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SRI-LMB Newsletter Vol.4 Issue 1, Year 2016


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SRI-LMB Newsletter Vol.4 Issue 1, Year 2016

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SRI-LMB Newsletter Vol.4 Issue 1, Year 2016

  1. 1. Mr. Sansern Sirikol from Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) Thailand talks about challenges faced by agriculture sector and the opportunities SRI is providing for quality rice production. Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT Volume 4, Issue 1: Year 2016 SRI-LMB Newsletter A bi-annual newsletter published by the SRI-LMB Project (A Project Funded by the European Union), Asian Center of Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (ACISAI), Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) From technological package to agro-ecological principles: SRI is gaining momentum in the Mekong region IN FOCUS IN THIS ISSUE Utilizing the implementing consortia established at local, national and regional level, SRI-LMB involves now more than 7000 farmer’s directly over more than 400 action research sites. SRI-LMB is also reaching out another 30,000 farmers through field visits and local workshops in the region. Farmers are engaged in developing, evaluating and adapting “Climate Smart” crop management practices utilizing SRI agro-ecological principles through setting up of SRI demonstration and SRI learning plots. The government counterparts, who are directly implementing the field activities in all four countries, are reporting higher yield, higher net income with reduced input use and greater resilience to extreme weather events. These findings have been reconfirmed by research conducted by national universities in all four countries. The government believes that better increase of crop production with good quality should enable farmers to successfully compete with global market. Farmers Congress & National Review & Planning Workshops Page 2-4 Echo Asia Workshop, Chiang Rai, Thailand Page 6 There is a general understating that knowledge intensive approach can fuel innovation and can link innovation, enterprises and investment in a focused manner, if sufficiently fuzzy boundaries are created and if structural design are loosely defined. Working with SRI, the learning we have generated so far, it looks like that if farmers get opportunity to craft their own world, they can contribute a lot to address many global and local issues, such as environmental issue, food security and poverty and they can act as a strong pillar for making society more collaborative and accommodative. Nurturing grassroots potential through participatory approach should be the mantra for development if we are aiming to have a more inclusive and compassionate society. Our ‘journey’ and learning continues… Message from Team Leader Agro-ecology System Page 6 Some key challenges in the agriculture sector mainly are (a) the increased number of older farmers and lack of labor for agricultural activist in the near future, (b) low and infertile natural resources and (c) the market instability need to be addressed to make the rainfed production system stable and efficient. Reflection Workshop in Cambodia Page 5 Farmer in focus: Farmers from Sisaket Page 7 A project funded by the European Union A project implemented by the Asian Institute of Technology The view expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission. SRI practices vary but the principle remains the same. SRI demonstration field at Fouang district, Vientiane Province, Lao PDR. Photograph: Kongsy/DAEC/Lao-PDR
  2. 2. Page 2 Volume 4, Issue 1: Year 2016 The Farmer Congress and National Review and Planning workshop was held in Surin, Thailand from 23-24 June 2016. The workshop was organized by AIT and hosted by the Department of Non-Formal and Informal Education, Ministry of Education (MoE), Royal Government of Thailand. The objectives of the workshop were to share the outcomes from the implementation of the FPARs by farmers and farmer’s trainers to reach out to large number of farmers by integrating message-based learning. Approximately 300 person participated that included 260 farmers from Thailand, Governor of Surin, 15 representatives from Department of Non-formal and Informal Education’s local offices, Department of Agriculture, Rice Department, Department of Agriculture Extension, Land Development Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), Rice Research Center, Rice seed Center Surin, Office of Agriculture and Economics, Bureau of Agricultural Development Policy and Planning, Rajabhat University Ubon, NFE trainers, FAO, Oxfam, SrerKhmer Cambodia and AIT. Mr. Adthporn Singhawichai, the Governor of Surin province greeted all the participants and shared his about the work and learning continuously and giving good feedback about SRI performance. It is very helpful in exchanging of ideas, experience and knowledge among rural communities. It is now proven that SRI is playing important role mostly for small scale farmers having limited resources. SRI is encouraging farmers to