the first national SRI symposium, held in Hyderabad, Amrik made one of the most memorable presentations, reporting on good results from his trials, e.g., 65% higher yield with 35% less water. Most striking was the slide below and the data that accompanied it. These slides made clear why Amrik took SRI seriously as soon as he learned about it. Punjab was in dire need of reducing farmers’ consumption of water for agricultural purposes, particularly for growing rice. The declining water table was a disaster in the making!

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Amrik made similar but updated presentations at the 2nd and 3rd national SRI symposia in 2007 and 2008, and for the next decade he continued his efforts to get the state government and Punjab Agricultural University to pay attention to what SRI could do to mitigate the state’s growing water crisis. But he had little success despite demonstrating SRI’s water saving along with greater yield.

In 2008 when my wife Marguerite and I were in India for the 3ʳᵈ SRI symposium, Amrik arranged for us to visit his ATMA center at Gurdaspur. I suggested to Amrik that he also arrange for a meeting or two in the state capital Chandigarh for us to talk with Punjab agricultural officials about SRI. I wanted to address any reservations, qualms or objections that they might have about SRI which were impeding their cooperation. The train route from Gurdaspur back to New Delhi went right through Chandigarh, so it would be easy to stop over for a day. I was interested to know what state-level officials strongly attached to Green Revolution technology might have to say about (or against) SRI.

Two days before the scheduled visit, Amrik telephoned me in Himachal Pradesh to say that the visit would have to be cancelled. He did not give any reason, and I did not want to embarrass him by pressing to find out why. But I suspected that when state agricultural officials learned of the planned visit to Gurdaspur, they preferred that I not visit Punjab at all, even if there was no cost involved for them. As the ATMA center operated under their jurisdiction, they could decide that there would be no visit. One of the big disappointments in the SRI story was that agricultural officialdom in Punjab did not approach SRI opportunities in an evidence-based manner, if only because water-saving was becoming so critical for that state’s agricultural future.[52]


This is another state in eastern India which like Tripura has high levels of poverty and large, socially disadvantaged communities. The NGO PRADAN pioneered work on SRI in this state, but its effectiveness was multiplied when the regional office of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) decided in 2010 to support a two-year pilot project to introduce and evaluate SRI. The project brought SRI to 39,000 farmers across 23 districts on 3,970 hectares, with each farmer cultivating on just 1/10 of a hectare reflecting the small size of landholdings. Forty percent the population of Jharkhand was reported to live below the poverty level compared with the national average of 27.5%.

The first year’s rice season was hampered by drought and then irregular monsoon. Rainfall that season was only 45% of the average amount, so only 5,195 farmers participated in the NABARD project that year. But average grain yield with SRI methods was 4.9 tonnes per hectare, almost double the typical yield of 2.5 tonnes with the same farmers’ current methods. This gave impetus to greater participation in the pilot project the next year.

More dramatic than yield increase that first year was the impact of SRI on household food security. With SRI methods, a household of five members having less than 0.4 hectare of land (1 acre) could produce with SRI methods enough more rice to meet its staple-food needs for 64 more days in a year, although such households would still be 7 weeks short of producing enough rice to satisfy their annual staple food needs.

Households with 0.4 to 0.8 hectare (1-2 acres) with SRI management had an average increase of 148 days’ worth of rice. This added more than 50% to the household’s previous production of staple food. Households that had more than 0.8 hectare (2 acres) produced on average enough more rice with SRI methods for 412 additional days of staple food for a household of five, which means they had a substantial surplus available for sale.[53]

In the second year, the number of participating farmers increased to 28,975, and their average yield with SRI practices in this year with more normal rainfall was 6.2 tonnes per hectare, almost double the typical yield that year of 3.3 tonnes. To achieve such increases, the program provided farmers with about US$11 worth of material inputs (including a mechanical weeder to be shared among five farmers) after they received training, the cost of which was calculated to be less than US$ 10 per farmer.

The cost of all the activities that supported the program, workshops, record-keeping, monitoring, supervision, etc., was about USA$16 per farmer, making this an unusually cost-effective innovation, about US$ 37 per farmer. With SRI methods, households’ net income per acre (0.4 hectare) from lowland rice production was almost tripled, and for upland rice production net income was almost quadrupled. In absolute terms, these increases amounted to about US$ 300 and US$ 60 per acre. The differences in profitability reflected having access to irrigation water even if it was often irregular versus having only rainfall to depend on.

Despite these highly positive results, the policy of NABARD was not to expand upon pilot projects and in India, agricultural development is the responsibility of state governments. So there was no continuation of this SRI work, and unfortunately the state government did not take it over and provide resources for expansion even though the value of an innovation had been demonstrated. This was a great disappointment to those who had planned and managed the pilot project, particularly to M.V. Ashok, a NABARD chief general manager who supported the pilot project, and to Subir Ghosh, the Bank’s general manager in Jharkhand and officer-in-charge for the project.

Working with and through PRADAN and 49 NGOs, this pilot project demonstrated very cost-effective results quickly and on a rather large scale. Already in the first year, households that had one acre for upland (rainfed) farming were able to get more than twice as much net income from their increased rice production compared to the project’s costs of inputs, training, supervision, etc. Households with access to an acre of lowland (irrigated) paddy land could achieve a five-fold increase in income. Even so, the pilot project was not followed up by the state government in a way warranted by the project’s results.[54] It was unfortunate that limitations on the Bank’s side and lassitude from the state government left the learning experience of this ambitious pilot project in limbo, although as seen next, something similar happened in a neighboring state.[55]


Another disappointing experience with the operation of a state government in India was in this state which neighbors Jharkhand and likewise has a large population of poor households, many of them tribal. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) supported a large irrigation improvement project in Chhattisgarh from 2007 to 2013, with an innovative technical assistance team headed by C.M. (Wijay) Wijayaratna.[56]

The project’s implementation was built around the formation of water user associations (WUAs) and of farmer companies that could handle the planning and implementation of the entire production process including buying of inputs and sale of outputs for farmer members. By the sixth year of the project, there were 130,000 farmers organized in WUAs and using SRI methods in the kharif (summer) season on 100,000 hectares and then growing other crops in the rabi (winter season). The introduction of SRI enabled farmers to raise their rice yields, doubling them from 2.8 tonnes per hectare to 5.9 tonnes, with lower costs of production and using less water.

By saving water in the kharif season, farmers could have more water with which to grow cash crops in the rabi season. The proportion of cultivated land that could be irrigated and used for cropping in the winter season rose from 6% in 2007 to 40% in 2012, and was planned to reach 52% in 2013. The combination of SRI in kharif and more cash cropping in rabi, done efficiently through farmer organizations, produced more value-added for farmers in the fifth year of the project than the cost of the whole five-year project![57]

The sad part of this story is that even with such demonstrable success, with farmers wanting the project’s continuation and expansion, and with ADB officials inviting the state government to make application for an expanded second phase of the project, the state government let this initiative lapse, losing the services of the technical assistance team along with millions of dollars in project funding.

It was hard to figure out why no effort was made from the state government to request continuation. Perhaps there was apprehension that the WUAs, which were growing in strength and confidence, would create some problems for the political and economic elites, or maybe the short-circuiting of the project was simply a matter of bureaucratic pettiness or pique. In any case, this was another instance where political and administrative leadership passed up an opportunity to achieve multiple benefits from the promotion of SRI knowledge and methods.


When the director-general of this country’s Department of Agricultural Extension received a copy of a paper on SRI in 1999, brought back to Bangladesh by a CARE/Bangladesh staff member who attended an agroecology conference in Italy,[58] he circulated it to his district directors suggesting that they try out the methods.

As far as we know, only one of them, the deputy director of agricultural extension for Kishoreganj district, Mohammed Wasiuzzaman Akonda, conducted trials in the 1999-2000 winter season. At the same time, an NGO project leader for CARE/Bangladesh in that district, Gopal Chouhan, also conducted SRI trials.[59] The DAE trials with 54 farmers showed yield enhancement of 30-40%, while the CARE trials showed yield gains of 11-34%.[60]

So, the SRI story in Bangladesh started out with the government’s agency for agricultural extension working in parallel with an NGO. As noted in Chapter 27, however, the staff of the government’s Bangladesh Rice Research Institute was mostly disinterested, with a few personal exceptions. So, the Ministry of Agriculture’s position on SRI was for most of the next 15 years ambiguous, maybe better described as ambivalent.

There was some initial private-sector support for SRI as discussed in Chapter 34, but the baton for leadership on SRI passed mostly to the NGO sector. In recent years, there has been increasing interest from government agencies, but so far, no leadership from that sector. So, SRI has remained a civil-society innovation more than an officially-supported initiative to improve productivity in Bangladesh’s rice sector.

Sri Lanka

Information on SRI and on the results being achieved in Madagascar was presented in 2000 to the Minister of Agriculture and a Deputy Minister and to the Director-General of Agriculture with a team of senior officials from the districts. But apart from the Deputy Minister, there was no disposition to take SRI seriously. Most officials insisted that SRI was not compatible with the system of paddy farming in Sri Lanka, even though there were demonstrated productivity gains in other countries. Thus, an early opportunity to make the country’s agricultural sector more climate-smart was passed up, rice being the sector’s dominant crop.

