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.
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.
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 andother 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!
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.
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.
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:
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:
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: