Sustainable rice

Better quality, increased incomes and reduced environmental impact

Rice is a staple food for almost half of the world's population. It is also the most sensitive crop to climate variability over its growing season whilst having a huge environmental footprint. How can farmers meet a sharply increasing global demand and preserve the planet when they are both contributors to and victims of climate change? How can they earn a decent income from their rice-based agri-food system? We strive for far-reaching changes in the rice sector, vital to a transition to more sustainable, inclusive and fair food systems.

What is at stake?

Rice is among the five most widely grown cereal crops andits demand does not stop rising, due to a steady growth in the global population and changing food habits. Unfortunately, expanding cultivated areas under rice-based systems is not foreseeable as “the” solution to meet the demand. In fact, rice already consumes 40% of the world’s irrigation water, putting intense pressure on a scarce primary resource and on landscapes. Moreover, flooded paddy fields generate massive greenhouse gases and, in many cases, they are cultivated using excessive amounts of fertilisers and pesticides.

How can rice farmers keep nourishing half of the world's population and preserve the planet when faced with increasingly frequent droughts, floods, high temperatures and rising sea levels? How could we take some weight off their shoulders and guarantee them a fair living income? Rice value chains need to be more resource-efficient, productive, profitable, environmentally and socially sustainable.

We want to contribute to the transformation of the rice sector at national, regional and global level towards decent profits and working conditions for all actors in the rice value chain, a reduced environmental impact of rice and safe, healthy, quality rice for consumers.

Catur Utami Dewi

Rice Programme Coordinator | Rikolto

Our impact

Each region contextualises our global rice strategy and promotes peer-to-peer learning and monitoring across regions. We seek knowledge exchanges and joint actions, with and within the broad constellations of rice value chain actors. We cooperate with farmer organisations, private actors, governments, research institutes and other stakeholders in 9 countries: Indonesia, Vietnam, DR Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal.

Rikolto invests about €3.7 million in sustainable rice value chains in Africa and Asia each year. We reach over 24,000 rice farmers, members of 27 cooperatives that produced 28,058 mt of rice in 2022. Take a closer look at our work!


East Africa

The success of the Nyange-Nyange quality rice label

Nyange-Nyange is the name of a white egret, a very frequent visitor to rice fields and a synonym of 100% local Congolese quality rice. Thanks to the collaboration with the government and the World Bank (PICAGL Project), the development of the label and of an awareness campaign in Bukavu made a breakthrough in the local rice market. Between 2017 and 2021, the volume of rice sold on local markets quadrupled and the quantity sold via formal contracts increased from 2% to 62%. Bukavu’s consumers can’t get enough. Furthermore, we also support farmers in the low-cost and participatory development of new irrigation schemes (Smart-Valleys approach) and in the sustainable intensification of their production (SRI) to increase yields and meet the demand. Likewise, we facilitate and ensure the inclusivity of the business relationship with institutional and private buyers.

Building an enabling environment: national SRP chapters in Uganda and Tanzania

In both countries, we have strengthened the dialogue with the governments and their decision makers. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Rikolto and its partners,the Ugandan ministries MAAIF and MTC adopted the international workshop agreement (IWA) guidelines on professionalising FOs and included the SRP Standard in their 10-year national rice development strategy. In Tanzania,Rikolto is part of the task force that will lead in the implementation of the National Rice Development Strategy NRDS II (2019-2030). By setting up SRP National Chapters, we ensure that the Sustainable Rice Platform Standard is reflected in national strategies and policies, and we are thereby taking a step forward to bring about structural changes in the sector.

West Africa

An attractive franchising business model to reach gender equity

Between 2017 and 2021, the total number of women franchisees has more than doubled, but many more have been inspired by the results obtained by the franchising business model designed and implemented by Rikolto and UNERIZ (National Unionof Women Rice Parboilers). The women (franchisees) who joined UNERIZ (franchisor) have benefited from collective marketing, received training in business skills and improved the quality and sustainability of their parboiled rice along with an increase in volumes. The price of their rice almost doubled, and their revenue increased by 60%. Today UNERIZ is a stronger business partner working in partnership with CorisBank. The share of the volume sold by UNERIZ to new buyers in 2020 represented 62% of their total sales. These figures are the reflection of a dynamic, growing market and a unique opportunity to further strengthen the local market.

