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Donor agencies operate on behalf of governments that are willing to assist other governments and their citizens where there are marked disparities in the incomes and life chances of their respective populations. Over the past two decades, first the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and then the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were endorsed by the United Nations to frame the objectives of donor assistance programs. That SRI can contribute directly or indirectly to a majority of the 17 SDGs should have made this innovation very attractive to donors for achieving these goals, for example, for ending hunger and poverty, for supporting gender equality (Chapter 15), and for dealing with climate change (Chapter 12).[1]

However, as seen below, there has been limited support for SRI forthcoming from donor agencies. Most have given at least some support to the spread of SRI in specific countries, with beneficial results. But none of the agencies accepted and promoted SRI at an agency level. Instead, there were initiatives in certain countries and by some staff. The SRI story in this chapter is thus mixed, as it is in most of the chapters in Part II, with some admirable efforts to report and many disappointing responses. The activities of multilateral donors are reviewed in Chapter 30 on international organizations’ contributions to acceptance of SRI opportunities. Here we look at bilateral assistance efforts.

Donor agencies were established to achieve improvements in the prosperity, health, and security of people, and in recent decades also for the health and stability of the environment. (Even though there were often political and/or economic advantages anticipated by the donor.) As described in Chapter 3, the upward trajectory of SRI was launched under a USAID project in Madagascar for integrated conservation and development there, undertaken to help endangered rainforest ecosystems survive in the region around Ranomafana while at the same time benefiting the farming communities that live around the forest.

There has been substantial evidence available since the Sanya conference in 2002 that promoting SRI among rice-producing households -- and SCI among other households -- is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve people’s lives and concurrently to generate benefits for the natural environment. But donor agencies’ usual inclination to use benefit-cost ratios for making their allocations of resources has been absent with regard to SRI, many of whose benefits are not readily quantified.

Generally speaking, donor agencies like to be able to take credit for their actions, to please both the benefited populations and their own government’s decision-makers who provide their budgets. That SRI consists of and relies upon ideas to be disseminated, rather than distributing or building material things than can be counted and photographed, may have made it somewhat less attractive to bilateral assistance programs.

Also, within donor agencies there is a well-known bureaucratic imperative to ‘move money.’[2] The fact that SRI does not require large amounts of funding to be effective may have made it, incongruously, less rather than more attractive to donor agency staff and leadership. They are rewarded for spending more money rather than less, despite the lament that there is never as much funding available for development assistance as could be usefully expended. Since we lack good measures of what constitutes ‘development,’ the default metric for assessing development is to report and evaluate it in terms of the amount of money spent, which is a regrettable example of means displacing ends.

Each agency, and each agency’s situation, is of course different. There have been numerous donor agency actions which were quite supportive of and important for SRI’s acceptance and use. In this chapter we review bilateral aid agencies’ efforts to validate and extend SRI, recognizing that we have not been privy to internal discussions within these agencies and can only report what is known to have happened.



First consideration is given here to the German agency for development cooperation, known previously as GTZ and now as GIZ.[3] It is considered first in not because of any high-level support or policy emanating from the agency itself, but rather because of the sustained and exemplary engagement of one of its professional staff, Georg Deichert, profiled in Chapter 25. Georg helped introduce SRI in three countries: Cambodia, Timor Leste, and Vietnam, above and beyond the tasks that had been formally assigned to him.

Georg was posted by the GTZ program in Phnom Penh in the early 2000s when SRI was being introduced in Cambodia through the efforts of the NGO CEDAC and its director Y.S. Koma. Working with CEDAC and also with the representative of Oxfam America in Phnom Penh, Le Minh (Chapter 25), it was possible to get GTZ and Oxfam to provide financial support for establishing an SRI Secretariat within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. For the secretariat’s operation, CEDAC provided technical support to Ministry staff and to farmers. The Secretariat functioned for about six years during the initial stages when SRI was taking root and spreading in Cambodia (Chapter 40).

When GTZ transferred Georg to Timor Leste in 2006, once he had gotten himself settled in in the capital Dili, he started discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture about SRI and got it to set up some trials and demonstrations. In 2008, he arranged to bring and fund three Timorese staff from the Ministry and GTZ to Indonesia, to observe SRI practices in Lombok and Bali and to meet with me during their visit.[4] When he left Timor Leste in 2011, there was some drop-off in government SRI activity, but SRI had been introduced, and Oxfam New Zealand under its program in Timor Leste was able to give further impetus to SRI there.[5]

Georg’s next GTZ assignment was in Vietnam, where he got SRI work established in the Mekong Delta in the south. This was important because most of the previous work with SRI by the Plant Protection Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had been in northern and central Vietnam.

An excellent study on SRI resulted from the GTZ initiative, co-published with IFAD.[6] It included the evidence on SRI’s reduction in greenhouse gas emissions cited in Chapter 12. Below is the analysis of differentials in yield and cost of production between SRI (dark green) and farmers’ methods of cultivation (light green), as well as a picture of the collection of GHG emissions data at field level.

