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Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative to reduce environmental footprint of rice production

A major new consortium has announced the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative (SRLI), an agreement to deliver smart and sustainable agri-solutions for rice farmers and supply chains supported by a USD $50 million funding proposal.

Announced at the opening of the 2019 Responsible Business Forum on Food and Agriculture in Bangkok, the SRLI will support the sustainable production of rice in Southeast Asia from 2020 to assist farmers and supply chains adversely impacted by climate change in the region.

The actions will focus on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Paris Agreement, restoring degraded land and conserving biodiversity through activities such as policy support for governments, sustainable farming practices and management of water and forests, involving the private sector to incentivise sustainable rice cultivation and increasing knowledge and collaboration between parties on sustainable rice solutions.

The SRLI brings together a range of organizations, including international agencies, with extensive experience in supporting sustainable production; research institutions at the forefront in the development of technical knowledge; and the private sector.

The Initiative is led by UN Environment, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).

As one of Southeast Asia’s most important crops, rice is the economic backbone for millions of farmers. According to IPCC, both yields and the nutritional value of rice will face net reductions as temperatures continue to rise. Millions of farmers and families, especially those with low incomes, will feel the impact of this change. At the same time, to meet global demand, production must increase by 25% by 2050.

Rice is a leading contributor to, and victim of, climate change. According to FAO and the World Resources Institute (WRI), every year, global rice farming produces approximately the same amount of GHG emissions as Germany. These emissions are primarily methane released by rotting vegetation, known as rice straw, lying in water-soaked paddy fields. Methane is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Methane emissions can be reduced by up to 70% just through the introduction of climate-smart agricultural practices such as removing this rice straw, but farmers need training and support to implement changes in their farming practice.

SRLI is now developing a USD $50 million proposal for a Global Impact Program to be funded by the Global Environment Facility, targeting a number of Asian countries for national-level actions and market-based mechanisms along the supply chain. 

The SRLI consortium expects to receive significant funding for projects in the ASEAN region, with work to start in 2020. To achieve scale, SRLI is calling upon governments and international funding bodies to support regional financing mechanisms that enable replicable solutions for rice landscapes covering several Southeast Asian countries.

“We are proud to be a founding member of the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative. WBCSD is committed to developing innovative, climate-smart, collaborative solutions that will transform the food system and help to ensure both healthy people and a healthy planet”, said Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD.

“SRP and its 100 institutional partners are fully committed to this Consortium, which will drive wide-scale adoption of climate-smart, sustainable rice production among rice smallholders, using the world’s first Rice Sustainability Standard and Indicators”, said Wyn Ellis, SRP Coordinator.

“Through the consortium and the implementation of the world’s first rice sustainability standard, we will not only strengthen environmental sustainability in rice production landscapes, but also help smallholder farmers to become more competitive, inclusive and resilient”, said Dr Matthias Bickel, GIZ Project Director of the Agriculture and Food Cluster in Thailand.

Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director General for Asia and the Pacific: “By working in partnership to apply scientific advances and best practices in rice landscapes, the SRLI consortium is a unique vehicle to deliver global benefits for the climate, land and water resources and biodiversity, while also ensuring the food security needs of billions of people in Asia and around the world.”

“IRRI promotes improvements in the environmental footprint of rice farming. Solutions will come from the combined efforts of many partners. As part of the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative, we will share our science, technologies, and expertise in rice research to help deliver environmental sustainability to farmers and other key actors in the rice sector”, said Dr Matthew Morell, Director General of IRRI.

“UN Environment is proud to be a member of the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative consortium. Sustainable rice production is one remedy that can fix a host of issues. It can help us fight climate change, protect biodiversity and restore landscapes and simultaneously safeguard rice farming communities and the billions of people that rely on them”, said Dechen Tsering, Regional Director, UN Environment Asia and the Pacific Office.

Read original release here.

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