Sustainable rice for all

Sustainable rice for all

Sustainable rice for all

Less greenhouse gas emissions from rice fields and better market access for farmers

Our ambition

We aim to contribute to sustainable rice sector transformation at national, regional and global level, in order to:

  • Provide safe, healthy, sustainable and quality rice to consumers
  • Generate decent profits and jobs for all actors along the value chain, especially for smallholder farmers (men, women and youth)
  • Reduce the environmental impact of rice cultivation and to preserve the environment for future generations

Rice is the daily staple food of 3.5 billion people. One out of 5 persons on our planet earns a living from rice. And demand is rising sharply, due to demographics, urbanization and changing food habits. But with lagging growth in supply, the world will by 2050 face a big production shortfall estimated at 40%. How can we address this global challenge and boost production, while protecting the environment, adapting to and mitigating climate change impacts and uplifting smallholder's livelihoods? And how can we make sure that consumers have access to safe, healthy and sustainable rice?

These are the challenges we want to address

  • Rice producers are both victims and contributors to climate change. Today, they are already amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to droughts, floods, high temperatures, and raising sea levels. How can they adapt and improve their resilience to shocks?
  • On the other hand, flooded paddy fields are a major contributor to climate change. They are estimated to generate about 10% of global methane emissions.
  • Rice requires about 40% of the world's irrigation water, putting intense pressure on sometimes scarce water resources.
  • In some countries, rice is grown using considerable amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. In Vietnam, for example, the overuse of fertilizers led to high pest and disease infestations, resulting in drastical increases in pesticide use (Demont and Rutsaert, 2017). How can we make the rice sector more resource-efficient? And how can we support farmers to reduce their use of agrochemicals while maintaining high productivity?
  • Rice value chains need to be more performant, based on inclusive business relationships between producer organisations, processors and traders. Profits and risks must be distributed fairly, and transaction costs should be lowered.
  • Consumers are increasingly raising their demand for safe and healthy rice while also becoming more environmentally-conscious. There is a need to increase the availability of affordable rice that meets regional and national quality standards.
  • Finally, rice production is largely in the hands of ageing farmers as young people are turning their backs on jobs in rural areas. How can we create attractive jobs for young people in rice value chains? Who will feed the world tomorrow?


A three-tier approach

1. Piloting innovative approaches

  • To empower rice farmers' organisations to become solid business partners and to have better access to markets and finance.
  • To facilitate continuous learning cycles to adopt climate smart agricultural practices and to produce sustainability-cultivated rice according to the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP).
  • To connect rice farmers' organisations with millers, wholesalers, and retailers to explore fair, transparent and inclusive business relations.
  • To match consumers' demand for safe, healthy and sustainable rice produced according to quality standards and to set up quality assurance models to guarantee these claims.
  • To create opportunities in the rice sector for young women and men and empower them to revitalise rice value chains through innovation.

2. Learning from and with others

  • Rikolto works within rice value chains in 9 countries: Indonesia, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Vietnam.
  • Rikolto's rice sector staff in these 9 countries meet within the "Rice Cluster" to encourage peer-to-peer learning and monitoring across regions, and to seek knowledge exchange between partners and other rice sectors.

3. Influencing the rice sector agenda

  • The evidence and lessons we gather in the field from pilot projects will be leveraged to influence public national and regional policy.
  • It will also be used to influence private policies within interprofessional bodies and commodity platforms at national and regional levels.

Areas of intervention


We contribute to a global standard for sustainable rice

Rikolto has sat on the advisory board of the Sustainable Rice Platform since 2015 and has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2018. We helped develop the SRP performance indicators and other tools. In 2018, we established a baseline score on the SRP standard for all 9 countries in which Rikolto engages in rice. Moreover, our colleagues were among the first to test the SRP standard with farmers’ organisations. This consolidates Rikolto’s past achievements in promoting good agricultural practices such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM).

Our colleagues running rice programmes in Benin, Mali, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Indonesia and Vietnam were among the first to test the SRP standard with farmers’ organisations. In a summary report we bring together results, insights, feedback from partners and problems we encountered during the initial SRP test phase.

Download the report

We supported farmer organisations to establish inclusive business relations

  • Farmer organisations exported Fair Trade rice from Benin to a Belgian supermarket and organic rice from Indonesia to Europe, Australia and USA.
  • In Senegal, the farmer organisation signed contracts for selling of paddy with a processor and is negotiating with 4 retailers for selling white rice.
  • Farmer organisations in Uganda, Benin and Indonesia have developed their own rice brand.
  • In Vietnam farmers are linked to 5 major rice companies for the supply of SRP rice.

Farmer organisations are engaged in institutional procurement

We enabled farmer organisations to become key actors in what is called "institutional purchasing" in West Africa: they sell to public sector institutions or are involved in government programmes. Farmer organisations are now delivering rice to school canteens in Burkina Faso and rice seed to governmental programs in Senegal. In Mali, the national rice producer’s platform contributed to the establishment of the food security stocks and signed contracts for 6 million euro with the state agency.

Women became stronger actors in the West African rice sector

Rikolto has supported the construction and equipping of four modern parboiling centres in Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal, enabling women parboilers to produce a larger volume and a better quality of parboiled rice. Women have also been able to get a higher selling price, which has sometimes doubled.

Advocacy on import tariffs for rice in West Africa

Rikolto has contributed to the emergence and organisational strengthening of the regional platform of West African rice producers' organisations. This CRCOPR has become an actor to reckon with on rice-related policy issues. It has influenced the general direction of the Rice Offensive of ECOWAS to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2025 for the region. Though its advocacy efforts for a special import tariff for rice within ECOWAS failed, we now see more and more measures undertaken by member states to engage importers and other actors for local rice.

National Farmer platforms are strengthened

  • We have strengthened national farmer platforms in West Africa to become legitimate dialogue partners with policy makers. This is reflected in the role attributed to them to set up interprofessional bodies in Mali and Benin.
  • Rikolto also supported policy work, led by the Uganda Rice Millers Council which urged government to ensure the import duty was set at a level which would enable the local rice sector to develop.
  • Rikolto in Indonesia, together with its partner API, advocates for the Indonesian government to impose differentiated paddy prices based on multi quality classes.

In its global rice programme, Rikolto works with...

  • 10 local rice producer’s associations and cooperatives, with more than 30,000 members.
  • 3 national and local parboiling unions in Benin and Burkina Faso, representing over 5,000 women.
  • 4 national rice producer’s associations in West Africa, representing at least 120,000 farmers.
  • 1 Provincial Farmers’ Union in Vietnam, with 11,000 members, and a Rural Development Agency in charge of managing 142 cooperatives.
  • 6 Interprofessional rice sector bodies in Africa

Christ Vansteenkiste
Christ Vansteenkiste
Rice Cluster Coordinator