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In 2013, Georg was reassigned to the GIZ program in Ethiopia, where he was given responsibilities in a large watershed conservation project that unfortunately did not offer any scope for SRI development because there was no production of rice, irrigated or rainfed. So, Georg was not able to pursue further the innovation to which he had devoted much of a decade of his life.

Despite numerous conversations within his agency, Georg was not able to get GTZ/GIZ to take a leadership role on SRI internationally. But through his efforts in these three countries, he contributed a great deal to the validation and spread of SRI. His efforts demonstrated how an individual can have considerable impact without being in the top echelons of a large organization. Also, organizations can learn and change. In 2019, GIZ provided information to SRI-Rice that it was supporting rice value-chain development in five African countries, and in all five it was providing SRI training as part of the program.[7] By the end of 2020, the government of Mali made SRI promotion a national program with support from GIZ and the EU.[8]



Dutch support was the first donor assistance available for SRI, channeled through Wageningen University as has been all of the Dutch assistance for SRI. A two-year study on ‘Water-Wise Rice Production,’ 2000-2002, managed by Wageningen faculty helped to build up intellectual and friendship connections among SRI colleagues in Madagascar, India, China, and Indonesia.[9] This kind of support was probably not envisioned when the Dutch research project was planned and approved, but it was very valuable for SRI’s advance.

In 2010, the Dutch government proposed a novel research and training program to increase high-level human capital for addressing important problems in less-developed countries. The government invited Dutch institutions of higher education to design collaborative multi-disciplinary programs that would tackle problems chosen by the institutions and their counterparts in developing countries.

Faculty in several departments of Wageningen University proposed a project to improve the productivity of irrigated rice cultivation. Dutch government funding was used to support PhD courses of study for four students from India, each coming from a different agroecological zone of the country. Prof. Shambu Prasad at the Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar (XIMB), who had already himself done considerable research on SRI, was brought into the project as the Indian co-principal investigator (Chapter 25).

The four Indians who were chosen for the project and taken into PhD programs at Wageningen were all outstanding leaders of NGOs who had worked successfully with SRI methods for several years in their respective states.[10] Willem Stoop, who was also highlighted in Chapter 25 and who happened to live near Wageningen, was coopted as an informal advisor to the four students, and he visited them in the field once their thesis research got started back in India.[11]

This project greatly increased knowledge about SRI among faculty and students at Wageningen University and enhanced the knowledge and standing of the Indian NGO leaders who were engaged with SRI.[12] Below is a picture of (now) Dr. Debashish Sen, the first in the group to complete his PhD after his successful thesis defense, standing with his advisor Prof. Shambu Prasad, on right. Such events are quite festive in the Netherlands.

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Donor assistance from the Netherlands for human resource development was not provided within a standard development project framework. Indeed, the funding of PhD studies was not intended to support SRI as such. But it contributed significantly to the process of SRI acceptance, adding to the flow and consolidation of knowledge, which was important because SRI is basically a matter of knowledge. To conclude its project, Wageningen organized and hosted an international meeting on SRI in New Delhi in June 2014.[13] This contributed to strengthening of the SRI community in India and beyond, which was a good outcome of such assistance.

Dutch assistance through Wageningen also contributed to the furtherance of SRI in Nepal by supporting a PhD program for Rajendra Uprety, the main catalyst for SRI there, starting in 2008. This left some something of a gap in leadership for SRI in that country, but Rajendra kept in touch with colleagues back in Nepal and was in a better position to provide leadership there when he returned as Dr. Uprety.



Like the assistance coming from the Dutch government, the support for SRI from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) was not intended to promote this innovation, but it was useful nonetheless because SRI evaluation could be done as part of a larger project.

In the early 2000s, DFID made a grant to IRRI’s program in Bangladesh with the ambitious title of ‘Poverty Elimination through Rice Research’ (PETRRA). In 2002, the PETRRA project made a grant to BRAC and three partners to evaluate SRI under Bangladesh conditions.[14] The findings from this two-year study based on almost 1,100 farmers’ results, reported in Chapter 7, showed results very favorable for SRI.

Farmers’ average yields were increased by 30% while their costs of production declined by 7%, making for a 58% increase in net income per hectare.[15] However, even though this study was done according to an IRRI-approved methodology, and one of the partners, Syngenta Bangladesh Co. Ltd., was the branch of a major multinational corporation, these results had no apparent effect on DFID’s willingness to support SRI use in other countries or on IRRI’s attitude toward SRI.

About the same time in Nepal, the technical advisory team for a DFID-funded irrigation project evaluated SRI with replicated trials conducted by farmer field schools at multiple locations in the Sunsari-Morang scheme, also discussed in Chapter 7. Farmers found that their own usual methods gave an average yield of 4.4 tonnes per hectare, and ‘improved’ methods averaged 5.8 tonnes, while the yields on their SRI plots averaged 8.1 tonnes per hectare. These differentials were seen in two successive seasons, but they too did not evoke any apparent interest within DFID.

