At the one year summary and review meeting held in Viet Tri city, Phu Tho province on November 28, SRD staff members and management had the opportunity to meet with some of the key farmers who are are implementing SRI and training others in the community on its application.
These key farmers have been using SRI methods for two seasons now, and have so far seen dramatic decreases in their use of seeds (by about 50%), water, and transplant labor. The rice they grow is of better quality, and crop productivity has been increased by about 20 kg of paddy per sao (360 sq. meters).
SRI, however, is not just having an effect on yields and incomes, but on social solidarity and community livelihoods. These key farmers serve as agents of positive change in their communities, bringing information of SRI to their friends and neighbors and working hand-in-hand with them to ensure its successful application. At the begining of each season, the key farmers meet to develop a plan for SRI expansion and implementation, and then work with one another to make sure that targets are reached.
SRI is also changing the lives and livelihoods of families for the better. With the reduction in labor required in the rice fields, farmers, especially women, can now spend more time working on other activities. This helps encourage income diversification, as farmers devote more attention to gardens and vegetable plots, and leads some to seek additional off-farm work opportunities.
Meeting with these farmers also allowed to share their opinions and suggestions for the future of the program. Though the application and expansion of SRI has, so far, been successful, there remain some obstacles still to be met. Because SRI is a new method and requires the use of inputs (such as potassium-based fertilizer) that farmers are not yet familiar with, strong support is needed for farmers applying SRI for the first time. Some farmers suggested additional financial support, loans, or in-kind supplies of inputs such as seeds and fertlizer. Additional support (in the form of a per diem) was also requested for the farmer trainers.
Another area of potential improvement is communication and the engagement of authorities at the local level. Farmers suggested that the program make better use of the communications tools available in the communities, such as loudspeakers, and other forms of media, like the provincial television station, to provide specific information on how and when farmers should follow the steps of SRI. To achieve this, the program will need to coordinate closely with local officials to develop detailed SRI implementation plans and to remind local residents how to carry out SRI techniques, in accordance with that timeline.