top of page


Foundations as non-for-profit organizations are required by each country’s laws to use their financial resources for charitable purposes rather than for commercial ventures. One might have expected that SRI would attract considerable support from foundations to spread the economic, social and environmental benefits that have been reported in preceding chapters. Yet with a few noteworthy exceptions, this did not happen.

In this chapter we consider how certain foundations in different countries have been supportive of SRI, and how assistance such as that given by the Better U Foundation in the US and the Tata Foundation in India has been very significant and important. Foundations have thus been a part of the SRI story, and at times a very big part, much appreciated. But it is also evident that foundations as a category of institutions could have played, and probably should have played, a larger role in this story.



One of the first foundations to give support to SRI was a relatively small foundation based in Ithaca, New York. The endowment for the Triad Foundation had been provided by a media executive and entrepreneur, Roy Park, who lived the last half of his long life in Ithaca.[1] In 2004, the Triad Foundation indicated a willingness to make a small grant to Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and this opportunity was forwarded to the SRI program by the College’s director of international programs, Ronnie Coffman.

The grant of US$10,000 was divided into four mini-grants of US$2,500 each, passed on to SRI colleagues in Cambodia, India, Madagascar, and Nepal.[2] Two years later, the  Foundation made another grant of US$10,000 which was apportioned among colleagues in Bhutan, Cambodia, India, and Nepal.[3] One of these grants would have been sent to Cuba to support Rena Perez’s SRI work there, but the difficulty of making any financial transfers to Cuba at that time was a deterrent.

In retrospect, thinking in terms of developmental impact, the mini-grant made to CEDAC and used to document and disseminate innovations by Cambodian farmers who were utilizing SRI to diversify their smallholder farming systems, making them much more productive and profitable (Chapter 20), was probably worth more than the total grant funding of US$20,000. Below is the cover of the manual that CEDAC prepared with its Triad Foundation funding and published in English and Khmer in 2006.[4] This showed what could be accomplished with a small amount of funding provided flexibly to development workers intent on enabling less-advantaged households to improve their lives.

C35 1 2.png

Also during this period of the Triad Foundation grants, SRI had the benefit of an ‘angel,’ David Galloway, an American living in Canada who learned about SRI from the BBC report from Nepal noted in Chapter 29.  Having been quite successful in developing computer software, Dave was in a position to engage in some personal philanthropy, and after learning about SRI he contacted me at Cornell to see how he could help to make SRI opportunities more widely available.

Dave’s first grant of US$5,000 was used to support Henry Ngimbu’s work in Zambia, and then Dave made personal grants to expand PRADAN’s SRI initiatives in India and the efforts of Khidhir Hameed in Iraq. He also assisted Lotus Foods in its development of marketing networks that linked SRI producers in Asia and Africa with North American consumers (Chapter 17).

It would have been ideal to have had more private generosity such as this, responsive to needs and given with great flexibility, as there were many times more opportunities like this to support the initiatives of SRI colleagues in dozens of countries. However, as far as we know nobody else followed Dave’s personal example. Philanthropy from or through foundations was more frequent, probably because of the income tax advantages.

After the SRI-Rice Center was established in 2010, it received some support from two other foundations to expand SRI work. In 2012, a grant of US$80,000 was provided by the Ohrstrom Foundation to support SRI-Rice operations,[5] and the next year, the Bridging the Peace Fund provided US$40,000 to bolster several SRI initiatives in West Africa and to assist SRI-Rice activity.[6] Most of  Bridging the Peace funding was channeled through the NGO discussed in the next chapter, SRI-Global, in order to minimize overhead charges.[7] Neither of these grants was very large by foundation standards, but both were timely and much appreciated, and could be put to immediately productive uses.



The foundation support that elevated the SRI enterprise to a significantly higher level came from a private foundation established in 2005 by the Canadian-American actor and multi-talented entertainer, Jim Carrey.[8] How a famous Hollywood celebrity became the most substantial patron of SRI shows how much serendipity and surprise there has been in the SRI story.

It was reported in Chapter 24 how successes with SRI in a project in the West Timor province of Indonesia prompted ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency,[9] to fund a series of three SRI training videos, produced by a small New Zealand company.[10] The director for these videos, which are still among the best available on SRI, was Victor Lee, an Indonesian-Australian living in Singapore at the time. He became persuaded about the merits of SRI from hearing farmers’ testimonies and from seeing their results.[11] Victor happened to tell a friend of his who was also living in Singapore about SRI, a psychologist and personal counselor John Jolliffe (Chapter 25).

Shortly thereafter, John moved back to southern California and reconnected with his friend Jim Carrey, who was planning to set up a charitable foundation to be called the Better U Foundation.[12] Having himself grown up in poverty, Jim had for some years been doing personal, ad hoc philanthropy to ‘give back’ from his own financial success. Now he wanted to engage in more systematic and purposeful philanthropy. When he asked his friend John what his new foundation could do that was not already being supported and that could bring large, quick and tangible benefits to thousands of people, John told Jim about SRI.

This part of the story calls for some explicitly personal narration. I got a call in Ithaca one afternoon in 2007 from John Jolliffe who introduced himself and told me that he was in conversation with someone in Hollywood who had become interested in SRI and who would like to know more about it. Could I come to California for a meeting if he sent me a plane ticket and covered the costs? He said that he couldn’t tell me who this person was before the meeting, however.

This sounded like cloak-and-dagger stuff, but our motto was that we would go anywhere to talk to anyone about SRI. So, John sent me a ticket and met me at the Los Angeles airport when I arrived at 10 pm. He drove me to an oceanside hotel for a night’s sleep, and we met again at 7 the next morning for breakfast together. He briefed me for the meeting, but still would not say anything about the person whom I was to meet.

We reached the small office of the new Better U Foundation at 9 am, and shortly after we were seated in its conference room, in walked Jim Carrey! I had prepared a powerpoint presentation to show what SRI was accomplishing and how it had been spread already to some 40 countries, with very positive results. But Jim seemed to know a lot of this already. When he asked me questions, he sometimes partially answered them himself. 

It was evident that Jim had studied the SRI website carefully and had done considerable reading about SRI before we met. One should expect that a successful actor would be what lawyers call ‘a quick study,’ someone who can learns quickly and deftly grasps the essentials, whether dealing with the lines of a script or the details of a court case brief.
After three hours of discussion, we adjourned for lunch, after which I flew back to Ithaca. Jim had satisfied himself that SRI was ‘for real’ and was willing to assist our efforts through his new foundation. 

