Spotlight on Lotus Foods
We’re casting our Co-op spotlight on Lotus Foods this week to bring awareness to the amazing things they’re doing to revolutionize global rice production. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off all Lotus Foods rice products this week, so it’s a great time to try their fair trade certified, non-GMO verified, heirloom, organic, and ecologically-grown rices! Lotus Foods has been a certified B Corp since 2012, and they’re pioneering a brilliant and innovative set of farming practices that address some of the most important challenges we face this century – namely to feed several billion more people with dwindling land and water resources and without further degrading the planet’s environment. Read on to learn all about it!
Rice is a modest little grain with a super important mission – to feed over half of the world’s population. It is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, and is third only to maize and sugar cane in worldwide agricultural production. This presents a significant environmental challenge due to the fact that rice is a very water-intensive crop to grow.
Each year, one-quarter to one-third of the fresh water that is withdrawn from surface and ground water sources is used to irrigate rice. That is the most water used for any single human activity. According to the International Water Management Institute, by 2020 (in just 5 years!) one-quarter of irrigated rice areas, which produce 75% of the world’s rice, may be suffering some form of water scarcity. This is because more water is being used than can be replenished.
This means not just less water for rice and essential food security, but also for drinking, sanitation, livestock, and other crops, as well as enough water in streams and rivers to sustain fish and aquatic life. It also means women have to walk further to collect the family’s daily water supply in many parts of the world.
Depending on country and circumstances, women provide 50-90% of labor in growing the world’s rice crop, most of it unpaid or poorly paid. That’s 500 million to as many as one billion women whose productive capacity is harnessed by the ceaseless toil of producing rice to eat and sell. Imagine the creative energy that could be unleashed if they had more time!
The good news is that there are solutions! We invite you to learn about what Lotus Foods is doing to incentivize farmers to produce more rice with less water and less labor for women.
Lotus Foods utilizes and promotes a method of rice production known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI is an innovative set of farming practices in which rice farmers fundamentally change how they manage their plants, soil and water. They increase their productivity at the same time that they reduce their use of water, seeds and agrochemical inputs, and eliminate continuously flooded conditions.This agricultural method allows rice to be grown using 90% less seed, 30-70% less water, ZERO chemical pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, yet it still increases yields by 50-100% or more, is drought-resistant, pest-resistant, and it’s revolutionizing the way that rice is farmed. In short, it’s More Crop Per Drop. Lotus Foods estimates that in 2015 they saved the equivalent of some 528 million (yes MILLION!) gallons of water, which could instead flow back into rivers and lakes, recharge aquifers, and nourish natural habitats! SRI has been largely grassroots driven, fueled by marginalized women and men farmers and the non-profit organizations (NGOs) who advocate for their welfare, like Oxfam, Africare, WWF and many dedicated local NGOs and individuals. The reason these farmers are so excited about SRI is because it represents an opportunity for more food, more money, better health, and more options – in short, for a way out of poverty.
Here’s a little more about the overall mission of Lotus Foods in their own words:
Since 1995, Lotus Foods has pioneered the introduction of exotic rice handcrafted on small family farms in remote areas of the world. Each rice varietal is distinguished by its terroir and treasured for its distinctive cooking quality, taste, texture, aroma, color, and nutritional value. Lotus Foods was founded with the intent and vision to support sustainable global agriculture by promoting production of traditional heirloom rice varieties, many of which may otherwise be extinct, while enabling the small family rice farmer to earn an honorable living.
We believe that sustainability is premised on an ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, and a culture of peace. We believe that eradicating poverty and promoting social and economic justice has to start with agriculture and has to be accomplished in a way that protects and restores the natural resources on which all life depends. At the crux of this challenge is rice, which provides a source of living to two billion people, most earning less than $200 a year.
Most of our rices are already certified organic, while others are in the process of becoming certified, and still others we are working to develop a certifying program in its country of origin. These organic and transitional rices are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, or ionizing radiation. All of our rices are fair trade certified and non-GMO verified.
We hope you will help us “Do the Rice Thing with More Crop Per Drop™, a Water Smart, Woman Strong way to grow rice.”