Understanding the rapid spread of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Andhra Pradesh: Exploring the building of support networks and media representation

Basu, S.; Leeuwis, C.


The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) involves a package of management practices for rice cultivation that was developed by a French Jesuit priest in Madagascar. Although the technical and economic efficacy of the package is heavily contested among rice scientists, the package has spread rapidly across the globe, at least in the sense that many rice farmers now identify them with the term ‘SRI’. Understanding the spreading process of SRI may yield important lessons for agricultural research and extension establishments which often have difficulty to spread their ideas and technologies. This paper seeks to throw some light on the spreading process of SRI within the context of Andhra Pradesh, India. Inspired by innovation theoretical considerations, we do not orient ourselves to the spread at the farmer level, but rather to the way in which SRI was adopted by higher level organisations and institutions. This paper suggests that the formation of a heterogeneous ‘support network’ which transcends the conventional agricultural networks is likely to have played a significant role in the spreading of SRI. As part of this network, an important newspaper has reported disproportionally about SRI and represented it in a highly favourable manner. This simultaneously mirrors support for SRI among higher level actors in the agricultural innovation system, and is likely to have contributed to further awareness and opinion formation at this level.