Despite a lack of interest at top levels of the government, SRI trials and demonstrations were encouraged by a senior official in the Ministry, Gamini Batuwitage, Senior Assistant Secretary and later Additional Secretary of Agriculture (Chapter 25), with the strong and continuing support from Salinda Dissanayake, then Deputy Minister of Agriculture.[61] Both were introduced at the beginning of Chapter 10. They were joined in their efforts by a very capable and dedicated farmer, W.M. Premaratna, profiled in Chapter 26. Together they made connections with some other government agencies, as note below, and with the NGO sector which is fairly strong in Sri Lanka, so the introduction of SRI was not stifled.

Having a leadership team of an administrator, a politician, and a farmer working together seemed ideal. However, their efforts encountered continuing resistance from researchers at the government’s rice research station (Chapter 27). These researchers were strongly committed to the Green Revolution paradigm and were steadfastly dismissive of SRI.

Political leaders, on the other hand, were generally receptive. After Gamini made a powerpoint presentation on SRI to the then-Prime Minister Chandrika Kumarathunga, she responded approvingly and instructed the manager of her rice paddy fields to start using SRI methods right away.[62] A Speaker of the House of Parliament personally took up SRI on his own rice farm and was still using its methods and getting good results ten years later. Once when Gamini was making a presentation on SRI at the Samanala Wewa hydropower project, a Deputy Minister came up to the platform to endorse the presentation and called for government support to disseminate SRI.[63]

Still, without operational support from the administrative and technical leadership of the Department of Agriculture, there could only be piecemeal spread of SRI. As indicated above, most initiative had to come from civil society, most notably from the Sri Lankan program of an Australian NGO affiliated with Oxfam, Community Aid Abroad. CAA hired Premaratne as a staff member to disseminate SRI, and it catalyzed support from other NGOs, farmer associations, and local government bodies.

Several government agencies did some of their own experimenting with SRI on a small scale: the Mahaweli Authority, the Irrigation Management Division, the Agricultural Development Authority, the Agrarian Services Department, and the Ceylon Electricity Board. But their positive results did not diminish the resistance to SRI coming from the government’s rice researchers who were responsible for extension recommendations.

In 2008, Gamini and I were able to meet with the Minister of Agriculture in his official residence for a long morning discussion of SRI. But his expressed support for SRI did not diminish the hostility from Bathalagoda researchers, which kept the government’s agricultural extension personnel from promoting SRI openly.[64]

In 2005, Gamini was appointed as executive director of the government’s poverty reduction program assisted by the World Bank, the Gemidiyira Foundation (in Sinhala language, Gemi Diriya means ‘strength of villages’). Gamini introduced SRI into Gemidiriya’s outreach to impoverished villages. However, after receiving training from the program, villagers were left to decide for themselves how they would use the opportunities that it was presenting.

Records were not kept consistently on the villages’ activities, so no aggregate statistics are available on the extent of SRI uptake under this program. Where technical support had to be provided through the government’s extension staff, who were mostly unfriendly to SRI, there was no post-training reinforcement at the village level. In areas where there was voluntary adoption of SRI, there were some encouraging results even without technical backup from the Department of Agriculture. But there would have been more uptake if technical personnel had supported Gemidiriya initiatives to demonstrate the new practices.

In 2013, the national SRI coordinating committee, with support from Salinda Dissanayake, a cabinet minister at the time, got approval from the President of Sri Lanka for an unusual demonstration of SRI merits. With support also from the Secretary for the Ministry of Defense, almost 24 hectares of not-very-productive paddy lands adjacent to the Sri Lanka Parliament building were allocated for an SRI demonstration. The project was blessed by the Maha Sanga, the high council of the Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka, adding to its solemnity (see Batuwitage’s mini-memoire).

Seventy-four farmers volunteered to cultivate the land with SRI methods, using traditional varieties and not using any chemical inputs. The farmers were supported with technical advice from two SRI farmer-activists.[65] Volunteers from the government’s Civil Defense Corps helped the farmers to install irrigation and drainage facilities for the fields. Their average SRI yield was 7.6 tonnes per hectare with ‘unimproved’ varieties, 70% more than the national average, with no dependence on agrochemical inputs.[66]

Below are pictures of Minister Dissanayake (in center) discussing plans for the demonstration plots with farmers and officials, and then of him and others transplanting SRI seedlings. The Secretary for the Ministry of Defense, Gotabaya Rajapakse, is sitting next to him in a blue-striped shirt and then barefoot in an SRI field. Gamini is sitting on Dissanayake’s right in the left-hand picture below. (Gotabaya Rajapakse was elected president of Sri Lanka in 2019.)

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The demonstration resonated with Sri Lankans who were increasingly concerned about the adverse health impacts of applying large amounts of agrochemicals in their paddy fields. Apprehension was heightened by the rising incidence of chronic kidney disease in agricultural parts of the country.[67] The climate of opinion thus became more favorable toward SRI as a good way to reduce agrochemicals in the food chain.

In 2017, the national government announced a policy discouraging the excessive use of chemicals in the agricultural sector. SRI was made part of a nationwide program to promote ‘toxin-free’ farming for healthier food supply, launched by a task force under the Presidential Secretariat.[68]

Sri Lanka is an interesting case where irrespective of their party affiliation, politicians were generally supportive of SRI, at least willing to giving it a try, while personnel in the Department of Agriculture and its rice research institute were rather consistent in their resistance to SRI, not even wanting demonstrations. As public opinion has moved in favor of SRI acceptance for health as well as for productivity reasons, Ministry personnel have become more cooperative.[69] Also, the government has begun investing in and promoting climate-smart agriculture, which makes SRI experience and methodology more relevant to official plans and policies.


A DFID-funded project under the Ministry of Agriculture for the Sunsari-Morang irrigation scheme introduced SRI in the southern plains of Nepal (terai) through farmer field schools in 2002 and 2003. With on-farm trials replicated in 13 locations, comparing SRI with ‘improved’ practices and farmer methods, SRI methods were found to give an average yield of 8.07 tonnes per hectare, while ‘improved’ methods gave yields averaging 5.81 tonnes and farmer practice 4.38 tonnes.[70]

Despite such results, when the British project ended, the NEDECO technical assistance team was withdrawn and SRI work ended in Sunsari-Morang, despite efforts by the Nepali staff to continue promoting SRI by setting up their own NGO. There was no government interest in following up on this demonstrated opportunity to raise production with a saving of water.

Fortunately, an agricultural extension officer at the District Agricultural Development Office in Biratnagar who served Morang district, Rajendra Uprety, picked up the SRI ideas. In 2003 he got one farmer in the district to try out SRI methods on a 100 m² area. Seeing that farmer’s good results, 54 more farmers in the district used these methods the next year, and over 1,400 farmers in 2005.

A study that year of 415 of these farmers showed a doubling of yield: 6.3 tonnes per hectare under SRI management compared with 3.1 tonnes using their usual methods. Also in 2005, Rajendra’s application to a World Bank-sponsored competition, the Nepal Development Marketplace,[71] was successful, being ranked second of the 20 applications that were selected from over 1,100 entries to receive a cash award. The prize money (US$ 20,000) enabled Rajendra to expand his SRI work in Morang and other districts.[72] A picture of Rajendra receiving the NDM award in Lalitpur is shown in Chapter 33.

By 2005 the results in Morang district were very impressive, as reported in a BBC story (Chapter 29), and Rajendra was able to get the Minister of Agriculture and various secretaries and executive directors to visit Morang district, which contribute to a more a positive climate of opinion within the government. (As noted in Chapter 23, he also helped to satisfy several skeptical Cornell professors regarding SRI merits.)

There was growing NGO and university interest in SRI, but government support for the methods did not coalesce.[73] Rajendra was accepted into a PhD program at Wageningen University in the Netherlands which took him off the front lines for SRI for several years. But dispersed results continue to make the climate of opinion more favorable to SRI. The Nepal experience, like that in Tripura state of India, showed that there can be effective leadership for innovation coming from the public sector, but it depends more on individuals than on the institutions per se.


Government agencies here, having been very much involved with Green Revolution technology, have taken little interest in SRI, even though reducing water requirements for the production of rice which is possible with SRI methods (and for wheat with SWI) should have made the new ideas attractive. Fortunately, in Punjab’s Provincial Department of Agriculture, Mushtaq Gil while he was the department’s director-general for water management took an interest in SRI.[74]

In 2005 when he was about to visit Sri Lanka, Mushtaq emailed me (having heard about SRI) asking whether I could introduce him to someone who was working with SRI in that country so that he could view SRI in the field himself and talk with farmers using the methods. Gamini Batuwitage, whose SRI leadership was noted in the Sri Lanka section above, arranged to meet Mushtaq and take him to visit SRI fields and farmers. When Mushtaq returned to Punjab, he got SRI trials established both at an experimental site in Okara district and on some farmers’ fields.[75] Despite positive yield results, with SRI rice plants resisting lodging during storms, which I could see for myself when I visited the Okara project, there was no interest evident from the Department of Agriculture.

