0209 Working for Freedom from Hunger in Harmony with Nature


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Consultation on Peace, Freedom from Hunger, and Sustainable Development: The Ethical Dimensions M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, MSRRF,Chennai, India

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0209 Working for Freedom from Hunger in Harmony with Nature

  1. 1. Working for Freedom from Hunger in Harmony with Nature Consultation on Peace, Freedom from Hunger, and Sustainable Development: The Ethical Dimensions M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation Chennai, December 2-4, 2002 Norman Uphoff, Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development
  2. 2. Freedom from HUNGER -- like living in PEACE -- is an age-old dream <ul><li>The Green Revolution in the latter third of the 20th century has contributed more to reducing hunger in the world than has any previous set of innovations </li></ul><ul><li>However, many still have not benefited from the Green Revolution -- and its methods pose environmental problems due to the use of agrochemicals and the heavy water requirements </li></ul>
  3. 3. Achieving freedom from hunger in harmony with nature <ul><li>will require that modern agriculture is: </li></ul><ul><li>More accessible to poor households , making the best use of their land and their labor so that they reap the benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Less dependent on external inputs to make agriculture more sustainable , and </li></ul><ul><li>Less water-demanding & more benign for the environment , particularly the soil </li></ul>
  4. 4. Green Revolution technologies <ul><li>Require purchases of improved seeds, also chemical fertilizers and agrochemical inputs -- pesticides, herbicides, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>They also need greater capital expenditures, with risk of crop failure & indebtedness </li></ul><ul><li>Irrigation demands are lowering water tables </li></ul><ul><li>Nitrogen fertilizers degrade water quality and agrochemicals are harming human health -- we see sharply diminishing returns to N use </li></ul><ul><li>We should be considering some alternatives </li></ul>
  5. 5. How can we progress beyond the Green Revolution? <ul><li>We will continue to need and use Green Revolution technologies, as world food needs continue to grow </li></ul><ul><li>Production must double over next 30-40 years: population growth is continuing, income growth causes higher demand , and large food-deficit population (800 m in absolute hunger) has unmet needs </li></ul>
  6. 6. The 21st Century will be the Century of Biology <ul><li>Much as the 20th century was a century for engineering & chemistry </li></ul><ul><li>In this new century, biotechnology (bioengineering) will be important </li></ul><ul><li>But broader biological innovation will make powerful contributions -- esp. agroecological innovations = WORKING WITH NATURE </li></ul>
  7. 7. The System of Rice Intensification is an example of agroecological approaches <ul><li>SRI is not a solution to all food needs -- </li></ul><ul><li>It addresses only rice production, though rice is most important cereal </li></ul><ul><li>34% of small farming systems are presently based on irrigated rice </li></ul><ul><li>Still a lot is not known about SRI -- until 1999 only known in Madagascar </li></ul><ul><li>Denies claim that low input = low output </li></ul>
  8. 8. More tillers and more than 400 grains per panicle
  9. 9. SRI is a METHODOLOGY rather than a TECHNOLOGY <ul><li>SRI is a set of PRINCIPLES that are applied through a set of PRACTICES that farmers are encouraged to adapt to suit their local conditions -- farmer learning is important and part of SRI </li></ul><ul><li>Different paradigm for growing rice -- </li></ul><ul><li>get different phenotypes from genotypes </li></ul>
  10. 11. Plant Physical Structure and Light Intensity Distribution at Heading Stage (CNRRI Research: Tao et al. 2002)
  11. 12. “ Starting Points” for SRI <ul><li>Transplant young seedlings , 8-15 days (2 leaves), quickly and very carefully </li></ul><ul><li>Single plants per hill with wide spacing in a square pattern, 25x25 cm or wider </li></ul><ul><li>Soil should be kept moist but not continuously saturated in growth phase </li></ul><ul><li>Use rotating hoe early and often (2-4x) </li></ul><ul><li>Application of compost is recommended </li></ul><ul><li>Farmers are invited/expected to experiment and assess variations of these practices </li></ul>
  12. 13. OBSERVABLE BENEFITS <ul><li>Average yields are about 8 t/ha -- </li></ul><ul><li>twice present world average of 3.8 t/ha </li></ul><ul><li>Maximum yields can be twice this -- 15-16 t/ha, with some over 20 t/ha </li></ul><ul><li>Water required is reducible by 50% </li></ul><ul><li>Increased factor productivity from land, labor, capital and water (> yield) </li></ul><ul><li>Lower costs of production -- this is important consideration for farmers </li></ul>
  13. 14. LESS OR NO NEED FOR: <ul><li>Changing varieties , though best yields from high-yielding varieties and hybrids -- traditional varieties produce very well </li></ul><ul><li>Chemical fertilizers -- these give a good yield response with SRI methods, but best results are obtained from compost </li></ul><ul><li>Agrochemicals – plants more resistant to pests and diseases with SRI methods </li></ul>
  14. 15. ADDITIONAL BENEFITS <ul><li>Seeding rate is reduced as much as 90%, 5-10 kg/ha produces more than 50-100 kg </li></ul><ul><li>No lodging because of stronger roots </li></ul><ul><li>Environmentally friendly production due to water saving, no/fewer chemicals </li></ul><ul><li>More accessible to poor households because few capital requirements -- mechanical hand weeder about $10 </li></ul>
