Utilising rice straw for smallholder rice farmers

GIZ together with Urmatt Ltd, a social-oriented enterprise in certified organic rice and rice derivative products, join hands for a collaborative project to reduce rice straw burning through innovative use of rice straw with smallholder rice farmers in a northern province of Chiang Rai.

Rice straw is a by-product from rice production. Without feasible management methods, farmers often resort to burning rice straw and stubble in the field to clear the land despite health and pollution risks involved. Burning rice straw also causes significant greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Mr Reinhold Elges, Country Director for GIZ Thailand and Malaysia, Ms Pouchamarn Wongsanga, Project Team Lead, and Mr Arvind Narula, Chairman of Urmatt Ltd convened to sign a cooperation agreement to formalise the cooperation for a joint project between Urmatt Ltd and GIZ under the ASEAN AgriTrade Project.

This integrated development partnership with the private sector (iDPP) aims to establish a collection mechanism of rice straw for smallholder rice farmers and to pilot processing methods for rice straw into a valuable resource, for example for paper and packaging production. The project will involve some 3,000 smallholder rice farmers in Chiang Rai who are working together with Urmatt Ltd. Knowledge and experiences generated from the project will be documented and shared to other countries in Southeast Asia with major rice production to further address the rice straw and open field burning issue in the region.

This joint collaboration also emphasises a further implementation step following the extended framework of Inclusive Sustainable Rice Landscapes in Thailand aimed at transforming Thai rice value chain for environmental sustainability.

Mr Arvind Narula shared that “Urmatt Ltd has been working on research and development to find innovative ways to make use of rice straw, a by-product whose value is overlooked. By establishing a feasible way to collect and utilise rice straw, this will provide additional source of income for farmers and an incentive to stop burning. This collaborative project is an important milestone towards our long-term goal to realise the potential of rice straw.”

Mr Reinhold Elges reiterated that “Public-Private Partnerships are crucial to achieve common goals for sustainable development. The cooperation with Urmatt Ltd. is a wonderful example how public interest and private sector vision and entrepreneurship can drive positive change. I am very pleased that together, we will work towards the end of rice straw burning, bringing increased income opportunities to farmers and health benefits to all people in affected areas.”

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