Organic farming is not only about reviving traditional practices like adding rice straw and applying manure. There is a science behind that makes agriculture production sustainable and climate-resilient. This kind of approach has a significant role to play in addressing the most urgent issues: climate change and food security.
One of those sciences was developed by a French Jesuit father and agriculture expert Fr. Henri de Laulanie at Madagascar, Africa in 1983. With the helped of the farmers in his parish, they discovered a new technology in rice production and he coined it as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). Around 40 countries of the world today are reaping the benefits of SRI.
The SRI is a climate-smart, agro-ecological methodology for increasing the productivity of rice and more recently other crops by changing the management of plants, soil, water, and nutrients. SRI methodology responds to the existing agro-ecological and socioeconomic conditions and is based on the following principles:
1. Using young seedlings between 8-12 days old (2-3 leaf stage) in transplanting.
2. Planting of single seedlings rather than in bunches.
3. Marking of the field with the spacing of 25 cm X 25 cm in square planting.
4. Using rotary weeding to control weeds and aerate the soil.
5. Adopting alternate wetting and drying method rather than flooding in the field.
Like any other innovations, SRI faces doubts among the farmers. They that this kind of technique is too risky, too laborious and could not produce high yield. This is a common case when a new technology is promoted and crucial to it is an illustration, if possible of actual cases that the innovation is worth the investment.
Hence, the Center for Bayanihan Economics (CBE), located at Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan conducted an experiment that compares the yield of SRI production and the conventional farming. This is to determine if SRI works at the CBE Farm and if it does, to be a learning farm for others. The results show that organic farming through SRI produced better yield, 0.76667 kg yield/square meter compared to one with chemical inputs, which had 0.40000kg yield/square meter. This only implies that even without chemicals, the farmers could still obtain a better harvest from organic approach. Currently, CBE Farm is on its 4th cropping season on SRI technology and yield has been increasing every year.
The real challenge therefore relates to the promotion of the SRI as an ecologically sustainable innovation that improves production. While the fundamentals of SRI technology are ecologically sound, the real battle lies in proving to the farmers that SRI is a sustainable technology that enhances productivity. And, the CBE will continue to be a showpiece for SRI technology as part of its sustainable agriculture advocacy.