In January 2009, Amir Kassam and I visited the London headquarters of DFID and spoke at length with three of its executives. While the conversation was very amicable, there was no DFID follow-up that we could discern. In 2016, an article evaluating SRI in Andhra Pradesh, India, was posted on the DFID website. The findings reported by Alfred Gathorne-Hardy and his Oxford and Indian colleagues, summarized in Chapter 12, documented significant agronomic, economic and environmental advantages of SRI methodology.[16]

In 2020, DFID was merged with the Foreign Office, becoming the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). In more recent years, there has been a significant development project in Nigeria (DEEDS) promoting SRI in two northern states funded by British aid.[17]

The government of Scotland operates development assistance projects of its own, starting in 2018 with a project in Malawi that includes an SRI component in its work with the National Association of Smallholding Farmers in Malawi (NASFAM).[18] Without an implication that Ireland is a part of Great Britain, we would add that Irish Aid is operating a similar project in Malawi with NASFAM, with similar good results.[19]


One might have thought that the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) would take some interest in SRI because it originated in Madagascar, a former French colony and officially still Francophone. Further, SRI was devised by a French expatriate. However, no official interest was observed. An AFD-sponsored conference in May 2011 on ‘ending hunger,’ convened at the College du France in Paris, gave me an opportunity to make a presentation on SRI to an appropriate international audience.

After the conference, its convener, Ismail Serageldin, and the director-general of AFD, Dov Zorah, issued a joint statement in which they noted that SRI could double rice yields.[20] So, we know that the message of SRI reached the top of AFD. However, there was no agency initiative to take advantage of this means ready and available to reduce hunger in the developing world, both quickly and at low cost.



The first evaluation, and still one of the best, of how SRI can enable farmers to adapt to and mitigate the hazards of climate change was supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) under a 2005-2009 program that it funded in two semi-arid regions of India.[21] The findings of this study showed SRI buffering farmers from the hazards of climate change and also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This should have had some impact upon Swiss programs in India as well as on its programming in other countries, but there was no sign that this occurred.

In 2014, Swissaid reported some very satisfactory results from the use of SRI practices under a project that it was supporting in Myanmar.[22] However, this report is no longer posted on the Swissaid website, although there is still a Facebook entry referencing the report.[23] At governmental level, there has been no apparent attention paid to SRI by Swiss aid decision-makers, at least none made public.[24]



In the early 2010s, the Norwegian agency for international development, NORAD, invested in a three-country study looking at SRI opportunities in Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, with recommendations for undertaking technical support and capacity-building in each country.[25] There was no evident impact from this study on NORAD’s programs in these or other countries. However, some of the researchers involved in the study did continue working on SRI, focusing on its buffering and mitigating of climate-change effects.[26]

The most direct support of SRI from the Norwegian government was in Afghanistan where it contributed financially to an FAO project that incorporated SRI and also SWI into its training and demonstration programs. Below is the SWI wheat poster designed and distributed under the project; a similar poster was disseminated for SRI rice-growing. Unfortunately, Norwegian assistance was not extended for a second phase of the project even though very good results had been achieved. So, the full benefit of what could have been achieved was not realized.

There was at least some engagement of Norwegian agencies with SRI, and with SCI more broadly. A large Norwegian-supported project was undertaken in Assam and Odisha states of India promoting climate resilience among smallholders, with SRI as a major component.[27] A web search for SRI activities by the Swedish and Danish development agencies, SIDA and DANIDA, turned up no reports on SRI activity by these agencies. Given the concerns in the Scandinavian countries with both equitable development and environmental protection, it was surprising that there was not more interest from these donor agencies regarding SRI.

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The first contact between SRI and the Australian agency, called AusAid for short, was in Cambodia. There the NGO CEDAC tried to get Australian agronomic advisors at CARDI, the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, interested in SRI after farmers working with this new methodology had clearly demonstrated its superior performance in field evaluations. The Australian advisors took a view of SRI similar to that of IRRI, however, pulling CARDI and the Ministry of Agriculture in a different direction, stressing the introduction of new varieties and more or better use of agricultural inputs.

Subsequently, AusAid supported the work of a Dutch development organization SNV in Vietnam from 2012 to 2015. The focus was mostly on climate-smart agriculture, among other things doing careful monitoring of the emission of greenhouse gases from SRI fields vs. conventionally-managed rice paddies. This was done in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and several institutes of the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

This work contributed to the Vietnamese government’s incorporation of SRI into its national strategy for reducing GHGs emanating from the agriculture sector (Chapter 12). The SNV program also assisted with the development of mechanization for SRI, including mechanical direct-seeding (Chapter 19).[28] Thus, Australian aid has supported SRI activity in Vietnam, although not more generally.



