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Nourishing the land, nourishing the people

Place: madagascar, Africa
Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products
Total Budget: € 0,00 | Period: From January 1997 To January 2008


Achieving More with Less: A New Way of Rice Cultivation.
Rice is life. It is the staple food for more than half of the world's population. Moreover, almost a billion households in Asia, Africa and the Americas depend on rice systems for their main source of employment and livelihood. About four-fifths of the world's rice is produced by small-scale farmers and consumed locally. That is why increasing rice production is one of the most powerful pathways to improving household food security and reducing rural poverty. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) allows smallholder farmers to embrace a new way of farming rice by using less seed, land and water, and have significant increase in yields. It is a set of 'good practices' easy enough to be taught to farmers. SRI was initiated in Madagascar in the early 80s and is spreading in Asia and Africa reaching millions of farmers. In 1997, after the food crisis in Madagascar, the IFAD-funded Upper Mandraré Basin Development Project (PHBM) introduced SRI to the Malagasy smallholder farmers.


The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) - Italy

Lead applicant

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, was established as an international financial institution in 1977 as one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference. The conference was organized in response to the food crises of the early 1970s that primarily affected the Sahelian countries of Africa. It resolved that "an International Fund for Agricultural Development should be established immediately to finance agricultural development projects primarily for food production in the developing countries." Working with poor rural people, governments, donors, non-governmental organizations and many other partners, IFAD focuses on country-specific solutions, which can involve increasing poor rural people's access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other natural resources.

Ministry of agriculture livestock and fisheries of Madagascar - Madagascar

Initiative partner

Cornell University - United States

Initiative partner

Cornell is a private, Ivy League university and the land-grant university for New York State. Cornell's mission is to discover, preserve, and disseminate knowledge; produce creative work; and promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community. Cornell also aims, through public service, to enhance the lives and livelihoods of our students, the people of New York, and others around the world.

Nourishing the land, nourishing the people. Achieving More with Less: A New Way of Rice Cultivation

SRI is both an innovative concept and a philosophy based on solid rice plant, soil and water management. It emphasizes the revival of the natural production potential of rice and values the full potential of rice tillering. SRI is based on 6 basic practices: transplanting, spacing, keeping soil moist, weeding and using compact. With this new system, fields are not flooded as before. Soil is kept alternately dry or wet, plants’ roots  take oxygen from the ground  thereby reducing weeds. Less water and fewer seeds are needed to produce a higher quantity of rice. 'Producing more with fewer inputs' is the main characteristic of SRI. This flexibility makes SRI affordable to poor smallholder farmers, and its successes enhances its potential for replication. Farmers who adopt SRI are very satisfied with the outcomes, as their rice yield per hectare doubles and even increases fourfold as demonstrated on large scale by PHBM and other IFAD projects.

A farmer pushes a hand plough through a rice paddy. With this new system, fields are not flooded like before. The soil is kept alternately dry or wet, allowing the plants’ roots to take oxygen from the ground surface and reducing weeds. This way, less water and fewer seeds are needed to produce a higher quantity of rice. ©IFAD/Robert Grossman
A horizontal view of the rice plantations in Tsivory Village, Madagascar. The Upper Mandraré Basin Development Project (PHBM) aimed to achieve the national goal of self-sufficiency in rice production through the expansion of existing irrigation systems and the creation of new irrigation areas. Tsivory Village is located in Amboasary District, Tsivory Council, Madagascar. ©IFAD/Rindra Ramasomanana
Iarison Jean-Baptiste, 31, replants rice seedlings. Farmers grow rice, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, beans, carrots, peas, onions, garlic, and cucumbers on irrigated soil in Andranomahavelo village, Mahaly. ©IFAD/Robert Grossman

In Madagascar,  a country that had experienced 40 years’ of agricultural productivity stagnation and affected by a political crisis since 2009, IFAD’s investment to support SRI has been highly effective. Before the SRI project was implemented, Madagascar had two consecutive dry years caused by drought in 1991. The Upper Mandraré River Basin, once known  as the food basket of southern Madagascar, was at the time an isolated  and deteriorated land by  years of drought and famine that brought the local population to its knees. It was a struggle to survive. The objective of the project was to ensure food security for the population and to reduce rural poverty. Rice was, and still is, the staple for Madagascar’s 20 million people, and the average annual consumption is about 102kg per person. Many efforts were undertaken to increase the surface area used for rice cultivation, reduce the cultivation time to reach 2 crops per year and to optimize the use of water that was available.

