Sustainable Rice Production in Pakistan

What can a retailer do if a product turns out to be linked to human rights violations and indecent working conditions in its country of origin? Should the retailer stop purchasing the product? What if the producers’ livelihoods depend on this specific product? Well, instead of cutting the business the human rights risks can be addressed and improved. Sustainable Rice in Pakistan is a public-private partnership project which aims to improve the livelihood for 2,250 farmers in Pakistan.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan's economy.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan's economy.

The Issue

Basmati is a long grain rice grown in India and Pakistan. Among others, Axfood’s own brand Garant basmatiris comes from this region. Pakistan is one of the world’s largest rice producers, however climate change is posing significant challenges, with harvests failing and groundwater levels diminishing. The agricultural sector in Pakistan is unregulated and working conditions harsh. Particularly vulnerable are the women, who have less opportunities for education and lower salaries compared to men.

Our Solution

In order to improve working conditions and increase the income of small-scale farmers and seasonal workers, Axfoundation runs a project in collaboration with Axfood, the rice supplier RolRyz and several rice processing companies in Pakistan. The main aims of the project are to strengthen women’s influence, improve working conditions, develop sustainable cultivation methods thereby minimizing risks while improving farmers’ incomes.

The training begins with a sustainability certification standard for rice, the Sustainable Rice Platform, SRP, which ensures working conditions are improved and water use is reduced by 30%, plus a number of positive environmental effects.

Participants take part in the SRP training.

Participants take part in the SRP training.

“Our goal is for farmers to be able to sell their rice certified through the Sustainable Rice Platform and get better prices for their product.” – Viveka Risberg, Program Director Sustainable Production and Consumption, Axfoundation

Participating women are economically and politically strengthened.

Participating women are economically and politically strengthened.

In order to strengthen farmers’ and workers’ rights the project has assisted in creating farmer organizations, where more than half of the participants are women. This is a great step forward when it comes to strengthening women’s role and rights in rice cultivation.

By involving rice exporters in the project we minimize the use of expensive middlemen and create stronger ties with farmers. The Rice Institute and Agricultural University in Faisalabad also contribute with training, education and research inputs.

The project also includes Multi Stakeholder Platforms, with quarterly meetings in Pakistan, which aim to advocate for political rights. Through these meetings, rice farmers are given the opportunity to discuss social, economic and environmental challenges with politicians, authorities, civil society organizations and researchers.

Our Work

Axfoundation develops, tests and shares this model, which strengthens farmers’ organizations, with other actors in the Swedish market and work towards a sustainable rice sector.

“Axfoundation wants to spread the Sustainable Rice Platform standard in the Swedish market, so that more actors aside from Axfood demand sustainably produced rice.” – Viveka Risberg, Program Director Sustainable Production and Consumption, Axfoundation


The project has been ongoing since 2015 and shows positive social and economic results. The goal is for 2,250 farmers to receive increased income through the project.


farmers trained in sustainable rice cultivation according to the Sustainable Rice Platform standard


grower organizations formed in Pakistan with 2,250 farmers


percent of the leading positions are held by women


percent reduced water usage in rice cultivation


percent reduced Co2-emissions


percent increased productivity


demonstration plots established to train farmers in direct seeding for rice, a resource-saving technology


stitching units established to increase women's income off season


Axfoundation spearheads this project together with retailers, suppliers, small-scale farmers and civil society organizations with the aim of improving working conditions and increase the income of small-scale farmers and seasonal rice workers. Partners in the project include:

Axfood, RolRyz (rice supplier), Sida (partial funder), Oxfam Sverige, Oxfam Pakistan, Doaba Foundation (Pakistan), Sustainable Rice Platform standard, Rice Research Institute (Pakistan), the Agricultural University in Faisalabad (Pakistan).

Press and Media

CSR in Practice: Basmati Farmers in Pakistan (SIANI)

The stooped labour of women rice farmers (The Dawn)

Spännande återbesök hos basmatirisodlarna i Pakistan (Axfood)

Början på något nytt för risodlare i Punjab och Kambodja (Garant) 

Ur Regeringens budgetproposition 2019: ”Partnerskap mellan svenska och lokala företag i Asien har bidragit till att förbättra jämställdhet, miljömässig och social hållbarhet samt böndernas inkomster inom risproduktion.” (s. 35)

Projects within Sustainable Production and Consumption

Projects within Future Food