The System of Rice Intensification: Adapted practices, reported outcomes and their relevance in Cambodia
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has been widely promoted in Cambodia and a significant number of adopters have been reported. However, little is known about the specific conditions regarding the adapted practices of SRI, how the local rice production practices are influenced by SRI principles and the outcomes of the adaptation. This paper seeks to describe reported differences in rice farming practices as influenced by SRI practices in two regions of Cambodia, evaluate reported outcomes by type of rice farming systems and analyze farmers’ perception of the relevance of SRI practices for their socio-economic and agro-ecological conditions. We conducted a survey with 207 farmers in two districts: Tramkak in the Takeo province and Santuk in the Kampong Thom province. The study revealed that the full SRI package was not generally adopted by farmers but the introduction of SRI did have a strong influence on conventional rice farming practices in the study areas. As the SRI practices adopted by farmers represent modifications of textbook SRI principles, we call the practices “SRI-influenced practices – SRII”. The farmers’ experience demonstrated that the implementation of some SRI practices is constrained by labour availability and agro-ecological conditions. This results in a diversity of adapted practices of SRI being implemented by individual farmers. The requirement of skilled and committed labour at transplanting explained the fact that most of the SRII farmers could not apply SRII in their entire paddy fields. The intensive labour demand in SRII was reflected in the scepticism of non-adopters and disadopters for not trying or discontinuing SRII. Intermittent irrigation as recommended in SRI is very difficult to apply due to poorly developed infrastructure and because farmers are reluctant to drain water in case the next rains are delayed. In terms of crop yields and economic return, farmers reported higher yields for plots managed under SRII practices and we estimated lower cash investment costs. However, the estimated full economic costs for plots with SRII practices were higher than for conventional practices, and the mean net income did not differ between practices. Average returns to labour also did not differ significantly for the different practices.
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