Strong rice farmers in India: seven facts & figures
Did you know that rice will be on the menu for 9 out of every 100 Belgians today? That isn't really that many, considering that rice farmers around the world produce more than 480 million tonnes of the little white grains every year. As a rice-producing country, India is responsible for more than 20% of this total, only beaten by front-runner China. But life isn't that easy for rice farmers, so we went looking for (and found) a local project in India where our retail knowledge might be useful. Read all about it, using seven figures.
In 2011, the 'Fair and Good' project started in India when Reismuehle Brunnen, Coop Foundation, Helvetas and Intercooperation joined forces. The organisations want the chain project to create new opportunities for the local rice farmers. They are working with local farming organisations to build a new supply chain with clear sustainability goals.
- To improve living conditions for the farmers and to increase their income
- To make sustainable use of resources
- To expand organic farming
- To improve biodiversity
- To reduce greenhouse gas emissions
This kind of chain project is necessary because Indian rice farmers are facing significant challenges, including these six:
- Poverty: the rice harvest isn't enough for the farmers, so they are no longer able to live off rice alone. In addition, they are often dependent on external financing and seed suppliers, which only aggravates the situation.
- Rural depopulation: fewer and fewer young people want to become rice farmers. They are leaving to find a better future in the cities, which has a huge impact on local communities.
- Climate change: the monsoon is becoming increasingly unpredictable; sometimes levels of rainfall are extremely high and sometimes quite the opposite. The result is either flooding or drought, with erosion an added consequence.
- Landscape: monoculture and deforestation are stripping the soil of its goodness.
- Chemicals: farmers are using too many pesticides and fertilisers, and often applying them incorrectly. That negatively impacts the soil quality, the ground water and biodiversity.
- Consumption of resources: unregulated water consumption lowers the ground water table. There is also a significant lack of organic fertilisers.
The Fair Farming Foundation cooperative brings together 4,500 small family farming businesses in the Uttarakhand region, at the foot of the Himalayas.
The farmers receive training courses from experts, experienced farmers (lead farmers) and certification bodies like Fairtrade or BIO. They learn more efficient and sustainable ways of cultivating rice, for example, using the SRI principles (System of Rice Intensification). They also learn about growing other crops and investigate other business opportunities.
128.9 tonnes of rice
That's how much basmati rice we buy from the Fair Farming Foundation every year. That's around 10% of their total rice production. Within the cooperative, a total of 2,212 farmers cultivate basmati rice.
That basmati rice is used in two Boni Selection Bio products: basmati rice and the rice mix (a mixture of different kinds, mainly basmati). From March, you can buy the rice from Colruyt, Bio-Planet, OKay and Spar.
30% lower emissions
The results of the project are very promising. This is what the farmers have already achieved since 2011:
- 30% lower greenhouse gas emissions thanks to new cultivation methods
- 30% lower water consumption
- BIO and Fairtrade certification
- 20% to 30% more income for farmers
- More diversification of cultivation, thanks to crop rotation
- Better organisation of the cooperative
In other words, their rice is a real success story.
With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.