The Japanese donor approach to SRI has been similar to that of most other agencies, no central interest but various initiatives at country level. The first big push for SRI in Indonesia came from an irrigation project financed by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). The SRI work was not an initiative from the Bank itself, but from the Nippon Koei technical assistance team that was implementing the project in eight provinces of eastern Indonesia (Chapters 7 and 34). The assistance was really from the resources that the Bank provided which enabled Shuichi Sato to take initiatives to evaluate and disseminate SRI.[29]

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) supported a multi-year initiative by a Japanese NGO to get SRI established in Laos (Chapter 24). The pictures below show several Lao farmers who were participating in Pro-Net 21’s project made possible by the Japanese aid. The results encouraged the Lao government to become more favorable toward the extension of SRI. In Afghanistan, on the other hand, after considerable discussion and negotiation, the Japanese agency decided to not support a second phase of an FAO project with the Afghan government which promoted SRI and SWI, choosing instead to invest in irrigation infrastructure.

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JICA supported rice sector development in Kenya for many years, including expansion of rice production in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme, the country’s largest, during the 1990s. When SRI was introduced in Kenya with support from Jomo Kenyatta University’s Innovation Fund and from the World Bank’s Kenya office, JICA funded some short-term research in 2010-2011 that tested different mechanical weeders with farmers, to identify which would be the most suitable weeders for Mwea conditions. The farmers chose two models that have since been produced by local foundries and adopted by farmers. This was very practical and useful assistance. When the government developed a National Rice Development Strategy, 2008-2018, JICA supported the plan’s preparation, and within it, SRI was mentioned as a means for increasing rice productivity in Kenya, but no resources were committed to it.

In 2013, JICA began supporting a five-year project known as Rice-MAP, the Market Assistance Programme, which was intended to improve and mechanize rice production in Kenya, with a focus on the Mwea scheme. SRI had already been adopted there by at least 3,000 farmers, and its momentum was growing.

The project brought in motorized weeders that cost about US$ 1,250 each and which required farmers to purchase petrol for their operation. The capital cost for these was 25 times more than for the locally-produced push-weeders that were being used with SRI and that cost farmers only US$ 50. (This latter price has since gone still lower as local fabricators have learned how to do larger-scale production).

When Mwea farmers did not adopt the more expensive weeders, JICA reverted within a year to fabricating manual weeders, and giving them free to farmers. While this seemed very generous, but it had the unfortunate effect of undermining the ethic of self-reliance that was being encouraged among farmers by Bancy Mati and associates, and it undercut the local fabricators of weeders who had gotten a good business started.

Somewhat impeding SRI was a decision by Japanese rice specialists working under the Rice-MAP project to introduce a methodology that they called ‘Water-Efficient Rice System.’ This became a competitor with SRI in the Mwea scheme, resembling SRI in many respects, but encouraging denser planting and re-introducing the transplanting of older, 21-day-old seedlings. The Japanese specialists avoided making any reference to SRI, which confused farmers. A large number of them continued to use SRI’s younger seedlings and wider spacing which they had found to be productive. It is now hard to know exactly how many farmers in Mwea are doing full SRI.

It would have been more beneficial for Mwea farmers if the Japanese specialists had evaluated the two systems’ respective results on farmers’ fields before stepping in to promote their own quasi-alternative. The specialists backed by the status and clout of a donor agency could proceed with little resistance from government personnel. This was one more example of how often good intentions do not produce good results.[30]

Elsewhere in Africa, Japanese support for rice improvement in Liberia channeled through IFAD provided two years of funding for a Liberian NGO, CHAP, to expand its SRI work in four counties that had been hard-hit by the Ebola virus outbreak.

In 2008, JICA launched CARD, the Coalition for African Rice Development, which would have been a good vehicle for disseminating SRI, or at least for evaluating and publicizing it.[31] But one partner in the CARD initiative was the US-backed Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). As its name indicates, AGRA was formed (by the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations) to promote Green Revolution technology adjusted for Africa to follow the example in Asia.[32] The CARD program was thus oriented mostly toward spreading the use of improved rice varieties and inorganic fertilizer, putting it at odds with the agroecological approach of SRI.

Overall, there has been some scattered support of SRI from Japanese government agencies, but no purposeful, concerted assistance. J-SRI, the Japan Association for SRI, tried to mobilize official interest in SRI, but without success. Beyond Japanese support for 10 years of SRI work by the NGO ProNet-21 in Laos, there has not been much overt response, although the Nippon Koei support in Indonesia through Shuichi Sato was invaluable in this large country.



The first evaluations and launching of SRI beyond Madagascar were made possible by Cornell participation in implementing an integrated conservation-and-development project of the US Agency for International Development, as discussed in Chapter 3. Without this project, CIIFAD would never have learned about SRI. There was no institution within Madagascar at the time that would bring SRI to others’ attention, and no institution outside Madagascar could give SRI as much international visibility as CIIFAD could. USAID thus played an essential initial role in the SRI story. However, even in Madagascar, the USAID mission’s support was the result of project implementers’ efforts rather than a matter of agency decision or policy.

