Oxfam America is promoting a new approach, called "the System of Rice Intensification" or SRI, for small farmers which helps them produce more rice at lower cost without relying on harmful fertilizers and pesticides that can decrease soil fertility and threaten clean air, soil, and water.
Farmers using the SRI method simply transplant younger seedlings into un-flooded soils and space them in a square pattern a bit wider than in traditional methods. Soils are kept moist rather than continuously flooded. The plants become more resistant to pests and less fertilizer is required.
Farmers in Vietnam who adopted the method increased their yields on average by 10% and in some other countries average yields are up as much as 50%. These increases have occurred while significantly cutting their water use, costs and the need for hazardous fertilizers.
Le Ngoc Thach, president of the Dai Nghia cooperative and one of the first SRI farmers in Ha Noi province, says that "2000 members of our cooperative were applying SRI to our community’s 420 acres of paddy land. The success has been amazing. The combination of cost savings and increased yield has increased the average farmer income by $70, about the cost of one year of school for our children or two years worth of seed for the next growing seasons.
"Those who used to spend one month to tend and transplant their rice seedlings now spend between 10 to 15 days. This has allowed them to have more time to do other work such as raising livestock or growing vegetables. Many women in our community have benefited from the extra time to be sellers at the market. Many men have been able to supplement their income with additional work in construction."