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.

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!



Coffee Sales and Gift Fair Launch the 2014 SRI Latin American Rice Project

Thank you for helping us celebrate our 2014 SRI Rice and Food Security Project for Latin America.  This special event was was a great success and a perfect kickoff for the Project.  Nicaraguan Fairly Traded Organic Coffee and “Alternative Gift Cards” let many of you share the gift of helping families gain food security and increased incomes by supporting their transition to growing rice using the “The System of Rice Intensification”, SRI.

A special thanks to the Bridging Peace Fund for providing matching funds as well as to Three Americas Inc and several individual donors for making the very generous donations that have made the project financially possible.

The projects partners will include SRI Global Inc, Cornell’s SRI RICE and Earth Links Inc.  After finishing his Masters Degree at  CATIE University in Costa Rica Jorge Acosta Butriago will be coordinating our collective work which will include developing and identifying SRI training materials, starting demonstration plots with small farmers as well as creating social and popular media.  We will provide updates and pictures as the project unfolds.


Crowdrise Fundraiser

TV room at the Jinotepe Senior Center, 2009

We’re excited to announce a new collaborative fundraising effort we’ve begun – with our partners Three Americas, Inc. and Global Elder Project. It’s on Crowdrise, a website for charitable giving and crowd-sourced fundraising.

We have raised $500 for computers, software, and art supplies for two senior care facilities serving low income residents. One is in Jinotepe, Nicaragua, and the other is here in Santa Cruz, California. The computers and software are going to be a crucial part of a larger program for art and cultural exchange between the seniors at the Santa Cruz Skilled Nursing Facility and those at the Jinotepe Senior Center (el Hogar de Ancianos Dr. Agustín Sánchez Vigil) in Jinotepe, Nicaragua (a Sister City to Santa Cruz). The seniors in Santa Cruz came up with the name for the program: Puente de la Esperanza, a Bridge of Hope, which we think is very clever.

Santa Cruz Skilled Nursing Facility 2012

We’ve heard great things about how Crowdrise makes grassroots fundraising easy and successful, so head on over (here’s the link again), read all about it, donate, and please share our page with your friends!

Even a small donation will help us build this bridge, so don’t hesitate!

Project Wave of Optimism and the Hesperian Foundation

Our thanks go out to Nick Mucha and Project WOO for delivering a package from the residents at the Santa Cruz Skilled Nursing Facility (SCSNF) to the seniors at the Jinotepe Senior Center. This is our first exchange of art and letters as part of our new art and cultural exchange. Earth Links, Global Elder Project, Three Americas, Santa Cruz Sister Cities Committee, the JFR Foundation, and Laurel Fujii (the UCSC intern leading activities at SCSNF) are all working together on this connection between the two senior facilities.

Image courtesy of Hesperian Health Guides,

Image courtesy of Hesperian Health Guides

Earth Links is also sending along a donation of art supplies for the seniors in Jinotepe, as well as a selection of Hesperian Foundation publications in Spanish for Wave of Optimism’s new community health project.

For those unfamiliar with Hesperian’s publications, their website has an amazing selection of books in nearly thirty languages in both print and digital formats that make health care available to the world’s poor, “Where There Is No Doctor.” See their website, which features an extensive new image database, for more information. We have used their book “Disabled Village Children” in a number of projects and their line drawings are an art form in themselves.

Global Elders

Earth Links is working hard in 2012 to expand our child and family health programs, including programs that serve elder communities. Although needs and resources vary from country to country, the growing demands of the elderly need to be met with effective innovation and compassion within economic constraints. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), elderly care costs could treble by the year 2050, and “countries must face up to the challenge of caring for aging populations.” We at Earth Links are committed to participating in programs in which elders are listened to and given the chance to shape the organizations and programs that will enhance the quality of and dignity in their lives.

TV room at the Jinotepe Senior Center, 2009. Photo by Doolie Brown.

Inspired by our work with Linda Robinson and her Global Elder Care Project, as well as our work with Three Americas, Inc. and the Santa Cruz Sister Cities program at the Jinotepe Senior Center in Nicaragua (Hogar de Ancianos Dr. Agustín Sánchez Vigil de Jinotepe), we see exciting new opportunities to help seniors and their communities. We are assisting with the incorporation of a new nongovernmental organization Global Elder Care focusing on support for elder care programs internationally and at the same time working with Linda on an art, music, and cultural exchange program between an elder care facility in Santa Cruz and the Hogar in Jinotepe. Student interns will be developing activity programs together with the seniors, working in their respective countries and elder communities.

The Jinotepe Senior Center, 2009. Photo by Doolie Brown.

Money from Earth Links and Three Americas have been committed for 2012 for a Nicaraguan university student intern, who will work with the Global Elder Project intern in Santa Cruz. For just $700 for one year, a student intern from the university in Managua will help the Hogar de Ancianos in Jinotepe with new activities programs. The Jessie F. Richardson Foundation, a wonderful nonprofit in Clackamas, Oregon, will be responsible for the overall design of the activities program in Nicaragua as part of their model for elder care in Nicaragua. Art supplies and Flip video cameras have been donated through Gifts In Kind International and TechSoup and we are looking for donations of portable computers for Nicaragua and desktop computers for Santa Cruz to make it easier to exchange photos, videos, and personal stories.