Title: Introducing SRI (System of Rice Intensification) Cultivation in West Bengal: Its potential significance and preliminary outcomes    

Abstract: We discuss potential significance of the “System of Rice Intensification”, a set of rice cultivation practices that could achieve higher yields with lower production inputs. We then report on the initial results from experimental introduction of SRI conducted in 15 villages in West Bengal. In each village, a farmer willing to introduce SRI on his own plot was identified and technical assistance was provided. We can observe from those farmers’ plots that SRI practice leads to a substantial increase in yield (between 20 to 60%) with cost savings. 

 Despite such encouraging initial results and 4 years after our initial introduction of SRI to those villages, only a very small fraction of the farmers in the same villages have so far adopted SRI, and many of the farmers remain skeptical about the technology. We lay out some alternative hypotheses about why farmers’ adoption has been slow, based on both our farmer interviews as well as on the existing literature mainly drawn from agricultural economics. Because some SRI practices (e.g., planting a young, single seedling per hill, periodical draining of water from rice fields, etc.) go against the conventional wisdom in rice farming, farmers tend to remain skeptical about the viability of SRI practices while those experimental farmers who have tried SRI under our experiment tend to continue practicing SRI even if we no longer provide assistance.