SPEEDRICE (Madagascar)

Scaling-up, Promoting and Expanding Effortless Direct-seeding Rice permaculture

Challenge: 4million people in Madagascar have insufficient access to food

Rice is a staple food in Madagascar and the nation is one of the highest per-capita rice consuming countries in the world. Yet despite annual rice production averaging four million metric tons, Madagascar remains non self-sufficient at meeting its own demand. Local rice production (approximately 2-3 metric tons per hectare) does not satisfy national needs, which results in a hard lean seasonthe need to import large quantities, and increased consumption of poor quality imported rice.

In many regions, communities face additional issues: 

  • Normal rice farming calendars are frequently affected by climate variations: delayed or irregular rain causes a shift in the soil preparation dates with repercussions on both sowing and transplanting.
  • Rising temperatures are leading to a decrease in yields and is threatening food securityThe consequent reduction in yields has been estimated to be between 15-20%. Temperature variation leads to a higher incidence of pests and diseases resulting in both a loss of quality and quantity. Without appropriate adaptation measures, the impacts of climate variation on production, and subsequently food prices, threaten Madagascar’s already precarious food security situation. 
  • Prevalence of malnutrition: Madagascar has the fourth highest rate in the world in terms of stunting prevalence. Half of the 22 regions of Madagascar have prevalence above 40% and the most affected regions are those in the highlands (including Analamanga and Itasy) where prevalence is higher than 60%. 
  • Low access to agricultural equipment and tools: Malagasy rice farmers have a very limited access to basic implements, even to the simplest hand-weeders – owned only by 14,4% of smallholder farmers3. Therefore, any effort to increase the production by exploiting more land area is made nearly-impossible due to labor limitation. 

Typical Madagascan rice farms

Response: improving agricultural techniques to increase yields

With support from the innocent foundation – whose mission is to help the poorest families feed themselves – AKF began implementing the SPEEDRICE project in 2019. This three-year project seeks to fight hunger and enhance food security amongst vulnerable households in Madagascar by introducing new package of sustainable agriculture techniques developed by AKF: the Zanatany Rice Permaculture System (ZRPS).  

ZRPS seeks to address the constraints inherent in other rice intensification systems such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) that cause very high rates of attrition. ZRPS is based on four pillars: 

  1. Self-production of inputs resulting in a significant cost reduction; 
  2. Direct seeding, leading to a very significant labor reduction (up to 50%) coupled to larger, healthier, more drought tolerant and earlier ripening plants;
  3. Crop overlapping rotations and mix cropping that allow a much longer (if not year round) cultivation of rice fields; 
  4. Minimal to zero tillage made possible by the accumulation of organic soil cover and biomass crop hedging.  

Farmers have the ability to gradually adopt the ZRPS pillars at their own pace and can actually implement the system in a much broader range of topographies than SRI. By reducing labour that is usually assigned to women and water requirements, ZRPS is both gender-friendly and climate smart. Since its initial design, the system has provided extremely promising results in terms of productivity, while going through a continuous improvement process from field observations and experiments. 

Through SPEEDRICE, AKF will test and adapt ZRPS across various agro-ecological zones of Madagascar: working in 5 regions (Sofia, Diana, Sava, AnalamangaItasy)By the end of the project, AKF will train 20,000 smallholder farmers in ZRPS, expecting an adoption rate of 30% and rice yields to increase by 50% or more. 

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SPEEDRICE is funded by the innocent foundation