An opportunity for increasing factor productivity for rice cultivation in The Gambia through SRI


Promising results from an increasing number of field evaluations of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) conducted in Asia and Africa indicate that African farmers could increase their rice production while lowering costs of operation and reducing the need for water by utilizing its principles and practices. This system relies not on external inputs to raise productivity but on alternative methods for managing rice plants and the soil and water resources devoted to their cultivation. Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa increasingly have to cope with the impacts of adverse climate effects because water shortages and long dry spells during the cropping season are becoming common, even in lowland rice agroecosystems. SRI management practices create both larger rice root systems that make their plants more resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses and more conducive environments for beneficial soil microflora and fauna to flourish. Better plant growth and development result from promoting plant–soil synergies. Controlled fertilizer management experiments conducted with SRI practices in The Gambia have showed that grain production can be significantly increased without higher application of inorganic fertilizer and with less requirement for water. SRI management practices with fertilizer application at the national recommended dose produced a grain yield of 7.6tha−1. Water productivity was greatly increased, with 0.76g of grain produced per kg total water input, compared to 0.10g of grain per kg of water when the crop was continuously flooded. Recent hikes in fuel prices and consequent rises in input costs are making domestic rice production less attractive and importation even more attractive. Computation of production costs showed that SRI production, not needing heavy applications of fertilizer, is economically cost-effective. Achieving yield increases through ever-higher fertilizer applications is not economically or environmentally viable. SRI management with recommended fertilizer applications produced a net return of $853ha−1 compared to $853ha−1 compared to 37 when using farmers’ present low-productivity practices. KeywordsRice profitability–Rice yield–System of Rice Intensification–Water productivity