The System for Rice Intensification (SRI) has significant potential to close the rice production gap in West Africa and put the region on the path to rice self-sufficiency, according to a new book published by researchers from Cornell University and the National Center of Specialization on Rice (NCoS-Rice), based in Mali, for the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF).

The book, “50,000 Farmers in 13 Countries: Results From Scaling up the System of Rice Intensification in West Africa,” documents the results of the 2014-16 project, Improving and Scaling up SRI in West Africa, when SRI was introduced and evaluated in farmers’ fields in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

The authors report that more than 50,000 farmers started using SRI and more than 750,000 people benefited indirectly from the project, of whom 31.6 percent were women. By adopting the SRI method of planting rice, farmers’ yields increased overall by 56 percent for irrigated rice and 86 percent for lowland rainfed rice. The project trained 33,514 people (of whom 1,032 were technicians), and the number of institutions working with SRI increased from 49 to 215 during the project period.

“It has been a remarkable journey and adventure, characterized by commitment, hard work and genuine teamwork – the largest SRI project ever undertaken in the world, spanning 13 countries across West Africa,” said Erika Styger, associate director for Climate-Resilient Farming Systems, in International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who is principal investigator on the project.

SRI is a climate-smart and agro-ecological method of increasing rice production that focuses on the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients. Practitioners are encouraged to adapt practices to local agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions.

“Although SRI was introduced to West Africa in the early 2000s, the results remained mostly at the local level. This is the first time that the impact of the SRI system has been demonstrated at such a large scale,” said Styger. “It has been a privilege for us at Cornell to be actively involved. The results speak for themselves: SRI has the potential to significantly contribute to the goal of rice-self-sufficiency in West Africa.”

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