The Better U Foundation’s first assistance for SRI came in response to a request that I received from Erika Styger who wanted to conduct systematic SRI trials/demonstrations in the Timbuktu region of Mali.[13] One farmer there who had tried out SRI methods for himself had gotten a yield of 9 tonnes per hectare, more than double the usual yield. She had identified a number of villages in the region whose farmers would welcome proper SRI training and were willing to participate in standard kinds of evaluation of the new methods.

The Foundation provided US$ 84,000 to the NGO Africare to do rigorous testing and demonstrations of SRI on the edge of the Sahara desert. The results from that first season of trials showed how successful SRI could be under harsh, water-scarce conditions, launching this innovation in an important rice-growing West African country.[14] The picture below shows Erika standing in the middle of the back row with Malian farmers to whom she had given SRI training in Timbuktu.

In August 2008, Jim Carrey and John Jolliffe visited Madagascar to acquaint themselves personally with SRI there and to raise the profile of this innovation in its country of origin. These objectives were served by their making a number of field visits and then meeting with the President of Madagascar. In November, the Better U Foundation funded the establishment of an SRI Secretariat in Madagascar, also providing the Secretariat with technical assistance to support and professionalize its operations.[15]

Having seen the success of SRI in Mali and Madagascar, Jim Carrey through John Jolliffe asked me what might be the best next step to disseminate the benefits of SRI knowledge. I prepared a proposal for accelerating the spread of SRI in half a dozen African countries, some already started with SRI, others being good targets of opportunity. The Foundation’s board of directors was reluctant to make such a commitment, however, fearing that this would create expectations of long-term funding from BUF. So this was too big a step for the board to agree to.

As an alternative, the foundation’s board was willing to make a gift to Cornell University to establish an SRI International Network and Resources Center. The foundation provided funding for the first three years of SRI-Rice, as the center became known.[16] The center began operating in August 2010 to support SRI networks and activities in countries around the world, to encourage, cumulate and disseminate research on SRI, and to provide information and materials on SRI as best it could to anyone who was interested.

These were all activities quite consistent with Cornell University’s mission as a land-grant university. Erika Styger joined the center as its Associate Director for Programs, but in effect as its director since my self-designated role was as Senior Advisor. Lucy Fisher became the Associate Director for Communication, continuing and expanding upon the support activities for SRI that she had started under CIIFAD.

At the same time, BUF provided some additional funding for SRI-Rice to support the introduction of SRI into Haiti, a country where hunger and poverty were attracting worldwide attention and concern, especially after a major earthquake there in January 2010. In September of that year, SRI-Rice sent Erika from Ithaca to Haiti to do SRI training with NGO partners in the north and southwest of the country. It also enlisted Joeli Barison from Madagascar to participate in the training.[17] When an evaluation workshop was held in Port-au-Prince with farmers and officials in March 2011, Jim Carrey attended it to hear about the results. In the picture below, John, Jim and Erika are standing in the back row with workshop participants, Jim in the center.

C35 3 6.png

In September 2010, Jim Carrey was invited by the Clinton Global Initiative to speak on SRI at a forum in New York City, as seen in the picture below. Jim is holding up a picture contrasting a ‘normal’ rice plant and an SRI rice plant that were being shown by an Indonesian farmer profiled in Chapter 26, Miyatty Jannah. The US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is sitting to the right of the picture of Miyatty, looking on and apparently listening. Unfortunately, he does not seem that he have taken the presentation very seriously.[18]

C35 4 7.jpg

In September 2011, the Better U Foundation co-sponsored with SRI-Rice a Latin American regional conference on SRI, hosted by Earth University in Costa Rica. John Jolliffe attended this event representing the Foundation. Twenty-seven participants from 10 countries throughout the hemisphere attended the conference, laying the groundwork for subsequent regional cooperation for spreading SRI within the Latin American and Caribbean region.[19]

Some of BUF’s gift was carried over by SRI-Rice beyond 2013 as it had begun to mobilize some complementary funding for its operations from other foundations as noted above. Since 2013, the Better U Foundation has not been much engaged with SRI-Rice, although its website continued to feature SRI as a major thrust of the Foundation, and SRI is still cited as one of its main concerns.[20]

SRI’s acceptance around the world could have been accelerated with further support from the Better U Foundation or with funding mobilized from other socially-minded celebrities in Hollywood. But we were grateful for the assistance provided, generously and without strings, in an effort to make the benefits of SRI more widely known and more widely available.



For many years, foundation activity in the US was dominated by what became known as ‘the mainline foundations,’ well-known institutions established in the first part of the 20th century.[21] Over the past 50 years, there has been a multiplicity and diversity of new foundations created, so the older ones are now relatively less influential, although they still enjoy preeminence.

One of their major creations was the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, discussed in Chapter 22. The CGIAR system was set up in 1971 to oversee the agricultural research centers like IRRI and CIMMYT that had already been brought into being by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. These mainline foundations have been major sources of support for the CGIAR system ever since.

Once there was reason to take SRI seriously, we began trying to make contact with the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and with the MacArthur Foundation, which by then was considered as one of the mainline foundations although it was established in 1970. There was response only from the Rockefeller Foundation, thanks to the interest of one of its agricultural staff members. The others simply did not respond, and since many foundations have a policy of not accepting unsolicited requests for funding, it was difficult to approach them.

The Rockefeller Foundation had for years been the foundation most involved in agricultural development, having begun supporting the work of Dr. Norman Borlaug in Mexico to improve wheat production in the mid-1940s. Our first connection with the Rockefeller Foundation was through its vice-president for agricultural sciences, Robert Herdt, a Cornell alumnus who was a member of CIIFAD’s international advisory committee. In this latter capacity, he learned about SRI as I briefed the committee annually about all of the CIIFAD programs including in Madagascar. Bob was also an adjunct professor of agricultural economics at Cornell, an honorary appointment that made for interaction with faculty and students so that he could maintain links with academic. When he retired from the Foundation in 2003, indeed, he relocated from New York City to Ithaca.[22]

It happened that Bob Herdt and I were both invited to a two-day meeting in Maryland in 1997 that addressed the challenges of sustainable development. It was attended also by Miguel Altieri and some 50 other persons.[23] As I was not yet fully persuaded of SRI’s merits, I spoke cautiously about the innovation when suggesting that SRI be evaluated as one way to improve both the productivity and sustainability of agriculture.