A man on his way home after a morning of hard work. Poverty in Madagascar is more prevalent in rural areas: 76.7 per cent of rural inhabitants are poor as compared wih 52.1 per cent of urban inhabitants. The International Fund for Agricultural Development aims to alleviate rural poverty through investing in improvements in terms of rural infrastructure and access to financial services. ©IFAD/Rindra Ramasomanana
An Antanosy family wades by the side of the Mandrare River in the Amboasary In Madagascar, almost 80 per cent of the country's inhabitants live in the countryside where living conditions have been been steadily declining in recent years. IFAD's project initiatives aimed to boost food production through extended irrigation schemes and improve upon living conditions in the remote regions of the country. ©IFAD/Rindra Ramasomanana
Village residents gather for a meeting in the Amboasary District, Madagasca Between 1970 and 1995, Madagascar's population nearly doubled. Following recurrent periods of famine, nearly half of the country's children show signs of chronic malnutrition. IFAD's projects worked with small-scale farmers in order to increase agricultural output in order to ease population pressures. ©IFAD/Rindra Ramasomanana

The SRI technique produced impressive results in Madagascar, enabling  a region suffering from chronic drought and famine to become the breadbasket of the south. Rice production in the project area increased from 1700 tonnes in 1998 to 9000 tonnes in 2000 to 23,000 tonnes in 2007. This remarkable increase was due to  expansion in the cultivated area as well as the intensification of cultivation. The cultivated area increased by 5,100 hectares with yields going  from 1.5 tonnes per hectares to 4.3 tonnes. Globally, the project area has achieved rice self-sufficiency and become a rice exporter throughout the southern region. Thanks to SRI, rice is no longer a subsistence crop but an income-generating one. Household income  increased by 75 per cent on average, bringing dramatic improvements in the quality of life, improved dwellings, schooling and health benefits for children. Traders and new farmers have increased by 7.5% per year, making Mandraré a real economic development pole.

The Andranomahavelona irrigation scheme which supports rice-growing Following the second phase of the Upper Mandraré Basin Development Project, IFAD has managed to boost food production through extended irrigation schemes from 1000 ha to 5000 ha, consequently attaining rice production levels of 23,000 tons per year (doubling average increases in yields from 1.7 to 4.3 tons per ha). As a result of the project, 23,723 rural households have strengthened their food security through increased rice production and improved land usage. ©IFAD/Rindra Ramasomanana
Madagascar / IFAD : PHBM - The Rice Bowl In 1996, the PHBM was launched. The formation of producers' organisations allowed farmers to better organise the management of resources with impressive results. This, together with new production techniques, led to a fivefold increase in irrigated land and more than doubled the yield.
../file-system/small/docx ../file-system/small/docx Evolution of rice production The 23,000 tonnes of rice produced in 2007 attest to the productive potential of the area. Rice production increased by 11,000 tonnes in three years. This was due both to the increase in the irrigable land surface and to the improved cultivation practices (SRI) that the project introduced.

The aim of the PHBM has been to increase the on-farm and off-farm income of rural inhabitants of the target area in order to improve their living conditions and help to increase food security. More than 109,000 Malagasies have benefited from the project, especially the smallholder farmers living in rural area. The project also made a special effort to help the most marginalized groups such as landless farmers, women and young people to benefit directly from the project's investments and to enable communities, farmers' organizations and locally elected officials to play a greater role in planning, decision-making and development activities. The successes of PHBM were then scaled up by the IFAD country programme in several other projects: PPRR  on the east coast (2004-2013), Ad2M on the west coast (2005-2015) and PARECAM (2009-2011) all other the country.