  15. 16. DISADVANTAGES / COSTS <ul><li>SRI is more labor-intensive , at least initially - although it gives higher returns to labor and can become labor-saving </li></ul><ul><li>SRI requires greater knowledge/skill from farmers  better decision-makers and managers, thus contributing to HRD </li></ul><ul><li>SRI requires good water control to get best results, making regular applications of smaller amounts of water -- this can be obtained through investments? </li></ul>
  16. 17. SRI is COUNTERINTUITIVE <ul><li>LESS CAN BECOME MORE -- utilize the potentials and dynamics of biology -- working with nature to increase food </li></ul><ul><li>Smaller, younger seedlings can give larger, more productive mature plants </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer plants per hill and per m 2 can give more yield under right conditions </li></ul><ul><li>Half the water can give higher yield </li></ul><ul><li>Using fewer (or no) external inputs is associated with greater output </li></ul>
  17. 18. These are remarkable claims <ul><li>They reflect experience on farms, more than from experiment stations -- which is the reverse of usual situation </li></ul><ul><li>SRI is the due entirely to the work of Fr. Henri de Laulanié, S.J . (1920-1995) </li></ul><ul><li>He studied at leading French agricultural university (INA) before World War II </li></ul><ul><li>He lived and worked with farmers in Madagascar 1961 to 1995 (SRI in 1983) </li></ul><ul><li>His work is carried on now by Tefy Saina demonstrating the power of altruism </li></ul>
  18. 21. Spread beyond Madagascar <ul><li>Nanjing Agric. University, China - 1999 </li></ul><ul><li>Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, Indonesia - 1999-2000 </li></ul><ul><li>Philippines, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Cuba, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>China Hybrid Rice Center - 2000-2001 </li></ul><ul><li>International conference, Sanya, China, April 2001 -- 15 countries represented </li></ul>
  19. 22. Reports from Sanya Conference
  20. 23. Results Keep Coming In <ul><li>West Timor, Indonesia : June 2002 </li></ul><ul><li>Yield with farmer methods -- 4.4 t/ha </li></ul><ul><li>Yield with SRI methods -- 11.6 t/ha </li></ul><ul><li>Lampung, Indonesia -- 3 to 8 t/ha </li></ul><ul><li>Pucallpa, Peru (jungle): Oct 2002 </li></ul><ul><li>Traditional yields -- 2 t/ha </li></ul><ul><li>SRI yields -- 8 t/ha </li></ul><ul><li>Ratoon crop -- 70% of first crop (+5.5 t/ha) </li></ul>
  21. 24. TWO MAIN CONCLUSIONS: <ul><li>(1) We should pay more attention to PLANT ROOTS </li></ul><ul><li>(2) We should also pay much more attention to SOIL MICROBIOLOGY </li></ul><ul><li>Both can benefit the poor and the environment </li></ul>
  22. 26. Dry Matter Distribution of Roots in SRI and Conventionally-Grown Plants at Heading Stage (CNRRI research: Tao et al. 2002) Root dry weight (g)
  23. 27. Root Activity in SRI and Conventionally-Grown Rice (Nanjing Agr. Univ. research: Wang et al. 2002) (Wuxianggeng 9 variety)
  24. 29. The contributions to agriculture of soil microbial activity need to be taken much more seriously <ul><li>“ The microbial flora causes a large number of biochemical changes in the soil that largely determine the fertility of the soil.” (DeDatta, 1981, p. 60, emphasis added) </li></ul>
  25. 30. Microbiological Contributions <ul><li>Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) </li></ul><ul><li>Phosphorus (P) solubilization </li></ul><ul><li>Mycorrhizal fungi </li></ul><ul><li>Other examples and processes, e.g., rhizobia, need to be studied </li></ul><ul><li>Consider effects of root exudation -- plants are “two-way” streets </li></ul>
  26. 31. Agroecological Perspective <ul><li>Seeks to capitalize on biological potentials in plants and animals, respectively and collectively </li></ul><ul><li>Genetic improvements can make all resource inputs more productive </li></ul><ul><li>SRI performs best with HYVs and hybrid rice varieties (high tillering) </li></ul><ul><li>But does well with trad’l. varieties </li></ul>
  27. 32. Genetic Improvement Can Be Beneficial for Poor <ul><li>But remember: we eat phenotypes, not genotypes </li></ul><ul><li>Phenotypes are the result of GxE interactions (genetics x environmt) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Biological approach’ involves whole plants and their ecosystems as well as molecular analysis </li></ul>
  28. 33. Seek to Work with Nature <ul><li>Fr. de Laulanié (1993) wrote that “the rice plant is my teacher” ( mon mâitre ) </li></ul><ul><li>Plants should be understood as more than little “biological machines” </li></ul><ul><li>We should draw on plants’ own capacities for growth and protection </li></ul><ul><li>Utilize symbiotic relationships with complex soil microbial communities </li></ul>
  29. 34. Intensification Expected to Lead to Diversification <ul><li>Goal is not to double world rice output -- not needed, would have bad effects </li></ul><ul><li>By raising productivity of land, labor, water and capital, enable households to redeploy resources to higher-value and more nutritious production </li></ul><ul><li>Diversification and modernization of agriculture is the objective -- FS view </li></ul>
  30. 35. Optimistic Conclusion <ul><li>Nature has significant powers that can be enlisted for curtailing hunger </li></ul><ul><li>Farmer knowledge, like scientific knowledge, is not always correct </li></ul><ul><li>Need to be open to new knowledge & experience from diverse sources </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriate for this consultation that SRI comes from the dedicated work of a person of strong spiritual beliefs </li></ul>
  31. 36. THANK YOU <ul><li>More information is available </li></ul><ul><li>on the SRI WEB PAGE : </li></ul><ul><li>http://ciifad.cornell.edu/sri/ </li></ul><ul><li>including Sanya conference proceedings </li></ul><ul><li>E-MAIL ADDRESSES : </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>