After the director of the NGO World Vision’s program in Sierra Leone learned about SRI from CIIFAD and sent a member of his staff to Madagascar to learn more,[33] some impressive results with SRI methods were achieved in Sierra Leone by farmers who were assisted by World Vision under a USAID post-conflict project there. As shown in Chapter 16, this success was featured in a USAID publication in 2004. But neither World Vision nor USAID followed this up with any larger efforts.

After the American NGO Africare had demonstrated SRI’s merits in the Timbuktu region of Mali with support from the Better U Foundation, the USAID mission in Bamako became interested in and supportive of expanding this innovation within the country. Two of its local staff, Kokou Zotoglo and Djiguiba Koyaté, were given an award by the Malian government for their roles in extending SRI knowledge and practice to other parts of the country.[34] Below on the left is a picture that was used to illustrate a USAID project report, showing Zotoglo with a large SRI rice plant in front of the USAID office in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso.

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In Tanzania, USAID also included SRI within the ambitious SAGCOT project.[35] During the planning phase, SRI-Rice was asked to give technical advice on the rice component of this project, with the expectation that SRI-Rice would provide technical assistance and guidance during project implementation. SRI-Rice’s director of programs Erika Styger, who had extensive SRI experience from introducing SRI in Mali, spent considerable time in helping with project design. However, when project implementation began, there was no role provided for SRI-Rice. Happily, there have been reasonably good results for thousands of farmers in the country’s southern region.

The most ambitious USAID project promoting SRI began in 2010 in Haiti. The technical assistance team that helped to implement the WINNER project was provided by the US consulting firm Chemonics, which already had experience with SRI in Madagascar.[36] This initiative reported very good results from the use of SRI methodology according to web postings, generally about a doubling of yield.[37] One of the Haitian farmers who raised his yields with SRI from 2 tonnes per hectare to 5-6 tonnes, according to a USAID report, Leo Andres Pablo Julson, is shown above on the right.

Unfortunately, Haitian rice producers have had little incentive to invest more time and resources in their rice production because the US government had gotten Haiti’s tariff on rice imports lowered to 3%. With Haitian markets inundated with US surplus rice production, the price that farmers could get for their usually lower-quality rice was greatly depressed, another example of one part of the government impeding the work of another part.[38]

While its project in Haiti impressed the Administrator of USAID, Rajiv Shah, as quoted in Chapter 26, and even though Shah was personally lobbied by an Indian farmer Duddeda Suganavva on behalf of SRI, as also reported in that chapter, USAID in Washington has remained mostly disinterested in SRI, much like the US Department of Agriculture (Chapter 27). The good results achieved in USAID’s country missions had little impact at headquarters back in Washington.[39] Shah’s visit to an SRI farmer in Haiti in 2011 which caused him to give laudatory public testimony about SRI’s merits in a blog, in an op-ed piece, and in a National Public Radio interview, seemed to have no impact on USAID’s priorities or its use of resources. Why there was such resistance to accepting SRI can only be speculated on.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

With some exceptions, bilateral donor agencies have been fairly unresponsive to the opportunities that SRI provided them to help achieve the objectives that they articulated: reducing hunger and poverty, conserving natural resources, benefiting women, countering the effects of climate change, helping smallholder households. Perhaps SRI’s being based on knowledge more than material resources like a conventional kind of technology made SRI less attractive to donor agencies that are by and large more comfortable dealing with things than with ideas. Also, many donors have been following, even accelerating, the worldwide trend to promote agricultural technology that is proprietary, that is, owned by someone. As an open-access innovation SRI was swimming upstream against this current.

The acceptance and use of SRI ideas and methods could surely have been accelerated by financial and technical support from donor agencies. But perhaps more impedance resulted from the influence that donors’ attitude toward SRI, whether negative or indifferent, had on the thinking of government decision-makers in less-developed countries. Wanting to receive development funding, these countries follow the lead and directions of donor agencies more than either the donors or the recipients like to acknowledge. If donors had been more interested in and more positive about SRI, the agencies and research institutions of national governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America would surely have followed suit.

The claim that donors were mostly responding to the needs and requests of recipient governments is somewhat misleading because donor representatives are continually influencing recipients’ decision-making by the interests and priorities that are communicated, openly or tacitly. Donor agencies also like to think that their decisions made at the center reflect the experience and priorities that come from the field, or at least from their country missions. But positive field results in country after country had little effect on the decisions made in the respective capital cities.

This is a matter that extends beyond SRI. One can wonder what other innovations are being passed over now, and some even starved, for lack of donor agency openness to new approaches. It is fortunate that SRI was able to progress without donor agencies recognizing and doing much to disseminate its opportunities. Much of what progress there was was assisted by individuals within these agencies, like Georg Deichert, who worked more as development professionals than as bureaucrats, giving whatever support they could to emerging possibilities like SRI to improve people’s lives and their environments.

