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Rice Growers to Develop Sustainable Farming Standards

Farmer with harvested rice (Oxfam America)

(Oxfam America)

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines is joining a consortium of international organizations, government agencies, NGOs, and private companies in an initiative to set environmentally sustainable and socially responsible rice production management standards. The Sustainable Rice Platform, as it’s called, aims to boost growers’ rice production, keep the environment healthy, facilitate safer working conditions, and generate higher incomes to overcome poverty and improve food security.

The consortium plans to learn from other commodity initiatives that promote sustainability, such as those for sugar cane, cotton, and coffee, and apply them to rice. The program is expected to set sustainability targets, develop and promote regional and global standards of best practices for rice production, and support rice farmers to adopt these practices.

In addition, the initiative includes identifying criteria to assess whether sustainability targets are being met and farmers are implementing the practices. Bas Bouman, head of IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division and the project lead for IRRI, notes “We can also develop and promote the use of specialized field calculators to determine the environmental footprint of water, carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, or chemical use.”

Rice is mostly grown by hundreds of thousands of poor farmers, primarily in developing countries in Asia, where access to knowledge and support is limited. Most rice growers have only very small farms of less than 1 hectare (2.47 acres) each. Thus implementing these standards is expected to present a particular challenge.

Diane Holdorf, Chief Sustainability Officer for the Kellogg Company, a major user of rice, voiced the company’s intention to share its sustainability efforts and encourage the use of the results of this initiative. “In addition to financial support,” says Holdorf, “we are fast-tracking sustainable techniques into our contract growing programs. We’ll share the results with the Sustainable Rice Platform and use them to inform our global rice policies and direction.”

Read more: Research Collaboration Developing More Robust Rice

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