Danone's Early Life Nutrition activities' procurement includes a variety of ingredients, of which rice partly sourced from Spain. Sevilla (Andalusia, Southern Spain) is the main rice growing area in Spain. Rice is grown in fields nearby the Doñana marshes, the most important wintering site for migrating water birds in the Mediterranean region, with rice fields providing a relevant feeding habitat for birds, especially during the post-harvest period.
Danone has entered a Corsortium Agreement with Ebro Foods and Mars Food to launch the ORYZONTE project, acting two companies, Optiriego and Gabinete de Iniciativas Europeas (Giesa), as the Project Management Team. The purpose of the project is to enhance sustainability of rice production, protect biodiversity and reduce the use of water in the surroundings of Doñana and the Guadalquivir River estuary in Southern Spain,
Why does it matter ?
Rice growing in the region is highly professionalized, achieving high yields and implementing Good Agricultural Practices (over 95% of the area is cultivated under a Rice Integrated Production System).
However, the sector faces serious challenges, mostly derived from the uncertainties about the availability of freshwater, whose current situation will worsen according to most of climate projection models. Furthermore, with rice cultivation being globally a key source of methane and nitrous oxide, there is strong interest from public and private actors to minimize diffuse greenhouse gas emissions from this crop.
There is thus a strong potential to develop, adjust and implement rice cultivation practices that permit to reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions whilst improving its positive effects on biodiversity.
How does it work ?
The ORYZONTE project works on 4 key areas:
- Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs): ORYZONTE has engaged rice farmers in a training program designed to help farmers apply GAPs, such as enhanced use of fertilizers and chemicals.
- Policy Recommendations: The project is building recommendations for regional authorities to promote new agri-environmental measures to enhance the sustainability of rice cultivation.
- Water & Greenhouse gas emissions: ORYZONTE is testing, adjusting and evaluating practices that permit to minimize water use and greenhouse gas emissions. Through training, demo fields and direct support to farmers, the project will foster the implementation of these practices by rice farmers.
- Biodiversity: Through demo fields and training activities, the project will foster the implementation of actions to enhance biodiversity in Seville rice farms.
How does it create value ?
The project aims to create value by:
- Fostering the implementing of Good Agricultural Practices such as enhanced nutrient & chemical use, better straw management, use of international sustainability standards, etc. Focus is made on enhancing cultivation practices on over 15,000 rice growing hectares and 12 of the largest rice growing companies in the region participated in the 2018 training program.
- Developing recommendations for policy makers, focusing mostly on proposals of Agri-Environmental Measures for the Rural Development Program post-2020.
- Proving how enhanced cultivation & post-harvest practices permit to optimize water use and reduce GHG emissions in rice cultivation and supporting farmers to implement these measures. One experimental farm has been established to test practices optimizing water use and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Maintaining and enhancing the positive impact of rice farming on biodiversity.
Photo credit: © Manuel Beltrán Miralles