Stakeholder platforms bring key actors together  

In Mali and Senegal, we have contributed to the emergence and legitimacy of the nationalrice inter-professional organisations, IFRIZ and CIRIZ, incorporating all rice value chain actors in the countries. Officially recognised by their respective governments as the main interlocutor for the rice sector and a reference for agricultural policies, they provide an institutional framework within which rice value chain actors can work, exchange and weigh based on national policies. As a result of the joint action of IFRIZ, PRPRM (Platform of Rice Producers), Rikolto and CARE-Mali, a draft bill formalising institutional purchases of rice in Mali was validated in a national workshop, together with a roadmap for adoption. CIRIZ participated to the design and validation of the Senegalese national food self-sufficiency programme and was invited to the discussion around the definition of a remunerative price for paddy or the redesign of the subsidy for fertilisers.

Stronger farmers’ organisation for stronger business partnerships

Rikolto boasts long experience in supporting producers in organising themselves into cooperatives and then federating into unions, and in connecting them with potential private and institutional buyers. Today, the Senegalese FEBROPA farmers’ union offers business services to 95% of its members, is a certified seed supplier and has doubled its turnover. In 2019, the farmers’organisations (UNBRB, UNERIZ and CIRB) sold 80% of their production to school canteens and to the National Agency in charge of the Food Security Stock (SONAGESS) in Burkina Faso. Malian farmers have also contributed to the national food security reserve, supplying the National Office of Agricultural Products (OPAM) with local Gambiaka rice amounting to €2 million per year.

Latin America

Southeast Asia

Indonesian organic rice

To comply with the stringent requirements of organic rice buyers, FOs must have a strong Internal Management System to ensure compliance with the standard, both at the farm and processing levels. Rikolto has supported around 2,500 farmers of which more than 600 are certified organic farmers in two farmers’ cooperatives (APOB and APPOLI). Today, their business goes beyond the processing and collective marketing of quality organic rice. They also deliver services to improve the capacity of farmers through training in organic farming and SRP Standard and entrepreneurship for young people. APPOLI has also developed a specific business unit for women to process rice cracker and gluten-free flour.

Expanding sustainable production in the Mekong Delta region

The reputation of Vietnamese rice, often associated with a high use of pesticidesand low-quality standards, is improving. Rikolto is part of a diverse working group composed of NGOs, research institutes and governments who are promoting the wide-scale use of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) Standard for rice production. More than 800 farmers cultivating around 2,600 ha have followed the SRP recommendations. As a result, 23,316 tons of CO2 were saved as a result of stopping burning straw and stubble. We also experimented with an integrated rice-fish farming system that is beneficial for farmers, both in terms of new business opportunities and diversified income.


Global standards for sustainable rice

The Sustainable Rice Platform is a global multi-stakeholder partnership providing a holistic set of standards for benchmarking sustainably produced rice, increased economic and social benefits for farmers and a reduced environmental footprint. On average, SRP farmers see a 10% increase in farmers’ income, 20% in water savings and 50%reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Rikolto has sat on the advisory board since 2015 and has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2018. We have been delivering capacity building to farmers and other actors in the rice value chain in 9 countries.

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Our strategy

Specialty and exotic rice varieties aimed at discerning consumers of the global North are a market niche. 90% of the rice produced globally is harvested and commercialised on mass-markets in Asia and increasingly in Africa. Therefore, domestic and regional rice markets provide major opportunities for locally produced quality rice. We aim to strengthen and improve national production capacity through more efficient, productive and sustainable practices to ensure larger market shares for local producers, affordable and sustainably produced local rice for consumers and to create new business opportunities for the value chain actors.

To reach our goals, we defined three spheres of action that are interconnected: sustainable production, inclusive markets and an enabling environment.