When Bob, Miguel and I talked during a coffee break, Bob suggested that Miguel and I organize a conference on agroecological innovations like SRI to be held at the Rockefeller Foundation’s international conference center in Bellagio, Italy, something that had not occurred to us.[24]

Miguel and I prepared a proposal which was accepted, so we were able to convene such a meeting in April, 1999. The participants, limited to 24, were a mix of eminent academic and institutional leaders together with persons who brought innovative field experiences to the discussion.[25] This was the first time that I made a presentation to an international audience sharing what was known at the time about SRI.[26] This was a prestigious venue for SRI’s international ‘debut,’ but more important, it provided links with like-minded persons that could be followed up.[27]

Shortly before the Bellagio conference, a program officer for the Rockefeller Foundation, Ruben Puentes, attended a workshop at Cornell that CIIFAD had organized on ‘mulch-based agriculture,’ and we got acquainted during coffee breaks. As someone favorably disposed to agroecological approaches, Ruben took an interest in SRI, and toward the end of that year, when he had some unallocated funds left in his program budget, Ruben called me in Ithaca to ask whether we could make good use of US$ 35,000 to evaluate SRI ideas.

A proposal was put together quickly with funding divided equally among colleagues at the University of Antananarivo, the Madagascar government’s agricultural and rural research agency FOFIFA, and Association Tefy Saina. This was the kind of university-government-NGO collaboration that we favored for carrying out SRI work whenever possible.[28]

Of most significance for the future of SRI was Prof. Randriamiharisoa’s decision to use his funding to support the two large factorial-trial evaluations of SRI in 2000 and 2001 that were reported at the beginning of Chapter 7. He got the top students in two successive classes of young agronomists graduating from the university to evaluate SRI trials in two contrasting climatic locations, using random block design. This research provided extensive and quite conclusive results that gave us and others more confidence in SRI methods.[29]

When plans were being made for the first international meeting on SRI, discussed in Chapter 8, Ruben Puentes agreed provide US$ 60,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation for travel and other costs, covering almost half of the total budget. He himself participated in the conference in Sanya, China, learning in detail about SRI performance in countries all around the world. Unfortunately, his position within the Foundation was not high enough to countervail the strong preference within that organization for high-tech solutions to deal with the world’s agricultural problems.

In July 2004, I arranged to meet the then-president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Gordon Conway, to discuss SRI. I had met him previously when he was head of the Ford Foundation office in New Delhi in the late 1980s, and again in the early 1990s when he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex in England. We had lunch together in his office in New York City, along with Robert Herdt’s successor as vice-president for agricultural sciences, Gary Thoennissen. I had thought that Ruben would also be invited to join us for the discussion, but he wasn’t.

I thanked Gordon and Gary for the support that SRI had already received from the Rockefeller Foundation. I reviewed in brief what we had learned so far and what results we could report from experience in different countries. Since Gordon had been one of the earliest proponents of agroecological thinking,[30] I expected him to take an interest in SRI. And indeed he did express some interest, but he said that since he would be leaving the Foundation by the end of the year, he was not getting involved in grant-making any more. This closed down the discussion that I had hoped to have about getting Foundation support for our SRI work.

I had reason to hope that Gary Thoennissen, who had done his academic training in microbiology, would take some interest in SRI because we were starting to get evidence about the contributions that microbes make to its effectiveness (Chapter 5). But Gary accepted the prevailing thinking within the Foundation that world food needs can best be met by investing in and promoting ‘scientific breakthroughs,’ particularly by developing new and better crop varieties. Most Foundation agricultural staff also assumed the need to rely on and use ‘modern’ inputs for raising production, a perspective at odds with the agroecological insights of their president.

Gordon Conway was strongly supportive of the Green Revolution approach of the CGIAR system and its centers, perhaps in part because of his time working in India, where that approach had been effective and was venerated. Shortly after my visit to the Foundation, Ruben Puentes was assigned from the agriculture division to cultural affairs, so there was no more access for SRI or interest in it. After retiring from the Foundation’s presidency, Gordon became more supportive of SRI, as noted in Chapter 29, but this had no impact on the Foundation’s grant-making. After 2004, although there were still polite communications, there was no interest in SRI indicated from the Rockefeller Foundation even though SRI was achieving what it said it wanted to promote.


This foundation, established in 2000, soon became the world’s largest with assets of US$ 50 billion. It became a major player in the foundation world by acquiring or relying on a lot of expertise to manage its resources. In the field of agriculture, it established numerous links with the Rockefeller Foundation because of this foundation’s preeminence in that sector.

The new foundation was particularly committed to making improvements in the health and agriculture sectors: “In developing countries, [the Foundation’s] focus is on improving people’s health and giving them a chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.”[31] Since it emphasized achieving quick, cost-effective and sustainable benefits for poor and marginal populations, the Gates Foundation appeared to be a possible source of support for SRI as this innovation began gaining acceptance and momentum outside of Madagascar. However, this was not forthcoming.

Initially we had a good contact within the Foundation’s agricultural division when it recruited as one of its professionals a Cornell graduate, Roy Steiner, whom I knew very well.[32] Still, it became apparent that there was little interest in SRI within the Gates Foundation’s agriculture program, even though SRI could contribute quickly and economically to the goals that Bill and Melinda Gates had set for their foundation. There was an evident preference for higher-tech solutions than SRI represented.

At least three times I offered by email to come to Seattle, at my own expense, to discuss SRI with the agricultural division staff, to answer any questions or objections that they might have, and to show how our knowledge and experience with SRI could help the Foundation meet its objectives. This offer was never taken up or even discussed, apparently because at higher levels within the Foundation a strategic decision had been made to favor and fund the approaches being pursued by the CGIAR centers.[33]

When both IRRI and the SRI group at Cornell agreed in 2007 to conduct a joint multi-year, multi-country evaluation of SRI, as discussed in Chapter 7, to assess scientifically the validity of our positive reports about SRI or of IRRI’s rejection of these reports, I wrote to Roy Steiner to inquire whether the Gates Foundation might be willing to fund such a study. This was intended to settle the controversy over SRI ‘once and for all,’ as IRRI’s director-general Robert Zeigler put it.[34] Within about a month, Roy got back to me to say that in principle, the Foundation was open to supporting such an evaluation.

