Lotus Foods co-founders Caryl Levine and Ken Lee are committed to changing the way rice is grown around the world. In their efforts to do so, they are proving that reducing methane emissions can work hand-in-hand with increased farmer livelihoods, reductions in water usage and empowerment for women.
Lotus Foods was one of the first companies to get involved with the Climate Collaborative; in addition to being a supporter of our work, the company has made climate commitments around agriculture, packaging, policy and short-lived climate pollutants.
Rice production contributes to around 1.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions—it is a major source of methane emissions, a short-lived climate pollutant that is significantly more potent than carbon. With rice serving as a food staple to half the world’s population, as well as a source of income for the approximately two billion farmers who grow it, changing rice production practices will be key to reducing methane emissions, mitigating global warming and improving livelihoods for lowest income farmers.
Lotus Foods is helping lead this charge. Since 2008 they have partnered with family rice farmers who grow their rice crop using System of Rice Intensification practices, which the company calls More Crop Per Drop™. With these practices, rice paddies are no longer kept continuously flooded, which led to a 40-65% reduction in methane gas emissions as well as 500 million gallons less water required by Lotus Foods farmers in 2017!
These photos show conventional (left) versus SRI rice production methods, in which fields don't need to be flooded.
Emissions reductions are just one of the benefits of SRI growing processes. It also raises incomes for the 5,000 farm households in Asia and Madagascar Lotus Foods works with thanks to increased yields and organic and Fair Trade price premiums—and drastically improves the working conditions for women since they no longer have to work in standing water.
Their commitment to the More Crop Per Drop™ method, which doesn’t require specialized seeds or agrochemicals, is incentivizing more farmers to transition to this agroecological approach to rice farming. The key tenets of the method are to plant smaller, younger seedlings to reduce transplant shock, to plant them at wider spacing in rows to minimize competition and facilitate weeding, and to keep soils moist but not continuously flooded to promote soil health.
They gave us a hint of what to expect: In the coming year they’ll be focused on building more rigor around measuring and benchmarking their impacts and looking at how to take them further. They’ll explore direct methane emissions reduction opportunities—in part by encouraging more farmers to embrace SRI growing practices and helping farmers monetize their methane reductions. They’ll also be continuing their work to improve the lives of women. Research shows lifting women out of poverty has a positive impact on climate change as woman are usually the drivers of household decisions that reduce many environmental impacts.
The Climate Collaborative awarded Lotus Foods with a value chain engagement award as part of our first ever National Co+op Grocers Climate Collaborative awards, and we are excited to follow them as they continue on their climate leadership journey!