The Five Pillars of Rice Wisdom
The “Five Pillars of Rice Wisdom” is a dynamic concept where all the five pillars are inter-related and the objectives of each pillar
can only be achieved in tandem with the others.
The Five Pillars are defined briefly below:
Rice Culture. Rice is life to the people of Asia. Being more than just food, it is central to the Asian way of life; its culture,
spirituality, traditions and norms, especially for the grassroots. Over the centuries, rice has sculptured the culture, diet and
economies of billions of people in Asia. It is very much a part of Asian celebrations, festivals, community sharing, and agriculture.
For Asians, life without rice is simply unthinkable. To protect rice means to preserve the rich cultural and spiritual heritage that is
Winnowing in Nepal
Winnowing in Nepal
Community Wisdom is the wealth of farmer-based knowledge of biodiversity-based ecological rice cultivation and seed conservation
which has accumulated through generations of farming. This pillar recognizes farmers as scientists, conservationists, breeders,
researchers and innovators in their own right and challenges the narrow concept of ‘modern science’ in agriculture. Corporate/modern
science is reductionist science which ignores and undermines important factors like intuition, spirituality, ethics, respect for the
land and environment, and the wisdom accumulated from centuries of agricultural practices in harmony with the environment. For example,
farmers regard seeds as sacred, not as raw material for agricultural production.
Bundles of rice hung out
Biodiversity-Based Ecological Agriculture (BEA) is agriculture in harmony with the environment and the community. It involves the
protection of traditional rice varieties and ecosystems where biodiversity is protected, the quality of the soil is ensured, and
agricultural methods are ecologically sound and safe. This involves genuine peasant-led initiatives such as farmer-to-farmer exchanges,
innovative ecological agricultural practices, alternative land use, sound ecological adaptation strategies, and local/community-based
seed conservation networks. This approach will ensure productive and sustainable rice cultivation free from the use of hazardous
chemicals and supported by traditional wisdom in every aspect of farming. BEA aims at farmer and community self-reliance and presents
viable solutions to global challenges such as climate change, rural poverty, and food shortage.
Rice fields flooded in forest
Safe Food means rice as food safe to produce, handle and consume. This necessitates the rejection of the use of hazardous substances
such as pesticides and risky technologies such as genetic engineering (GE). It also means the rejection of “High Input Varieties” (HIV)
and hybrids. GE rice has already been produced, mainly by agri-business transnational corporations (TNCs), and Asia is at risk of having
it planted commercially. With the patents on GE rice by its ‘creators’, this will lead to complete control over rice production in Asia.
Farmers will be forced to buy new GE seeds every growing season and unable to save and use their own seeds as they have done for
generations. GE rice represents a serious threat to human health, the environment, rice culture, and the food sovereignty of rice
farmers and Asian nations. There have been reports of alarming even fatal effects of GE food on animals and adverse health impacts on
humans. GE rice can contaminate native rice varieties and such contamination will be irreversible, destroying local varieties forever.
It is necessary that farmers as well as consumers become aware of this new threat to their lives. The “Safe Food” pillar covers
community empowerment, the monitoring of and resistance to TNC tactics and technologies, and asserting the rights of rice farmers and
consumers all over Asia to safe crops and safe food.
Rice in bowl
Food Sovereignty ensures the rights of people and communities to decide on food and agricultural policies; to adequate, culturally
appropriate and safe food; to land and productive resources; to sustainable production and livelihoods; and to gender justice. This
pillar therefore challenges policies, processes and structures that threaten these rights such as globalization and the WTO in
agriculture including its agreements that supersede local and national prerogatives on food and agriculture. This pillar also includes
monitoring and exposing the policies, technologies and activities of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which was largely
responsible for failed Green Revolution. IRRI has promoted corporate agriculture, technologies and interests to the detriment of small
rice farmers all over Asia and is now promoting GE rice. Therefore, IRRI represents a real threat to the food sovereignty of Asia’s rice
farmers and rice consumers.
Traditional farming in India
Week Of Rice Action in the Philippines
For more information on each of these pillars, visit the rice webpage at