In 2009, the government’s Pakistan Agricultural Research Council supervised the measurement of Asif Sharif’s large-scale mechanized SRI trial reported in Chapter 19. An average paddy yield of 12 tonnes per hectare was achieved with reductions of 70% in both water and labor requirements.[76] However, even such results evoked little interest in the Research Council to investigate SRI further. It was hard to understand this indifference in light of the water constraints and soil degradation that were evident in much of Pakistan’s rice and wheat cultivation area, which introducing SRI and SWI crop management would have addressed.[77]


SRI came later to this country than to its South Asian neighbors, as discussed in Chapter 42. It seemed that SRI in its organic version should be particularly attractive to the government of Bhutan, which had articulated a bold policy for promoting organic agriculture.[78] But most of the initial interest in SRI came from university or NGO circles.

The first indication of government interest came in 2014 at the 4th International Rice Congress in Bangkok where the coordinator of the Department of Agriculture’s National Rice Program, Ngawang Chhogyel, presented with some of his research colleagues a poster on SRI evaluations in Bhutan, which put forward some very positive and strong conclusions.[79] But there has been little government action on SRI to report here.

Overall, the response to SRI opportunities from governments in South Asia has been mixed, with some very positive examples, but even more examples of inertia. There have been some outstanding examples of individual leadership within the administrative service, effective where government personnel had rapport with farmers and personal skills to enlist political support. To have desired impact, the willingness and ability to link with other institutions, NGOs, universities and/or local governments, was also important, engaging with these other kinds of institutions that could complement and reinforce government capabilities.


We saw in Chapter 27 that it was government research institutions that took the lead in Iraq, Iran and Egypt for evaluating and promoting SRI. Other government ministries and agencies in these countries have generally been slow to recognize and respond to SRI opportunities, with the story being somewhat different in Afghanistan.


This is the one country in the region where SRI has had some high-level political support, very fortunate but also idiosyncratic. While Dr. Mohammad Emadi was the Deputy Minister of Agriculture for extension,[80] he encouraged the government’s agricultural research and extension institute at Haraz to begin SRI trials. The head of that institute’s agronomy department, Bahman Amiri Larijani undertook several years of successful SRI work to assess and demonstrate the merits of SRI methods.

Bahman was subsequently appointed as director of the institute at Haraz, and then he became national director-general for agricultural extension for Iran in 2016, moving to the central Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization. It seemed that this could lead to significant government support for SRI. But unfortunately, this position saddled him with many administrative responsibilities that competed with SRI for his time and attention, so it was not as helpful for SRI as anticipated.[81]  But thanks to the initiative of Emadi and Larijani, there has been more governmental openness to SRI than in most other countries.


As seen in Chapter 27, initiative for SRI in this country came from the government’s rice research station at Al-Mishkhab even if there was less buy-in from the Ministry of Agriculture than warranted by the evidence coming from its rice researchers in the far south. In 2010, the Prime Minister of Iraq gave a national award to the leader of the SRI research at Al-Mishkhab, Dr. Khidhir Hameed, for his work on SRI and water management, upon the recommendation of the State Board of Agricultural Research.[82] Below is a picture of the Minister of Water Resources congratulating Khidhir for his award.

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Perhaps because of the disruption of government functioning during the years of armed conflict in Iraq, collaborative links between the research and extension arms of the government have not been very strong. Most of the extension effort for SRI in Iraq has been left to the researchers who were working with SRI innovations, rather than being taken up by the government agencies with extension responsibility. There has been some cooperation from the Ministry of Agriculture, but no government leadership.


Government agencies in this country have had to operate under much greater constraints than in Iraq as armed conflict has continued to preoccupy and torment this country. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock supported the initiatives of FAO’s IPM project to spread SRI and SWI beyond the northeast provinces where an Aga Khan Foundation project got these innovations started (Chapter 43).

A next phase of the FAO project that was planned to start in 2018 did not materialize, however. The Ministry has implemented with Japanese support a Rice Improvement Project for Afghanistan that had SRI as a component. There are also some World Bank-funded-projects that support SRI activities, however since wheat is the more important crop in this country, government engagement has been greater with SWI than for SRI. One can say that there has been some government cooperation on SRI and SWI even if not active leadership.


For a short while, Egypt had a Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation who was interested in SRI, and a World Bank-funded irrigation project was encouraged to include an SRI component.[83] Otherwise, interest in SRI has been manifested mainly in the government’s rice research and training center at Sakha, not within other agencies. There has been no effort made to undertake SRI extension so far as we know. The government here, with its millennia-long history, may be one of the most difficult to get much innovation from. Indeed, throughout this region, governments have tended to be more static than proactive.



In this region of the world, governments have been more likely to take initiative than in the Middle East, although only a few have picked up on and taken advantage of the opportunities that SRI offers.


As seen in Chapter 3, the Malagasy government was not very responsive when Fr. Laulanié informed its officials about SRI in the early 1990s. Several Ministers of Agriculture gave endorsements to SRI in that period, but in the way that politicians make many of their pronouncements which are not taken very seriously by either the public or the public service because they do not get backed by assignments of personnel and allocations of budget.[84]

The President in 2006, Marc Ravalomanana, agreed to have an SRI demonstration plot established by Association Tefy Saina on the grounds of his presidential mansion on the edge of the capital, Antananarivo.[85] As seen below, the president himself presided at the harvesting of the plot, which yielded 3.6 tonnes per hectare, almost twice the national average. 

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In 2004, President Ravalomanana had started sponsoring annual regional and national competitions to recognize and reward farmers who achieved the highest yields of rice. Almost all of these contests were won by SRI farmers. The first national winner had an officially-measured yield of 13.5 tonnes per hectare. When President Ravalomanana spoke to the UN General Assembly in October 2008, he made specific reference to SRI, calling it part of the ‘natural revolution’ being promoted in Madagascar.[86]

Also in 2008, with urging from actor Jim Carrey, President Ravelomanana included SRI in his ambitious Madagascar Action Plan.[87] Unfortunately, four months later, the president was ousted by a coup that put an end to his ability to support SRI. His successor, having an urban base of political support, took no interest in SRI. Governments in Madagascar have mostly left SRI promotion to others, even though some of its officials, even some high ones, were convinced of SRI’s value.[88]


East, Central and Southern Africa

The first validations of SRI in Africa outside of Madagascar were in West Africa, in The Gambia and in Sierra Leone, so SRI got started in East Africa later than elsewhere on the continent. But SRI acceptance has been catching up in this region and the SRI story continues moving from east to west.


Initiative for SRI here came from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi, but the country’s National Irrigation Board was cooperative in the testing and then extension of SRI within the Mwea irrigation scheme, Kenya’s largest irrigated area and producer of more than half of the country’s rice. The Ministry of Agriculture subsequently has begun working with other Kenyan organizations involved with SRI, although not with any concerted efforts.

Tanzania and Malawi

The Ministries of Agriculture in these two neighboring countries got involved with SRI later than their counterpart in Kenya. But with encouragement from the FAO and World Bank, respectively, these Ministries have taken SRI opportunities seriously in recent years. The Ministry of Agriculture in Tanzania produced a manual for the spread of SRI already in 2015,[89] and both ministries have produced promotional videos on SRI.[90] With external assistance, discussed in the following chapter, the Tanzanian government became one of the most active in Africa on behalf of SRI.


As little rice is produced in Ethiopia, SRI has not yet gotten started here. However, as reported on in Chapter 14, the adaptation of SRI ideas and methods to the country’s major cereal grain – teff -- has resulted in a very productive System of Teff Intensification (STI). The Agricultural Transformation Authority in this country has taken a strong lead in spreading acceptance and use of a less-demanding version of STI, known as TIRR, which employs direct-seeding rather than transplanting, with wider spacing and reduced plant density.

Zambia and Zimbabwe

Unfortunately, the government in Zambia has taken almost no interest in SRI despite the persistent efforts of Henry Ngimbu, the main SRI advocate in that country, profiled in Chapter 25. In the neighboring country of Zimbabwe, there not been any efforts to get SRI started, despite an attempt in 2007 to get SRI started through one of the country’s largest NGOs, ORAP.[91]

Democratic Republic of Congo

The government here has been too distracted by political troubles to do much of anything constructive in the agricultural sector for many years. Fortunately, some SRI initiatives have been undertaken by NGOs.[92]


In this country there has likewise been little governmental engagement with SRI even though the Aga Khan Foundation had some good results with SRI methods here. Rice is an important crop here, unlike in most other countries in the Southern Africa region.

West Africa

The first African countries beyond Madagascar where SRI was validated were The Gambia and Sierra Leone, as noted above.[93] There was no government involvement in either instance, although the Gambian trials were started by the former director of the government’s Sapu research station of the National Agricultural Research Institute, while he was on study leave at Cornell for graduate degrees in crop and soil science. Mustapha Ceesay’s initiative was purely personal, but his efforts were assisted by being able to use the facilities at Sapu for his trials.

In Sierra Leone, the on-farm trials were organized by the NGO World Vision through another personal connection (Chapter 44). There was, however, more government engagement in both of these countries once the West African Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) launched its SRI program in 2014.[94] This project ended in 2016 and despite the excellent achievements in Phase I of the project, it was not until 2021 that a Phase II was launched for further spread of SRI practices within the West African region.[95]


This country, the most populous in West Africa and indeed in all of Africa, has a complex federal system of government. The central federal government has had no engagement with SRI as far as we know.[96] The scattered SRI initiatives in this country that we know of have come mostly from university faculty, except for the state of Jigawa.