move toward environment friendly organic farming which is essential for product quality, consumer health and sustainable environment. appreciation on the activity progress and its implementation. He congratulated the farmers who were able to grow healthy crops achieving higher yield with lower costs & inputs. He stated that water & proper water management techniques are important factors for good agriculture. He also hopes that this project will be more successful in the future especially for the smallholder farmers. He believed that the better increase of crop production with superior quality will enable Thai farmers to successfully compete with global market. Ms. Wiyada Heyprakone from Provincial Commercial Office, Surin, in her presentation showed that 20 groups of farmers in Surin were trained in packaging by the Provincial Commercial office. She also encouraged SRI-LMB farmers to form a group and come up with their local brand for marketing. The overall impression by ministry was that SRI-LMB farmers were serious Farmer Congress and National Review & Planning Workshop in Thailand “To be successful in farming you have to be patient and live happy in what you are doing.” Farmer leader sharing their experience at Farmer’s Congress Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT “Water and water management technologies are important for sustainable agriculture.” Mr. Adthporn Singhawichai, Governor of Surin province expressing his views on SRI project during Farmer’s Congress. Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT “SRI is encouraging farmers to move toward environment friendly organic farming which is essential for product quality, consumer health and sustainable environment” says MOAC, Thailand. Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT
  3. 3. Page 3 Volume 4, Issue 1: Year 2016 The Workshop was inaugurated by Dr. Abha Mishra, Team Leader SRI-LMB project. In her opening remarks she thanked NFE Surin for hosting the workshop and also for the excellent support extended for the project implementation in Northeast Thailand. In her brief presentation, she emphasized that agriculture contributes roughly 10% to the total GDP of Thailand and so it has low value, however yet this sector occupies 32% population. The agriculture has moved from labor-intensive to a more industrialized sector though making it competitive, efficient and smart remains a real issue, especially in the context of changing climate scenario, competitive market and transitioning of agriculture from a male dominated to a more women dominated. “Obviously, if we aim to create value in this sector we need to be smarter and innovative in our approach to adjust with the changing demand. SRI is not just about ‘tan diao’ (single seedling transplant) but it’s an idea to adjust the current agricultural practices to make it cost effective and environmental friendly for producing better quality product” she explained. The workshop discussed that last year in many provinces, especially in Cambodia and Thailand, farmers witnessed early and prolonged drought spell. Many famers adjusted planting dates to cope up with drought. For example, few farmers from Uttaradit province Thailand and from Kampong Speu province Cambodia delayed their planting. They informed that instead of June-July sowing they did transplanting in September and harvested in December. The yield in September planting was higher compared to June- July. But even with long drought spell, farmers of SRI-LMB reported higher yield at all SRI demonstration plot in all four countries SRI plot, Jasmine 105 variety was used & single & young seedling transplanting (2 kg of seeds per Rai) was practiced. It was reported that highest yield (800-900 kg/Rai, which is equivalent to 5 - 5.62 t/ha) was obtained from the 40 x 40 cm spacing SRI plot with only 2,500 – 2,700 Bath/Rai (average 443.7 USD/ha) of producing cost (compared with approximate 4,000 -5,000 Baht/Rai (796 USD/ha) of production cost generally used in farmer Practice plot). The workshop continued presentations from each province with the status of the project implementation and the learnings from wet season 2015 FPAR and later planned the schedule for next season. compared to the neighboring plot. In Thailand, more striking results came from Sisaket province where they went completely organic and made it more attractive by introducing direct seeding machine that used less seed (only 5-8 kg/rai compared to 200-300 kg/rai). The local implementing ministry, NFE (Non-Formal Education) Surin, said that farmer in Thailand have got the SRI message correctly and therefore they are innovating and adjusting their practices based on the resources they have. This is the main reason for success of the project in all three provinces which is also applauded by the Governor of Surin. The workshop reported that most of the participating farmers in Sisaket are organic rice farmers who are the members of the Big Plot Project. In National Review and Planning Workshop Planning and discussion at the workshop. Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT “The Big Plot project will expand the planting areas from 5000 Rai (800 ha) up to 8000 Rai (1280 ha) by the end of 2016 and we can set up SRI demonstration with plot size of 5 rai/demonstration (0.8 ha/demonstration)” says Rice Seed Center, Surin. Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT Workshop held in the Suanpa Resort in Surin Province, Thailand Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT
