SEATTLE — “A Better U is a better universe,” explains the informational video on the home page of The Better U Foundation (BUF), actor Jim Carrey’s creation aimed at combatting global hunger by supporting the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
The Better U Foundation website says in one of its many informational videos that “rice is the grain that can change the world, and SRI is the key to unlocking its full potential.” It’s important to learn about this new agricultural phenomenon.
A misconception about SRI is that it involves the use of genetically modified organisms. However, SRI rice is not a GMO. Rather, SRI is best understood as a set of farming principles rather than an agricultural technology.
The principles of SRI are easily learned and carried out. In the simplest of terms, the principles of SRI are a combination of quality seeds, well-nurtured soil, larger areas of soil per single seed (not planted in bunches of four or five), an overall less-dense plant population and soil aeration. Arguably most important is to irrigate the crops with a minimal amount of water, for the traditional practice of flooding rice crops often deprives beneficial soil organisms of oxygen.
When these principles are put into practice, farmers are able to use their available resources more productively by producing higher-yielding, more robust crops. SRI has offered a more successful and self-sufficient life for farmers in more than 55 countries. Crops yields are recorded as increasing by 20-100 percent, while saving up to 50 percent more water and up to 90 percent more seed.
Since 2005, Jim Carrey and the Better U Foundation have travelled the globe to help spread the news about the success of SRI. The foundation is committed to SRI and its ability to empower entire communities simply through transformational and sustainable ideas. That is what SRI is: a formula of ideas that anyone can learn and put into practice.
In particular, the Better U Foundation has achieved notable success in Madagascar, Mali and Haiti.
Father Henri de Laulanié first developed SRI in Madagascar in the 1980s, where it was practiced for many years in isolated pockets of the country. However, a lack of coordination, exchange of information and data gathering long hindered SRI’s expansion. The Better U Foundation arrived in Madagascar in 2007. While there, the foundation coordinated program activities to educate farmers about SRI. The country became a model to inspire other countries in Africa to adopt and promote SRI.
During the 2008/2009 crop season in Mali, the Better U Foundation worked with Africare to test the implementation of SRI in 12 villages. Data showed that yields increased up to 87 percent with SRI and saved up to 32 percent more water.
The Better U Foundation visited Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010 to provide financial aid for purchasing urgently-needed medical supplies. The foundation then worked to introduce SRI to Haitian farmers. SRI was shown yet again to be more productive and profitable than traditional methods.
The Better U Foundation and the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) established the SRI International Network and Resource Center (SRI-RICE). The first of its kind, this SRI technical resource center is an international support system for poor rural households, designed to help increase productivity and innovation.
The System of Rice Intensification is now being adapted into a broader System of Crop Intensification. SCI takes the principles of agriculture first practiced with SRI and applies them to a range of crops. The methodology of SCI varies according to crop species.
The flexibility of SRI and SCI allows for farmers in many different regions with varying climates, soil and resources to achieve the same increases in crop yield. The Better U Foundation will continue to spread the news and resources for adopting these systems around the world in order to combat global hunger.
– Sophie Nunnally