The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) program is bringing new hope to farmers in rural Cambodia, through a simple method of rice farming that’s helping to build a stronger future for the community.
In Cambodia, 90 per cent of poor people live in rural areas. Many of these families depend on agriculture for their livelihood, but conditions are difficult and two thirds of the country’s rural families face food shortages each year. Small-scale farmers face challenges such as lack of water in the dry season, infertile lands, and poor market prices for crops. The traditional rice farming techniques are time intensive, and require lots of water, which farmers must pay for. Many farmers also spend money purchasing expensive chemical fertilisers, which is the only way they know of preventing weeds and insects. These challenges have driven more and more people, especially young people, to leave rural villages in search of work in cities or in other countries. Many of the rural families are desperately in need of income, and don’t see any future in agriculture. In the rural Cambodian village of Keov Mony, Jesuit Mission is supporting our partner the Karuna Battambang Organisation (KBO) which is changing the lives of rural small-scale farmers. The KBO teaches farmers a method of rice farming called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). The method is an astonishingly simple and effective technique developed many years ago by a French Jesuit priest. It’s a low-cost method of growing rice that doesn’t require any special seed or fertiliser. The KBO not only teaches farmers this SRI method, they also accompany them every step of the way as they learn this new, sustainable technique. Using SRI, farmers only need to use a quarter of the usual amount of seeds to plant their crop, use 40% less water, and can produce more than twice their usual harvest. They also are able to replace expensive chemical fertilisers with home-made (free) organic fertiliser. The farmers have been able to see the results of using this SRI method themselves. In Keov Mony, the farmers used to harvest about 1.2 tonnes of paddy rice per hectare. They are now able to get about 4 tonnes per hectare!
“Farmers are getting harvests up to three times more than they’d previously experienced. It is a very special experience for them.”
Mrs Vanny’s Story
Like many of the poorest people in Cambodia, Mrs Vanny in Keov Mony is a subsistence farmer who used traditional techniques to farm a small plot of land. Although she worked extremely hard, she was only producing just enough food to feed her family. Mrs Vanny’s husband makes a meagre living as a scrap dealer, and two years ago, they were living with their two children in a home bound together from banana leaves and sheets of plastic, uncertain of what the future would bring. Through the generous support of the Australian community, Mrs Vanny joined the SRI program, and began learning the new method of rice farming. When it came to harvesting time, Mrs Vanny could scarcely believe her yield. On her family’s half hectare, Mrs Vanny produced over 2,000 kg of rice, more than triple the usual 600 kg. With the money from the harvest, Mrs Vanny was able to secure a loan to build a new house, which is weather-proof and safe, along with a brick outhouse for better sanitation for the family. These days Mrs Vanny is a vocal advocate for SRI and she has recently become a leader in her local Women’s Group. Now, she looks forward to the future with great joy, and is especially delighted that she will be able to provide her children with a good education. “I am very happy!” Mrs Vanny exclaims. Click here to try out a local rice recipe.