In that northern state of Nigeria, Muhammad Adamu, who moves between the government and civil-society sectors, took a lead on SRI evaluation and introduction (Chapter 25).[97] His initial trial results, yielding 10 tonnes per hectare, satisfied him that the new methods could be productive under the Sahelian conditions of the northern tier of Nigerian states. He was at that time the director of technical services for the Jigawa State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority. In 2015, he became JSARDA’s managing director, until he retired in 2020. Muhammad’s dual roles meant that there was some linkage between NGO and government activity, but the governmental involvement derived from personal interest.


Government interest and cooperation with SRI here has been somewhat more than in Nigeria.[98] In 2011, the Ghanaian farmer chosen as the ‘best irrigated rice farmer’ in the country asked the government to start promoting SRI.[99] But there was still relatively little activity from the government side until the West African Agricultural Productivity Program launched its SRI program in 2014.

The Ministry of Agriculture in Ghana has in recent years made a few attempts to get SRI taken up by farmers, but without much success.[100] The main vehicle for SRI spread has been a parastatal organization, the Ghana Rice Inter-Professional Board (GRIB), which includes rice value-chain stakeholders ranging from rice farmers to rice millers.[101]

One initiative for SRI in Ghana has come through the Skill Development Fund managed by the Ministry of Trade and Industries in cooperation with GRIB.[102] The picture below is of SRI training undertaken by this Skill Development Fund project.

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Despite repeated calls for raising rice production and reducing the country’s dependence on rice imports, the Ministry has been slow to give much sustained push to SRI or to invest in rice development in general. Rice importers in Ghana, like in other West African countries, are a rather important interest group, and they would lose financially by increased self-sufficiency in rice.

Government interest in SRI may have picked up after two personal supporters of SRI met with the Minister of Agriculture in May 2019. They got from him a pledge to put Ministry efforts behind SRI extension, in cooperation with GRIB, whose executive secretary also attended the meeting.[103] That Ghana has been expending US$ 1.5 billion annually on imports of rice is a strong consideration for taking SRI methods seriously to achieve self-sufficiency.

Below is a picture of the Agriculture Minister Dr. Owusu Afriye-Akoto (on the left) meeting with Mohammed Ibn Chambas, currently the UN Secretary-General’s representative for West Africa, and Ernest Ako-Adjei, formerly Ghana’s representative at the World Bank.[104] While it can be important to have political contacts at the highest levels, it is usually essential to have an institution like GRIB that is ready and able to assist the government in getting the use of SRI popularized.[105]

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The WAAPP program for SRI helped to elicit government involvement here in an indirect way, that is, via an NGO. When SRI was publicized in Liberia to launch the WAAPP initiative, interest was expressed from a faith-based NGO, the Community of Hope Agricultural Project (CHAP) and from its director, Robert Bimba. Robert was designated by WAAPP as the ‘focal person’ for SRI activity in Liberia. His dynamism and good results, as seen below, enabled him to mobilize political and administrative support both for CHAP’s work on SRI and for an expanded government commitment to SRI, including from its Ministry of Agriculture. Here is a picture of one of the families working with CHAP showing the size of their SRI rice panicles.

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In 2014, not long after the WAAPP program started, CHAP was able to get the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to visit its SRI plots and to officially open the demonstration area, as seen in pictures below. One problem with forging close relations with a president, of course, is that this can complicate relationships with a successor regime if the new incumbent is not well-disposed toward the predecessor.

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CHAP had to work at forging links with a new government after the election in 2018 brought in a new president of Liberia.[106] The new government’s Minister of Finance did pledge to support CHAP’s effort to expand SRI production as part of a campaign to reduce Liberia’s dependence on the importation of rice for domestic consumption. The campaign’s slogan and trademark for SRI rice is I Love Liberian Rice (Chapter 17).

Francophone Countries

The most active government involvement among the Francophone countries in West Africa has been in Mali, which got engaged in the SRI initiative of the NGO Africare in the Timbuktu region.[107]  From the start of Africare’s experimentation and demonstration with farmers, local and regional government officials were brought into discussions and evaluations by Erika Styger. One regional director for agriculture even cultivated his own personal SRI plot. His results plus those of farmer evaluators helped to get government acceptance at higher levels.

One difficulty of getting government staff to cooperate was the expectation that they would be paid honoraria for their cooperation. Africare as an NGO was not in a position, as donor agencies could be, to purchase, in effect rent, collaboration. Fortunately, there were enough officials who were willing to cooperate because of the benefits that SRI provided to farmers so that it could gain some traction in Mali on its own merits. It should be added that USAID’s willingness to put some donor funding into SRI work in Mali and other countries helped to attract and sustain official involvement, which fell off somewhat after Phase I of the WAAPP SRI program ended.

In most Francophone countries of the region, there was no evident interest from governments in benefiting from SRI until the WAAPP program was initiated financial support from the World Bank. How much government effort continued beyond Phase I was not clear.

In Togo, it is reported that the government there took out a three-year loan from the World Bank after Phase I of WAAPP ended in 2017 to continue that program’s work including the promotion of SRI. A press agency report in June 2020 stated that SRI use was continuing to get good results, producing average yields of 4.95 tonnes per hectare, double the conventional yield of 2.5 tonnes.[108]

In the Ivory Coast in 2021, the government held a national workshop on SRI at which it recognized 12 successful SRI farmers as ‘champions’ who would assist the further spread of the innovation and announced further that SRI would be part of a $6 million donor-supported project to enable farmers to cope with the hazards of climate change, reporting that SRI yield increases in the country had been more than 50%.[109]

In general, when external funding has been available, government agencies in these countries have taken some interest in SRI. In the absence of initiative for SRI coming from other sectors such as NGOs and universities, what progress gets made with SRI in these countries has depended mostly on government agencies.[110]



Political and administrative leadership has been less involved with SRI acceptance and promotion in this region than in the others. This could be the cause for or the effect of SRI’s progressing less far and less fast in Latin American and Caribbean region than elsewhere. Probably there was both cause and effect.


This was the first country in the region to promote SRI (Chapter 46). Some early links were established with the Institute for Rice Research (IIA) at Bauta, but it was more difficult to engage the interest of the Ministry of Agriculture. In this country, where decision-making was more centralized than elsewhere, having ‘blessings from the top’ was an important factor.

In Cuba this could be a mixed blessing to the extent that the credibility of the government was less than its power. If the Cuban government had decided to promote SRI in a top-down manner, there could have been more rapid spread. However, the quality and depth of adoption would have been uncertain. Accordingly, SRI colleagues have done as much as could be done without official approval, all the time being careful not to run counter to official interests and policies. This has made SRI acceptance in Cuba farmer-based but also limited, due to continuing government emphasis on state-farm agricultural production.

Costa Rica

This was the next Latin American country to validate SRI, through a farmer initiative in 2005 (Chapter 46). There were no indications of governmental interest until 2015, when the then-Minister of Agriculture, Luis Felipe Arauz, invited SRI-Rice to send representatives to Costa Rica to discuss SRI with him and others. Felipe Arauz had taught courses on agroecology at the University of Costa Rica before being appointed as minister, so he understood SRI principles more easily than most of his counterparts did.

But making a visit was not easy at that time, so Erika Styger and I had a two-hour videoconference with the Minister and some of his key staff in March 2015. He said that his technicians would conduct trials according to what we had explained, but despite several friendly email exchanges following up the conversation, nothing apparently came of this.


SRI was introduced here through the initiative of a Canadian PhD student in 2009 (Chapter 5), but there was no evident spread beyond the demonstration villages. In 2015, a former Minister of Agricultural Development, Victor Pérez, contacted SRI-Rice for information about appropriate equipment for SRI cultivation, and he subsequently visited Ithaca for discussions in person.

Victor Pérez had access to 2,000 hectares of degraded, unproductive land that he wanted to bring into production. Below is a picture of his 2016 SRI rice crop. Because he had left the government due some political disagreements, Victor’s accomplishments were not something that would necessarily find favor with the incumbent political leadership and thus build government support for SRI in his country. But this personal initiative could attract farmer attention and encourage SRI’s acceptance in Panama.

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Dominican Republic

At a rice conference in Havana in 2004, I happened to meet a Dominican acquaintance Rafael Ortiz with whom CIIFAD had worked on a collaborative multidisciplinary program for conservation and development in the DR during the 1990s. He had recently been appointed Deputy Minister of Agriculture, so of course I spoke with him at some length about SRI. He said that he would try to get evaluations of SRI started when he returned home. But nothing seems to have come of this, showing that personal relationships while often helpful are not certain to gain cooperation.

Not much happened with SRI in the Dominican Republic until the country representative of IICA, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, took some initiative there. Manuel Sanchez as IICA representative had access to government agencies and was able to get some successful trials and demonstrations started in 2012, which laid the groundwork for IICA’s expanded engagement with SRI thereafter (Chapter 8).


In 2008, I was invited by the government to attend and speak at a Centennial Rice Conference commemorating the 100th year since Guyana had begun to export rice. Despite my giving a keynote address on SRI at the conference and having follow-up discussions with a number of Guyanese in the rice sector, there was no uptake of SRI as the information on its opportunities was not taken seriously.

