Professor of the Practice and Associate Director of the Climate-Resilient Farming Systems Program, Department of Global Development
Erika Styger is a tropical agronomist and the head of the Climate-Resilient Farming Systems Program in the Department of Global Development. The program mission is to improve tropical smallholder farming systems through ecological approaches for greater productivity and resilience to climate change. It is a project-based program, combining research and community-based development approaches. Styger collaborates with partners ranging from local community-based organizations to international organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and most recently, in the USA.
Styger is a development practitioner, scientist, educator and mentor. She specializes in tropical cropping and farming systems, agroforestry, agrobiodiversity, alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture, land regeneration, adaptation to climate change, participatory approaches, and for the past 15 years has focused on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), an agro-ecological and climate-smart rice production methodology. She is also a Faculty Fellow in the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.
Prior to joining Cornell University, Styger worked on the design, implementation and evaluation of numerous research and development programs, and led field studies for the World Bank, FAO, UNDP, CGIAR Centres ICRAF (World Agroforestry Centre), and IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture); for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, for US consulting firms Chemonics Inc., Development Alternatives Inc., and Abt Associates Inc., for the MDG Center West and Central Africa (EARTH Institute, Columbia University), and the international NGOs Africare, Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam and SRI Global Inc. In addition to her US-based work, she resided for more than 11 years in Benin, Madagascar, Mali, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, where she worked directly with farming communities to develop agricultural and agroforestry innovations in the tropical highlands, arid, semi-arid, subhumid and humid climate zones.
Styger joined Cornell in 2010 to set up and lead the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice), with a mission to advance and share knowledge about SRI, to improve the technical implementation of the SRI methodology, and to support networking among interested organizations and individuals around the globe. During that six-year period, Styger traveled to 29 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean to strengthen local and national SRI programs via technical trainings, workshops, field visits, and by providing technical and research assistance. Together with national partners in West Africa, Styger led the design and was the technical lead for the implementation of the largest SRI project to date, spanning 13 countries in West Africa. The project trained and monitored 50,000 SRI farmers over three years. A follow-up project in the same 13 West African countries, building on these accomplishments, is expected to launch in 2021, employing a new Climate-Resilient Rice Production (CRRP) approach. It will be based on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) methodology in combination with location-specific sustainable land and water management practices (SLWM), and, if indicated, with integrated pest and disease management (IPM).
In 2017, Styger founded the Climate-Resilient Farming Systems program. Its on-going projects are indicated below.
Styger has a PhD in Crop and Soil Sciences from Cornell University, and a MSc in Agronomy (Diplomierter Ingenieur-Agronom) from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) in Zurich.
- Diversity and in-situ conservation of rice by the Saamaka people of Suriname (Role: PI, Co-PI: Susan McCouch, Chelsea Specht), Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, (2018-2021)
- Regenerative rice farming project with Black farming communities in Louisiana and Mississippi (Role: PI) (2020-2025)
- Improving fonio (Digitaria exilis) productivity through use of SRI principles, Douentza, Mopti, Mali (Role: PI) Partners: local NGO 3-A Sahel, Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER) Mali, Yolélé Inc. Brooklyn, private funding, (2018-2020)
- Under Development: Scaling-up climate-resilient rice production in 13 countries of West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Implementing entity: Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS), Tunisia. (Role: Technical lead) (2021-2025).
Research and extension approach
As an agronomist, Styger’s work focuses on improving agricultural systems by changing agronomic practices to benefit both smallholder farmers and the environment. To this end, she prefers to work directly with farmers in their fields, responding to their stated needs, and to support them in developing innovations. Ideas emerge from in-depth dialogue with farmers, bringing together local understanding and knowledge with formal technical and scientific knowledge. This innovation process is iterative and circular, and Styger often combines research and extension approaches rooted in both the social and the biophysical sciences. Once farmers agree on what should be done, Styger then designs simple but vigorous testing protocols to collect technical and economic data, which can indicate what works and what does not work well, and which can later be aggregated. In their everyday work, farmers constantly make observations and innovate in their fields. Styger sees her role to catalyze and strengthen these positive processes, and to help address emerging problems and constraints. Working directly in farmers’ fields allows neighboring farmers to directly observe and learn from this experience, and adopted changes are more easily embedded in the social and cultural fabric of the communities. For Styger, this is the most efficient way to create locally appropriate solutions and sustainable impact.
- Perspectives on International Agriculture and Rural Development, DSCOC1100/IARD1100, co-taught course in 2019 with Dr S. Giroux and Dr R. Nelson.
