German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Consultant, Germany
The system of rice intensification (SRI) was developed in the highlands of Madagascar and comprises a set of individual practices. In 2000, SRI was introduced to Cambodia and, since then, has attracted an increased number of farmers and projects. In order to facilitate the systematic analysis of experiences with SRI in Cambodia the Food Security and Nutrition Policy Support Project (FSNPSP)/GTZ together with the Community Based Rural Development Project (CBRDP)/GTZ and CEDAC initiated a survey on the potential of SRI for food security in Cambodia in early 2004.
The consultancy mission comprised a survey conducted in five provinces based on individual interviews covering 400 SRI and 100 non-SRI practising farmers. In addition, farmer group discussions and stakeholder discussions supplemented the survey results.
Farmers applying SRI followed to a large degree the recommended practices. Timely weeding and water management with alternate flooding/drying were among the most difficult practices for farmers. However, SRI requires intensive training with a high demand for human and financial resources.
With significant lower fertiliser inputs SRI increased rice yields from 1629 to 2289kg ha-1, an increase of 41%. The increased yield levels could be maintained for at least three years, indicating sustainability at least for the medium term. However, fields chosen by farmers to apply SRI were close to the homestead and of higher soil quality. The potential of SRI for poor environments to increase yields was rather low.
A further advantage of SRI was its ability to break the labour peak during uprooting/ transplanting while the overall labour balance was neutral. SRI increased both the land and labour productivity compared to conventional practices.
Farmers using SRI for the first time applied it on 21% of their rice area while more experienced farmers doubled the proportion. Hence, at household level, the marginal profit due to SRI was sufficient to supply the household's needs for rice for 2.2 and 4.6 months, respectively. It was concluded that SRI is a promising management practice to be included into the national strategy for poverty reduction.
Keywords: Adaptability analysis, Cambodia, food security, labour, SRI, yields