Elsewhere in Latin America, there was no evident government involvement with SRI until IICA, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, took an interest in SRI in 2015, recognizing its relevance for helping Latin American farmers cope with climate change. Because IICA is an inter-governmental agency for the whole Western Hemisphere (except Cuba), it had more entrée to governments in Latin American and the Caribbean than SRI-Rice or any other non-governmental actors could have. Thus, official doors and minds have become more open to consideration of SRI, and there is already more government acceptance of SRI in the past five years in his large region than previously.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

It became apparent over time that SRI had some disadvantage when it came to attracting governmental as well as donor agency attention and support. We thought at first that SRI’s getting higher yields without requiring much financial expenditure for inputs, equipment and infrastructure, etc. would make it attractive to governments. SRI depends mostly on the dissemination of knowledge and on shifts in attitude, thinking, and practices. It seemed that this should be appreciated by politicians and administrators who continually lament the insufficiency of the financial and other resources available to them. SRI should be attractive to resource-constrained decision-makers and civil servants.

However, it could be that their preoccupation with material resources, whether for lofty or ignoble reasons, put SRI at a disadvantage. For one thing, politicians like to be able to give out things like seeds, machinery or fertilizer, projecting an image as being the benefactors of farming communities. Also, administrators and extension personnel derive some power from being able to distribute (or withhold) agricultural inputs. What we thought would be a strong selling point for SRI has not been as motivating as expected.

Where there has been support from political leaders, such as from the President in Indonesia, from the Minister of Agriculture in Cambodia, or the Chief Minister in Bihar state or from Deputy Ministers of Agriculture in Sri Lanka and Vietnam, this has meant more popular acceptance from farmers and the public and more responsiveness from the bureaucracy. But government apparatuses are not always responsive to political direction as was seen in Sri Lanka. Because high-level political support can positively influence the dynamics of decision-making, from the central government to the field level, it is not something to be dismissed. And political leaders have sometimes proved to be key actors in the acceptance of SRI as seen in this chapter.

However, relying on political leaders to promote SRI, and to a lesser extent counting on administrators to champion SRI, is risky. There can be rapid progress when supportive politicians and bureaucrats are in office. But this progress can be slowed or even stopped when there is a change in regime, as in Liberia or in Bihar state of India, or when suddenly there is someone new in an administrative position because of a transfer or promotion or death. This was evident in Cambodia with a change in the incumbent Minister of Agriculture.[111]

Occasionally there can be continuity such as in Tamil Nadu state of India where Vibhu Nayar, a senior administrative officer, was the government’s manager of the large IAMWARM project funded by the World Bank and then of its even larger successor project.[112] But this was exceptional continuity. It appears that political support for SRI may finally be materializing in the Philippines, but only after NGOs built up a strong organizational base for SRI in that country. Backing from that country’s Department of Agriculture, if it continues despite the replacement of a supportive Secretary of Agriculture, will be more like an accelerator than like an engine that powers the vehicle.

The politicians and officials who have given the most effective leadership are persons not only able to manage the political and administrative relationships within their domains, but who are also mindful of what can be accomplished by looking and working beyond these domains. They rely not just on the authority that their positions give them, but they use these positions to build broad coalitions of collaboration. The effective political and administrative leaders who assisted SRI have engaged talent and energy from research institutions, from civil society organizations, from the private sector, and from others to accomplish the tasks that the government supports.

Throughout the SRI story we have seen the importance of such cross-sectoral cooperation and alliances. Effective political and administrative leaders use the authority that they can draw on to get coordination and compliance, but they also tap a wide array of resources and relationships outside of government to mobilize support and achieve objectives. If SRI had been entirely dependent on government leadership and action to move ahead, it would be many years behind where it is now. Still, as seen in places like Sichuan province of China, Bihar state of India, and Vietnam and Cambodia, when there is government engagement and support, the acceptance and utilization of SRI opportunities can proceed much faster.


[1] While these agencies are usually in richer countries that intend to assist poorer ones, this has not always been the case. A report on how the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture was promoting SRI in its agricultural sector with FAO assistance noted that some financial support for this effort had come from the Government of Venezuela, which had great economic difficulties but was nevertheless helping Tanzanian rural households improve their food security. See video produced by the Ministry of Agriculture on the effects of its introducing SRI of farm households in Tanzania.

[2] Personal communication from Dr. Zhai Huqu, president of CAAS, October 2004.

[3] See Zheng Jiaguo, Chi Z.Z., Li X.Y. and Jiang X.L., ‘Agricultural water savings possible through SRI for water management in Sichuan, China,’ Taiwan Water Conservancy, 61: 50-62 (2013). See also the poster by Zheng and colleagues on their SRI work presented at the 4ᵗʰ International Crop Science Congress in Australia in 2004. Note that the yield advantage of SRI methods over conventional methods was highest in drought years, as reported in Chapter 12.

     Zheng worked with his SAAS colleague Lu Shihua and with Sichuan Agricultural University professor Ma Jun to get SRI extension started. Similarly in Zhejiang, Zhu Defeng and Lin Xianqing at CNRRI worked with colleagues in their Provincial Department of Agriculture to evaluate and spread SRI there. They also collaborated with Prof. Wu Lianghuan at Zhejiang University. There may have been other similar researcher-extension alliances in other provinces about which we do not know details.

[4] See trip reports from visits to Bu Tou village in 2004 and 2005.

[5] See SRI evaluations and advocacy by J.D. Choi, G.Y. Kim, W.J. Park, M.H. Shin, Y.H. Choi, S. Lee, S.J. Kim and D.K. Yun. ‘Effect of SRI water management on water quality and greenhouse gas emissions in Korea,’ Irrigation and Drainage, 63: 263-270 (2014); and Y.C. Chang, E. Yamaji and N. Uphoff, ‘A conceptual framework for eco-friendly paddy farming in Taiwan, based on experimentation with System of Rice Intensification (SRI) methodology,’ Paddy and Water Environment, 14: 169-183 (2016).

[6] What was personally most disappointing about this presentation was that the lead author of the most informative paper in English on phyllochrons, Keisuke Nemoto, attended the MAFF seminar but indicated no interest in how his ‘purely academic’ paper was having great relevance for improving rice production. K. Nemoto, S. Morita and T. Baba, ‘Shoot and root development in rice related to the phyllochron,’ Crop Science, 35: 24-29 (1995).

[7] See video produced on SRI for North Korea by the American Friends Service Committee in 2012.

[8] The DPRK government announced that “advanced farming methods including system of rice intensification …” will be promoted in this fourth year of its current five-year plan. “Scientific farming to be promoted to increase output,’ Pyongyang Times, Jan. 6, 2019.

[9] This report is posted on the web. It credited Dr. Mun Myong Chol, a section chief in the Academy of Agricultural Science’s rice research institute, with leadership in the validation, adaptation, and spread of SRI in the country. In 2020, Chol was awarded the DPRK’s Science & Technology Prize, a sign of government approval. It put its own ideological stamp on SRI by calling it a Juche I (self-reliance) strategy for rice-growing.

[10] See trip report from 2007 for descriptions of the Minister of Agriculture’s personal involvement with SRI at field level, and also that of the Minister of Environment. I was told at one point that during his time in office the Minister of Agriculture finished a PhD degree from the National University, with part of thesis focused on SRI, but I have no direct evidence on this.

[11] Dr. Ngin Chhay was previously director of the IPM program in Cambodia. In that position, he was one of the main promoters of SRI, similar to the situation in Vietnam, discussed next. In his plenary speech to the annual meeting of the IRRI-backed Sustainable Rice Platform in January 2019, Chhay included SRI and working with SRI farmers as key elements of his government’s sustainable rice development strategy.

[12] See Dung’s report to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, SRI Application in Rice Production in Northern Ecological Areas of Vietnam (2007), and the resulting decree.

[13] See a report on this collaboration.

[14] See commemorative publication by Oxfam America and MARD on passing the 1-million farmer milestone in 2011.

[15] The award was presented by the Deputy Prime Minister in a gala ceremony at the Hanoi Opera House.

[16] Although he did not play as prominent a role in promoting SRI in Vietnam as Chan Sarun did in Cambodia, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Bui Ba Bong was supportive of SRI work and gave it important political and bureaucratic protection. He was introduced to SRI by Howdie Bouis of IFPRI after the 1ˢᵗ International Rice Congress in Beijing (2002).

     In 2004, Bong and I happened to share an overnight railroad coach ride to Beijing after an international hybrid rice conference in Changsha, when we got personally acquainted, and he learned more about SRI. We met during several of my visits to Hanoi thereafter. Bong supported Dung’s work and encouraged several institutions under the Ministry to take an interest in SRI.

[17] In Chapter 23, it was noted that the director of the rice research center at Sukamandi refused an offer from CIIFAD of a computer so that a senior researcher at his center could support a national SRI network. He also forbade further communication with CIIFAD. One of the previous directors at Sukamandi became later a member of the IRRI Board of Trustees, just one of many links with IRRI.

[18] This is discussed in a 2008 trip report. The deputy director-general of the Directorate for Land and Water Management said in 2008 that his unit was working with 155 farmer groups in 55 kabupatens (sub-districts) in 16 districts, each group cultivating 2-4 hectares of organic SRI rice, so a total demonstration area of about 500 hectares.

