After Early Skepticism, Cambodia Pushes New Rice-Farming Method

The government has recently thrown its weight behind a more efficient approach to rice farming, saying that the new method in­creases the overall yield of rice, ac­cording to agriculture officials.

Rather than relying on chemical fertilizers and heavy machinery, the method, called System of Rice Intensification, entails the following basic principles:

Plant your seedlings while they are young; space them relatively far from one another, with about 25 centimeters between plants; and keep the soil wet but not saturated.

Though simple enough, these steps go against the grain in a country where farmers traditionally plant bunches of rice shoots in relatively random formations and keep their paddies flooded.

When the Center for the Study and Development of Cambodian Agriculture first introduced SRI in 2000, they met with a healthy dose of skepticism from farmers and officials alike.

The main criticism came from people who felt the system’s tenets had not been put to the test of time.

But seven years later, the Agri­culture Ministry seems to have come around.

Agriculture Minister Chan Sa­run said that farmers implementing SRI can produce up to 4.3 tons of rice, up from an average of 2.4 per hectare.

“SRI has proved extremely successful, economical and efficient. We can get more rice without wasting seed and money for fertilizer,” he said.

Yang Saing Koma, executive director for the French agriculture NGO Centre d’Etude et de Devel­op­pement Agricole Cam­bodgien said the government’s backing of SRI has helped encourage more farmers to give the method a try.

“In 2000, there were only 28 farmers who practiced the method but in 2006, 60,000 did,” he said.

Takeo province farmer Him Theng said he began trying the new method last year and got up to 90 sacks of rice on his 40 acres of paddy against the 60 to 70 sacks he used to pull in.

“This new practice is very good,” he said.


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