All his life Bipro, his mother and three brothers struggled to survive on the meager harvest produced by their one acre of land in Northeast India. For six to eight months of the year they worked as day labourers so that they could at least afford to purchase rice in the market.
In 2009, however, an opportunity presented itself, an opportunity to try an experiment. This scared Bipro, because if the experiment failed, his family could lose their harvest.
Summoning his courage, Bipro joined “Umsaw Green Field”, a farmer’s club formed by the Patharkhmah Food Security Project, a NEICORD* program funded by World Renew and the Foods Resources Bank.
Other farmers in the club were practicing something called “System of Rice (or Root) Intensification” (SRI). Bipro watched closely. Then he made a decision. He would try it himself.
Bipro divided his family’s acre into two half acre plots. In the first plot he planted the rice using the method his family had practiced for so many years. In the second plot he used the same seed, but planted using the SRI method.
“SRI... is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world's 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them.” - The Guardian
Following all the steps of the SRI method, as taught to him by the project, Bipro was astounded by the results. From the SRI plot he harvested 680 kg of rice, as compared to the 358 kg yield of the traditional plot! This harvest would sustain him and his family for seven months!
A nearly 50% increase in yield, at no extra cost. How did this happen? No expensive fertilizers were bought. Also, fewer seeds were needed for the SRI plot. According to a recent article by John Vidal in The Guardian about the practice of SRI, “Instead of planting three-week-old rice seedlings in clumps of three or four in waterlogged fields, as rice farmers around the world traditionally do… farmers carefully nurture only half as many seeds, and then transplant the young plants into fields, one by one, when much younger. Additionally, they space them at 25cm intervals in a grid pattern, keep the soil much drier and carefully weed around the plants to allow air to their roots.” By promoting good root growth, plants are stronger and yield more.
Through the Umsaw Green Field farmers club Bipro also learned kitchen gardening. He planted vegetables in his rice paddy, after harvesting the rice, instead of leaving the paddy vacant for six months. Now Bipro and his brothers grow carrots, beans, radishes, lettuce, cauliflower, onions, beets, and mustard leaves. Now, during the months when food would normally be scarce, there are vegetables to eat, and there is additional income because the excess vegetables can be sold at the market.
Kohima Daring, World Renew Country Consultant for Bangladesh and India, visited the Patharkhmah Food Security Project recently. Bipro told her, “We come from a poor family. As a family we struggled so much; my mother tried so hard to take care of us when we were young. Now, it is time for us to take care of her. I am very happy the project works with poor farmers like me, to give us hope and teach us ways to increase our yields and still depend on cultivation for our food security and income.”
*NEICORD – North East India Commission on Relief and Development
Communities are at the heart of World Renew’s programs around the world. And at the heart of these communities are families like Bipro’s. These families are of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes both parents are there. Sometimes only one. Sometimes the children are raised by the older siblings, or by a grandparent, or by aunts and uncles. For the next three months we will be telling our community development stories through the lens of family, and also shining a light on our Free a Family program, which is a way you can regularly support World Renew’s work addressing poverty and injustice in a region of your choice.