In the span of just one year, the Walmart Foundation's philanthropic investment in Ducks Unlimited's Rice Stewardship Program has already begun to pay big dividends in cleaner water and improved waterfowl habitat in the Lower Mississippi River Valley and Gulf Coastal Plain.
In January 2016, DU received a $1 million investment from the Walmart Foundation to work with rice producers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas to implement voluntary conservation practices and innovative irrigation and nutrient-management practices that will also benefit farmers.
The Walmart Foundation grant will help DU deliver conservation improvements on 200 rice farms as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). In late 2014, DU received a $10 million assistance award from RCPP to help fund on-farm conservation improvements such as switching from diesel to electric pumps, precision leveling of fields to improve water distribution, and implementing "pulsed" irrigation cycles to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Walmart Foundation grant provided the support necessary for DU rice specialists to meet with rice producers and work hand-in-hand to create individualized plans that benefit each farm.
This grant has helped address social and environmental "hotspots" in the product supply chain, such as reducing emissions, preserving natural capital, and enhancing food security. It also allows farmers to keep producing rice, one of the most important crops for not only feeding the world's human population, but also maintaining healthy waterfowl populations.
As part of implementing money- and energy-saving improvements on rice lands, farmers agree to winter-flood their fields to provide habitat for migrating waterfowl. Winter-flooding also helps break down rice straw and improves water quality.