Open Source Rice Farming

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1. David Bollier:

"One of the more fascinating projects that I have learned about is the System of Rice Intensification, or SRI, in India. As described in a paper by Shambu Prasad, “Agriculture and the New Commons,” many Indian farmers are pioneering a new form of “agroecological innovation” by using the Internet to share their learning and innovations. SRI emerged outside of the scientific establishment as a way to produce higher rice yields through “knowledge swaraj" – swaraj meaning “self-rule.”

This is no small project because the opening up of Indian agriculture to unfettered market forces has been catastrophic for millions of Indian farmers. Some 200,000 have committed suicide over the past ten years; most of them are attributed to the intense, even insuperable financial pressures and to loss of their traditional practices and identities to market-driven agriculture.

Rather than adopt the farming practices of the conventional market and the knowledge paradigm of the scientific/government establishment, however, the SRI practitioners use indigenous varieties of crops and shun chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The whole enterprise is a vast social network of Internet-mediated participation that is aimed at learning how to eke out better yields on marginal plots of land. Some farmers even learn to “play with the monsoon” and its capricious ways to build soil health. The SRI knowledge commons has scientists, farmers and citizens all talking together on the same platforms, rather than the market-oriented “experts” declaring how agriculture should be pursued.

Since its introduction in 1999, SRI has been embraced in 40 countries as an “open source” system of rice farming. The Internet has accelerated the learning and innovation curve and has enabled a rich culture of learning to arise. SRI manuals developed by Indians are shared with farmers in Cuba and Sri Lanka, for example. By 2010, there were more than 400 members from 25 countries in an online SRI group." (