[19] Over nine seasons, the technical assistance team gathered data from over 11,000 on-farm comparison trials, on over 9,000 hectares, which showed a 78% increase in average yield, with 50% less fertilizer, 40% less water, and 20% lower cost. The SRI methods popularized involved cutting fertilizer use in half, compensated for by more organic soil inputs. S. Sato and N. Uphoff, ‘A review of on-farm evaluations of system of rice intensification methods in Eastern Indonesia,’ CAB Reviews, 2:54 (2007).

[20] Baharsjah subsequently became chair of IRRI’s Board of Trustees, in which role he did not get a more open attitude at Los Baños. In the 2008 trip report, I describe interactions with Baharshah and his former director-general of AARD, Faisal Kasryno (pages 28-29). See also page 8 of a 2003 trip report.

[21] Actually, most of the SRI methods were accepted as valid and were incorporated in the government’s Integrated Crop and Resource Management (ICM) recommendations as reported to the 2002 Sanya conference in China. Thus, by promoting ICM, the Ministry could avoid acknowledging or crediting SRI even though it was utilizing the principles and practices.

​[22] See translations of Minister of Agriculture Aprioantono’s and President Yudhoyono’s remarks at the Harvest Festival, and a video clip of the President’s comments.

[23] In this case, that the director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute, Dr. Leo Sebastian, was a former student of mine at Cornell made no discernible difference in receptivity of PhilRice to SRI as far as we could tell.

[24] For example, the first executive director of PhilRice (1987-2000) remains the current rice expert with the Department of Agriculture’s Rice Program.

[25] In central Mindanao, the regional director of the Training Institute, Noë Ysulat, was the first Philippine government researcher to successfully try SRI (in 2001), and he continued to promote the method despite the constraints of official government policy. The Training Institute's central office helped the SRI effort by printing several thousand copies of the SRI Primer prepared by SRI-Pilipinas, but at the policy level in the Department, the methodology continued to be ignored.

[26] Carlos Salazar was one of the first Filipinos to try SRI methods and to adapt them himself, creating what he called SSIA while he was serving as one of NIA’s regional directors. As discussed in Chapter 30, this fortuitously fled to interest within the World Bank to make SRI more widely known internationally. When Carlos was promoted to become the national administrator of NIA in 2007, he was able to give some push to SRI use within irrigation schemes under NIA supervision, but the Department of Agriculture remained the main authority on rice production methods.

[27] The SRI team was made up of all women and first-time SRI farmers, farmer-cooperator Maritess Durana, a Department research specialist Purissima de la Cruz, and a Department farm supervisor Debbie Ortega. Technical advice was provided to the team by Juanito Poliquit, the SRI-Pilipinas coordinator for the eastern Visayas region and an agricultural technician at the Visayas State University.

[28] In September 2020, SRI-Pilipinas was invited by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries, equivalent to ICAR in India, to join the national committee for its program on rice. The agenda that PCAF prepared for the first meeting included an agenda item (#3) recommending to the Department of Agriculture that it “mainstream” organic agriculture and alternative technologies such as SRI in the Department program and budget. This would be quite a breakthrough.

     At the meeting the chair passed over that agenda item, however, saying that it was unimportant, and he was not willing to listen to objections from the SRI-Pilipinas representative. This indicated still a lack of receptivity and acceptance. But in 2021, the Ministry invited a SRI-Pilipinas representative to become one of the ten members of a high-level committee to prepare a ‘road map’ for the Philippine rice sector. This seemed to be a more substantial rapprochement.

[29] The various initiatives and stages are posted on the Laos country page of the SRI-Rice website. These efforts were complemented and reinforced by the involvement of Ministry personnel in the SRI-LMB project led by ACISAI at the Asian Institute of Technology. A 2016 evaluation of the ADB project that promoted SRI as one of its components was quite negative about the results. But Shimazaki reports that little effort was put into this component, with a rather rushed, top-down approach to extension that produced little farmer understanding and engagement. Pro-Net 21 results when using SRI methods in the same region were much better, and these led the provincial government to approve and back SRI extension based on those results.

[30] The wife-and-husband of Noorazimah Taharim and Salehuddin Yayha, senior agricultural officials in the state of Selangor, produced some detailed and persuasive blogs on SRI, respectively, in 2010-2013 and 2011. A field visit to their activities in Selangor is described on pages 8-9 of my 2011 trip report. Known by their nicknames Mak Tam and Pak Tam, Noorazimah and Salehuddin, were acting more in a civil society mode than as government actors. At the same time, their personal connections within the state and federal governments were helpful for getting SRI accepted.       

[31] When planning the project, there were several rounds of meetings with the Rice Department which was keen on collaborating in the project under the broader umbrella of the MoAC. Unfortunately, some legal issues surfaced while negotiating the agreement, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was brought into the discussions. The matter was with this Ministry and the Rice Department for almost 8 months without any progress. So the project proceeded with implementation of the project by working with local units of the Ministry of Education: the Vocational Training and Development Center (VTDC) in Uttaradit district, and the Department of Non-Formal and Informal Education (NFE) in Surin district. Formal agreements were signed with both. The latter had previously supported farmer-participatory research by AIT staff in north and northeastern Thailand through its community schools there.

[32] 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.

[33] In January 2002, while in Sri Lanka for an Asian Productivity Organization workshop, I stayed at the same hotel where Winn Kyi, Deputy General Manager of the Myanmar Agricultural Service, was also staying. Over breakfasts together, I informed him about SRI, and he subsequently got the Ministry of Agriculture to invite me for a visit at a time when few Americans were coming to Myanmar. The Ministry offered to provide for local costs, he said, but CIIFAD had to cover the international travel. Metta Foundation also helped with visit arrangements once official approval had been given.

[34] The impetus for this invitation and visit came from civil society. A Myanmar expatriate living and working in the US (California), Maymar Lim, who wanted to do something helpful for her home country, after learning about SRI from Lotus Foods, contacted SRI-Rice for more information. She subsequently did on-the-ground negotiations with the Myanmar government and US embassy and USDA to make the necessary arrangements for a visit and to get an invitation issued. It helped that the Minister of Agriculture had himself, as it turned out, tried out SRI methods with some success.

[35] The Myanmar government which has blocked many programs in Rakhine state in the northwest bordering Bangladesh because of ethnic tensions accepted a multi-donor program that has had considerable success with introducing SRI methods, as discussed in the next chapter.

[36] See System of Rice Intensification: Trial and Potential in Timor-Leste – Oxfam and Movimento Cooperativo Economico-Agricola, Oxfam New Zealand, Auckland (2014), for a report on introduction of SRI through a farmer cooperative. Several ministers have visited the cooperative and made supportive speeches, but little has materialized. A staff member of the German development agency (GIZ) who previously helped introduce SRI in Cambodia was instrumental in getting SRI methods known within Timor Leste’s Ministry of Agriculture.

[37] Ravi Joshi, an Indian national who learned about SRI while working with PhilRice, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, after he was recruited as a policy advisor for the Minister persuaded him and others at the top of the Ministry of Agriculture to take an interest in SRI.

[38] National Rice Sector Policy, 2010-2015, Honiara, Solomon Islands (2010).

[39] Upon her retirement in 2010, Dr. Sharma was appointed secretary of the National Advisory Council, a special body set up by the government and chaired by the head of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi. In 2007, Rita arranged for me to brief the Secretary to the Prime Minister while visiting New Delhi. So, she was well-known and well-regarded. See her op-ed piece in The Hindu, July 7, 2014, ‘More rice with less water.’

[40] Already in 2005 and 2006, answers given by the Ministers of Agriculture and of Water Resources to questions raised by member of the parliament (Lok Sabha) about SRI were quite favorable. But there was no commitment of central government resources to SRI before the National Food Security Mission.

[41] On the state-level precursor of the NRLM, see Vijay Kumar Thallam, ‘Community-Managed Nature Farming in Andhra Pradesh,’ Chapter 32 in Uphoff and Thies, eds., Biological Approaches to Regenerative and Resilient Soil Systems, CRC Press (2022, forthcoming).

[42] D. Behera, A.K. Chaudhury, V.K. Vutukutu, A. Gupta, S. Machiraju and P. Shah, Enhancing Rural Livelihoods through Community Institutions in Bihar, India, World Bank, New Delhi (2013).

[43] 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 (New Delhi), 53-56 (2012).

[44] Anil Verma wrote in ‘SRI in Bihar: From one to 350,000,’ Farming Matters (2013): “In early 2009, the Chief Minister of the Government of Bihar invited farmers from the whole state to come to a Kisan Mahapanchayat or ‘big farmers collective.’ More than 2,500 farmers participated in this meeting together with the state’s Chief Minister, Mr. Nitish Kumar, and members of the Council of Ministers, and many other top state officials. One of the invited farmers was Mrs. Barati Devi from Gaya, who had obtained a yield of 18.1 tonnes per hectare in her fields and who was asked by the organisers of the meeting to share her experiences in two minutes. The Chief Minister was very surprised to hear a village woman sharing such impressive results clearly and confidently, so he asked the organisers to give her more time. She ended up speaking for half an hour, describing her experiences – and convincing all those present.”