A man transports a sack of rice in Marotsiraka Village, Madagascar. IFAD's Upper Mandraré Basin Development Project (PHBM) endeavoured to assist isolated communities in the region and to improve upon the rural infrastructure rehabilitation project. In particular for the area's roads which are generally in a poor state and are unevenly distributed over the country. ©IFAD/Rindra Ramasomanana
Women sift rice in Tsivory Village, Madagascar. The Upper Mandraré Basin Development Project (PHBM) worked with rural communities in order to improve upon infrastructure in terms of roads and irrigation systems, to expand irrigated areas and increase the amount of food sent to shortfall areas in periods of famine and drought. ©IFAD/Rindra Ramasomanana
Young farmer With access to financial services, young people are better able to start new agricultural activities and set up small businesses. Today, the rural finance sector has moved beyond credit to include savings, money transfers and agriculture insurance. ©IFAD/Robert Grossman
../file-system/small/docx ../file-system/small/docx Lessons learned A brief list of lessons learned during the development of the project and related to economic, social, technical criteria.

In the case of IFAD-funded projects, project management unit staff played a key role. A special acknowledgement  to the IFAD Rome teams (Perin Saint Ange, former ESA Director, Haingo Rakotondratsima, Country Presence Officer and Benoit Thierry, country programme manager), Rudolph Cleveringa (former technical advisor, Water & Rural development, IFAD), the PHBM team (Harifidy Ramilison (project manager) and Andrianaina Rakotondratsima (Ad2M project manager) and the CAPFIDA team in Antananarivo (Sesy Soja and Lucien Ranarivelo). Merit also to smallholder farmers that have contributed throughout the pilot phase in the following IFAD funded projects: PHBM, Padane, Ad2M, PPRR and PARECAM. Finally, supporting networks at the international level facilitated the dissemination of SRI: Norman Uphoff and his team at Cornell University, Declan Mc Cormack who did some of the videos on SRI dissemination.

../file-system/small/docx ../file-system/small/docx Organigramme - tasks Different tasks carried on by a project team of 40 people.
../file-system/small/docx ../file-system/small/docx Organigramme of PHBM The official organigramme of the Upper Mandrare Basin Development Project in Madagascar.

In Madagascar political turmoil and farmers tradition have  been the main obstacle. Farmers initially resisted changed and did not want to give up  traditional farming methods. The resistance is also due to the  importance of rice in the local culture and tradition. A Malagasy proverb says, “Rice and water are inseparable from the field to the village” and farmers often do not want to be taught how to cultivate a crop that they have  grown forr generations. To overcome resistance,  constraints and raise awareness about SRI, IFAD adopted a number of measures (education, extension service, inputs provision, trust building ) that have proven successful among farmers. IFAD supported these pioneers who today are leader-farmers and several of them won national awards thanks to their high production.

President of the Livestock Farmers' Association, accompanied by his wife IFAD's country strategy aimed to restructure rural zones by strengthening farmers' organizations and establishing rice granaries in the south.
  • Global warming: Worldwide rice production can be quite polluting. Indeed the anaerobic conditions created by excessive flooding of rice, produce huge quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. By using far less water than traditional techniques, accordingly to FAO evaluations, SRI has significantly reduced methane production.
  • Water management: SRI uses much less water than other rice production techniques allowing to save water in difficult environment and allowing rice cultivation to be expanded in drier areas. This is significant in a context of worldwide shortage of water.
  • Biodiversity: by unleashing the potential of each seed traditional or modern (hybrid), SRI contributes to the conservation of biodiversity by demonstrating that even old varieties can be much more productive than expected.
  • Finally, the agronomic technics promoted by SRI, helps farmers to protect and enrich the soil, reducing the risk of erosion and maintaining agricultural land.
Rice fields Working in the fields by using less water than traditional technique, helped to reduce methane production. ©IFAD/Robert Grossman