  4. 4. Page 4 Volume 4, Issue 1: Year 2016 National Review and Planning Workshop in Vietnam The National Review and Planning Workshop in Vietnam was held in Bac Giang province on 18 November 2016 organized by the Plant Protection Department (PPD), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and Crop Production & Plant Protection Sub- Department (PPSD Bac Giang and Nghe An) in partnership with AIT, FAO and Oxfam. The objectives of the workshop were to share key learnings from previous years’ FPARs implementation by trainers and farmers and review the overall process of FPAR to identify and establish research oriented learnings. The participants mostly included representatives from PPD, PPSD, University of Hanoi, Thai Nguyen University, Rapid Asia Co. Ltd, FAO local office staffs, AIT, other NGOs, Trainers and Farmer Trainers from Bac Giang and Ha Tinh province and from project sites. The meeting was inaugurated by Mr. Do Hong Khanh, the Vice Chief of Plant Protection Division (PPD). He mentioned about SRI technology being useful in combating climate change, drought and reducing chemical use in rice production system in Vietnam since 2007. Now SRI is being applied in 29 provinces with more than 400 hectares land occupancy. Mr. Pham Van Hoanh, the Director of Bac Giang PPSD shared about the economic and weather challenges faced by mountainous area like Bac Giang province. He was very positive towards new programs and technology which are being applied to these areas to support poor rainfed farmers in such areas. Mr. Nguyen Tuan Loc, National Training Expert, SRI-LMB project in Vietnam presented that 20% area is under SRI now in both the provinces, in which 18% apply partial SRI and 2% follow total principles of SRI. The majority of FPAR participants are women (67%). Hanoi University of Agriculture presented on Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Study that aims to evaluate the adaptation response for SRI practices. It was done by Ms. Yen Nguyen. She mentioned that the MEL survey revealed that due to FPAR trainings the SRI adoption has increased in the project area. On-farm net return reported from FPAR farmers was 1399 US$ whereas Control group reported 1148 US$. Dr. Hoang Van Phu, Thai Nguyen University emphasized on need to develop regulation for green farming, organic production group and cooperatives. He added that now there is an informal SRI network, with PPD and farmer’s club being the part of it. As per PPD, SRI has been adopted by 2 million farmers. Mr. Daniel L., from Rapid Asia, highlighted that almost 50% workforce are engaged in agriculture but contributes only 17% to the total GDP. He said, “Migration from agriculture is increasingly increasing and If we observe the emerging trend and analyze the market of the last 5 years, rice is one of the top 10 export commodity.” He further mentioned that the price of the Vietnamese rice in the export market was not encouraging. Therefore rice farming should not be limited to the economic aspects but should be elaborated through the ‘lens’ of social aspect as well The workshop concluded with the outcomes of learnings on location specific practices for SRI adaptation to the various rice production systems in Vietnam. Workshop held in the Bac Giang province, Vietnam Photograph: Hieu/SRI-LMB Photograph: Hieu/SRI-LMB/AIT Photograph: Hieu/SRI-LMB/AIT
  5. 5. Page 5 Volume 4, Issue 1: Year 2016 Provincial Reflection Workshops in Cambodia The Provincial Reflection Workshops were held at the Provincial Department of Agriculture of each province (namely Takeo, Kampong Speu and Kampot province) during 24 to 26 May 2016. The Workshops included 88 participants with representatives from the Project Coordinating Unit (PCU) based at AIT, Project Management Unit, local partner civil society organizations Oxfam and Srer Khmer, Royal University of Agriculture, Local Management Units, farmer champions and FPAR participants. The objectives of the workshops were to share FPAR results from the previous year 2015 and discuss problems encountered and experiences from different districts, and plan further FPAR activities for next year. The Workshops were officially opened by Mr. Kong Kea, the Coordinator of the SRI-LMB Project. He encouraged farmers saying that all participants should apply what they learned in FPAR and in the Provincial Reflection Workshops to improve SRI field activities in the coming season in their respective areas. Mrs. Keo Kaneka, Policy & Communication officer of SRI-LMB and Policy Advisor of Oxfam Team briefed participants on the ‘Saving for Change Program’. She discussed Oxfam’s experience on how to form savings groups. The Oxfam Team is currently working with farmers