Subsequently, IRRI and Cornell invited researchers at Wageningen University to join in what would thus be a tripartite evaluation. This would bring into the investigation an institutional partner ostensibly more ‘neutral’ than either Cornell or IRRI, each being publicly identified as being either pro or con SRI. While Wageningen faculty had closer connections to IRRI staff than to Cornell faculty, we had confidence in the professionalism of our Dutch colleagues.

In May 2008, Wageningen hosted a joint planning meeting in the Netherlands of professionals from all three institutions. A research design was worked out that all agreed would constitute a fair test of SRI principles and methods. When this design was costed out, including the respective institutional overhead charges, it came to nearly US$10 million over five years for the three institutions and the five countries where trials would be conducted.

This was actually not a very large amount considering how much was at stake. However, the Gates Foundation responded that it had been thinking of a grant in the range between US$ 3 and 4 million. So, the three partners by email scaled back the proposal with fewer countries and fewer years to construct a budget just below US$ 4 million.

A formal proposal was submitted to the Gates Foundation at the end of the summer 2008, with all of the financial and bureaucratic hurdles in the three institutions having been cleared. We waited for three months before a phone call came from the foundation. In November, Roy explained regretfully that even though the budget had been revised downward enough to meet the target, the foundation would not be able to consider the proposal at that time.

The collapse of the Wall Street stock market during the fall of 2008, he said, had seriously reduced the foundation’s working capital.[35] The foundation was therefore having to suspend its making of new grants. However, it would consider the proposal again in a year’s time.

This was quite a setback. As it turned out, the Foundation did not consider the proposal further, as far as we know. Instead, in 2009 the Foundation made a direct grant to Wageningen University to do a two-year study of how SRI had spread, as discussed in Chapter 7.[36] The principal investigators from Cornell, John Duxbury and Janice Thies, were not informed or consulted on this change in plans, nor was I. IRRI had no apparent role in the new initiative, but perhaps it had lost interest in having such an evaluation done. In any case, the opportunity to bring IRRI and the SRI community together and to resolve scientific disagreements was lost.

In May 2010, Bill Gates himself visited India to get a close-up look at Foundation-supported initiatives there, including a poverty-reduction program in Bihar state that was managed by PRADAN, one of the leading NGOs in the country and a collaborator on both SRI and SCI.

Bill Gates’ site visits were made with as little fanfare and advance notice as possible, to avoid huge crowds of curious onlookers. With some careful covert planning, he visited a village in Bihar named Teleria where PRADAN was assisting women’s self-help groups to improve the nutritional and economic situations of their households. Introducing SRI and SWI was a key component of the PRADAN strategy in this village.

May was not the best month to learn about SRI and SWI because there were no cereal crops in the field as the monsoon season had not yet begun. But the women of the village gave Bill Gates a vivid, even passionate account of how SRI and SWI methods were improving their lives, I was told later by PRADAN’s director, Soumen Biswas. The picture below shows Bill Gates looking at pictures that the villagers had put together for his visit, to show him their situation at other times of the year as well as SRI and SWI crops.

C35 5 12.jpg

The visit seems to have made a positive impression upon Bill Gates because PRADAN sent me the link to a half-hour interview done by a local television station the next day. In it, Gates spoke for several minutes about how SRI and SWI methods were improving the villagers’ lives and food security.

Unfortunately, the interview did not remain posted for long. It showed, however, that the village visit and interaction with project beneficiaries had given Bill Gates direct knowledge of how SRI can have quick and beneficial impacts on people’s well-being. When we tried to make contact with the Foundation to follow up through his chief of staff, who was also on the visit, however, there was no response.

That the Gates Foundation preferred to pursue ‘technical’ solutions to problems of hunger and poverty was confirmed eight years later when a British journalist John Vidal contacted the Foundation as part of his research for an article on SRI that he wrote and published online in The Huffington Post in 2018. John asked the Gates Foundation directly, what was its thinking about SRI? The Foundation’s head of global policy for agricultural development, Gina Ivey, responded very succinctly:

[We fund] investments in rice breeding and genetics because we believe innovations in these areas have the greatest potential to empower smallholder farmers and lift their families out of poverty. We don’t currently invest in rice crop management research.[37]

Over the years, I occasionally heard second-hand that the Gates Foundation was becoming unhappy, or at least impatient, with the CGIAR approach which focused heavily on varietal improvements. This was very slow in delivering the improvements in poor people’s lives that were being promised to justify the foundation’s funding for IRRI and other CG centers which were preoccupied with crop-breeding approaches. But there was no hint of such second thoughts in Ms. Ivey’s statement above.[38]

We have kept hoping that there would be some interest and receptivity coming from the Gates Foundation toward agroecological strategies validated by SRI experience, which mobilize biological processes and potentials that already exist in crop plants and in the soil systems that support them. Possibly as evidence keeps accumulating, there will be more openness within the Gates Foundation to SRI to and the many SCI methodologies. This can still be hoped.  



There has been somewhat more interest in SRI among foundations established specifically to address the problems and needs in developing countries. The Aga Khan Foundation based in Switzerland supports programs all over the world, but mostly in Asia and Africa.[39] SRI has been integrated into its programs in a number of the countries where it operates.[40] The pictures below are from the AKF website, showing an SRI nursery and SRI weeding operations in Tanzania where the foundation worked in Lindi and Mtwara provinces.

C35 6 13.png

The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in India funded by the Aga Khan Foundation has promoted SRI in Gujarat state where few other organizations were disseminating SRI, and also in Bihar state, where it got involved also with promoting SSI for sugarcane. AKF’s program in Madagascar has made good use of SRI methods in the north of that country. Below is a picture from Ankzomirafy, Sofia district of the new methods being combined with no-till raised beds according to principles of Conservation Agriculture. In neighboring Mozambique, the AKF program there has been supporting SRI extension since 2004.

C35 7 14.jpg

AKF’s most extensive and successful support of SRI has been in Afghanistan, focused in Baglan province as discussed in Chapter 43. As seen from the picture below, the physical conditions for growing rice there are quite different from those in most other countries, and the long-running armed conflicts in Afghanistan have added to the challenge. Even so, with good staff on the ground there were results that made it one of the more successful countries for SRI acceptance.[41]

C35 8 14.png

The national foundation that has been most involved with SRI in India is the Tata Trusts, previously organized in two parallel trusts based in Mumbai.[42] It was fortunate for SRI in India that Biswanath Sinha, who had worked with PRADAN before he joined the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, knew about SRI first-hand. When the WWF-ICRISAT initiative was getting started, Biswanath was in a position to give support to the all-India SRI symposia that were organized in 2006, 2007 and 2008, with increasing buy-in from a variety of government and donor agencies and with ever-wider participation. He subsequently became associate director for the whole combined Tata philanthropic operation.

