SRI: Open Source Rice Farming

Photo by Ali Mohammad Ramzi from the Aga Khan Foundation.

Afghani SRI farmers Jawan Shamali and Juma Ghul share their experiences with SRI.

Earth Links is working towards the release of our “Open Source” database and website for small-holder rice farmers in 2018.  With CAD files, free CAD software and easy to share PDFs of well used and tested equipment designs, we want to help facilitate the adoption of the System of Rice Intensification, SRI, in rice growing regions around the world.

A growing number of people are interested in helping resource-limited farmers improve their living conditions and have marveled at the improved yields of the System of Rice Intensification. Using less water and seeds, this method has been adopted in an ever-increasing number of rice-growing communities around the world. SRI’s combination of synergistic practices including: irrigating by alternative wetting and drying, healthy soils, wide plant spacing, and early transplantation helps create higher yields, with less water use and much less seed.  Some institutions and researchers have trouble understanding this “organic growth” – both of the plants and the larger number of farmers using SRI.

It is interesting to consider SRI techniques and its adoption by 10,000,000 small farmers (users) in terms of the movements of the computer age called “open source” (in which computing source code is made freely and openly available to programmers, developers, and users to cooperatively develop and use).  This helps to understand SRI often spreads from farmer to farmer, and how it can change to meet local conditions.  And how the necessary tools, field markers, weeders and harvesters, are adapted to local conditions with locally available materials.


Variations of the rotors for turning weeds under and aerating the soil.

To see and download plans, click here.

SRI methods have primarily been developed and disseminated outside mainstream agricultural institutions and corporations, do not rely on hybrid/GMO seeds or petrochemical fertilizers, but rather encourage and rely on farmer-led research and experimentation, indigenous knowledge, as well as scientific studies and the assistance and training of agricultural professionals. As Indian researcher Dr. Shambhu Prasad has recently argued,

“SRI shows how a less hierarchical and less linear architecture of innovation has enabled a new ‘knowledge commons’ to emerge in Indian agriculture, contributing substantially to household-level food security, also enabling farmers to cope with vulnerabilities.”


SRI farmers Khidir Hameed and friends in Najaf, Iraq.

This past January, Dr. Prasad spoke at the 13th biennial conference for the International Association for the Study of the Commons in Hyberabad, India, describing the “agroecological innovations” shared through the Internet and other digital social networks by Indian SRI practitioners. Conference attendee and author David Bollier reported on the talk in a recent blog post:

Rather than adopt the farming practices of the conventional market and the knowledge paradigm of the scientific/government establishment, however, the SRI practitioners use indigenous varieties of crops and shun chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The whole enterprise is a vast social network of Internet-mediated participation that is aimed at learning how to eke out better yields on marginal plots of land. Some farmers even learn to “play with the monsoon” and its capricious ways to build soil health. The SRI knowledge commons has scientists, farmers and citizens all talking together on the same platforms, rather than the market-oriented “experts” declaring how agriculture should be pursued.

SRI and open source farming create opportunities and possibilities to address serious global problems. We have the resources of the commons and collective wisdom as tools to respond to these challenges. And there is also a treasure, unacknowledged by some, in the ability of rice and other crops to respond positively to conditions farmers create in the field. They give hope where others only see insufficient resources and insurmountable challenges.

Ms. Im Sarim, Peak Bang Oang Village, Takeo Province, Cambodia, holding an SRI rice plant.

Donate now to help fund SRI training in Latin America!

Donations of Equipment and Supplies to Other Nonprofits from Earth Links

By Stephen Leinau, Executive Director

In my thirty years working in the nonprofit world, I have maintained an interest in meeting the needs of nonprofits and their clients with tangible items: work clothes, tools and the various necessities of life. From my tenure as the Director of the Long Island Food Bank in the 1980s, and coordinator of the USDA food distribution program on Long Island, to my work with Earth Links, I have learned from first-hand experience the value of materials that nonprofits need and can put to good use immediately serving people in need.

Volunteer Chris McPherson and donated clothing, 1995

Since its founding in 1991, supporting other nonprofit organizations has been at the core of Earth Links’ mission of “bringing people and resources together.” Through corporate, business, and individual contributions during those twenty five years, Earth Links has donated over one million dollars worth of materials to other nonprofits, including new clothing, software, computers, communication gear (such as satellite phones and ham radios), office supplies, and other items without costs to the nonprofits we serve. These materials have been and continue to be critical to the work of women’s shelters, community development projects, and advocates for indigenous peoples. Given the cuts to local, state, and federal budgets  (as well as economic uncertainties on the horizon), groups are in even more need, and Earth Links would like to continue this work in future.

We are always looking for the financial resources to support our giving of material donations from corporate and small business sources. Each $1,000 donation to Earth Links allows us to solicit, pay shipping and handling, and deliver $10,000 worth of needed items to other nonprofits.


Insulated coveralls for local farm workers.


Donate now to help our continuing efforts to provide people with the resources they need!



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Kids Learn about Water Conservation and Water Security

In 2014 Earth Links, musical duo ZunZun and Raindancer Media released their third Music Video in a series that covers Watershed Awareness, Water Science and Water conservation.

The music videos, H2O Go with the Flow, in English and Spanish, are a fun and effective way to learn about water science and water conservation through Movement and Music.  They are wonderful in the classroom or at home with the family.

