Paddy cultivation in India has been facing stiff competition from cash crop cultivation. Paddy cultivation requires more resources in the form of seeds, water, manure and labor, while only resulting in moderate yield. Most paddy cultivators also tend to be small farmers with holdings of less than two hectares. Many farmers are hence converting their land into horticultural fields. With such lethargic growth in grain production, the Indian subcontinent is slowly heading towards a food security crisis.
System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which began in the 1980s, is a new method of rice cultivation that uses lesser investments of water and labor resources to increase the yield or productivity, thereby reducing the cost of cultivation. With lesser plants per surface area, varieties of rice plants are usually healthier with a larger root volume, higher grain weight and more insect-resistant qualities.
The process of SRI begins from early transplanting, with greater tillering and more root growth. Should plants be deemed to have more tillering potential, they are carefully transplanted to a wider space. This will enable more root growth. Weeding and aeration are subsequently carried out to ensure healthy growth of the plants. Mechanization, in the form of power tillers, cono weeders, and thrashing machines has been proposed to improve upon the efficiency of the processes.
SKDRDP trains farmers on the implementation of the SRI method and develops a database to track individual performance based upon the yield of the harvest. Farmers are required to keep simple records of the methodologies applied, expenditure and income. The organization undertakes monitoring of the entire project from its initial phase. Beneficiaries will also be assisted physically with loans, whose repayment will be tracked. The outcomes of the individual beneficiary will be measured individually at the SRI promoter, block and district level.
SKDRDP has been actively involved in promoting SRI since 2004. In 2009, in partnership with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and AME Foundation (a NGO engaged in training for agriculture producers), SKDRDP has implemented the SRI project successfully. As on November 2013, SKDRDP has invested Rs. 27.35 crores to help 34,500 farmers cultivate paddy in 34,500 acres in the SRI method.