[45] One of my greatest political miscalculations was to underestimate how much change Nitish Kumar could introduce in Bihar as Chief Minister. In 2005, when I met Santosh Matthew, a senior IAS officer visiting the University of Sussex in the UK shortly after Nitish Kumar’s election (Robert Chambers was a mutual friend who introduced us to each other), Santosh said that he was planning to return to India to take up the position of Secretary of Rural Development in Bihar. I told him that I thought this would be a waste of his talents, thinking that little positive could be accomplished in Bihar, long considered a ‘basket case’ within India. Fortunately, Santosh ignored my skepticism, and Nitish Kumar was more successful at making positive changes in Bihar state than I or anyone imagined. Santosh along with Arvind Kumar Chaudhury, also an IAS officer, were instrumental in helping to launch and manage the government’s campaign for SRI.

[46] Farmers’ costs of production averaged 10-12% less per hectare, with their net income per hectare increased by US$ 340. Greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 1.3 tonnes CO₂ eq per hectare, according to the project manager V. Nayar and project advisor V.K. Ravichandran, Up-scaling of SRI in Tamilnadu State: Results from a World Bank Project (2018)

[47] See the newspaper report on first winner. There are reports available also for the 2014 and 2016 recipients, whose yields were >15 and >16 tonnes per hectare, measured and certified by Department of Agriculture technicians. The 2018 winner had a yield of >18 tonnes per hectare.

[48] ‘Award to be named after ryots’ leader,’ New Indian Express, Dec. 22, 2020.

[49] These village visits are described in some detail in our 2007 trip report.

[50] This has been studied by Suchiradipta Bhattacharjee and Saravanan Raj, ‘Agricultural innovation systems (AIS): A study of stakeholders and their relations in System of Rice Intensification (SRI),’ Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 21: 343-368 (2015).

[51] See announcement of the Krishi Karman award in 2015-16. That year, Baharul was also given a national award, the Arkaneer Anany Samman, for his leadership in this accomplishment.

[52] As seen in the discussion above of SRI experience in Bihar state, the ATMA center in Gaya district and other centers in the state played important roles in SRI establishment there. Also, ATMA centers in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh states were helpful in the introduction and validation of SCI methods for mustard (rapeseed) (Chapter 14), and an equipment for mechanized direct SRI seeding originated from a KVK center in Andhra Pradesh state (Chapter 19).

[53] Report on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), 2010-2011, NABARD Regional Office, Ranchi (2011).

[54] In 2011, my wife Marguerite and I were able to spend three days in Jharkhand, hosted by a former student who had done a master’s degree at Cornell, Binju Abraham of PRADAN, and Subir Ghosh, the pilot project’s manager. The trip report describes village visits and other observations of SRI use and impact in Jharkhand.

[55] It was not clear why the state government let this SRI initiative lapse. The innovative NABARD staff members who conceived and implemented this pilot project continued to work on behalf of SRI, although in different roles and venues.

     When Ashok was transferred back to NABARD headquarters in Mumbai, as chief general manager for its Department of Economic Analysis and Research, he no longer had any authority for operations in Jharkhand. In his new role he could only encourage SRI use.  He was able to get NABARD to co-publish SRI-Rice’s monograph on SCI so that it became freely available in India. When Ashok reached the compulsory retirement age and had to retire from NABARD, he moved to the Tata Institute for Social Sciences as an adjunct professor and worked with the National Consortium of SRI from his new institutional base.

     Ghosh also had to leave NABARD when he reached the compulsory retirement age. Fortunately, the UN Development Program in India hired him as a manager for one of its projects in Maharashtra state. There he was able to do innovative work with SRI in coastal agroecosystems as discussed in Chapter 30.

[56] In the early 1980s, Wijay had been team leader for the introduction of participatory irrigation management in Sri Lanka under a USAID project that was able to improve both farmer participation and water productivity in the Gal Oya irrigation project, before he came to Cornell in the mid-80s to do a PhD in agricultural economics. He subsequently worked with the International Water Management Institute for 10 years before becoming an independent development consultant. Wijay was one of the first Sri Lankans to try SRI methods, very successfully, on his family’s farm near Anuradhapura.

[57] ‘Un-Noticed Green Revolution in Chhattisgarh: Doubling Farmers’ Crop Output and Returns through Collective Action,’ report by C.M. Wijayaratna available on SRI-Rice website.

[58] Sylvie Dessilles, a staff member of the Bangladesh program of the large international NGO CARE, had participated in the April 1999 conference on agroecological innovations that met at the Rockefeller Foundation center at Bellagio, Italy. She brought back and distributed within Bangladesh my paper on SRI that was subsequently published in the proceedings, Agroecological Innovations: Increasing Food Production with Participatory Development, Earthscan, London (2002).

[59] See Muazzam Husain’s report on this to the Sanya SRI conference in 2002.

[60] Another NGO, BRAC, also conducted trials the next season, calculating an average yield increase of 26%, and a 26% reduction in costs of production, as reported in the Sanya paper.

[61] Sallinda Dissanayake held a number of cabinet and sub-cabinet positions during his career as a political leader.

[62] Sadly, rice specialists in the Department of Agriculture were able to dissuade the farm manager from trying out SRI methods.

[63] The Samanala Wewa dam, the country’s second largest source of hydropower, had developed a leak that could not be repaired fully, so engineers managing the scheme asked for and supported adoption of SRI in the downstream paddy lands. That way, more water could be devoted to electricity generation, while farmers would still get sufficient water for growing rice. More than 40 farmers agreed to practice SRI rice cultivation, and this helped to maintain power production for urban uses. More discussion of politicians’ support for SRI is found in Gamini Batuwitage’s mini-memoire.

[64] The various actors’ stances and activities are discussed in a 2008 trip report.

[65] These were Sunandasiri, a young farmer who served as national coordinator of the SRI Sri Lanka Network, and Rasika Premasiri, leader of the Parabowa farmer organization which supported preserving traditional rice varieties (Chapter 16), who provided large quantities of biofertilizer for the demonstration farming.

[66] Because both the Divisional Secretary (administrative head) and the local government chairperson (political leader) for Pitabeddara division of Matara district got exposure to SRI through this national demonstration, there is an active SRI program in this area in the south of the country. Working together, they introduced SRI within this division (sub-district).

[67] S. Rajapakse, M.C. Shivathan and M. Selvarajah, ‘Chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology in Sri Lanka,’ International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 22: 259-264 (2016). The disease is concentration among farming occupations, and the incidence is as high as 15-23% in some districts.

[68] See the Food Tank blog on this policy (December 4, 2017).

[69]  In Chapter 34, when discussing the roles of the private sector in the acceptance, or rejection, of SRI, we give an example from Sri Lanka of how commercial interests were apparently resisting SRI for their own economic reasons. In Sri Lanka there have been views expressed in the media and farming communities about close but not open relationships between the agricultural bureaucracy and agrochemical companies. This may have had some influence on the attitudes and actions of Ministry personnel as has been claimed by some persons who supported a change in policy.

[70] The 2002 report is available on-line. The SRI yield was 39% higher than with ‘improved’ practices and 85% higher than farmers’ usual practices.

[71] This was part of the World Bank’s competitive small-grants program to nurture and accelerate promising development initiatives around the world.

[72] The preceding year, CIIFAD had been able to support Rajendra’s work with a small grant of US$ 2,500 from a larger grant received from the Triad Foundation in Ithaca, New York (Chapter 32).

[73] The situation in 2006 is reported on in a trip report from a visit to Morang District with time spent also in Kathmandu.

[74] Mushtaq Gil was an acquaintance from the 1980s when we both worked on participatory irrigation management in Asia.

[75] These trials are discussed in my trip report from October 2006, pages 3-5. The project was conducted with the CGIAR’s Rice-Wheat Consortium, with which CIIFAD was also working.

[76] 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.

[77] In 2010, the Prime Minister of Pakistan unexpectedly, having somehow learned about Sharif’s results, requested Sharif accompany him on a state visit to China (causing Sharif to miss joining the SRI contingent at the 3rd International Rice Congress in Hanoi), so that he, the Prime Minister, would have some impressive technology from Pakistan to show the Chinese during the visit. Even though SRI was thus known and appreciated at the highest level of government, there was no follow-up to take advantage of SRI opportunities by Pakistan or Chinese government agencies.

[78] See ‘Bhutan could be world’s first organic nation within a decade,’ The Guardian, May 12, 2014.

[79] Application of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) Principles of Sustainable Rice Production in Bhutan, poster at 4ᵗʰ International Rice Congress, Bangkok (2014). The conclusion of the poster, after reporting some the research results at the Natural Resources Research Center at Bajo was: “As proven by a number of experiments in the past, SRI could be one of the rice production technologies for the 21ˢᵗ century. SRI could fit well for a small country like Bhutan, which is characterized by small land holdings, and abundance of vegetation cover for organic matter supply. It is possible to raise the current yield ceiling of 3.2 t ha⁻¹ by adopting some principles of SRI such as planting younger seedlings and integrated nutrient and water management. SRI principles offer opportunities to cope up with emerging climate change issues and enhance water use efficiency. It could help resource-poor farmers who face water shortage coupled with loss of soil quality and increasing costs of fertilizers. Thus, increasing plants’ resilience to stresses such as drought with less penalty on grain yield.”

[80] In Iran, the Farsi word used for ‘extension’ is Jihad, which has some other connotations. Emadi and I got acquainted in 1994 while he was doing his PhD at the University of Hawkesbury in Australia, so we had a personal connection that was renewed at an Asian Productivity Organization workshop in Sri Lanka in 1998.

