Rikolto pushing for the adoption of sustainable rice standard in the new Ugandan National Rice Strategy.

Rikolto pushing for the adoption of sustainable rice standard in the new Ugandan National Rice Strategy.

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John Ereng
John Ereng
Rice Cluster Director in East Africa

The Ugandan government is developing a new National Rice Development Strategy for the period 2020-2030. Environmental sustainability is being considered as a potential new priority theme, following the President's directive that smallholder rice farmers should stop growing rice in wetlands.

Given Rikolto’s track record of working on environmental sustainability in the rice sector, I was invited to provide input on our experience in developing and applying the global standard for sustainable rice. We hope that our input will be taken into account in the new strategy.

All rice stakeholders united

Between 2008 and 2018 the previous National Rice Development Strategy was a key policy document guiding the production of rice in Uganda right across the sector. This year the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries is reviewing the strategy and is therefore collecting input from different stakeholders with a view to developing a new strategy document for the period 2020-2030.

Several stakeholders were invited to an intersectoral meeting in the Ugandan capital Kampala on 12 June 2019, among them representatives from the private sector (including large-scale processors such as SWT Tanners Limited), the chairs of the Rice Millers Council and the Rice Farmers Association of Uganda, and scientists from the National Agricultural Research Organisation.

The meeting was chaired by Alex Lwakuba, Commissioner Crop Production, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. He highlighted the fact that smallholder rice farmers were contributing to the degradation of wetlands, resulting in more floods and droughts. They should therefore be supported to grow rice sustainably and conserve the wetlands.

Scoring sustainable rice

I attended the meeting to share the experience we had acquired in initial testing of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) standard in Uganda and beyond. The SRP standard is a performance standard that uses a scoring system to enable stepwise compliance so as to encourage and reward progress in improving agricultural practices in the rice sector. It is not a “pass or fail” standard, but encourages constant improvement towards more ecological sustainability.

Worldwide, Rikolto has established a baseline score with eleven farmers’ organisations in seven countries. In Uganda, 281 farmers from the Doho Irrigation scheme took part in the SRP pilot in 2018, and the results indicated that the farmers were moving towards more sustainable rice cultivation: at the beginning of the pilot they had an average SRP score of 58, increasing to 75 by the end.

During the meeting I advocated the adoption of the Sustainable Rice Platform standard in the new National Rice Development Strategy to make rice farming more sustainable and address the challenge of increasing production while protecting the environment and mitigating the impact of climate change.

John Ereng

I showed how SRP offers value to the different stakeholders: smallholder rice farmers, processors and government. Hopefully, this will stimulate further discussions on the SRP standard. In any case, the meeting attendees advised Rikolto to form an SRP working group, and co-opt the National Environment Management Authority, the government agency responsible for monitoring and regulating environmental policy in Uganda, as a member. This could encourage the adoption of the standard by other government agencies.

Pictures: Maria Serenade Sinurat