One positive trend in donor assistance is for several national agencies to cooperate in programs that operate as consortia for assistance, especially in difficult or contested areas where bilateral assistance is likely to be difficult or insufficient. A good example of this is the LIFT consortium, the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust, that is assisting villagers in the conflict-torn Rakhine province of Myanmar. There the plight of displaced and stateless Muslim communities has gotten world attention, bringing censure to the Myanmar government for its maltreatment, or at least lack of protection, of this ethnic minority group.

The Tat Lan programme of the LIFT consortium, supported by the aid agencies from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the EU, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, has introduced SRI as one of its initiatives for quick improvement of the Rakhine livelihood situation, with very positive results.[40] One can hope that all or at least most of these donor agencies will pay attention to this positive experience in Myanmar and begin taking more advantage of SRI opportunities in their other country programs. Below are some pictures from Tat Lan’s 2019 report.

While it may be desirable to be producing rice with more mechanization and on a larger scale, when people are in dire need of more food and income, it is most effective and most cost-efficient to provide these people with means of production that can help them make best use of the resources that they have available. This can create a sounder human and economic basis for more ambitious development.

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[1] The most direct contributions of SRI to SDGs would be to #1 (No poverty), #2 (Zero hunger), #5 (Gender equality), and #13 (Climate action). But SRI can contribute also to #3 (Good health and well-being), #6 (Clear water and sanitation), #10 (Reduced inequalities), #13 (Life on the land /biodiversity), and #17 (Partnerships for achieving the SDGs).  The other SDGs are #4 (Quality education), #7 (Affordable and clean energy), #9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), #11 (Strong cities and communities), #12 (Responsible production and consumption), #14 (Life below the water), and #16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions). If SRI were widely applied, there could be some contributions also to goals #11, #12, #14 and #16, but the direct contributions to goals #1, #2, #5, and #13 should be sufficient to justify supporting SRI. On this, see A. Thakur, K.G. Mandal, R.K. Mohanty, and N. Uphoff, ‘How agroecological rice intensification can assist in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals,’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 19 (2021).

[2] This imperative is not limited to bilateral donor agencies as explained by Paul J. Nelson in The World Bank and Non-Governmental Organizations: The Limits of Apolitical Development, St. Martin’s Press, New York (1995). The more money that is expended, the more money the agency can justify in subsequent budget cycles. Money expended is regarded as a simple but objective criterion for ‘success.’

[3] GTZ was the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) until 2011, when it was renamed the German Agency for International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ).

[4] See pages 3 and 7 of my trip report in 2008.

[5] See report of Oxfam/NZ’s work with a Timorese cooperative: System of Rice Intensification: Trial and Potential in Timor-Leste – Oxfam and Movimento Cooperativo Economico-Agricola, Oxfam New Zealand, Auckland (2014).

[6] This was one of the few studies that has shown SRI methods reducing nitrous oxide (N2O) rather than increasing it, although the reduction was not statistically significant. J. Dill, G. Deichert and Le T.N.T., eds., Promoting the System of Rice Intensification: Lessons Learned from Trà Vinh Province, Vietnam. GIZ and IFAD, Hanoi (2013). The number of farmers involved in the agronomic/economic evaluation was not very great (43), but their experience was documented and analyzed in detail. The economic analysis showed SRI methods increasing farmers’ per-hectare net income from rice by 155%. For the GHG measurements reported, the sample size was very substantial (>250).

[7] E-mail received July 15, 2019:

Dear Norman

Good to hear from you. In 5 out of 15 Green Innovation Centres, we support the rice value-chain: Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso. SRI is part of our work in all those cases. If you are interested, I can connect you to our cross-country rice working group.  

Best regards


Communications Advisor, Project Manager

Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector, GIZ

[8] ‘Green Innovations for the Agriculture and Food Sectors,’ GIZ website, December, 2020. “The Innovation Centre in Mali advises farmers on the use of innovations in irrigation farming. This has improved the rice yield by almost 50 percent (2.8 tons/hectare compared with 1.9 tons/hectare using conventional cultivation methods). Around 7,500 farmers have already received further training in the resource-conserving ‘System of Rice Intensification (SRI)’ method, which reduces seed use by up to 80 percent and water consumption by up to 35 percent compared with traditional cultivation methods.”

[9] See the proceedings of the first workshop of the ‘Water-Wise Rice’ project convened at Nanjing Agricultural University in China in 2001, and of its concluding workshop at Los Baños in the Philippines in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute in 2002. This second workshop was convened immediately after the international SRI conference in Sanya, China.