We unlock the potential of farmer organisations producing sustainable rice

To raise productivity in a sustainable way, we promote the use of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) Standards. Drawn on the experiences of sustainable rice production initiatives and developed with broad stakeholder participation, the SRP standards enable benchmarking and monitoring of progress towards sustainability.

At the level of production, we enable farmers to:

  • disseminate agroecological practices such as the use of local organic fertiliser, the production of compost and bio-pesticide, the adoption of erosion control and degraded soil restoration methods and improved irrigation techniques.
  • develop local capacity, to apply practices that reduce GHG emissions and increase farm resilience against climate change and to transform paddy into nutritious and quality rice. In Vietnam, Rikolto is a consortium member piloting satellite-based technology to measure the reduction in GHG emissions.

Such practices have contributed towards securing agricultural production and an increased income for farmers, both thanks to higher rice yields and paddy quality, reducing production costs and diversifying income sources (on farm and off farm).

We are also experienced in supporting producers in organising themselves, for instance into cooperatives. We have observed that collective action can improve the inclusion of smallholder farmers in the value chains:  

  • Collective marketing creates new business opportunities and improves bargaining positions. Farmer organisations can meet higher demand and negotiate for better and more stable prices. In West Africa, farmer organisations sell big volumes to public institutional buyers and receive a 10-15% higher price. In addition, collective purchasing of fertilisers, seeds or other quality inputs reduces the cost (better deals) for farmers at the start of the growing season. Farmer organisations can help to negotiate for bundling services for their members.
  • Through branding and certifications (SRP, organic etc.), farmer organisations can guarantee a healthier and sustainably produced rice, keep up with new consumer trends and gain new market shares. At Rikolto, we make sure that strong Internal Management Systems (IMS) are set up to meet the required market quality standards. Farmer organisations in Uganda, Benin, Indonesia and DR Congo have developed their own rice brands.
  • Farmer organisation professionalisation, through strengthening the organisational and business management to increase farmer organisations’ accountability and negotiating capacities, reinforces their reputation in the eyes of potential business partners and credit institutions and improves and expands the range of services provided to their members.
  • Investment in digitalisation offers a series of benefits such as reliable statistics on members and stocks, improved transparency and facilitated business relations via web platforms.

We work with more than 40,000 rice producers and support 70 farmer organisations in becoming solid, competitive and trustworthy business partners. In West Africa, farmer organisations are becoming key actors of what is called “institutional purchasing”, delivering rice to school canteens (Burkina Faso), contributing to the national food security reserves (Burkina Faso and Mali) and supplying rice seeds to governmental programmes (Senegal). This brings us to our next strategic sphere of action: inclusive markets.

We facilitate inclusive business relationships for a more efficient value chain

We base all our interventions on the development of inclusive and long-term relationships between farmer organisations and other rice chain actors. How do we nurture these relations and broker new partnerships?

Increased trust and mutual understanding  

We make sure that professional farmer organisations regularly supply quality products as required by their processors, retailers and other buyers. In parallel, we ensure that profits and risks are distributed fairly and transparently, resulting in lower transaction costs for both parties. We seek to build long-lasting relationships, based on mutual trust and formalised through contracts or a shared memorandum of understanding which, in times of crisis, can weather the storm better. The relationship that binds Congolese farmers and the Bralima Brewery (Heineken) has lasted for more than 10 years.  

Shared evidence, experience and knowledge

We nurture our relationships by providing knowledge of the market, conducting market research and studies in partnerships with research institutions and universities, sharing know-how and evidence from previous experiences. The collaboration with research institutes in Tanzania has generated protocols and guidelines for improved quality management systems. In Burkina Faso, the parboiling franchise business model has inspired and was replicated by other actors in the regions.

Building bridges between multiple actors in the value chain

We also connect farmer organisations with other actors in the value chain, such as input and financial service providers, agro-services companies or public institutions. Based on a shared assessment of needs, we have encouraged the association of input/service provision with technical assistance for farmers and offer training and coaching to the public and private workers involved. In Tanzania, we are experimenting with a climate-smart lending model, in collaboration with the financial institution, to embed sustainable practices as loan criteria.

