Rice farmers in Iringa step up their climate smart agriculture game

Rice farmers in Iringa step up their climate smart agriculture game

Climate change is a challenge for farmers around the world. This is no different for rice farmers in Iringa, Tanzania. Climate smart agriculture is the future; it is sustainable and profitable.
This project is part of the following focus area:

Climate change is a challenge for family farmers around the world. This is no different for rice farmers in Iringa, a central region Tanzania characterised by rocky peaks and the Ruaha River Valley. To improve the sustainability of rice cultivation, it is crucial to address climate adaptation as well as mitigation, since rice production significantly contributes to carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Rice farmers are in fact both victims and contributors to climate change. Tackling these issues, Rikolto is taking part in a Kilimo Trust-led project to promote sustainable rice cultivation in Iringa.

Challenges

By strengthening and expanding the rice sector in Tanzania, the Government of Tanzania plans on becoming a big rice exporter to meet the growing regional demand. Rice productivity in Tanzania is however lower compared to other rice cultivating regions in the world. If it wants to become the region’s rice basket, there are many challenges to be addressed:

  • Climate change: Rice cultivation is both an important producer of carbon dioxide and an important source of greenhouse gas (e.g. methane and nitrite oxide) emissions.
  • Farmers lack the necessary market information to make strategic decisions about risks and entering contracts.
  • Low productivity of rice farmers in Tanzania, for instance because of inefficient use of inputs, such as water and fertilisers.

Strategy

Within this project, Rikolto will focus on promoting and familiarising farmers with the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) Standard and ensuring its widespread adoption. The SRP Standard, the world’s first sustainable rice cultivation standard, is used to assess farm practices thoroughly against 41 sustainable cultivation requirements. The assessment determines the level of compliance and gives a score for each requirement. Because it is not about passing or failing, the SRP Standard allows for stepwise compliance to encourage and reward progress in improving agricultural practices.

Key activities

  • Training and coaching farmers, Village Based Agents, and governments extension officers on the correct application of the SRP Standard.
  • Promoting digital solutions to facilitate SRP score improvements by informing farmers about their progress through SMS.
  • Supporting water-user associations in four irrigation schemes in Iringa region - Tungamulenga, Idodi, Makifu and Mapogoro - to develop clear plans to improve their SRP scores and address missed thresholds of all applicable requirements.
  • Organising learning events at ‘technology hubs’ – where technologies and SRP practices are demonstrated – throughout the season to expand SRP adoption.
  • Providing continuous technical infield support to both farmers and trainers throughout the season to ensure climate smart agriculture techniques are adopted, such as efficient fertiliser use, improved pesticide use and management, efficient water management and reduced greenhouse gas emission.
  • Organising SRP stakeholder workshops to bring together relevant stakeholders, including the private sector, to demand for sustainably produced rice and ensure sustainable access to quality inputs, logistic and markets.

How does the Sustainable Rice Platform Standard scoring system work?

  • Below 33% on any requirement: The farmer organisation cannot claim that it is working towards sustainable rice production.
  • Any score between 33 and 90% on all the requirements, with a minimum threshold met for the eight most important requirements, implies that a Farmer Organisation or water-user association is working towards sustainable rice cultivation.
  • In case a Farmer Organisation or water-user association scores at least 90% and meets all the thresholds for all applicable requirements, then it can make the claim that it is producing rice sustainably.

In general, the project adopts a ‘STEP’ approach to achieve its goals:

  • S - Sector wide Climate Smart Agriculture: Organising workshops to connect stakeholders and jointly discuss the use of digital solutions to promote sustainable best practices.
  • T - Technology hubs: Establishing demonstration plots as in-field technology hubs to demonstrate how mitigation, adaptation and increased productivity measures in line with the SRP standard are taken.
  • E - Economic empowerment: Actively involving farmers in plot measurements, organising practical in-field trainings on sustainable cultivation techniques, and interpreting the digital information jointly to lower the threshold for accepting digitalisation and improve socio-economic conditions.
  • P - Plot specific crop and sustainable techniques advice to achieve the project’s objectives.

Cover picture by Philippe Leyssens

Between 2019 and 2021, this project will directly benefit 10,000 smallholder rice farmers (30% youth, 40% female) in four irrigation schemes in Iringa (Tungamalenga, Idodi, Mapagoro and Makifu).

Besides the farmers, the project will also include:

  • 3 rice millers: Two in Iringa and one in Dodoma
  • 10 Village Based Agents who will provide farm inputs to farmers
  • 64 extension agents to be trained and engaged to promote the technological advancements made on 16 demonstration plots

Expected results

At the end of the project in October 2021, we hope to achieve the following results together with Kilimo Trust:

Climate mitigation actions

  • A reduction of greenhouse gas emissions up to 20%
  • A reduction of water use with 15%
  • A higher nutrient use efficiency of 15%

Increase access to digital solutions by 50%, which will support farmers in climate change adaptation by providing them with useful information, based on digital data systems, that supports them in better decision-making in risk management e.g. contractual obligations with rice millers and input providers and adjusting the cropping calendar to suit weather changes.

Increase productivity and income with 50%. The digital solutions proposed and in-field support by Kilimo Trust and Rikolto to farmers are expected to contribute to a 50% increase in yields in four rice irrigation schemes directly benefitting 10,000 farmers.

Results achieved so far (up until September 2020)

  • Almost 6000 farmers trained on sustainable rice cultivation and digital solutions, of which 1500 were trained by Rikolto.
  • 12 demonstration plots for sustainable rice cultivation and digital solutions have been set up.
  • Farmers’ income increased with 49% from 272 USD per hectare to 339 USD per hectare.
  • Productivity increased with 38% from 3.2 MT per hectare to 4.4 MT per hectare.

Djalou Franco
Djalou Franco
Rice Senior Agribusiness Advisor