- Shifting cultivation, slash-and-burn agriculture and options for sustainable intensification; Guest lectures in CSS IA 4030 Traditional Agriculture in Developing Countries, and 4140 Tropical Cropping Systems
- Tropical Agroforestry: an introduction; Guest lecture, 4140 Tropical Cropping Systems.
- Introduction to the System of Rice Intensification; Guest lecture, 1900 Sustainable Agriculture
- Diversity and In-situ management of rice by the Saamaka people of Suriname; Guest lecture, Plants and People at SUNY Cortland.
System of Rice Intensification (SRI)
Sustainable Land and Water Management (SLWM)
Agrobiodiversity management and agroforestry
Publications (selection, full list see CV)
Gu W, Warner D and Styger E (forthcoming, 2020)
Assessment of Additive Manufacturing for Increasing Sustainability and Productivity of Smallholder Agriculture. 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing.
Adhikari et al. 2018.
System of Crop Intensification for more productive, resource-conserving, climate-resilient and sustainable agriculture: Experience with diverse crops in varying agroecologies. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability; Volume 16 (1): 1-28.
Styger E, Ag Attaher M, Guindo H, Ibrahim H, Diaty M, Abba I, Traore M, 2011.
Application of system of rice intensification practices in the arid environment of the Timbuktu region of Mali. Paddy and Water Environment 9:137-144.
Styger E, Fernandes ECM, Rakotondramasy HM and Rajaobelinirina E, 2009.
Degrading uplands in the rainforest region of Madagascar: Fallow biomass, nutrient stocks, and soil nutrient availability. Agroforestry Systems, 77:107-122.
Styger E, Rakotondramasy HM, Pfeffer MJ, Fernandes ECM and Bates DM, 2007.
Influence of slash-and-burn farming practices on fallow succession and land degradation in the rainforest region of Madagascar. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 119: 257-269.
Styger E, Raktoarimanana JEM, Rabevohitra R and Fernandes ECM, 1999.
Indigenous fruit trees of Madagascar: potential components of agroforestry systems to improve human nutrition and restore biological diversity. Agroforestry Systems 46 (3): 289-310.
Niang A, Styger E, Gahamanyi A, Hoekstra D and Coe R, 1998.
Fodder- quality improvement through contour planting of legume-shrub/grass mixtures in croplands of Rwanda highlands. Agroforestry Systems 39 (3): 263-274.
Styger E, 2015. The System of Rice Intensification and Its International Community of Practice. In: Bollier D, Helfrich and the Heinrich Böll Foundation (eds); Patterns of Commoning; The Commons Strategies Group in cooperation with Off the Common Books, Amherst, MA, USA: 108-113.
Styger E and Fernandes ECM, 2006. Contributions of Managed Fallows to Soil Fertility Recovery. In: Uphoff N et al. (eds); Biological Approaches to Sustainable Soil Systems. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA, p. 425-437.
Styger E and Traoré G, 2018. 50,000 Farmers in 13 Countries: Results from Scaling up the System of Rice Intensification in West Africa; Achievements and Regional Perspectives for SRI; SRI-WAAPP Project Summary Report, 2014-2016; West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP). The West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), Dakar, Senegal. 120p. Download
Abraham B, Araya H, Berthe T, Edwards S, Gujia B, Khadka RB, Koma YS, Sen D, Sharif A, Styger E, Uphoff N, Verma A, 2014. The System of Crop Intensification: Agroecological Innovations for Improving Agricultural Production, Food Security, and Resilience to Climate Change. SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice), Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 69 p. Download
The World Bank, 2008. Sustainable Land Management Sourcebook; The World Bank, Washington DC. 196 p. (Co-editor), Download
Darghouth S, Ward Ch, Gambarelli G, Styger E, Roux J, 2008. Watershed Management Approaches, Policies, and Operations: Lessons for Scaling Up. Water Sector Board Discussion Series, No. 11, May 2008, The World Bank, Washington DC, 137 p. Download
The World Bank, 2006. Sustainable Land Management: Challenges, Opportunities and Trade-Offs; Agriculture and Rural Development Department, The World Bank, Washington DC, 87 p. Download
Technical extension and training materials
Styger E, 2020. Les Banques Alimentaires et Fourragères (BAF) au Niger : Identification des Bonnes Pratiques de Stockage et Conservation des Aliments et des Fourrages. Rapport Technique pour la Banque Mondiale, la FAO et le Gouvernement du Niger, p. 113.
