Sustainable Rice Platform
Co-convened by UN Environment and the International Rice Research Institute and involving multiple stakeholders, the Sustainable Rice Platform is the world's first standard for sustainable rice cultivation.
Since 2015, Sansom Mlup Prey Organization (SMP) has been working with rice farmers in the central floodplains of Cambodia to improve agricultural practices, increase incomes, and protect biological and cultural heritage through the application of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), the world's first standard for sustainable rice cultivation.
The intervention area, the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, is a fast-changing and vulnerable ecosystem, severely threatened by the effects of climate change, rapid environmental degradation and land-use changes, and unsustainable resource extraction and management. SMP encourages rice farmers in the area to adopt the SRP standards, and our team of agronomists and community officers provide comprehensive agricultural training, field demonstrations, and individual support to farmers on a technical level. We envision sustainable agricultural supply chains that help regenerate ecosystems through diversified organic agriculture, including traditional heirloom varieties, and a commitment to protecting the integrity of the ecosystem.
Since the beginning, private-sector partnerships have helped drive the success of the intervention. SRP farmers have been selling rice to Mars, Inc., through a local mill called the Battambang Rice Company, Ltd., (BRICo) that processes the paddy rice.
Starting with four villages in Stoeng District, Kampong Thom province, the project continues to expand. Now entering its sixth year, the project is operating in 30 villages across 3 districts and includes 548 households. In 2019, SRP producers sold 2,000 MT of paddy through BRICo.
The intervention will be expanding to new provinces after successfully securing a further 5 years of grant funding, which will help increase the reach to a target of 3,000 farming households.
Improving Agricultural Practices
The SRP standards provide the framework for improved agricultural practices that help increase the profitability and sustainability of rice production while decreasing potential negative impacts on the environment, wildlife, human health, and labor rights. SMP supports the implementation of improved agricultural practices through training, mentoring and field demonstrations on topics such as cover crops, seed production, land levelling, pest and nutrient management, harvest and post-harvest handling, and water harvesting.
Increasing Farmers' Profitability
SRP standards and practices help increase profitability by improving the efficiency of resource use. Moreover, SMP provides farmers with foundation seed and fosters their ability to produce their own, thus reducing input costs. Importantly, adoption of the SRP standards assist in increasing harvest yields and rice quality, facilitating better market prices. Going forward, SRP will introduce consumer labels which will also help increase the value of SRP rice. Other activities, like the formation of producer groups and Agricultural Cooperatives and training on rice quality identification help farmers negotiate better prices.
Contributing to Wildlife Conservation
The Bengal Florican is a Critically Endangered bird, with less than 200 individuals currently remaining in Cambodia. Bengal Floricans rely on grassland and wetland ecosystems for feeding and breeding, and the central floodplains of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve provide crucial habitat for the birds during critical stages of their life cycle. Rice fields, provided they are responsibly and sustainably managed, can also provide suitable habitat. Unless rice in the area is grown in a way that is good for the Bengal Florican, then it is very likely this species will disappear from Cambodia.
Women's Economic Empowerment
A core component of the SRP intervention, Women’s Economic Empowerment, aims to improve women’s position in household and community decision-making and improve their incomes from agricultural production. The project works closely with women farmers and female-headed households to develop women’s leadership skills for increased decision-making roles in community and family life, Agricultural Cooperatives, and informal rice producer groups. Men are sensitized to the burden of unpaid domestic work expectations placed on women, and women receive training on group facilitation, price negotiation, and leadership principles.
The SRP intervention will greatly expand over the next 5 years in collaboration with government and civil society organizations implementing a wide-ranging, landscape-based approach to build ecosystem and community resilience to rapid social and environmental changes taking place in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve. SMP will lead the expansion of SRP agricultural practices within communities, and introduce an agroecological rotational system combining rice production and cattle grazing to maintain essential grassland habitat. Promotion of traditional varieties of rice, favorably suited to the dynamics of the unique ecosystem, will help conserve the functioning of this traditional social-ecological system.