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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
It’s difficult to overstate the global significance of rice. First grown in the Yangtze River valley around 10,000 years ago, this tiny, starchy cereal grain is a staple food for more than half the world’s population. But rice production is slowing—and the way we cultivate it isn’t helping.
By some estimates, rice accounts for about one-fifth of global calorie consumption. As the world’s population grows, rice production will need to swell significantly to ensure global food security—as will our need for more sustainably grown rice crops.
of the world’s rice is eaten in China, India, and Indonesia.
If temperatures keep climbing and weather becomes more erratic, rice yields could decrease by 40% by the end of the century.
After rice is harvested, farmers often leave the remaining straw and stubble to decay in flooded fields—a process that generates methane—or burn the plant matter to make way for new crops, which emits carbon dioxide and other GHGs. As a result, rice fields account for up to 1.5% of total GHG emissions.
In India, a new tractor-mounted machine called the Happy Seeder cuts and turns crop residue into mulch that boosts crop yields, increasing farmers’ profits by 10% to 20%. An initial study showed that the machine also cuts air pollution and reduces gas emissions by more than 78% per hectare compared to burning.
A semiaquatic plant that requires a lot of water to thrive, rice is traditionally grown in low-lying coastal plains, tidal deltas, and river basins—ecosystems where crops are vulnerable to sea level rise, higher temperatures, droughts, and flooding.
WWF partners with famers in Malaysia, India, and Lao PDR to promote System of Rice Intensification (SRI), an agricultural method that requires less water and land clearing than conventional rice growing.