Pilot-testing of the SRP standard contributes result in sustainable rice production in Southeast Asia

As a founding member, BRIA has actively supported the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP).The project has promoted the SRP standard to encourage farmers to work in line with sustainability criteria. Farmers not only enjoy higher productivity but also take account of environmental and social impacts.

BRIA shared the lessons learnt from pilot testing and the introduction of the SRP standard at the 2017 Sustainable Rice Conference and Exhibition held by the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) in October 2017 at the United Nations Convention Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok. In this first global sustainable rice conference, BRIA, as an SRP member, set up a prominent exhibition booth supported by Bayer, showcasing the success stories of the four BRIA countries. Visitors were given BRIA newsletters to allow them to learn about the various interventions made to promote sustainable rice production, raise incomes of rice farmers, strengthen value chains as well as develop the capacity of value chain stakeholders in this region. Printed materials produced by the ‘Competitive African Rice Initiative’ (CARI) programme were also available. A series of five video clips titled ‘Responsible Rice Farming in Vietnam,’ produced by CropLife International in collaboration with GIZ to impart IPM (Integrated Pest Management) knowledge to Vietnamese farmers as well as a CARI video were shown. 

Lessons learnt from pilot testing the SRP standard

Using its expertise in farmer empowerment, BRIA has supported the development and adoption of the SRP standard on sustainable rice cultivation in the four BRIA pilot countries using BRIA’s public-private-partnership (PPP) approach. Pilot studies were conducted as part of the SRP’s multi-country field validation programme to assess the applicability, relevance and acceptability of the standard to the farmers.

In Thailand, the pilot testing covered an assessment of the applicability of the standard, farmer training conducted by the Thai Rice Department, and a group assurance system. In Indonesia and the Philippines, farmer surveys were conducted to assess compliance of BRIA farmers with the standard and, more importantly, to pursue the SRP standard as a benchmark for the improvement of the national Good Agricultural Practice (GAP). In the Philippines, the survey was carried out in Iloilo province together with the IRRI (the International Rice Research Institute). In Vietnam, the standard was used as a benchmark against which national standards were streamlined and to ensure that Vietnamese rice is accountable to the global sustainable market.

In parallel with its assessment of the applicability of the standard across countries and diverse rice production systems, BRIA is also facilitating linkages with potential buyers of sustainable rice in order to promote sustainability and to support corporate sustainable procurement policies. The project will continue to gather more information and supply suggestions coming from pilot testing to the SRP for improvement.

Various incentives models to increase economic sustainability

The SRP standard serves as an on-farm tool that provides a sustainability framework and a foundation on which to build business linkages among value chain actors. The market plays a key role, thus the relationship between producers and buyers has to be established and aligned to drive the creation of sustainable value chains in both domestic and export markets. 

Because most smallholder farmers in Southeast Asia are still very poor, sustainable rice value chains with a holistic approach from production to consumption are actively promoted. Various incentives have been created, such as the improvement of farmers’ income through efficient input management, product quality improvement and better market linkages. 

For a better value chain, an accreditation standard on sustainable rice cultivation is seen as one of the most potential solutions. To motivate farmers to adopt such sustainable rice cultivation practices, a direct benefit to farmers is necessary. Sustainable traceability system in the rice supply chain can create incentives for farmers, where the whole supply chain is dedicated to the certified sustainable product. Eventually, the end consumer should pay the price of the product. Another model is the ‘book and claim incentive’ mechanism. In this model, the cost will be borne not by consumers, but by other stakeholders who are aware of sustainability. BRIA is trying to develop a model that could bring the best incentives to farmers.

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