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Olam CEO Sunny Verghese congratulates Sustainable Rice Platform as a top contender for MacArthur Foundation US$100 million grant

The Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) – of which Olam International is a founding member – has been shortlisted for a US$100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundationi, for improving the livelihoods of 500,000 rice farmers while reducing environmental impacts.

There is a paradox where rice is vital to food security yet simultaneously has the largest carbon footprint of all food crops. By 2050, rice production will need to almost double to meet the population demand, which under current conditions, will require additional land equivalent to the size of Chile, and add 300 billion kgs of CO2 equivalent emissions.

The Sustainable Rice Platform, or SRP, first conceived by the United Nations and the International Rice Research Institute, is addressing the “rice paradox” through a framework for increasing production in a sustainable way. The multi-stakeholder alliance comprises 100 global public, private and civil society organisations, and promotes resource-use efficiency and climate change resilience, both on-farm and throughout the rice value chain.

The SRP principles were first put to the test in a pilot project implemented by Olam, in partnership with the Thai Rice Department and German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Starting with 71 farmers in 2016, the project in Thailand has trained over 6,000 farmers to date on climate-smart practicesii and has produced the world’s first fully-verified sustainable rice.

Today, SRP projects have reached 500,000 rice farmers across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, with notable results including a 10% increase in farmers’ income, 20% savings in water use and 50% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to reach 1 million farmers by 2023.
The programme has subsequently been designated as one of the Top 100, in the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition, in recognition of its “real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time”.

Responding to the announcement, Olam Co-founder & Group CEO Sunny Verghese said: “With the SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation, we have a definition and proven model for sustainable rice. Together with our partners, Olam is aiming to bring 150,000 rice farmers in our Asia and Africa supply chains under the standard by 2023 and we’ll be monitoring the impact through our sustainable sourcing tool, AtSource. Yet, this is a drop in the ocean when we consider the millions of rice-farming households around the world, so this prize funding holds an extremely exciting opportunity for the sector to scale up action and re-imagine global rice markets.”

Paul Nicholson, Vice President, Rice Research and Sustainability at Olam and SRP Executive Board member added: “We also recognise that to truly transform global rice markets, the sustainable rice produced will need take-up. This is where we look down the supply chain to retailers, who can use SRP as a procurement standard and engage with banks and insurers to incentivise farmers who produce rice sustainably. They can lead this change and in turn, help grow, as well as meet, the demand for sustainable rice.”

Matthias Bickel, Chairperson SRP Board, Director Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH: “Mobilizing investments for small-scale rice farming communities to shift toward sustainable rice production is essential for our planet’s survival and to preserve the backbone of global food supply. Engaging these communities is key to combatting climate change and to preserving natural resources like fresh water. It’s high time to overcome the underinvestment in small-scale farming and to tackle farmers as agripreneurs in a market-driven environment.”
Wyn Ellis, Executive Director, Sustainable Rice Platform: “Transforming the global rice sector to meet our future food needs sustainably requires broad-scale collaboration among business and society. While the SRP Standard and Indicators for Sustainable Rice Cultivation provide proven technological solutions for rice smallholders, 100&Change now offers a unique opportunity to work with Olam, GIZ and SRP stakeholders to scale up adoption of climate-smart, sustainable best practices among resource-poor smallholders and contribute to a range of SDGs.”

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