Farmers applying sustainable rice standard proven to earn more in South-East Asia

by Astari Widya Dharma

The Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) established in 2013 is one of the most prominent global multi-stakeholder forums in the rice sector. SRP is convened by UNEP and IRRI, while GIZ is one of the co-founders. From the beginning, GIZ has been actively engaged in contributing technical support from GIZ’ on-farm experiences and also in developing the SRP instruments. With a mission to promote resource efficiency and sustainability in the global rice sector, SRP aims to offer the global rice supply sector a proven set of instruments to facilitate wide-scale adoption of sustainability best practices. The SRP Standard on Sustainable Rice Cultivation – the world’s first sustainability standard for rice – defines an overall framework for climate-smart sustainable best practices in any rice-based system. As a supplement to the standard, a set of Performance Indicators (PI) was launched as a quantitative tool to measure impacts of adoption of the Standard.

In 2017, some farmers in Thailand received approximately four per cent higher selling price of their wet paddy from their sustainable rice cultivation standard practices. The GIZ-implemented Better Rice Initiative Asia (BRIA) project has continued to drive implementation of the Sustainable Rice framework in four countries in Southeast Asia, namely: Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Particularly in Thailand, BRIA welcomed around 1,300 farmers from 19 Community Rice Centers to the partnership. Together with the Thai Rice Department and Olam International, the standard has been implemented and verified through a third-party audit during each growing season to verify the adoption and compliance with the standard’s recommended practices.

Building on the success of the framework adoption in BRIA, GIZ intends to upscale the framework adoption to 35,000 farmers in Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, and also to replicate the framework in other regions, such as West Africa and South Asia.

Rice is an important source of food for more than half of the global population and is therefore of extreme public and political importance. Its production provides vital food security and employment to millions of some of the world’s poorest people. However, in many countries, the rice value chain lacks appropriate production, processing, and marketing structures, and is restrained by the inefficient and environmentally hazardous use of resources. Yet, global consumers are increasingly aware of sustainable rice production, food safety, and climate change.

The SRP Rice Cultivation Standard and Performance Indicators (PI) have been used in GIZ as a framework to ensure sustainable rice cultivation practices are adopted in the project beneficiaries’ countries. With its expertise in promoting farmer empowerment, the BRIA has raised interests and awareness on the adoption of the SRP framework in the four BRIA countries. The pilots were conducted at different levels of engagement considering the available resources and capacity of each BRIA country to assess the applicability, relevance and acceptability of the standard. From the experience with BRIA, the standard served the role as a decision-making tool in assessing and describing sustainable practices of farmers, in the common definition that is understood by all stakeholders. The standard has been proven to be helpful in providing a foundation to strengthen the sustainable rice value chain, and to build stronger linkages among value chain actors, especially on the market linkages for both domestic and export markets. Furthermore, with the verified standard compliance, other stakeholders benefit from more assurance on the quality of rice farming techniques, and also in term of rice safety and health qualities.