to form such groups in SRI target villages which also includes enthusiastic women farmers from FPAR and post-FPAR to participate in the next Women Farmers’ Forum. Mr. Cheng Dara, Program Manager from Rachana Organization, facilitated discussions on how to form the Agriculture Service Team. The main objective of forming such team is to provide labor for agriculture production to other families in neighborhood. He also shared the detailed cost of labor per hectare with the participants. Prof. Chuong Sophal from Royal University of Agriculture, who has done study on ‘Adaptation response for SRI practices’ presented the MEL study results for all 3 target provinces and mentioned that farmers follow SRI practice very well and have done better than the farmers neglecting it. He also explained on how to calculate the rice seed for one hectare by using drum seeder. He mentioned that the average yield from field studies of SRI plots was more than farmer’s practices at 4.47 tons/ha while it was 3.55 tons/ha from FP plots. The summary results showed that SRI plots got higher yields and higher benefits than FP plots. Some discussions were shared on improving quality of FPAR with facilitation skills and technical knowledge of farmer trainers and district trainers. It was suggested that the frequent monitoring and backstopping visits by PMU officer and LMU will contribute very much in improving quality of FPARs and will act as a source of encouragement for the farmers involved. The workshops concluded with the planning session for next season trial. Provincial workshop held at the Provincial Department of Agriculture in Cambodia Photograph: Lira/FAO IPM/Cambodia Photograph: Lira/FAO IPM/Cambodia Photograph: Lira/FAO IPM/Cambodia
  6. 6. Page 6 Volume 4, Issue 1: Year 2016 Echo Asia Workshop, Chiang Rai ECHO Asia in collaboration with Fah Mui Farm organized a two- day “The Northern Thailand SRI Experience: Sharing, Practicing and Niche Marketing” workshop at Fah Mui’s farm in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand during 8-9 June, 2016. The objectives of the workshop were to discuss about SRI farming, GABA rice production, learn about reduced use of water in rice cultivation and also sharing of experience among farmers and experts on rice cultivation. The Smart Farmers from SRI-LMB project (from Surin, Sisaket, and Uttaradit provinces) participated in this workshop with other participants such as experts from countries like India, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, U.S.A and Singapore. SRI-LMB farmers took the lead in conducting the session on SRI farming. At the workshop it was shared that one of the farmers named Fah Mui from Chiang Rai province used SRI technique of single seedling with 30 x 30 cm spacing and produced around 3 – 3.5 kg/ha of paddy with minimum production cost i.e. 3000 baht/rai (approx. 550 US$/ha). More interestingly, Khun Fah Mui used the SRI practice to produce GABA rice and packed them for selling. At the end, she was able to sell the GABA rice in local market and in International market by using internet as medium which fetched higher price of Agroecology system should be considered as “an evolving system”. Our understandings of it are often new; but the system itself is not our creation and is very, very old. The benefits being seen by the SRI-LMB come from a strong relationship between researchers and farmers, to adapt and evolve the system together. To build a more sustainable paddy rice system different knowledge were used, as System of Rice Intensification (SRI); System of Crop Intensification (SCI); Farmers’ Field Schools (FFS); and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and/or Integrated Pest and Production Management (IPPM). Communities, both farming and scientific and at local, national and regional levels, all are learning from each other and advancing knowledge in this area. Collaboration between and among farmers, researchers, ministries, rural extension personnel, development professionals and international actors has been developed and strengthened for learning purposes. Local, national and regional learning platforms have been established for facilitating dialogue and for implementing activities at all three levels. The key SRI practices applied are: transplanting young seedlings or direct-seeding with very low seed rate; maintaining wider spacing between plants; keeping soil preferably moist but not continuously flooded; applying organic manure as much as possible; and managing pest and diseases through IPM. These practices are applied through a FFS approach. The main focus is on the rice crop, but already farmers are developing intercropping with legumes. We are open to bringing in fish culture or horticulture as farmers are in the drivers’ seat, but we are building upward and outward from rice. around 300 baht (roughly 9 US $) for a packet of 200 gm. The business was successful and encouraged many farmers to follow her. SRI-LMB farmers also took this opportunity to share their experience of multi-season SRI adaptation with the regional farmer participants like Laos and Myanmar and with local farmers from Chiang Rai province. The two-day workshop was called off with practical session of training in field by learning about seedlings preparation and transplantation technique from local farmers. Agro-ecology system: With the ‘Lens’ of SRI-LMB Eco Asia Workshop conducted in the Fah Mui’s farm in Chiang Rai Photograph: Mitesh/SRI-LMB/AIT Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT
