MANILA, Philippines—Filipino farmers are starting to use the rice-growing method that has recently made India the world’s top rice exporter.
The system of rice intensification (SRI) method involves simple changes in farmers’ practices such as transplanting younger seedlings singly and at wider distances and drying the fields intermittently, using nonchemical weeding methods and relying more on compost and other organic inputs to fertilize the fields.
“SRI is so simple that farmers can learn the basics in a day of training,” said Roberto Verzola, coordinator of SRI Pilipinas, the organization that promotes the method in the country through free seminars and training to farmers’ groups. It also gives free primers and free lessons via text messages to individual farmers.
In India, rice exports jumped to 10.3 million tons last year from 4.8 million tons in 2011, making the country the top rice exporter in 2012, ahead of Vietnam and traditional leader Thailand.
India’s feat comes in the heels of Cambodia’s, which doubled its national rice production from 2002 to 2010, thanks in part to SRI. The method was integrated into Cambodia’s official rice program in 2002, largely through the efforts of Ramon Magsaysay awardee Dr. Yang Saing Koma.
To encourage the use of this farming system in the Philippines, SRI Pilipinas is holding a contest that would reward the highest yielders among farmers who use SRI.
Verzola said the contest is open to all farmers willing to try SRI in a small plot of 100-500 square meters. Interested individuals can text the SRI hotline 0939-1178999 for details.—Kirstin Bernabe