Have a kid who wants to help other kids out? After talking with musical duo ZunZun, who work with school children on water conservation and watershed education, we came up with some suggestions for children who want to help communities that need clean, safe water: fundraising for water projects in communities suffering or at risk of water insecurity.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

According to the Millennium Project, 2.4 billion people worldwide live in water-scarce regions, children would be responding to a vital need. Fundraising for these projects (building a well, for example) can be fun and informational: a group of kids or a class can put on a dance marathon or other event. These projects would preferably be specific, at a village or community level and costing less than $1,000 to complete, so that children at one school could take responsibility for raising all the money needed to complete the project. Young people would have the experience of making a real and lasting difference in the lives of other children and their families. The water projects would be identified and managed by a respected nonprofit nongovernmental organization (NGO) that specializes in helping communities develop sources of inexpensive, simple to maintain, community-controlled water.

Our initial research found the following list of NGOs working globally on water projects. We welcome suggestions for other nonprofits doing good work in this area.

  • Drop in the Bucket is an organization that is often mentioned as well run, effective, and welcomes donations by school children.
  • Globalwater has a website that includes stories about students getting involved and their successful fundraising, including ideas for creating fundraising events.
  • The nonprofit a child’s right puts children’s water needs front and center.
  • Philanthropedia has extensive lists of organizations doing water projects and gives recommendations for each organization based on a survey of experts, organizations such as WaterAid, Water for People, IRC (International Water and Sanitation Centre), PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health),, iDE, and WASH Advocacy Initiative. Please see their excellent website for more details and links. Some of these NGOs are religious, and some do not necessarily focus on water, though they often provide water, sanitation, and hygiene projects as critical parts of more comprehensive, community development projects.
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SeaVibe at Pinto Lake: Water Quality Education

We’re excited to share here today a few public service announcements recently made by Watsonville teens who are working with our friends at SeaVibe Foundation.

This academic year, the SeaVibe Foundation has been collaborating with the Academic Vocational Charter Institute (AVCI), City of Watsonville, and University of California at Santa Cruz (and supported by the Audobon-Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship and Earth Links), to provide these AVCI students with integrated training on water quality education in their own watershed. The results are inspiring!

As this article from the City of Watsonville explains,

Students receive community service credit for their work, but more importantly, the field work, research skills, art projects, and public presentations will help prepare the students for college and job opportunities.

You can read more about it here on Watsonville Patch.

SeaVibe at Pinto Lake

Water Contamination PSA

Ecofashion PSA

We want to congratulate all the students on the great video work and making a difference in their community. We’re glad the video cameras provided by Earth Links were used to such ardent, effective use!

You can read more and see photos of the Pinto Lake Community, Water & Art Project at SeaVibe’s Facebook page.

Pinto Lake suffers from toxic cyanobacteria pollution, caused partially by extensive agriculture and poor farming practices in the Pajaro River watershed in Watsonville, CA. The toxin is causing death in birds, fish, and other wildlife at the lake, and has traveled through the watershed to the Monterey Bay where it has been linked to a mass die-off in sea otters. SeaVibe Foundation is working with local students to help educate the community about pollution and to clean up the lake, thanks to funding from the Toyota/Audubon TogetherGreen Fellowship.

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Online Petition Sites

Here are some links for people who are interested in online petitions: what good they are and do, where and how to set them up, and what changes in the “business of campaigning” are ahead for online issue advocacy.

• This article, funded by nonprofit technology clearinghouse TechSoup, is a terrific summary of the difference between pledges and petitions, how to integrate both into larger campaigns, and the kinds of technological tools on offer on the internet.

• has a good list of online petition sites and various plug-ins that can turn your own website into an online petition.

• Since last fall, has dropped from many people’s lists of good online petition sites because of its new advertising and sponsorship policies. See this article on Huffington Post for more information

• Read this Economist article on, a relative newcomer to the online petitions scene.

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Facebook Pages for Nonprofits

Confused about how to use Facebook for your nonprofit? We empathize! Here are some links to articles we’ve found useful in understanding the social media platform and its benefits for nonprofits.

Social Source Commons Blog has a great post that clears up a common misconception about Facebook Profiles (which are only for individuals) and Pages (which are for organizations), as well as guidance in setting up Pages and tips for converting an organization Profile into a Page:

Many times, organizations will set up a Profile on Facebook to represent themselves. Most of us have our own Facebook Profile, so we feel comfortable setting up a Profile for our organization when we are presented with the task. However, Facebook wants only individuals to maintain Profiles. They search for organizations representing themselves in Profiles and aggressively delete them because they want all Profiles to represent individuals. In any case, the features for a Facebook Profile don’t match how most organizations would want to use Facebook anyway. The Profile has a limit of 5,000 friends (which you must approve), no metrics and low search engine optimization. As an organization, therefore, do not set up a Facebook Profile. The features are not designed for organizations and if Facebook finds you, they will delete you.

We also recommend checking out Wild Apricot’s Membership Knowledge Hub’s “How to Set Up an Nonprofit Facebook Page,” and Firstgiving’s “Back to Basics – How to set up your Nonprofit Facebook page,” both of which are clear and give step-by-step instructions.

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