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.
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.”
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.