SRI introduced in Phayeng village as a climate change adaptation strategy

         Climate change and agriculture are tangled to each other. Climate change is aggravated by various activities and among those, agricultural activities contributed a significant share to it. About 17% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are from agricultural activities. Simultaneously, Climate change and climate variability also has the negative impact on both crops and livestocks through a range of threat such as water scarcity, flood, extreme temperature, uncertainty in rainfall, pest and disease outbreak etc. These entire situations create hurdle for agricultural activities and challenges the food security and agriculture based livelihoods. Perhaps, it act as an obstacle to the economic growth of the people of Manipur, as agriculture has an important place in the state’s economy.

System of rice intensification, commonly known as SRI is one of the perfect methods of climate change adaptation strategy and is adopted by many farmlands in the past few years. Apart from this strategy, SRI is a package of agronomic practices which exploits the genetic potential of rice plants and creates a better growing environment (both above and below ground). Introduction of such technology in the state to increase the crop productivity and yield stability is highly essential for future welfare. The System of Rice Intensification offers multiple benefits for reducing vulnerability of agricultural systems and livelihoods to climate variability and change.

Application of SRI methods benefits in many ways. In this method, the space between the plants allows sunlight to pass through and maintain the humidity level. This reduces the pest, weeds and disease infestation and thus reduced the uses of pesticides, more convenient to manage the weeds and makes the plants stronger and healthier. Further, it reduces 80–90% inputs of seeds and save up to 50% water, reduces chemical fertilizers and labor requirements. In spites of less resources input, it is estimated to increases about 20–50% of crop yields and enhances soil health.

Transplantation with equal distance allows better passage of sunlight and to maintain the humidity level

Apart from all above mentioned, SRI helps in mitigation of variability or climate change by decreasing the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) especially methane from the soil during intermittent irrigation (alternate wetting and drying). Increase in soil carbon pools through the additions of organic matter to soils and residues from larger root systems.

Also, farmers note that SRI management usually shortens their crop cycle by 1­–2 weeks. This frees up their land for other uses, and reduces their crops' exposure to climatic stresses and pest and disease risks. SRI paddy rice usually produces about 10% higher outturn of polished rice when milled, because of fewer unfilled grains and less chaff. Fuller grains, reduced chalkiness and reduced breakage of grains during milling, further improves grain quality, which translates often in a higher price and return for the farmer. Thus, SRI methods increases farmers’ incomes and increase the productivity of rice farming, but with the decrease in greenhouse gas methane emission.

As an initiative measure, the Directorate of Environment have introduce the SRI technique to reduce GHGs emissions and improve agricultural productivity in Phayeng village where a project to transform the village to a carbon positive eco model village is in progress. Twenty one farmers covering about 12 hectares of land had been selected based on their interest on innovative ideas and field conditions for pilot study of System of Rice Intensification in the particular village. Recent changes in local and regional climate are affecting the Phayeng ecosystem services in terms of agricultural sectors and food insecurities.

A plot taken under SRI in Phayeng village

The sign of rapid decline in water resources, Maklang river as well as spring sheds are seen due to the changing climate. Additionally, the conserved community forests and livestock rearing, particularly poultry and piggery are also under threat. Such threats and risks increase the vulnerability of low income farmers, in particular those who do not have the capacity for short to long term adaptation. Water, particularly for agricultural use, has become a scarce resource and often more so during the lean seasons of the year. While other methods like horticulture or aquaculture is more labor intensive than the conventional paddy rice farming in terms of extra labor and extra income needed, it is the need of the hour to introduce new innovative technologies which use less water.

A high potential is therefore seen in SRI to help secure the livelihoods of the communities, and to enhance their resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change expected in the region. The SRI system can be applied both in irrigated as well as rain-fed rice systems. Most vulnerable people and vulnerable economic sectors like agriculture should be given attention on priority basis. Last but not the least, it is co-operation, trust, political willingness and positive actions which can make significant change and unite the people to fight climate change more effectively.