Dr. Reddy’s Foundation
Rice is one of the most important food crops globally and in India, the second largest rice-producing country after China with over 45 million hectares under cultivation. Rice production in India faces a number of challenges, from the plummeting water table and unsuitable soils to soaring input prices for farmers. The changing climate – rising temperature, erratic rainfall, increasing frequency of floods, droughts and cyclones – is also adversely impacting production and devastating farm livelihoods.
Rice systems are not only victims of climate change, but they also contribute a major share of greenhouse gas emissions. Methane and nitrous oxide from paddy account for some 30% and 11% of global agricultural emissions.
Action for Climate and Environment (ACE)
The Action for Climate and Environment (ACE) Program under Dr Reddy’s Foundation tackles such issues, and a primary focus is to upscale available climate-smart agriculture practices that can reduce greenhouse gases, increase productivity, and improve the climate resilience of rice production systems over a period of five years, from 2020–25.
To ‘green’ rice production systems, the ACE program focuses on scaling two major practices, namely Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) and Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) of paddy systems. DSR is the process of establishing a rice crop from seeds sown directly into prepared, levelled dry fields instead of transplanting the seedlings from a nursery, while AWD is a controlled irrigation system in which the paddy fields are not continually submerged but are allowed to dry intermittently during the growing period.
Both practices save water, by 20-30%, saving farmers money on pumping and irrigation. Dry DSR and AWD rice systems also have lower carbon footprints, as they reduce methane emissions by 50-60% and 48% respectively without affecting the yield. Besides the co-benefits of water and carbon saving, Dry DSR has the added benefit of reducing dependence on agricultural labour, a major constraint during the transplanting season across India.
The program has been implemented in five states – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh – with the help of the Foundation’s lead farmer platform or LFP. This is a voluntary peer-to-peer extension network we establish in all our locations, wherein our field teams along with our network of technical partners (such as KVK, CIMMYT) train community-nominated progressive farmers (called lead farmers) who then demonstrate the new CSA technologies and disseminate information to neighbouring farmers (fellow farmers) to help them adopt the practices.
In the year 2021–22 alone the program covered 2,232 acres under Dry DSR (adopted by 2,235 farmers) 4,096 acres under Wet DSR (1,030 farmers) and 1,500 acres under AWD (285 farmers) across all our locations. Analysis of these locations revealed that when compared with manually transplanted rice, Dry DSR reduced the cost of cultivation by 33%, increased yield by 19%, and helped in overall emancipation of income of about Rs 14,753 per acre. Similarly, at locations where Wet DSR was adopted, farmers reduced their cost of cultivation by 23%, increased yields by 22%, and saw an average increase in income of Rs 9,440 per acre. In the current year 2022–23, we intend to increase the area under sustainable rice practices to 20,000 acres across all our current locations. The increase in income generated from these projects have both alleviated poverty and improved the quality of life for farmers in the region.
In the coming years, Dr Reddy’s Foundation aims to expand its program into new agro-climatic zones suitable for sustainable rice farming in many folds. There are some major challenges in upscaling these interventions: primarily a lack of awareness, the willingness of farmers, access to farm mechanisation, and incentives. For direct seeding and AWD to be successful, farmers need to have well-levelled fields, efficient drainage and proper nutrient and weed management practices. To overcome these barriers, DRF is focusing on crop and intervention-specific training and capacity building of farmers through our lead farmer platform and partner network. We are also building farmer-friendly business models for farm mechanisation and acting as a bridge between farmers and farm machinery firms. And are developing carbon-farming projects in collaboration with industry, government and research partners that will incentivise and support smallholder farmers to adopt CSA activities, helping them grow sustainably while protecting the environment.
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