Starting in 2006, the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust undertook to give direct support to SRI adoption in northeastern India, in districts of West Bengal and Jharkhand states where there was greatest poverty and need. After two years of experience, working through NGO partners with 11,000 and then 14,000 farmers, a three-year program was launched in 2008 with almost US$ 1.6 million (109 million rupees). The program made grants to 161 NGO and other partners working at local levels, reaching 65,000 farmers in 10 states by 2010.

In 2010, another three-year grant was approved for almost US$ 3.5 million (239 million rupees) to expand this work. The support was matched by a similar grant worked out with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). By 2017-28, according to the Foundation’s annual report, the number of farmers trained in and using SRI methods under the NGO programs that it supported had reached 170,000 living in 3,500 villages in 104 districts, most of which are rainfed. An evaluation of the average yield increases, based on systematic sampling in two states, arrived at the figure of 87%.[43] A third-phase Tata program was designed to reach and assist 280,000 households.

The Sir Dorabji Tata Trust also supported an SRI Secretariat based in Bhubaneswar, managed by the Livolink Foundation, a development NGO in Odisha state. The secretariat maintained an SRI website while overseeing the large Tata-supported program.[44] The secretariat also followed and promoted the extension of SRI ideas by farmers to improve other crops: wheat, millet, sugarcane, mustard and vegetables.[45]

A secretariat publication in 2010 was the first systematic presentation on SCI theory and practice. Below are pictures from the secretariat’s website. In the first, we see NGO field workers trained by the secretariat showing village women how to calculate the yield of their SWI wheat crop. In the second, an Odisha farmer is standing amidst his abundant SCI crop of mustard.

C35 9 16.png

The March 2019 issue of the Tata Trusts’ magazine had a report from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur on SRI impact there. It quoted a 70-year-old farmer who said:

I did not sleep the night after planting the seeds, and only fitfully in that first week. I was plagued by worry. What if it did not work, what if the rice died on me? This continued for a month, until the [tillers] began flowering. When harvest time came, I was over the moon. My output had increased by over 50%... Every farmer who joined the scheme has profited, even in years when rain has been scarce.

This is not an uncommon statement from farmers who use SRI methods; see Paresh Das’ statement in Chapter 26. A neighbor who was initially skeptical about SRI said: “Using the cono weeder, especially, has been a revelation. It saves me so much on time and labour.”[46] This confirmed what was seen and heard in most countries where SRI was introduced, despite the claim of critics that SRI was ‘too labor-intensive.’ The Tata Trusts have the resources to do a thorough evaluation and reporting on their SRI work, so perhaps they will conduct and publish a far-reaching study of their SRI philanthropy.[47]

As noted in the preceding chapter, a foundation established by India’s leading cement company, the Ambuja Cement Foundation, took SRI as one of its programs focuses in West Bengal. In 2009, there were 174 farmers using the new methods; 10 years later, the number was over 10,000.[48] Its 2016 report on sustainable development efforts noted that two communities with which worked on SRI in West Bengal state were able to save enough water so that they could now produce three crops a year instead of two.[49] This innovation would have a large impact on food security if it could spread more broadly. Below is a picture of SRI cultivation in West Bengal from the Ambuja Cement Foundation website.

C35 10 17.png

In Bihar, there was a major push given to SRI and SCI by the state government through its Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (JEEViKA), enlisting the cooperation and field operations of NGOs like PRADAN and then PRAN (Chapters 24 and 31). The involvement of NGOs in the Bihar campaign was supported by several foundations, starting with the Tata Trust. Support also came from the Deshpande Foundation and the Azim Premji Foundation.[50] There will have been also other foundation support for SRI promotion in India that is not widely known.[51]

In Indonesia, support for organic SRI has come from by the MEDCO Foundation, which had financing from one of the largest oil and gas companies in that country, MedcoEnergi. When the company’s founder Arifin Panigoro learned about SRI and especially about its organic version, he took a personal interest in it and offered to assist in its spread.[52] He subsequently hired Alik Sutaryat, seen below, to work full-time on SRI promotion on behalf of the Medco Foundation. Alik was one of the most capable and energetic SRI trainers in Indonesia, having gotten the farmers around Tasikmalaya to start growing organic SRI rice as described in Chapter 26.

C35 11 17.png


Support from this foundation in England, discussed in the preceding chapter on private sector involvement, changed the trajectory of SRI dissemination by making a longer-term and ambitious commitment to its spread worldwide. This engagement was made with the aspiration of significantly lowering greenhouse gas emission from rice production (the rice sector is responsible for 8-12% of the methane resulting from human activities). Conversion of rice land to SRI management could slow and help to halt global warming, as well as generate many other benefits for people and the environment.

The Downforce Trust under the chair of its board of trustees, Adam Parr, became involved in the strategizing and implementation of efforts to spread SRI, more than just providing financial resources. It supported a new organization based at Oxford, SRI-2030, with staff operating as counterparts to the SRI-Rice secretariat and bringing complementary skills. Rather than proceed according to a blueprint prepared by SRI-2030 and SRI-Rice, the first step was to conduct video consultations via Zoom with SRI stakeholders across all the regions (whom Adam referred to in initial conversations as ‘the SRI dream team’). Ideas for focuses and priorities were elicited from the SRI community, to formulate both central and highly de-centralized activities and initiatives. How this effort turns out will become clearer by 2030.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Idealistic use of wealth as seen from the examples of Arifin Panigoro, Jim Carrey, Dave Galloway, Brij K. Jhawar and others are not common. More such examples could have put SRI on a more rapid and wider path to acceptance. They are unpredictable, but much appreciated whenever they occur. When personal wealth has been channeled into foundations, especially the largest ones, there is a tendency toward bureaucratic thinking and decision-making that makes for more caution and conformity in grant-making than when individuals are pursuing their curiosity, interests, and ideals. The norm of ‘accountability’ can have a down-side, discouraging innovation, a hindrance that is seldom considered.

