North Korean SRI Champion wins International Award!

Many congratulations to Ms Kim Ri Hwa for her FAO model farmer award which was presented to her last month in Bangkok.[1] Her efforts have seen a tenfold increase in rice production on the Maejon Cooperative Farm where she has helped the 80 farming families turn their lives around. That is a significant success!

Kim achieved her results by adopting Conservation Agriculture (CA), which helped restore the quality of the soil on the coastal farm she now manages in partnership with the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee). Her success is particularly well timed as sea levels are impacting dramatically upon her region and across the southeast Asian region as a whole, causing high soil salinity and devastating crop losses.

Once the integrity of the soil on Maejon Farm was re-established, the introduction of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) helped, over a period of seven years, to increase rice yields from a paltry 1 tonne per hectare to an impressive 10 tonnes per hectare. This is an achievement not just for Ms Kim but also for SRI itself as it comes in the context of an average yield in North Korea of 5.3 tonnes/ha[2]. Even commercial farmers in the country, using all the best management practices, latest seeds and chemical inputs do not often attain such results. The introduction of other innovations at the farm has also brought about an 80% increase in maize production as well as a 70% decrease in root diseases.

SRI and CA are well-suited to environments where soil degradation and climate change represent such grave challenges.[3],[4] Both encourage eco-friendly approaches which result in healthier soils and stronger root systems in plants that are then better able to withstand strong winds, flooding, lodging and drought. CA’s no-till principle results in less compacted soil that can more easily absorb water and SRI requires up to 50% less water[5] and reduced inputs of up to 90%[6]

CA was introduced to North Korea over 15 years ago by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the AFSC has been encouraging the adoption of SRI in the country since 2004.[7] “It saves equipment, it saves fertilizer, and it also saves them labour in lots of ways. So, it really is a successful innovation,” explains AFSC’s country manager for North Korea, Linda Lewis, who believes SRI now has the potential to spread nationwide.

Kim Ri Hwa grew up in the city but embraced the world of agriculture after responding to a call for people to help develop the countryside. Hard work rewarded her with the position of team leader on a cooperative farm and she qualified as a crop engineer before managing the Maejon Cooperative Farm.

Other recipients of the model farmer award this year were Ar Promtaisong from Rayong province of Thailand, Phonexay Thammavong from Laos, Fazla Yoosuf from the Maldives and Samson Mahit Haitong from Vanuatu.

 

[1] http://www.fao.org/asiapacific/events/award-citations-to-fao-asia-pacific-model-farmers/model-farmers2018/en/

[2] Ireson, Randall 2013: The State of North Korean Farming: New Information from the UN Crop Assessment Report

[3] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311418457_Conservation_Agriculture_and_Climate_Change_An_Overview

[4] Redfern, Suzanne K., Azzu , Nadine and Binamira , Jesie S. 2012 Rice in Southeast Asia: Facing Risks and Vulnerabilities to Respond to Climate Change http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/agphome/documents/climate/Rice_Southeast_Asia.pdf

[5]  Uphoff, N. 2007. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) as a System of Agricultural Innovation. Paper presented at the International Workshop: Farmer Participatory Research and Development 20 Years On. Future Agricultures Consortium, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, U.K. 12–14 December 2007 (available at: http://www.future-agricultures.org/farmerfirst/files/T1c_Uphoff.pdf).

[6] http://sri.ciifad.cornell.edu/aboutsri/aboutus/SRI_brochure2015.pdf

[7] https://www.afsc.org/video/improving-rice-production-north-korea-dprk

 

Mountain women live and work with bent backs

See original article here

Durga Devi deftly digs up a fistful of rice saplings and transplants them on to an empty space in the pliable soil. As her hands work without a pause, so does her tongue. She chatters non-stop with Chandrakala Devi, her sister-in-law, who is transplanting rice in another corner of their field. They talk about their children, the food they have cooked, the weather, and other household matters.

“Old age caught up with us while we were working,” Chandrakala laughingly tells VillageSquare.in, as she progresses through the field. At 34, Chandrakala considers herself an old woman.

Durga and Chandrakala spend the entire time in the field bent over double, progressing a step at a time through their little plot of land in Mandal village of Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. Their work is strenuous, leaves them with aches and pains, but they must continue. They are surrounded by mountains, and a stream gurgles down the slopes near the fields. The Himalayan village is home to 108 families, and has a population of 452.

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Scaling up the System of Rice Intensification in India

See the original article in Farming Matters here

Authors: BISWANATH SINHA & TUSHAR DASH

It is said that ‘rice is grown on women’s backs’. Globally, women provide between 50 and 90 percent of the labour in rice fields. They perform backbreaking tasks like seedling removal, transplanting and weeding in bent posture and under wet conditions for more than 1000-1500 hours per hectare. In addition, they are exposed to chemicals. Women working in flooded fields for long hours come into contact with various disease causing vectors exposing them to multiple health risks like intestinal to skin diseases and female urinary and genital ailments. This affects their ability to work and earn, and furthermore, it drains out their money on health care, sometimes making them indebted.

Read the whole article

Towards climate resilient agriculture and food systems: A critical assessment and alternatives to climate-smart agriculture

Position Paper – read full original here

A detailed analysis of current farming policies in the context of “Climate Smart Agriculture” and the need for a radical rethink on attitudes to smallholder agriculture and relevant climate change adaptation practices.