  7. 7. Page 7 Volume 4, Issue 1: Year 2016 In Cambodia, SRI is being supported and promoted by the government for smallholder farmers (since 2006). There is an SRI Secretariat established within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) to coordinate the work. In Vietnam, SRI has been endorsed as a “technical advance” by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (in 2007). There is a recommendation to apply SRI in all food insecure provinces, especially in northern upland areas of Vietnam. In Thailand, organic production is being encouraged, especially for smallholder farms, and so there is considerable appreciation of some SRI practices within the context of market‐oriented demand. Similarly in Laos, there is some recent policy encouragement for SRI and agroecological approaches. Policy as yet needs to be put in place for up‐scaling and supporting agroecological approaches. In terms of supporting research in academia, there is some recent development at universities for Agroecology and multi‐disciplinary research work; however, conventional systems still receive more resources and policy support, thereby making multidisciplinary work less attractive for researchers and students. In a few cases, the issues are handled by individual researchers and at farmers’ level with much success; however, they are not able to galvanize needed support from market and policy centers. FARMER IN FOCUS Smart farmers from Sisaket turning 100% organic After the successful collaboration with Big Plot project (an initiative of Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), Thailand to produce high quality rice following the HM the King’s Sufficiency Economy philosophy), SRI- LMB team provided trainings and backstopping visits to the farmer groups in Sisaket province during wet season 2015 and 2016. SRI demonstration plots were setup at different locations involving more than 400 farmers to integrate local organic rice production technique with SRI crop management technique. The project is working in collaboration with Surin Rice Seed Center. Based on the information shared by the local implementing consortia, farmers are not only able to produce more rice but they are also able to fetch higher price in the market. They reported that paddy price for organic SRI rice was 25 THB/kg (0.7 USD/kg) which was higher than the conventionally produced paddy whose price ranges around 11 THB/kg (0.3 USD/kg). This year, the group of Smart farmers from Sisaket with 100 % organic rice cultivation were awarded with highest yield award by the Governor of Surin Mr. Adthporn Singhawichai at the Farmer Congress held at Surin, Thailand. Political Space for SRI Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT Photograph: SRI-LMB/AIT
  8. 8. Page 8 Volume 4, Issue 1: Year 2016 SRI-LMB’s Learning from Cambodia and Thailand documented: “Improving rice- based rainfed production systems in Southeast Asia for contributing towards food security and rural development through sustainable intensification of crop production” More than 120 sets of field experiments have been carried out at 60 FPAR sites in Cambodia and Thailand, directly involving 3600 farmers. The experiments have ranged from the integration of many SRI principles with farmers’ current local practices or improved practices which was termed as “SRI-transition” to full demonstrations and assessments of SRI methodology, i.e., SRI demonstration. The initial calculation of yields has showed an average paddy yield of 5.03 t/ha with SRI-transition, whereas with SRI-demonstration the average yield was 6.41 t/ha. These yields were 60 and 100% higher than the average baseline yield in the region, 3.14 t/ha, for the same farmers and same locales. Productivity gains (dollars gained/dollars spent per ha) were calculated for both rainfed and irrigated production areas. In comparative terms, the economic gains for farmers were found to be higher in rainfed areas when using the new methods. This paper addresses the potential of new strategies to promote food security in rainfed areas in the LMB region by managing household and natural resources more productively. See full article at: A project funded by the European Union A project implemented by the Asian Institute of Technology The view expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission. SRI-LMB Newsletter is published bi-annually by SRI-LMB Publications Unit. We welcome your input, preferably in English. The deadline for submissions is on 30 May for June issue and 30 November for December issue. We reserve the right to edit all contributions. Please send inputs at and cc to Dr. Abha Mishra, Project Manager-SRI-LMB ( Website: Find us at: