Ugandan rice production by smallholder farmers has expanded greatly, and in order for more space for rice production, farmers turn wetlands into paddy fields. Wetland conservation is crucial for adaptation to climate shocks and variability to better absorb stress caused by climate change, and to limit climate change exposure.
It is not surprising that the extensive degradation of wetlands by rice farmers has therefore contributed to more frequent and destructive floods as there are no such wetland systems to hold back the massive overload of water during extreme rainfall events.
Wetland boundaries have been demarcated by the Ministry of Water and Environment as sources of the municipal or town council water systems, and degraded wetland sections are being restored for securing and maintaining their hydrological, ecological and biodiversity integrity.
Rice production in Uganda’s wetlands is not only problematic for wetland protection, it also contributes heavily to greenhouse gas emissions. Growing rice produces methane, a greenhouse gas more than 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Mitigation measures are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from rice paddies through improved water management, fertilizer management and organic matter management.
Between 2022 and 2024, the project aims to support the Government of Uganda in its climate strategies, plans and regulations to protect its wetlands which are crucial for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The environmental impact from rice cultivation, at both farm and landscape level, can be reduced if farmers adopt global standard practices laid out in the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP). Doing this would bring GHG emissions back down while decreasing use of water, pesticides and fertiliser runoff. At the same time, it would give biodiversity an opportunity to recover.
The Sustainable Rice Platform is a global multistakeholder alliance with the purpose of offering a global response to huge environmental challenges in the rice sector: rice production is a leading driver of habitat loss in wetlands and forests, uses 1/3rd of the world’s freshwater and is responsible for 10% of global man-made methane emissions. SRP has developed a sustainable rice production standard, the world’s first voluntary standard for measuring sustainability and quality in rice.
Rikolto has since 2018 been involved in promoting the SRP Standard as a solution for Uganda’s wetlands conservation and climate mitigation in rice cultivation. We have piloted the use of the SRP Standard for sustainable rice cultivation with 2,000 smallholder rice farmers organized in four rice farmer cooperatives in Eastern Uganda. From these pilots, we have generated solid evidence of the environmental and economic benefits offered through climate-smart sustainable rice cultivation practices in line with the SRP Standard.
8,032 rice farmers (min. 2,490 female and 2,989 youth) will be trained directly on applying sustainable cultivation and processing methods on their farms, thereby reducing their climate impact. By influencing policy makers with the results of the pilot project, the project will reach more than 90,000 farmers nationwide indirectly, multiplying the effects of this initial investment.
Capacity building on sustainable rice cultivation for:
The Ministries of Agriculture, Water and Environment, Cooperatives, and Gender and Labour) will receive research and solid evidence on SRP Standard application and its benefits from the project as a basis to develop policies, strategies, actions, and guidelines for incorporating climate change in sectoral and local government plans and budgets.
120,000 consumers having access to affordable, sustainable and healthy rice through this intervention.
Currently, the financial products of financial institutions do not incentivise the adoption of climate-smart and environmentally sustainable rice cultivation practices by farmers and other rice value chain actors. The perception is that climate-smart rice production is not profitable. Rikolto and its partners will document evidence from the project to demonstrate to financial institutions that sustainable cultivation practices are not only profitable in the short term, but will also guarantee business in future, since the next generation of farmers will still be able to cultivate rice in those same areas.
The project will contribute to policies that enable equal opportunities for women, youth and marginalized communities. It will promote equity in participation and representation of these actors in the SRP multi-actor platform.