We contribute to the emergence of an enabling environment

The collective action of a wide range of food system stakeholders is a powerful vehicle for orientating the development of an entire sector. It steers the development of a so-called enabling environment where best initiatives spread and innovation flourishes.

To scale up our interventions, we keep our feet firmly on the ground and build evidence to connect and convince the governments, national FO unions, interprofessional bodies and business partners, for a shared structural change agenda. The spillover effects of the inclusive business relationships we develop and of the dialogue we foster in multi-stakeholder platforms will have a stronger long-term impact, but we can already appreciate some concrete results.

In Mali and Senegal, we have contributed to the emergence and legitimacy of the national rice inter-professional organisations IFRIZ and CIRIZ that are trusted to provide recommendations for agricultural policies and recognised by their respective governments as the main interlocutor for the rice sector. We have partnered up with ECOWAS for the implementation of the “Rice Offensive” regional initiative, which aims to reach rice self-sufficiency in West Africa by 2025, and we have participated in the programme design for the GEF7 Sustainable Rice Landscape programmes in Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

In Tanzania and Uganda, we are working to make the SRP Standard included in the national rice strategies. We have also supported policy work, led by the Rice Millers’ Council of Uganda, which urged government to set import duty rates to enable the local rice sector to develop.

In Indonesia, together with API, we advocated for the Indonesian government to have a regulation to differentiate paddy prices based on multi-quality classes to incentivise farmers to produce quality rice. In both Indonesia and Vietnam, Rikolto is a member of the working groups promoting the adoption of the SRP Standard in the respective countries.

Connecting the dots: a sustainable food system approach

At Rikolto, we apply a systems approach by taking into account the interconnections and trade-offs of a complex system. We acknowledge the various interests at stake in politically sensitive crops like rice: on the one hand, governments call for low prices for urban consumers, while on the other hand, a “good” price needs to be ensured for rural producers. In between lie the interests of all other actors in the chain. Our strategy does not lose sight of any of them; we value their work and leverage our longstanding expertise in dialogues with them to identify win-win solutions and common paths to undertake.

Youth and gender

Rice production is largely in the hands of ageing farmers, as young people are turning their backs on jobs in rural areas. Among them, there are young girls who don’t see opportunities in a sector where women are underrepresented in decision-making processes and have less access to inputs and technical knowledge. To face these challenges, we implement diverse initiatives. For instance: dedicated technical and entrepreneurial capacity building, women-led production units, development of gender policies with our partner cooperatives, new business opportunities in the production and commercialisation of rice by-products and/or service provision.

Read more about our projects by challenge

We implement diverse initiatives: dedicated technical and entrepreneurial capacity building, women-led production units, development of gender policies with our partner cooperatives, new business opportunities in the production and commercialisation of rice by-products and/or service provision.

Who do we work with?

To fulfil our ambitions, we work with many different partners.

We work with smallholder farmers who are members producers’ groups, associations, cooperatives and parboiling unions who are selling to local and international buyers (Superindo, Nature Farm, Tan Hong Rice Company, SWT Tanners, Bongomin Group, YARA, Bralima (Heineken group), SODEFITEX…).

We collaborate closely with research institutes (Africa Rice, IRRI, INERA, TARI, Kilombero Rice Research Institute, Kien Giang University, VNUA University...), other NGOs (KilimoTrust,  Preferred by Nature, Agriterra, Trias, SCOPE Insight, ICCO, GEF, GIZ, Helvetas, Oxfam, Carbon Farm...), public institutes and financial institutions (EquityBank, Coris Bank, ACFIME, Graine SARL, CRDB...).

We hold dialogues and support the action of local and national governments. ​

We actively contributes to regional and international multistakeholder platforms (Sustainable Rice Platform, ECOWAS Rice Observatory, the Tanzania Rice Council, the East Africa Grain Council...).

We acknowledge the indispensable support of our donors.

Find below a non-exhaustive list of their logos:


Catur Utami Dewi

Sustainable Rice | Global director