Some initial attempts to introduce the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) into Afghanistan were made as early as 2003, but sustained efforts began only in 2007 when the NGO German Agro-Action (GAA) and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) began working with the methods in northern Afghanistan. Recently we have received a 2009 seasonal report from AKF which will interest many readers.
The first AKF trials were planted one month later than the usual rice crop, and given the short growing season at high altitudes, yield was lower than regular methods, although the SRI tillering was impressive – enough so that six farmers did proper comparison trials in 2008, and their average yield as measured by AKF technicians was a remarkable 10.1 t/ha. This was enough to spark greater interest among farmers.
In 2009, 42 farmers applied SRI methods to rice cultivation in 3 districts of Baghlan and Takhar provinces, including 7 farmers with SRI experience who functioned as resource persons (RPs), each working with 5 new volunteers. The on-farm comparison trials were carried out with supervision from the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)-managed Participatory Management of Irrigation Systems (PMIS) project, which is part of the larger government-led Panj-Amu River Basin Program (PARBP) funded by the EU.
Although an unreported number of other farmers dropped out of the evaluation because of Taliban threats, 42 managed their crops through to harvest, with average SRI yields of 9.3 t/ha, 66% more than their yields with traditional methods, 5.6 t/ha. Experienced farmers (those in their second year of trials) increased their land size under SRI and got 27% higher SRI yield compared to their first-year SRI yields.
The AKF-Afghanistan program, in addition to its 2009 SRI report, has prepared an excellent practical manual, available on CIIFAD's SRI website in the Afghanistan section. SRI activities by German Agro Action (GAA), CIIFAD and others are also noted on the country website.