Building resilience through local rice seed system

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Farmer Field School in Bach Thong district, Bac Kan province

SRD's "Strengthen and develop farmer rice seed system in Bac Kan province" project has recently been completed. The project ran from 2008 - 2011, in eight districts in Bac Kan province, with the aim of improving farmer capacity in sustainable rice seed production and advocating for policy change in recognition of farmers' roles in rice seed production.

Over three years the project conducted 42 farmer field schools, where groups of farmers studied learnt Plant Genetic Resource (PGR) and System of Rice Intensification (SRI) farming techniques. Farmers also had the opportunity to attend Training of Trainer (TOT) courses, and capacity building workshops including planning and management skills, and developing a business plan. Farmers had opportunities to share experiments through attending cross-visits and workshops at the provincial, national and regional level, with study tours to other provinces and abroad. The farmers who were direct beneficiaries of the project shared their knowledge with other farmers in their villages. Through the project, farmers became more confident, and more empowered to share and present their ideas.

The external evaluation report commented that the project yielded significant results. Rice yield increased 20-30% and income increased 15-25%, ensuring increased livelihoods for local people. Applying PGR and SRI rice farming techniques meant a 50% reduction in pesticide use, leading to improved environmental health. Through the Farmer Field Schools, 43 rice varieties have been conserved and multiplied to provide seeds for local farmers to study, and two rice varieties have been certified by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

A farmer group has been established, where 18 households work together cooperatively to protect and develop local rice seeds, and increase farmers capacity for advocacy. After two years of support from the project, the farmer group moved beyond self-sufficiency, and are now producing rice for purchase by the provincial agricultural service company. The farmer group has sold 15 tones of rice seed to date, and the income of these households has increased by 40-50% during this project. 

This project also provides a strong model for increasing local community resilience to climate change. SRD Project Officer Ms Doi Khanh Ha, who managed this project, believes that the farmer rice seed cooperative offers a good model that could be promoted across provinces. "Through protecting a wide variety of seed sources, farmers are able to adapt flexibly to changing weather conditions", she said. "Farmers have selected 14 potential rice varieties that have demonstrated high ability to adapt to weather and diseases." These farming techniques also allow farmers to minimize their water use and better cope with drought, and reduce harmful methane emissions through lowering pesticide use. 


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