     Although the project was designed and managed by Wageningen faculty and staff, their initiative was in response to a call from the Dutch government for this focus of applied research. A director in Wageningen’s Office of Research, Remko Vonk, had learned about SRI from CIIFAD while he was the country representative in Madagascar for the NGO, CARE International, as noted in Chapter 8. Remko thought that SRI would meet the expectations of the Dutch government unit that was offering funding for water-saving rice production, and he was correct.

[10] The four were Debashish Sen, program manager (now executive director) for the People’s Science Institute in Uttarakhand state; Ravindra Adusumilli, director of the WASSAN Foundation in Andhra Pradesh state; Sabarmatee, director of the SAMBHAV Foundation, an NGO in Odisha state; and Pushpalatha Sivasubramanian, chairperson of the Ekoventure NGO in Puducherry territory in the south. Sadly and very unfortunately, Pushpalatha died of a heart problem after the first year, so the cohort size was reduced to three.

[11] The findings of the three thesis research projects are summarized in this article: W.A. Stoop, Sabarmatee, P. Subramanian, Ravindran A., D. Sen, S.C. Prasad and A.K. Thakur, ‘Opportunities for ecological intensification: Lessons and insights from the System of Rice/Crop Intensification -- Their implications for agricultural research and development approaches,’ CAB Reviews, 12:036, 1-19 (2017)

[12] Debashish Sen’s thesis has been published: How Smallholder Farmers in Uttarakhand Reworked the System of Rice Intensification from Sociotechnical Interactions in Fields and Villages, Wageningen University (2015). The other two theses are still in preparation, but already some of what Sabarmatee learned from her field studies about the impacts of SRI crop management on village women’s health and well-being has been reported in ‘The System of Rice Intensification and its impacts on women: Reducing pain, discomfort and labor in rice farming while enhancing household food security,’ with O. Vent and N. Uphoff, in Women in Agriculture Worldwide, eds. A.J. Fletcher and W. Kubik, 55-76, Routledge, Abingdon, UK.

[13] The conference, Changes in Rice Production and Rural Livelihoods: New Insights on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) as a Socio-Technical Movement, is well-reported on the internet, including 32 powerpoint presentations.

[14] See report for 2003, which describes the project. It is interesting that the report does not mention the grant made in 2002.

[15] The results were reported to the IRRI office in Dhaka in 2004. A.M. Muazzam Husain (project leader), Gopal Chowhan, P. Barua, A.F.M. Razib Uddin and A.B.M. Ziaur Rahman, Final Evaluation Report on Verification and Refinement of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) Project in Selected Areas of Bangladesh (SP 36 02)

[16] The article by Alfred Gathorne-Hardy, D. Narasimha Reddy, M. Venkatanarayana and Barbara Harriss-White, ‘System of Rice Intensification provides environmental and economic gains but at the expense of social sustainability: A multidisciplinary analysis in India,’ was published in Agricultural Systems 143: 159-168 (2016). A report is posted at this website.

[17] The LINKS project in northern Nigeria seeking methane reduction as well as agricultural gains is being implemented by TetraTech consultants who are working with our SRI colleague Mohammed Adamu and his NGO in Jigawa state, noted in Chapter 26. This project is greatly expanding the SRI training that Adamu can do in his region.

[18] The Scottish government’s end-of-year report for 2021 noted that SRI was raising rice yields from 2.5 tonnes per hectare to 4.8 tonnes, almost a doubling.

[19] See ‘Prospering Together with Rice,’ The Nation, Jan. 18, 2022. Irish Aid is also part of the donor consortium supporting SRI spread among Rohingya families in northwestern Myanmar, noted at the end of this chapter.

[20] The statement by Serageldin and Zorah was published in Les Echos, ‘Abolir la faim dans la monde maintenant,’ June 22, 2011. On the conference, see this website.

[21] Climate Change: Vulnerabilities and Adaptation – Experiences from Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, Case Study: SRI System of Rice Intensification, India. SDC V&A Programme, India (2009).

[22] ‘A new rice cultivation method: Hard work but successful’ was posted on the Swissaid website in 2014 (, but this link is no longer functioning.

[23] Here is the Swissaid report on Facebook.

[24] Much Swiss aid it channeled through a large non-governmental development organization, Helvetas, which is supported by civil society with programs in many countries and operates like a quasi-governmental development assistance agency. Helvetas started a program in northern India in 2011 that ran through 2021, introducing and supporting the production and export of organic, fair-traded Basmati rice. It engaged in email exchanges with SRI-Rice, but did not actively promote SRI methods. The Helvetas program also supports organic rice production in Thailand, but it has not become involved with SRI methods there.

[25] Jens B. Aune, Nagothu Udaya Sekhar, Kjell Esser and Mehreteab Tesfai, Opportunities for Support to System of Rice Intensification (SRI), Noragric Report No. 71, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås (2014). This study was conducted under a framework agreement between NORAD and the university, through the latter’s Department of International Environment and Development Studies.