[81] Larijani prepared a paper on SRI for the 5ᵗʰ International Rice Congress in 2018 and had it accepted for presentation, but he could not get funding to travel to Singapore. Because of the US currency blockade against Iran, SRI-Rice could not transfer to him any funds to support his travel. Emadi left the government when there was a change in the presidency of Iran, but he continued his interest in and support of SRI when sent by the government to Afghanistan, as a senior advisor for agriculture and rural development. When a new president was elected, Emadi returned to Iran and became an advisor to the new Minister of Agriculture. He visited SRI-Rice in Ithaca in 2017 before being appointed as Iran’s representative to FAO in Rome, where he has been supportive of SRI. After Larijani’s tour of duty in Teheran was completed in 2018, he resumed his duties as director of the agricultural research station where he had served before, with an advisory connection to the rice research institute at Rasht.

[82] This and the research and extension activities of Khidhir are reported on the SRI-Rice website.

[83] Dr. Adel el-Betagy served as Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture only from 2014 to 2015. He had been previously director-general of the CGIAR’s International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). He learned about SRI when we met at international conferences in Paris and in Alexandria, Egypt, both events to which Ismail Serageldin, a former vice-president of the World Bank, had invited us, me to make a presentation on SRI. Adel and I had opportunities at these meetings to talk about SRI. This was the kind of indirect assistance for SRI that Serageldin’s support has provided. But there was little impact on the Egyptian government’s course of action.

[84] There were many conversations with top officials over more than two decades with little result. I was able to discuss SRI with two Ministers of Agriculture, Randriariarimanana Harison in 2005 and Ramanoelina Panja in 2008. They expressed positive assessments of SRI. The Minister in 2005 estimated that 200,000 Malagasy farmers were using SRI methods, but probably not more than 50,000 of them were applying the methods very fully and well.

[85] This was at the initiative of Josh Poole, who as a Peace Corps volunteer had worked with the CIIFAD program in Moramanga, with the promotion of SRI as his main Peace Corps task. After finishing his Peace Corps assignment, Josh worked in the US Embassy for several years and continued to assist Tefy Saina.

[86] An English translation of the President’s address is available on the internet.

[87] See my 2008 trip report on planning meeting for the Madagascar Action Plan and SRI’s role in it.

[88] One official who supported SRI, Philibert Rakotoson, was the Director of Agriculture and then the Director-General of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. In Chapter 22, we saw how he supported my presentation on SRI at the IRRI-FAO conference in 2004 that launched the International Year of Rice, having himself worked with Fr. Laulanié and knowing SRI’s merits first-hand.  His high positions in the government did not give him much effective authority to promote SRI, however. 

[89] This training manual for extension staff and farmers is available online.

[90] This is the video on SRI produced by the Tanzanian government, and the other produced by the government of Malawi.

[91] The Organization of Rural Associations for Progress based in Bulawayo invited Henry Ngimbu from Zambia and me to give a two-day training program on SRI in 2007.  But as far as we can tell, nothing came from this. The country was beset at that time with political tensions, and circumstances became, if anything, less favorable thereafter.

[92] See country page on the DRC on the SRI website.

[93] How this was done in The Gambia and Sierra Leone was reported to the Sanya conference in 2002.

[94] See report on the WAAPP project by Erika Styger and Gaoussou Traoré, Improving and Scaling Up the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in West Africa: Key Results of SRI-WAAPP Project’s 1st Phase (2014-2016) (2018).

[95]  WAAPP-II

[96] Akinwumi Adesina, with whom I had twice talked at length about SRI before he was appointed as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2010, took no interest in SRI during his tenure in this position through 2015. He had previously been vice-president of AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which was heavily supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and pursued a seeds-plus-fertilizer strategy, and he subsequently became president of the African Development Bank.

[97] Muhammad Adamu established the NGO, Green Sahel and Rural Development Initiative in 2008 and has been its director in his off-hours while also serving as a director of agricultural planning for the Jigawa state government in the far north of the country.

[98] In 2001, I made a presentation on SRI at the Ghana Irrigation Development Center and met with the Minister of Agriculture, but there was no subsequent response from the Ministry. In 2008, Shuichi Sato while in Ghana for Nippon Koei also made a presentation at the Ghana Irrigation Development Center at Ashaiman, but there was no evident response.

[99] See an article on this appeal in 2011 by Moses Guamah. We do not know how this farmer became knowledgeable about SRI.

[100] Such as this Ministry initiative with the Export Trade Agricultural and Industrial Fund announced in 2014 for purposes of quality seed production, reportedly involving more than 12,000 farmers and 90 SRI demonstrations across the country. Little seems to have come from this.

[101] This umbrella organization for the rice sector was set up with French assistance and now has German and USAID support. In November 2018, at the 5ᵗʰ Ghana National Rice Festival, the president of GRIB, Nana (Chief) Agyei Ayeh II, called on the government to provide incentives that motivate farmers to “intensify production by adopting [the] tried-and-tested technology of system of rice intensification (SRI) to increase yield and boost production by at least 50 percent.”

[102] See a video on the Skill Development Fund activity developed under the Trade Ministry’s auspices with GRIB involvement (and some use of pictures and materials from the SRI-Rice website). The SDF program promoted SRI as climate-smart agriculture.

[103] See report on the meeting.

[104] Both Chambas and Ako-Adjei had been students of mine some 40 and 50 years previously. I was Mohammed’s advisor when he did a PhD degree in government at Cornell in the late 1970s. After getting also a law degree and returning to Ghana, he was elected to the Parliament from his home district in the north, and he was then elected as the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, before being appointed by President Jerry Rawlings as Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Subsequently he was chosen as the executive secretary of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, and then as the President of ECOWAS. When he retired from ECOWAS, the UN’s Secretary-General appointed Mohammed as his regional representative for West Africa. Thus, he was welcome to meet with any and all Ghanaian officials, including cabinet members.

     While a student at the University of Ghana in 1968, Ernest took a tutorial course that I taught there while doing PhD thesis research in the country. As he was outstanding, I engaged him as a research assistant the following summer. After joining the Ghanaian civil service after graduation, Ernest rose quickly, and in the mid-1980s he was sent to Washington as Ghana’s representative at the Executive Director level of the World Bank. He remained in that position for more than 20 years, through several changes of regime in Ghana. When Ernest retired in from the World Bank in 2008, he returned to Ghana to take up cocoa production on his father’s farm. Ernest was also well-known throughout the government. Mohammed and Ernest were accompanied at this meeting by Evans Teye, the executive director of GRIB.

[105] During the meeting the Minister agreed to involve Evans and GRIB in the implementation of a program to spread SRI use in Ghana, and indeed there was a meeting with Evans and Ministry senior staff two days later to start working out arrangements. However, there is little sign of significant subsequent government action.

[106] While the Ministry of Agriculture agreed to an NGO taking leadership on SRI during the WAAPP initiative, it subsequently was interested in taking over SRI from the NGO. An evaluation by the Ministry of a Japanese-funded rice project that CHAP implemented in 2016-2018, was quite negative, even though the donor’s evaluation had been very positive. The evaluation recommended that the Ministry be responsible for expanding SRI promotion while criticizing the performance of the NGO. Subsequently, this tension was resolved.

[107] Erika Styger, G. Aboubacrine, M. A. Attaher and N. Uphoff, ‘The system of rice intensification as a sustainable agricultural innovation: Introducing, adapting and scaling up SRI practices in the Timbuktu region of Mali,’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 9: 67-75 (2011).

[108] Savoir News, June 17, 2020. See also a video on SRI made by the Ministry of Agriculture in Burkina Faso at the end of the WAAPP program.

[109] See report on this workshop in November 2021, concluding a two-year project promoting SRI. Two months before, an agricultural publication reported an SRI yield of 8.14 tonnes per hectare in the north of the country.

[110] Two good examples of non-governmental activity for SRI in Francophone countries have been in Benin and Togo. In the first, thanks to the initiative of Pascal Gbenou (Chapters 9 and 25), SRI advancement has been done by an NGO and an organization of rice farmers; in the latter, Jean (John) Apedoh has given leadership for SRI from the NGO sector. NGO initiatives in Anglophone Liberia and Sierra Leone are noted above.

[111] Verse 3 of Psalm 46 of the Bible says: “Put not your faith in princes (rulers).” This caution acquired more meaning for us as the SRI story progressed.

[112] The two projects together, with funding from the World Bank and Tamil Nadu state, had budgets totalling almost US$ 1 billion. Most of this was expended for infrastructure construction and rehabilitation, with only a small fraction for SRI, just $30 million in the IAMWARM first project, allocated mostly to the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University to support its work with SRI. While not a trivial amount, the expenditure on ‘software’ was minor compare to what was spent on ‘hardware.’.


PICTURE CREDITS:  Norman Uphoff; Y.S. Koma; Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture of Agriculture and Rural Development; Victor Lee; Thien Su; Ravi Joshi; Anil Verma; The Hindu, Chennai; Tamil Nadu Agricultural University; Norman Uphoff (3); Amrik Singh (ATMA); Gamini Batuwitage (2); Josh Poole; Ghana Ministry of Trade and Industries; Evans Teye (GRIB); Robert Bimba (2); Victor Pérez, Panama.

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