Rice production in Dong Thap: Towards sustainable agriculture

Rice production in Dong Thap: Towards sustainable agriculture

in News

From 2 hectares to test sustainable rice cultivation…

Autumn-winter rice season in Dong Thap, where Mr. Hung lives with his family. For the first time, Mr. Hung tries out the standards of the international Standard for Sustainable Rice cultivation on 2 hectares of the land he owns.

After the harvest, he evaluates the results. Production costs have dropped down from 22 million VND/hectare to 19,8 million VND/hectare, because he could save on the amount of fertilisers he had to use. Nonetheless, the rice yield did not decrease and stayed at 6 metric tons/hectare. “This innovation brings economic benefits and should be replicated in the next seasons. I believe that it will help my family to increase our income,” said Hung.

Mr. Hung is a member of Thang Loi Cooperative that got support from Rikolto in learning about the benefits of applying the Sustainable Rice standards. After the success of Hung’s first 2 hectares, 17 hectares has been dedicated to SRP piloting by farmers in the locality.

…and more intense application of sustainable rice production practices…

What exactly is Sustainable Rice? The Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation is the world's first voluntary sustainability standard for rice. Designed for farm-level impact at the smallholder level, each requirement in 41 criteria is relevant, practical, and under the farmer's control.

SRP-compliant cultivation promotes good practices from soil preparation, pesticide and fertilizer management to keeping farm logbook, harvesting and by-product management. For example, the soil must be loose, flat, and free of leftover seeds from previous seasons, weeds and snails.

As a requirement of rice seed production, the seeding density was only half as high as that of ordinary rice. “There was a technical assistant who weekly visited the paddy field to evaluate the rice growth, disease and pest level so as to arrive at immediate solutions. Because of this, I used a lot less fertilizer than before,” added Hung.

With respect to integrated pest management, the technical assistant continuously supported farmers in analyzing and evaluating the farming ecological system and gave recommendations for reducing pesticide use if possible. Hung sprayed pesticides only 4 times during the season, compared to 7 times in the non- SRP cultivation.

During the season, Hung also recorded all related information into a farm logbook. By doing so, he could manage his production as well as calculate the costs and benefits. The assistant also provided great support for Hung in doing this daily work.

Applying SRP, Hung also stopped burning straws to “reduce gas emission and harmful effects on the environment,” said Hung. However, Hung is worried about his employees’ occupational safety. He hired part-time laborers to spray pesticides and it was difficult for him to make them use protection equipment. He hopes that in the next seasons, together with the technical assistant, he will find a way to get his labors protecting themselves with the necessary equipment.

… to a promising direction in the future

SRP, on the one hand, minimizes unexpected impacts on the environment caused by rice production; on the other hand, it helps to increase income for small households and assure occupational safety.

At the household level, applying SRP, the farmers have “been provided with knowledge on SRP and practiced it in their own fields. They observed the results themselves and gained experience in sustainable rice production,” said Mr. Ngo Thanh Hung, the Head of Dong Thap’s Rural Development Department.

By tracking planting schedule and reducing the use of agrochemicals, SRP “helps farmers improve traditional practices, encourage the application of technologies, and create an enabling environment for knowledge gain and experience exchanges as well as enforcing farming management skills”, added Mr. Ngo.

Rikolto has been supporting farmers in the two provinces of Dong Thap and An Giang to pilot SRP since 2018. We plan to introduce SRP in Kien Giang with 3 more cooperatives in the next years.

Rikolto's rice cluster

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.

Read more about our experiences with SRP in these countries