PHNOM PENH, Cambodia–The Royal Government of Cambodia and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) celebrated 30 years of working together to secure the country’s food and grow its rice sector.
As part of the celebration, IRRI Director General Matthew Morell and Cambodian Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation H.E. Ouch Borith signed an agreement to further intensify the growth of the country’s rice sector through scientific research and training in Phnom Penh on 27 July.
"The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and IRRI have had a productive partnership for the last 30 years, enabling Cambodia to produce enough rice to satisfy local demand and also become an exporter," said Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Yim Chhay Ly.
Morell said he looks forward to a stronger partnership with MAFF as Cambodia’s rice sector continues to grow in the midst of enormous challenges such as climate change, continuing population growth, and dwindling natural resources.
After signing the agreement, Dr. Morell and Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for Communication and Partnerships, were each conferred a national award for their outstanding leadership in the development of the Cambodian rice sector. Several IRRI scientists and collaborators were also recognized.
The 30th anniversary was followed by the Southeast Asia Regional Consultation Workshop on IRRI’s 10-year strategic plan. The workshop was one of a series of events coordinated by IRRI as it undertakes a comprehensive consultative process to chart the institute's course for the future.
Representatives from international donor agencies, research and extension systems, international NGOs, and private companies from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam participated in the workshop. Among the topics discussed were the various drivers of change impacting the rice sector and how IRRI can best leverage its strengths and comparative advantage to ensure food and nutrition security and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the region. Other important issues raised included facilitating rice production that is aligned with and is responsive to market demands, particularly nutrition and grain quality; taking a holistic approach to fill the gaps in the rice value chain; providing improved standards and policies in dealing with pests and diseases; and maximizing the use of IRRI's germplasm to further develop resilient rice varieties.
The annual review of the project, Accelerating the Adoption of Stress-tolerant Rice Varieties by Smallholder Farmers in Nepal and Cambodia, was also conducted. ASTV seeks to reduce poverty and hunger and increase food security and income of poor farm households in its target countries by introducing high-yielding, climate-resilient varieties and technologies and strengthening local research and delivery systems. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the project is part of the Feed the Future Program, the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.
MAFF has been IRRI’s strong and valuable partner in rice research and development that led to the revival of the country’s rice industry, use of sustainable management practices, and dissemination of improved rice varieties.
Collaboration between the two parties was formalized in 1986, but IRRI’s work to support the country’s rice production started much earlier. In the early 1970s, IRRI staff collected samples of various rice types across Cambodia. Duplicates of the samples were deposited in the International Rice Genebank at IRRI for safekeeping. These were later repatriated in the 1980s and enabled Cambodian farmers—who lost their rice seeds during the strife that gripped the country in the 1970s—to till their lands and grow rice again.
Current research work in Cambodia is funded by various agencies and focuses on five major themes: climate change adaptation and mitigation, climate-resilient rice varieties, remote sensing-based crop monitoring, improvement of farmers’ livelihoods, and postharvest technology. Close to 300 Cambodian researchers have participated in IRRI’s training and capacity-building activities.