Among the recommendations:

  • Any bilateral and multi-lateral climate finance flows should support bottom up, community-driven climate adaptation solutions.
  • Climate funds should not support technologies and approaches that increase the dependence of family and small-scale farmers on costly inputs.
  • The funds should prioritise support projects in line with principles of agroecology and food sovereignty.
  • Climate change mitigation initiatives in the agriculture sector should focus primarily on transforming and phasing-out the industrial agriculture system.
  • National mitigation and adaptation should respect a list of criteria to support transformational change towards agroecology, ensuring food security and sovereignty, restoring ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as defending human rights.

Rural women have resilience to cope with climate risks: study

See original post in vigyanprasar.gov.in

Author: Dinesh C Sharma

Climate change impacts are being felt in many parts of the country, as manifested in erratic rainfall, extreme weather events and changes in cropping patterns. Adapting to these changes at farm and household levels is critical. A new study says women, particularly in marginalised communities, possess necessary knowledge to cope with climate risks.

The study assessed the role of individual women in coping with climatic risks, particularly in managing agriculture, energy and nutrition in flood and drought-prone paddy growing region of eastern India. It was found that women’s participation and involvement is much higher in managing nursery as well as in other farm-related functions like transplanting and weeding. Women resort to exchange of knowledge and resources at their level to face exigencies of climatic variation, given the absence of timely governmental interventions.

For instance, women use creative ways to manage food and nutrition security in their households in lean months. Many of them plant cucurbits like bottle gourd, pumpkin, satputia (a small cultivar of ridge gourd) and okra in their homesteads, catering to vegetable needs of the family since these are costlier in summer. A few women ensured food security by processing fruits and vegetables and storing them for consumption later. They harvest weeds and segregate them for consumption by human and some for cattle, while non-edible ones are composted.

Women in high-risk zones, especially arid and semi-arid zones choose leaves and stem of many plants available throughout the year for food. “This becomes an important coping strategy to fight food shortage or famine. Many of these plants have been used in traditional medicine systems for their therapeutic effects,” the study says. Researchers have documented such weeds used in three villages in the study area. Their expertise and knowledge about non-agricultural food sources help in dealing with food and nutrition availability resulting due to fluctuating climate, the study says.

” This becomes an important coping strategy to fight food shortage or famine. Many of these plants have been used in traditional medicine systems for their therapeutic effects “

“In a situation when not many technological alternatives are available and climate risks have to be coped with, there are ways in which individual women find creative ways by managing resource exchange and pooling, overcoming class and cultural boundaries,” explained Dr Anil Gupta of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, who conducted the study along with Anamika Dey and Gurdeep Singh of Indian Institute of Technology, Dhanbad.

The research is part of a long-term study on loss of agrobiodiversity underway in three villages (Isoulibhari, Shivnathpur, and Kharella) in Faizabad district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The villages, located in floodplains of the Sarayu river, are flood prone and mostly follow rain-fed rice-wheat cropping system. The region is facing vagaries of climate change. Data of the past 25 years obtained from Narendra Deva University of Agriculture and Technology showed high fluctuation in onset and withdrawal of monsoon, number of rainfall days, total rainfall received and average rainfall received per number of days.

“We found that knowledge networks of women contribute immensely to tide over the adverse effect of the risk episodes. But these informal channels of dissemination of the knowledge are often not recorded in formal scientific discourses,” Dr Gupta told India Science Wire.

Instead of ignoring the role of such informal networks, they can be used as channels for targeting climate adaptation policies and programmes, the study has suggested. If women groups become focal points of knowledge and resource dissemination in situations like crop failure due to flood or drought, there are fair chances that they will share these more openly. In addition, weather information needs to be provided according to local calendars, which are different from the Gregorian calendars, the study has suggested. The study has been published in journal World Development.

Phumani’s Story

SRI4WOMEN STORY – PHUMANI from SRI4Women on Vimeo.

Phumani is aged and has trouble with her memory. “I can’t remember much about my childhood work,” she says, struggling to make herself comfortable in her plastic chair “but I started transplanting when I was about this high.” Her hand hovers less than 4 feet above the floor and a hushed amusement ripples through the assembled group. She is clearly loved and cared for by the community of rice growers we’ve come to talk with. But there’s no escaping the tragically comical fact that Phumani, at the age of 78, still stands at less than 4 feet high. Or, more accurately, stands less than 4 feet high again.

Phumani can no longer stand up straight. Her body is bent double, her skeleton frozen into a permanent transplanter’s pose.

She goes on to describe how she would also have to help graze the cattle and do other household chores, help with the harvest and so on. Transplanting would start at 8 or 9am and continue until 4pm. “When I was young I felt no pain but then, later on, whenever I used to go for transplanting I really felt the pain in my hands and other parts of my body.”

Now, she is permanently racked with pain. But her story and her plight are by no means unique.

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Workhorse Women: Cooking imposes heavy burden on rural women

Read the original article in Village Square here
Author:
The simple act of cooking takes on a difficult dimension due to lack of easy access to fuel and water, forcing women in rural India to walk long distances to get them, increasing drudgery and leading to health hazards that call for immediate action

She wakes up at 5am when it is still dark and the rest of the family is asleep. She walks 4 km to reach a hillock and starts gathering firewood. By daybreak, she is back and starts cooking for the family. What about water for cooking? That involves another trek.

She represents most women in Bubli, a tribal village in Surgana taluk of Nashik district, where most of the households do not have cooking gas connection. The trek for firewood and water is repeated every day of the year. Prolonged bending, carrying excessive loads, improper postures, and limited time for rest have a telling effect on the health of the women.

Food is central to human life, but should life be consumed by the simple act of cooking? We often take fuel and water for granted. But not everyone is privileged to have easy access to these basic necessities. There are pockets in India where women have to work hard for hours to gather water and firewood. There is huge amount of labor by rural women around the simple task of cooking that is never quantified.

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