In any case, the story of SRI and its acceptance does need a chapter on the role and contributions of foundations as a particular kind of organization established for charitable purposes, even if prone to the same kinds of incentives and constraints that impel or limit other formal organizations. Individual initiative and imagination is a common and critical factor in all of the sectors that are reviewed in this Part II. What is usually seen are the actions and effects that can be attributed to an organization, so these become regarded as causal. But in fact what Robert Chambers has called the personal factor is indispensable.[53]


[1] Roy Park was born and grew up in North Carolina, getting into the newspaper profession and then into the newspaper business at a young age, eventually settling in Ithaca, NY in the 1950s and building up a newspaper and radio-station empire that reached about a quarter of the U.S.  The Triad Foundation was an offshoot of the larger Park Foundation, established ten years after Roy Park’s death in 1993. With an endowment of less than $300 million, the Triad Foundation is a relatively small player in the foundation league. The endowments for the top 40 charitable foundations average over $10 billion.

[2] The funding was used in Cambodia to launch a program of farmer-to-farmer training for SRI. In the Indian state of Kerala, the money was used for a state-level workshop to introduce SRI to the farmer science centers (KVKs) across that state. (This grant later paid additional dividends in that the grantee facilitated the introduction of SRI in Ethiopia in 2008.) In Nepal, the grant supported SRI training, workshops and manuals that Rajendra Uprety used to expand SRI in Morang and neighboring districts. The grant to Tefy Saina in Madagascar expanded its activities, which included national publicity for SRI during the Ministry of Agriculture’s International Year of Rice programs, planting and maintaining an SRI plot on the palace grounds of the country’s President which was seen by thousands of visitors (see picture in Chapter 31), and assisting French, Japanese and American students in their thesis research on SRI. All of these activities were supported with the US$10,000.

[3] In Bhutan, Karma Lhendup, a recent graduate from Cornell with a MS degree in Natural Resources, was enabled to establish SRI trial/demonstration sites at four locations in his home country. In Cambodia, CEDAC documented farmers’ inventive strategies for intensification-with-diversification, discussed in Chapter 20. In India, the SRI initiatives of two NGOs in Karnataka state, The Green Foundation and the Agriculture-Man-Environment Foundation (AMEF), were assisted. In Nepal, Rajendra Uprety was able to start SRI training for farmers in three hill districts, moving SRI from the terai (plains) area to higher elevations. Again, all of this for US$10,000.

[4] This manual is available from the SRI-Rice website. One of the original five farmers, Ros Mao, was featured in an ALiSEA summary on farmers who have been successful with agroecological practices. For more on Ros Mao’s achievements, see Chapter 26.

[5] This foundation, established in 1955 with assets reported to be around US$60 million, keeps a very low profile with little information posted on the internet. Through inquiries, Erika Styger was able to get herself invited to Upperville, Virginia, to meet with foundation executives and make a presentation to them on SRI in February 2012. This led to the foundation making a grant to SRI-Rice.

[6] The Bridging the Peace Fund operates under the Tides Foundation which has about US$150 million in assets, with equity, education, and the environment as the focuses for its philanthropy. This Fund is a rather small part of the Foundation’s program, so its resources are much less than those of the Foundation. SRI-Rice was able to get support from the Fund because one of its associates at Cornell, Carrie Young, knew a member of the Fund’s board who saw supporting SRI as a good use of its funds intended to advance the Fund’s environmental and equity objectives.

[7] The largest part of the grant, US$15,000, was used to support the work of Hamidou Guindo in Mali, described in Chapter16. Hamidou was carrying out SRI extension in the Timbuktu area despite the constraints of Jihadist forces operating there at the time. The Songhai Center in Benin received US$10,000 to establish an SRI program at this NGO training facility, and another US$5,000 was used for a training workshop in Benin for US Peace Corps volunteers who could undertake SRI extension in their respective villages. SRI-Rice got US$10,000 to support its catalytic work. There was no overhead charged on funds that were sent directly to partner organizations doing work in their own countries.

[8] Jim Carrey’s biography is given in Wikipedia.

[9] ADRA has a long history of development work, extending now to 130 countries around the world. It was one of the first NGOs in Madagascar to engage in SRI extension there.

[10] The videos, made for ADRA by Eye-to-Eye Productions, are available on YouTube as Part I, Part II and Part III, 26 minutes in all. Subsequently, a New Zealand-North Korea friendship society had the videos dubbed with Korean language subtitles for disseminating SRI in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

     These ADRA videos were supported and promoted in Indonesia by a popular actress and pop singer, Maya Rumantir, well-known both for her movies and her hit songs -- and for being a close friend of the son of the Indonesian President at the time. We have no way of knowing how much Maya’s celebrity helped the videos attract more interest from farmers and the general public.

[11] Victor’s mother still lived near Jakarta, while his wife and children were living in Australia where the children could get better schooling. Victor’s first degree had been in theology from a seminary, but he got involved in business affairs after graduation, and Singapore was a good location for this. Videography was a kind of sideline for Victor. Victor told me that from doing the SRI videos for ADRA, he got interested in understanding the dynamism of rice plants and constructed a small rhizotron in his home to be able to watch rice roots growing in and through soil.

[12] Here is the website for the Better U Foundation.

[13] Erika had completed a PhD in Crop and Soil Sciences at Cornell and was living in Mali with her husband Ed Baxter, at the time serving as country representative for the NGO Africare. Erika was doing free-lance consulting on agricultural development, having been a consultant for the World Bank before moving to Mali.  Erika had done her PhD thesis research in Madagascar on halting deforestation, supported by CIIFAD as well as other agencies. At that time Ed was a financial manager for the consulting firm Chemonics which CIIFAD was assisting in implementing the USAID conservation-and-development project that followed the USAID project in Ranomafana. Erika’s thesis was written not on SRI, but on how managed fallows could aid in forest conservation. But both she and Ed had become well-acquainted with Tefy Saina and with SRI while in Madagascar.

[14] 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).

[15] Winifred Fitzgerald and Rames Abhukar, a couple with broad experience in African development, were employed by BUF as technical advisors to the Groupement SRI secretariat in Madagascar for four years. They helped the secretariat establish a website and blog, gather, analyze and write up data, and build up an SRI network in the country.

     Starting with 10 organizations collaborating with the secretariat in 2008, within two years, membership in the network had grown to over 40. A national Groupement SRI meeting convened in June 2010 had 177 participants: 8 from the GSRI team plus 60 GSRI members; 7 representatives of regional SRI platforms; 13 from the pool of SRI technicians; 66 from the government’s Department of Rural Development and 6 from the Ministry of Agriculture’s SRI team; 4 from universities and research institutes; 7 from national technical and financial partners; and 6 from international technical and financial partners. See report on 2009-10 activities.  Fourteen local partners and NGOs received grants for innovative initiatives like establishing ‘farmer-ambassadors’ for SRI and engaging with local schools to train pupils on SRI ideas and methods.