The SRI technique applied to the PHBM's has had a remarkable success and offers good opportunities for replication. SRI is flexible, easily adaptable to different needs and contexts and farmers can learn it quickly. Despite country and landscape constraints, SRI reported good results and smallholder farmers who adopted it are happier and satisfied. This led IFAD to promote the new system in other investment programmes and projects. Since 1997, IFAD has successfully facilitated the spread of SRI knowledge to several countries throughout East and Southern Africa. From Madagascar, SRI was brought to Rwanda and then  Burundi. All across Asia, people are implementing/improving SRI techniques. It has gone beyond the rice itself and the system is also implemented on other crops, unveiling the potential of wheat, maize, etc… 

SRI Introduction: The spread of SRI in East Africa This is an introduction to a series of 4 training videos and details how IFAD has promoted the spread of SRI from Madagascar to Rwanda and then Burundi. Malagasy farmers went to Rwanda to share their knowledge and Burundian farmers then visited the same Rwandan farmers to take the knowledge back home. The farmer to farmer teaching and learning has been very effective.
SRI Training (ENG): 2. Field preparation & transplanting The second in a series of 4 training videos, this is intended as a farmer to farmer knowledge sharing tool to be used in the field. Mathilde and Isidonie from Burundi and farmers from Rwanda talk about the benefits SRI has brought and show how best to prepare the rice field and transplant seedlings. The video features fertilisers, equipment and explains how SRI works.
SRI Training 1: Seed germination & nursery preparation The first in a series of 4 training videos, this is intended as a farmer to farmer knowledge sharing tool to be used in the field. Mathilde and Isidonie from Burundi demonstrate how to select and germinate best quality seeds and how to prepare and sow a nursery. These videos are co-funded by IFAD and Cornell's SRI-Rice and produced by Flooded Cellar Productions. They will be available subtitled in English and French, and also voiced in Malagasy, Kirundi and Kinyarwanda.
SRI Training 3: Weeding & water management The third in a series of 4 training videos, this is intended as a farmer to farmer knowledge sharing tool to be used in the field. Farmers from Rwanda talk about the need for weeding and irrigation. In this video, Gabriel, Mathilde and Isidonie from Burundi add to Rwandan comments about differences between SRI and their old methods, as well as the savings and advantages involved in good water management.
SRI Training 4: A new stick gives you blisters The fourth in a series of 4 training videos, which is intended as a farmer to farmer knowledge sharing tool to be used in the field. It was so important for Gabriel that he should share what he learned of SRI in Rwanda, that he started a Farmer Field School (FFS). This helps farmers to understand the methodology, and decide whether to take up SRI themselves. Many farmers are reluctant to risk new methods. It is a challenge and new ideas don't always work first time: "A new stick gives you blisters" says Sophie at the FFS. Everyone however, agrees that the blisters are worth bearing.

SRI is expanding throughout  the world and is cherished by smallholder farmers as it fits  their requirements very well. Dissemination happens primarily from farmer to farmer and Farmer Field Schools are an efficient way to disseminate knowledge by showing the new system. Other means of dissemination are through booklets and radio programmes. IFAD and the Malagasy non-governmental organization (NGO) Tefy Saina, founded by SRI’s pioneer, promoted the new set of practices among farmers and facilitated its dissemination through training visits across borders. Once a group starts practising SRI and other farmers observe results, interest within the community grows. A dynamic of risk-sharing was established, where the farmer takes the risk of trying SRI on their plot of land and the investment programme invests money to purchase the agricultural tools that the farmer will need (such as the rotating hoe). 

Discovering CAPFIDA Madagascar CAPFIDA, in support to the IFAD country program in Madagascar.
../file-system/small/docx ../file-system/small/docx Capfida web site country portal with many case studies including PHBM and SRI and project websites.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Nourishing the Land, Nourishing the People - A Madagascar Success Story.pdf The book tells the story of a development initiative in the arid south of the "Red Island", the Upper Mandrare River Basin Development Project (PHBM), which enabled a region suffering from chronic drought and famine to become the breadbasket of the south.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Spreading the system of rice intensification across East & Southern Africa This case study is the result of an extensive literature review, research and analysis of data gathered from the field. The analysis includes qualitative and quantitative data provided in project documentation and external sources.