[26] V. Geetalakshmi, A. Borrell, M. Tesfai, N.U. Sekhar, et al., ‘System of Rice Intensification: Climate-smart rice cultivation system to mitigate climate-change impacts in India,’ in Climate Change and Agricultural Development: Improving Resilience through Climate-Smart Agriculture, Agroecology and Conservation, edited by Nagothu Udaya Sekhar, pp. 234-261, Routledge (2014). Sekhar is a professor and director of international projects for the Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomy Research (Bioforsk), which is associated with the university.

[27] See report posted on the internet in March 2021.This grew out of the research work reported in the preceding endnote. Sekhar was the project leader for this.

[28] See video on SNV/AusAid promotion of SRI in Vietnam, including simple mechanization. SNV’s website describes its Sowing the Seeds of Change project, which is described as community-based climate-change mitigation through sustainable rice production using SRI methodology.

[29] 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).

[30] Elsewhere, in the Ahero and West Kano Irrigation Schemes where SRI training was implemented in 2016 with funding support from the Indian social enterprise AgSri (Chapter 32), there has been more effective uptake of the full set of SRI practices.

[31] The CARD structure, formed in 2008, is described on the JICA website.

[32] The AGRA initiative, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, was launched in 2006.

[33] See report from Sierra Leone at the Sanya, China conference in 2002.

[34] ‘Regional and Bilateral Missions Bring New Rice-Growing Method to Field: Farmers Are Enthusiastic about SRI,’ posting on USAID West Africa website. The ‘Tiwara’ award (Lion of Development) was given by the national government and traditional leaders of the San district (circle) in Ségou region of Mali. Zotoglo and Koyaté were managers for USAID’s E-ATP and IICEM projects under which SRI was disseminated in Mali beyond the Timbuktu region.

[35] SAGCOT stands for Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania. There has been some controversy about this project, as discussed in Chapter 34. Reports such as this one have been mixed, although mostly positive.

[36] The USAID conservation-and-development project that followed the Ranomafana project, the Landscape Development Initiative (LDI) in east-central Madagascar, had as the chief of its technical assistance team Jean-Robert Estimé, a Haitian who had served as his country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and had graduate degrees in agricultural science from two Belgian universities. Thus, he was well prepared for the chief-of-party role which requires diplomatic as well as technical skills. Jean-Robert became very supportive of SRI from his experience with SRI results under LDI in Madagascar.

     When Jean-Robert became chief-of-party for USAID’s WINNER project in Haiti, the Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources (2009-2014), he included an SRI component. He brought in an agronomist from Madagascar, Joeli Barison, to do the initial SRI training in Haiti. Joeli had done the first scientific evaluation of SRI for his baccalaureate thesis for the University of Antananarivo, and he subsequently completed an MSc degree at Cornell in crop and soil sciences with a second thesis on SRI (Chapters 4 and 6). The costs of Joeli’s SRI training in Haiti were shared between WINNER and SRI-Rice, with the support of Jim Carrey’s Better U Foundation.

[37] ‘Planting the SRI seed: Harvest proves benefits of AVANSE’s rice farming method,’ USAID/AYITI Success Story, August 2014; ‘Haitian farmers double their yields,’ Feb. 7, 2014; ‘Haitian farmers adopt the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and more than double their yield,’ USAID Feed the Future report, 2015. Unfortunately, these reports are no longer posted on USAID’s website. One of the WINNER project reports said that SRI methods raised farmers’ net income from rice production from US$350 per hectare to US$1,691 per hectare, almost a 5-fold increase.

     At the same time as the WINNER project’s SRI activities, Oxfam America was also introducing SRI in Haiti. It reports that SRI methods were giving 1.5 tonnes more yield per hectare (see pages 12-13 of a 2015 Oxfam report). According to US Department of Agriculture statistics, this increase would give yields about twice the country’s average at the time. A less positive report on project results has been produced by a UC-Davis team.

[38] See Wikipedia entry on this rice importation policy.

[39] Twice I spoke with Rajiv Shah at World Food Prize colloquia in Des Moines, Iowa, first while he was still head of the Gates Foundation’s agricultural program, and again after he became the USAID Administrator. Both times he said that it was not a good time to talk, so I should give him my business card so that he could call me at Cornell for a longer conversation. Neither time was there any call. I call tried to make follow-up contact with him through USAID staff members whom I knew personally, but there was no response. In 2017, Shah moved on from USAID to become president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

[40] See a Tat Lan posting titled ‘It is impossible to keep going with the usual ways.’ This reports that farmers’ costs of production are reduced from 170,000-240,000 kyat per acre to 120,000 kyat per acre, while their paddy yields are raised to 200 bushels per acre from 60-120 baskets. This doubling of yield, accompanied by a 40% reduction in production cost, makes for big increases in household incomes from rice production


PICTURE CREDITS: GIZ/IFAD publication; C. Shambu Prasad (IRMA); FAO/ Afghanistan; Pro-Net21report; USAID/Mali; USAID/Haiti; Tat Lan 2019 Report.

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