Styger E, 2019. Le Système de Riziculture Intensive (SRI), Manuel Technique SRI pour Haïti; AVANSE Project, Cap-Haitian, Haitié DAI Global LLC, USAID, Haiti, p. 61
Styger E and Jenkins D, 2014. Technical Manual for SRI in West Africa; Improving the System of Rice Intensification in West Africa. SRI International Network and Resources Center, International Programs, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 56 p. (Version 1: February 2014, Version 2: August 2014). In English and French. Download
SRI training videos for East Africa, 2013; 1) SRI introduction: the spread of SRI in East Africa, 2) SRI Training 1: Seed Germination and Nursery Preparation, 3) SRI Training 2: Field Preparation and Transplanting, 4) SRI Training 3: Weeding and Water Management; co-produced with IFAD and Flooded Cellar Video production: (in French, English, Kinyarwanda, and Kirundi). Access videos
Africare Mali and SAC Goundam 2009. Fiche Technique pour le Système de Riziculture Intensive (SRI) à Tombouctou, Mali. Africare Mali, Bamako et Secteur de l’Agriculture du Cercle (SAC) de Goundam, DRA Tombouctou, Tombouctou, Mali., p.22.
Research and technical assistance reports
Styger E, 2019. Adoption and Adaptation of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in the Northern Corridor of Haiti; AVANSE Project, Cap-Haitian, Haiti, DAI Global LLC, USAID Haiti, p.96.
Styger E and Barison J, 2016. SRI Development Planning and Implementation in the St. Marc Commune, Haiti. Consultancy Report for Chanje Lavi Plante Project, Feed The Future, USAID; Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 100 p.
Styger E, 2014. Rice production diagnostic for Chinsali (Chinsali District, Northern Province) and Mfuwe (Mwambe District, Eastern Province), Zambia. July 2014, for COMACO and David. R. Atkinson Center for Sustainable Development; SRI International Network and Resources Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 51 p. http://sri.cals.cornell.edu/countries/zambia/ZambiaStygerRiceDiagnostic2014.pdf
Styger E and Barison J, 2010. Introducing the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) to Haiti: Training farmers in three regions of Haiti. June 2010; SRI-Rice and Better U Foundation, Ithaca New York, 18 p. Report
Styger E, 2010b. Introducing the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) to irrigated systems in Gao, Mopti, Timbuktu and to rainfed systems in Sikasso, 2009/2010. Initiatives Intégrées pour la Croissance Economique au Mali (IICEM) Project, Bamako, Mali, p. 26. In English
Styger E, Ibrahim H, 2009. The System of Wheat Intensification (SWI). First time testing by farmers in Goundam and Dire, Timbuktu, Mali 2009. Africare Goundam and Africare Bamako, Mali. 20 p.
Styger E, 2008. Douentza Circle in Crisis, Improving Household Resiliency to Food Security Shock in Mali. Project period Jan 2006-Dec 2007. Final Project Evaluation Report for Catholic Relief Service, Bamako, Mali, 84 p.
Styger E, 2007. Forestry and Agroforestry Analysis for the MCC/MCA Alatona Irrigation Project, Segou, Mali. Constraints and Opportunities. Consultant Report. For DAI, Washington DC, 40 p.
Styger E, 2007. Constraints Analysis, Timbuktu Food Security Initiative (TFSI), Timbuktu, Mali. Consultancy Report. Multi Year Activity Proposal (MYAP); for Africare, Washington DC and Bamako, Mali, 24 p.
Styger E, 2007. Achieving the Millennium Development Goal Number One through Agriculture in the 166 Food Insecure Communes of Mali. Project Concept Note written for Millennium Development Goal Alliance Initiative, Bamako, Mali, 33 p.
Styger E, 2006. Profitable and Environmentally Sound Farming Systems Replace Slash-and-Burn Agriculture Practices at Landscape Level in the Toamasina (forest corridors Ankeniheny-Zahamena) and Fianarantsoa (forest corridors Ranomafana – Andringitra – Pic d’Ivohibe) provinces of Madagascar. Mid-Term Program Evaluation Consultancy Report of Module 3 of project; for Eco-Regional Initiatives to Promote Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn (ERI-Program) and DAI, Washington DC; produced for review by the United States Agency for International Development, 95 p.
B75 Mann Library
Ithaca, NY 14853
eds8 [at] cornell.edu
Erika in the news
- Department of Global Development
- Global Development
- International Programs