Aug. 13, 2012

Cornell helps scale up 'green' rice production in West Africa

Rice workshop leaders
Workshop leaders Gaossou Traore, coordinator of the National Center of Specialization of Rice in Mali, and Erika Styger, director of programs of the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell.

Cornell helped organize the first West Africa Conference on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, July 26-27, to evaluate SRI's potential in the region and determine how to scale up this rice production methodology by 2015 in the 15 countries that belong to the Economic Community of West African States.

More than 60 participants representing research organizations, extension services and civil society from 13 West African countries came together to share their experiences with applying the SRI methodology and to discuss the potential of this method of growing rice to boost productivity with fewer inputs while preserving the environment. SRI, they said, could help improve food security in the region and competitiveness of locally produced rice in the market.

"The SRI methodology focuses on managing plants, soil, water and nutrients to improve productivity for any rice variety, including traditional and high-yielding varieties," said Erika Styger, director of programs at the SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice), which is part of Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development. "It often increases yields by more then 50 percent, reduces the seed required by 90 percent, irrigation water by 30 to 50 percent, and chemical input by 30 percent or more, depending upon soil-fertility management practices."

In addition to SRI-Rice, the workshop was organized by the National Center of Specialization of Rice in Mali, which has a regional mandate under the World Bank-funded West African Agricultural Productivity Program and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (WECARD). Oxfam America sponsored participation for civil society representatives.

The conference was the first step in developing a regional platform for adapting SRI practices to the different African rice cropping systems and scaling up SRI in West Africa. Styger is part of a new task force to respond to WECARD's invitation to develop a commissioned proposal for scaling up SRI across West Africa.