[16] The gift of US$ 900,000 did not have the usual deductions for indirect costs and overhead that the university normally charges for sponsored research where specified deliverables are expected. Providing the funds as a gift rather than as a grant or contract left it up to the Cornell and SRI-Rice to use the funds as considered best for purposes that the faculty determined, with only a 10% deduction to cover university costs associated with supporting the additional activity.

[17] Erika had introduced SRI in Mali with BUF support and was joining SRI-Rice as its Associate Director for Programs. Joeli, who had done the first systematic research on SRI while still an undergraduate in Madagascar, had introduced SRI in Sri Lanka in 2000 during his master’s degree studies at Cornell in crop and soil science. The costs of Joeli’s traveling from Madagascar to Haiti for this assignment were covered by a large USAID project (WINNER) that was also planning to introduce SRI in Haiti. The technical assistance team leader for this project was Jean-Robert Estimé, himself a Haitian, who had been the technical assistance team leader for a USAID project in Madagascar in which CIIFAD and Tefy Saina had helped with implementation, 1998-2004. So, there was a history behind this collaboration.

[18] See an excerpt from Jim Carrey’s presentation to the CGI forum on YouTube. Afterwards, a senior advisor to Secretary Vilsack told Jim’s senior advisor, John Jolliffe, that they would like to know more about SRI and to assist in its utilization. However, there was never any follow-up from the US Department of Agriculture, as noted in Chapters 27 and 31.

[19] The SRI-Rice website has a page of reports from this 2011 conference in Costa Rica.

[20] A link for the BUF website is given in endnote 12 above. On BUF’s continuing association with SRI, see a Borgen Magazine article in 2017.

[21] This term refers to foundations like the Carnegie Foundation (established 1905), Rockefeller Foundation (1913) and Ford Foundation (1936), all well-endowed and having both public recognition and influence. See D. Burlingame, Philanthropy in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, 3 volumes, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA (2004).

[22] In 2001, Bob Herdt, who had been the second agricultural economist to work at IRRI in the Philippines, was invited to give a Distinguished Economics Lecture at CIMMYT, the CGIAR center in Mexico for improving production of maize and wheat. The topic of his talk was ‘Changing Priorities for International Agricultural Research.’ In this presentation, Bob described SRI as one of the opportunities for ‘extraordinary productivity gains’ (pp. 33-34).

[23] Miguel Altieri, a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, has been one of the leading contributors to the emerging field of agroecology.

[24] This fabled conference site located on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy was home to a monastery dating from the early 17th century, with some of its buildings going back to the 11th century. It was donated to the Foundation in 1959 by a wealthy heiress to serve as an international conference center in an incredibly beautiful setting.

[25] Participants included the directors-general of ICRAF (agroforestry) and IFPRI (food policy), a staff member from ICLARM (working on fisheries in Malawi), and the head of FAO’s IPM program; from five think tanks -- the Natural Resources Institute (UK, working in Sri Lanka), the Overseas Development Institute (UK, working in Kenya), Resources for the Future (US), the Rodale Institute (US, working in Senegal), and the World Resources Institute (US); from several NGOs -- CARE/BANGLADESH, the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada (working in Mali), World Neighbors (working in Bolivia), and a Brazilian alternative-agriculture organization; plus faculty from Wageningen University (Netherlands), the University of Essex (UK), the University of Minnesota (USA), and Cornell University (3), plus Roland Bunch, Miguel and myself.

[26] This first paper was published as ‘Agroecological implications of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Madagascar’ in Environment, Development and Sustainability, 1: 297-313 (1999), and republished in a volume of papers from the Bellagio conference, ‘Opportunities for raising yields by changing management practices: The System of Rice Intensification in Madagascar,’ in N. Uphoff, editor, Agroecological Innovations: Increasing Food Production with Participatory Development, 145-161, Earthscan, London (2002).

[27] The conference forged links with persons giving leadership in agricultural development such as Roland Bunch, mentioned often in this memoire (Chapter 25); Peter Kenmore, leader of FAO’s IPM program, who commented favorably on SRI at the opening plenary session at FAO in Rome which launched the International Year of Rice in 2004; Vern Ruttan, IRRI’s first agricultural economist and highly respected commentator on agricultural affairs; Jules Pretty, founder of The International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, plus the directors-general of IFPRI and ICRAF, Per Pinstrup-Anderson and Pedro Sanchez, as noted above. It led directly to the introduction of SRI in Bangladesh when a participant from CARE/Bangladesh, Sylvie Dessiles, took the paper on SRI back to Dhaka and distributed it among NGOs and government personnel.

[28] Prof. Robert Randriamiharisoa was given funding to advance scientific knowledge of SRI; Bruno Andrianaivo got funds to do field trials evaluating different SRI practices; and Tefy Saina undertook some systematic evaluation of SRI adoption vs. non-adoption. Given the timing of the grant, starting December 1, 1999, when a main growing season had already started, the project as extended to June 2002 to be able to have two seasons of data.

[29] Reported in Uphoff and Randriamiharisoa, ‘Possibilities for reducing water use in irrigated rice production through the Madagascar System of Rice Intensification (SRI), in Water-Wise Rice Production, eds. B.A. Bouman et al., 71-88, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños (2002).

[30] See the Wikipedia entry on Gordon Conway’s career, and a 2013 interview on this subject.

[31] The Foundation’s mission statement says that it is guided by the belief that every life has equal value. Over half of the Foundation’s grants have been for investments in global health (US$15.3 billion), but the US$ 3.6 billion supporting global development emphasizing agriculture is a huge amount of money.

[32] I had served as one of Roy’s academic advisors for his PhD in agricultural engineering, and we had written a book together on irrigation management, Managing Irrigation: Analyzing and Improving the Performance of Bureaucracies, with Priti Ramamurthy, Sage Publications, New Delhi (1991). We were also good friends while Roy was studying at Cornell.

[33] On IRRI’s website, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shown as the first and most important among IRRI’s major investors.

[34] Bob Zeigler suggested that once the study was completed, he and I should hold a joint press conference to announce the results. The implication was that one of us would have to publicly back down. He was not willing to commit any IRRI funds to this effort, however, and let to me the task of raising money for this undertaking (email communication).

