In South Asia, rice production faces many challenges including poor rural communications, weak extension services, and large institutional gaps between research, extension, and farmers. Such gaps are caused by an aging public sector extension service. Meanwhile, an emerging private sector is weakly connected to the public research sector and a large number of nonprofit organizations would benefit from better access to information on rice production and postharvest technologies.
We recognize that research-to-farmer linkages and communication must be more cohesive. By improving linkages, technology adoption can be swifter and more efficient. Farmers and other stakeholders can therefore ensure food security, both at the national and at the household levels.
Further, we need to connect our stakeholders to large-scale or regional investments. Keeping local non-government organizations and national and farmer extension programs engaged in our efforts is also important.
Through our local partners in South Asia, we work to establish the following:
New models for seed multiplication and targeted delivery systems
IRRI, along with our partners the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and some 200 local partners provides catalytic support for seed multiplication and targeted dissemination of new stress-tolerant rice varieties. More particularly, we are establishing new business models for scalable, self-sustained delivery of new information and technologies.
New platforms for delivering agronomic, postharvest and processing innovation
At the grassroots level, we develop communication materials and provide localized context in the Cereal Knowledge Bank as the “last-mile delivery" to extension workers and farmers.
New models for jointly building extension capacity
We support public and private networks by training their people in using monitoring systems. Together with the American Society of Agronomy, we have developed an accreditation scheme for certified crop advisors which will be tested in India and scaled out to other countries in South Asia. In addition, we conduct leadership training for women which we envision will develop into a network for women leaders.
New rice technologies, such as agronomic, postharvest, and processing innovations, have a strong demand in Southeast and East Asia. We collaborate with governments and partner organizations in the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, in line with each country’s national priorities.
IRRI has supported many initiatives in Asian countries and in some subregions. At the national level, IRRI supports the Philippine government in implementing the country’s Rice Self-Sufficiency Program. At the local level, agriculture in An Giang Province in Vietnam is being modernized, with support from the provincial government, the World Bank, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. At the grassroots level, we work with nonprofit organizations to promote new management options for intensive cereal systems, under the project Cereal Systems Initiative in South Asia (CSISA).
Additionally, we facilitate dissemination of stress-tolerant rice varieties to millions of farmers. This is possible by networking with hundreds of partner organizations, under the project Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA).
To facilitate increased adoption, our research approaches include:
- Adaptive research, where end-users are actively involved, such as smallholder farmers and small and large millers;
- Harnessing effective partnerships with key national, provincial, and local extension partners. Nationally, we communicate with key policy advisors. We work closely with national extension partners to test innovative pathways for delivery and in disseminating technologies and rice processes; and
- Learning and building further alliances at the early stages of a project provides an effective venue for diffusing natural resource management technologies. Our partnerships with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Environment Program and with local universities facilitate the agricultural engineering of lowland rice landscapes in Thailand and Vietnam.
Recent years have been characterized by a sharp decline in global rice stocks and widely fluctuating rice prices, greatly affecting Africa’s rice importation. However, increasing commitment at the national and regional level has boosted Africa’s rice sector. Investments in rice production, processing, storage, distribution, and in marketing infrastructure are key development areas.
Research plays an essential, catalyzing role in the development of the rice sector in Africa. IRRI and its partners in Africa ensure that research products reach more users and that these products reduce the burden of rice farming on women and make it an attractive occupation for the youth of Africa.
IRRI, along with its partners, supports the delivery of technologies and principles that will help develop Africa’s rice value chain by:
- Establishing rice knowledge centers that simulate farmer-to-farmer learning and participatory learning of rice principles and technologies and their out-scaling;
- Developing learning tools, such as training modules, radio scripts, video, and other tools in local languages;
- Developing rice knowledge banks and providing access through innovative means, such as through mobile phone text messaging;
- Supporting the seed sector by building linkages between private and public sector partners, from producers of breeder seeds, to producers of certified seeds, and seeds of acceptable quality;
- Supporting small-scale mechanization of rice farming by developing local businesses; and
- Building the capacity of extension agents, both government and non-government agencies, actively targeting women leaders to play a proactive role.
During the last 20 years, total rice production in Latin America and the Caribbean has been steadily increasing, driven by a fast rate of yield increase and a shift from upland and rainfed to irrigated systems. Land used for rice has reduced but the region has increased rice production even though yield gaps are widespread across the region.
New impressive varieties are available that can improve yields and reduce costs but these do not reach farmers in some countries due to a lack of effective seed systems. Weak seed laws and a lack of institutional support hamper productivity. Few technological options exist to improve rainfed rice production by crop management. The lack of water control leaves farmers at risk to climatic extremes.
IRRI and its partners in Latin America and the Caribbean are taking the opportunities to close the yield gap and increase the profitability and productivity of rice-based cropping systems. Our aim is to establish improved crop management, better seed systems, and improved water-use efficiency.
In collaboration with the Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR) under the International Center for Agriculture in the Tropics (CIAT), IRRI works towards farmer-to-farmer exchange in incorporating new production strategies. Farmer participation in designing and running these programs is important. Having had successful projects in improved crop management in the region, CIAT, through the FLAR initiative, is an important partner in diagnosing key management factors for improvement, identifying innovative farmers to conduct initial validation plots, establishing farmers’ groups around these farmer-leaders, and conducting intensive training of farmers and technicians.