Californian-based rice import company Lotus Foods is launching a campaign to create awareness around two of the world's most important global issues - the water crisis and women's empowerment, and their link to rice production. Almost 4 billion people eat rice daily to survive. Growing rice uses more fresh water than any other human activity, leading to water scarcity. Women bear the burden of the back-breaking labour required to cultivate the crop.
However, there is a promising solution to these dual challenges. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is an innovative method for growing rice that is respectful of water and women while generating surplus rice for improved local and national food security. SRI is More Crop Per Drop™—a Water Smart and Women Strong way to grow rice.
"We have been partnering with farmers who use SRI practices since 2008 and we've been amazed by the transformation in their lives and the reduction in water used for rice growing," says Lotus Foods Co-founder/CEO Caryl Levine. "We want to give consumers the opportunity to support production strategies that are less wasteful of water and women's time and labour."
In Odisha, India, for example, it takes women around 130-160 hours to weed an acre of rice, which they do in bent over posture. Weeding with a mechanical weeder takes only 16-25 hours per acre, and women can walk upright. Farmers normally weed 2-3 times. One of the goals of Lotus Foods' campaign is to raise funds to help communities purchase ergonomically appropriate weeders for women to reduce the pain and drudgery they experience in cultivating rice.
Seeds for Thought
More Crop Per Drop™: Water Smart & Women Strong
70% of the world's annual freshwater withdrawals are for agriculture; 50% of that is to irrigate rice. This is leading to depletion of surface and ground water sources in many areas.
Just a 10% reduction in water used to irrigate rice could meet the yearly domestic water needs of ¼ to 1/2 of the world's population.
Rice grown using More Crop Per Drop™ methods requires 20-50% less water and can double and triple yields.
A one-pound bag of rice grown using More Crop Per Drop™ means that 200-400 gallons of water were freed up for other crops and habitats and to recharge wells, aquifers and water bodies providing water for domestic needs and agriculture.
Women provide 50-90% of labor in growing the world's rice crop. "Feminization" of agriculture is on the rise, as more men migrate to towns for jobs, leaving women to manage the farms.
Oxfam America found that due to reduced workload with More Crop Per Drop™, women in Cambodia could manage the rice crop largely on their own, enabling other family members to add to household income with off-farm jobs.
To produce an acre of rice women spend an estimated 400-500 hours bent over or sitting in flooded fields exposed to parasites, leeches, and other disease vectors like malarial mosquitoes.
With More Crop Per Drop™ women no longer work in standing water, their pain and drudgery is decreased, and they spend fewer hours in the fields, especially if they have access to a simple weeder.
Since 1995, Lotus Foods has been partnering in fair trade with small family farmers around the world who are growing rice sustainably and preserving heirloom and specialty rices. Lotus Foods delivers consumers healthier, versatile rice and rice-based foods that respect their multiple concerns for the highest standards of taste together with social and environmental ethics.
Find out more on the More Crop Per Drop section of the Lotus Foods website here.