[35] Readers outside the US may not know much about this period when the American economy entered what became called ‘the great recession.’ While less economically and socially devastating than the Great Depression of the 1930s, it was a traumatic event and period. The greatest losses were in the financial sector, but millions of jobs were lost, and economic growth was negative for a year and a half.

[36] This is the press release on the project from the Gates Foundation, and the announcement by Wageningen University.

[37] ‘A new farming technique using drastically less water is catching on: But not everyone is on board,’ Huffington Post, Mary 15 (2018). It is ironic that John Vidal’s travel for reporting on SRI for The Guardian newspaper published in London, as discussed in Chapter 29, was supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for that newspaper’s reporting on ‘global development.’

[38] We heard from Indian colleagues that in their discussions with Gates Foundation staff there was resistance to the foundation funding SRI explicitly, although if some other designation was used for the methodology, it could be accepted within programs that the foundation supported.

[39] This is where there are the largest populations of Ismaili Muslims, although the foundation’s programs serve entire populations without out regard to religious affiliation.

[40] Getting Aga Khan Foundation attention drawn to SRI was assisted by our colleague Amir Kassam who served in the 1980s as chair of the Foundation’s board of directors in the UK. (There is a short profile of Amir in Chapter 25.) Amir served often as a volunteer consultant on agricultural and rural development for AKF since the late 1970s.

[41] This can be seen from the Afghanistan country page on the SRI website, and from reports from AKF staff. Vincent Thomas and Ali Mohammad Ramzi, ‘SRI contributions to rice production dealing with water management constraints in northeastern Afghanistan,’ Paddy and Water Environment 9: 101-109 (2011), and Ali Mohammad Ramzi and Humayun Kabir, ‘Rice production under water management constraints with SRI methods in northeastern Afghanistan,’ Taiwan Water Conservancy 61: 76-85 (2013).

[42] The Sir Ratan Tata Trust, founded in 1919, and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, established in 1932.

[43] See report to the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program in 2012 by Biswanath Sinha, Tushar Dash and Ashutosh Pal, Experience of Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and the Allied Trusts in Promoting System of Rice Intensification (SRI): What the Results Indicate. One of the most interesting statistics reported from an evaluation survey in 2011 was that households in their first-year with SRI added 26 days to their annual food security; those with three years of SRI experience had added 118 more days of household food security.

     In accounting for farmers’ costs and benefits, the evaluation found that farmers spent more (US$ 7 per hectare) on ploughing and leveling, irrigation, and threshing, but less (US$ 24 per hectare) for seed, fertilizer, and labor for transplanting and weeding. With the increased harvest bringing in US$ 84 more per hectare, farmers increased their net income per hectare by over US$100.

[44] The Secretariat’s website gives the history of SDTT involvement and its own engagement with SRI, as well as links to SRI and SCI publications.  Livolink maintains a website on its whole program which includes SRI.

[45] T.K. Dash and A. Pal, Growing Crops with SRI Principles, SRI Secretariat, Livolink and Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Bhubaneswar (2011).

[46] Horizon, March, pages 34-36 (2019).

[47] One bit of assistance from the Tata Foundation was utterly indirect and unknown to the Foundation. The Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition was established at Cornell University in 2013 with a generous gift from the Tata Trusts. In 2018, an Indian student, Anshuman Gupta, having been admitted Cornell’s MPA program in CIPA, wrote to me to see if SRI-Rice had both need and resources for some research assistance, as the financial aid offered by CIPA was not sufficient for him to accept CIPA’s offer of admission. We had need for his services, but not the resources to support him. He was very well qualified, knowing about SRI already and having done his first degree in engineering at an Indian Institute of Technology and then a masters’ degree at IRMA, the Institute for Rural Management in Ahmedabad.

     Fortunately, the Tata-Cornell Institute was able to give him a stipend so that he could study for his MPA degree, and in both years he worked with me as a student assistant, thanks to CIPA, assisting both years with my graduate course on ‘planning and management of agricultural and rural development,’ and helping with all kinds of tasks. In early 2020, Anshuman started assisting me in uploading this wikiblog e-book on the web, drawing on his computer skills learned from IIT training. This book could not have been posted as well or as quickly without this very indirect assistance from the Tata Trusts. Anshuman’s assistance with the book was extended for another year when the Tata-Cornell Institute offered him an assistantship for another year at Cornell, helping to operate its program.

[48] Reported in the Foundation’s Thrive magazine, March 20, 2019. The report concluded with the sentence, “Today, some of these farmers are sending their children to agricultural universities – to take family farming to a new level.”

[49] This report is available on-line. The Foundation produced and posted on YouTube a graphic farmer testimonial, explaining how his family’s precarious life was greatly improved by a 54% increase in yield with SRI methods on his tiny rice farm of 0.33 acres (0.13 hectare).

[50] The Deshpande Foundation, established by Indian expatriates, is based in Boston, MA, but it has a large program in India. Azim Premji who established this eponymous foundation based in Bangalore is known informally as the czar of India’s IT industry, and he is reportedly the second richest person in India.

[51] An example would be the Adani Foundation, which describes how SRI methods have changed family life in 64 villages of Maharashtra in a video posted on YouTube. The Foundation is a CSR creation of the Adani Group, a multinational conglomerate based in Gujarat state. In Jharkhand state, the Usha Martin Group has given generously to rural development work for almost 50 years, and has been supporting SRI through the KGVK center that it supports outside Ranchi for the last 20 years, urged by one of the company’s founders and directors, Brij K. Jhawar.

[52] In January 2008, to facilitate my visit to Andalas University in Sumatra, Arifin Panigoro provided me a car and driver and he himself attended the day-long symposium that the university organized (described in my trip report, pages 10-15). See MIFEE report for information on MEDCO and Panigoro, whom Forbes listed as one of Indonesia’s wealthiest men. MEDCO’s description of organic SRI as ‘community-based sustainable agriculture’ is posted on its website.

[53] See the last section of Robert Chambers’ book Rural Development: Putting the Last First, Longmans, New York (1982), and his working paper published some years later by the Institute of Development Studies, NGOs and Development: The Primacy of the Personal, University of Sussex, UK (1995).


PICTURE CREDITS:  CEDAC, Phnom Penh; Erika Styger; John Jolliffe (Better U Foundation); Caryl Levine (Lotus Foods); Soumen Biswas (PRADAN); Aga Khan Foundation (2); Amir Kassam; Aga Khan Foundation/Afghanistan; Shuichi Sato.

bottom of page