Oct 24, 2014, 10:18 AM
The Gambia’s Fatou Smba Njai, vice president of the National Coordination of Farmers Association The Gambia (NACOFAG), was among conference participants.
In an interview with reporters at NACOFAG Office in Brikama, West Coast Region, shortly after her return, Fatou said the regional workshop on SRI objective was to define an approach for the integration of the System of Rice Intensification in research and extension programmes in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries by 2015.
According to her, the System of Rice Intensification, known as SRI, is a set of farming practices developed to increase the productivity of land and water, as well as other resources.
SRI is based on the principle of developing healthy, large and deep root systems that can better resist drought, water logging and wind damage.
She said the SRI consists of six key elements to better manage inputs, utilize new ways to transplant seedlings, and to manage water and fertilizer application, adding that reports from thousands of SRI farmers and practitioners around the world indicate that SRI plants develop stronger stalks and more tillers, with higher yields and even better flavor qualities.
The growing world population and the need for food security, she said is increasing scarcity of water resources, predicted changes to climate, and inefficiencies in current cultivation practices all require more sustainable farming and at the same time, higher productivity of land and water.
In addition, SRI applications increasingly are showing that it is indeed possible.
Since 2001, small-scale tests have been conducted on the SRI in West Africa by national teams (producers, extension workers and researchers). Support to these tests was provided by technical and financial partners, including USAID, FAO andmany NGOs (ECHO-Volunteer, Africare, World Vision etc.). These initiatives are, however, relatively unknown and this limits the expansion of this important innovation in the sub-region.
This presentation is intended for policy and decision-makers, managers of development projects, and stakeholders involved in agriculture, water resource and irrigation management.
This section focuses on the benefits and limitations of SRI application. Compared to the commonly known flooded rice production, successful applications of SRI have shown that farmers can raise their paddy yields by 50 to 100% or more, while using fewer farm inputs, especially water.
While failed field trials also exist, it is important to note that SRI is still a ‘work in progress’ and evolving, and should be adopted to local conditions and traditions. After a brief review of the six key elements of SRI, the benefits of SRI are discussed - increase in paddy yields, better rice quality, reduction in irrigation water use, and reduction in production cost.
Constraints to implementing and scaling-up SRI are also reviewed, such as psychological and technical barriers as well as farm labour.
With climate change, increasing variability of rainfall, and the growing competition for water and land, SRI offers a new opportunity for increasing the production value per drop of water and for reducing agricultural water demand.