The system of rice intensification (SRI) has increased yields by transforming rice cultivation practices, without the need for expensive and unnecessary inputs. The central principles of SRI advocate that soils should be kept moist rather than continuously saturated; rice plants should be relatively widely spaced and planted singularly; and seedlings should be transplanted when young to avoid trauma to roots and to minimize transplant shock.
Africare worked with local farmers to adapt SRI principles to local conditions and evaluate the potential of SRI to increase rice yields. The project began informally, with a single volunteer farmer and no external funding. At the end of the farming season, SRI plots had outperformed control plots and surrounding fields, yielding 66% more than control plots and 87% more than surrounding rice fields. SRI plots used substantially fewer seeds per hectare, 30% less inorganic fertiliser and 10% less irrigation water. SRI plots yielded between 2.1 and 2.4 times more revenue than the control and neighbouring rice plots.
Africare spearheaded the wider spread of SRI principles in the region, and organised farmer exchange visits and community-led knowledge transfer and experimentation. Communities themselves decided how many farmers would test SRI, and there was limited technical supervision to enable farmers to experiment on their own.