Vietnamese farmer Hoang Thi Lien, 53 at her SRI (System of Rice Intensification) farm in Dong Phu commune, My Duc district, Ha Tay province. Lien is a core farmer that gives instruction for and help other farmers to cultivate SRI rice. Photo: Chau Doan/ Oxfam America
The system of rice intensification doesn’t just help small-scale farmers experiment with new methods, but also gives people greater confidence in public spaces.
Minh Le is the Global Agriculture Advisor at Oxfam and is based in Vietnam.
One of my favorite things is to stroll through paddy fields as they shine yellow and gold, taking in the timeless picture. White storks also walk along the irrigation canals, which reflect the sunlight like mirrors. When the first drops of rain come, you see farmers planting seedlings in the muddy soil and then, a few months later, loading sacks full of grains for home consumption or selling to traders.
A staple, the world over
Rice cultivation is deeply rooted in the minds and lives of billions of people – not just mine. Half of the world’s people get sustenance from rice. One billion people are engaged in growing rice. It is ironic, however, that nearly three fourths of the 805 million children, women, and men who are undernourished live in Asia – where rice production is in surplus and where the Green Revolution has been embraced since the 20th century.
The 2008 food price crisis triggered renewed investment in agriculture around the world. However, these investments have been heavily focused on increasing production rather than on achieving more sustainable, affordable, and diversified food production in rural areas.
Small farmers’ struggle
More and more, small-scale farmers are being left behind by agricultural advances. They struggle to cope with the rising costs of fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides, as well as the increasing competition for land. This is particularly true for small-scale producers of rice, an important crop for food security, national economies, and ecological systems.
Compounding these challenges, a decline in rice yields in major Asian rice-producing countries due to weather unpredictability and disasters may be on the horizon, as the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns. Smallholder farmers are most affected by climate change, but they rarely have a voice in setting rice policies as rice suppliers and traders resist reforms that would eat into their profits.
Global Climate Change