Search site

Transform rice-based agri-food systems

Improving smallholder livelihoods and resilience

Income gains in agriculture have proven to be two to four times more effective at reducing poverty than growth originating from other sectors. Increased productivity and equitable access to markets are proven ways of raising income levels and creating resilience in rice-based systems.

  • Actively working with governments, the private sector, and research partners to encourage the viability and efficacy of financial safety nets such as microloans and crop insurance as a key risk mitigation tool for all rice farmers.
  • Encourage the creation of farmer cooperatives to enable more equitable pricing negotiations on both inputs and grain marketing.
  • Facilitate the diversification of rice-based farming toward higher-value commodities to increase income and overall farm stability and minimize risk.
  • Promote the transformation of smallholder farms from subsistence farms to more commercially oriented farms.
  • Define and implement a vigorous agenda in postharvest technologies, particularly those that can be deployed at the farm or village level to empower farmers in their dealings with traders and millers.

Empowering women and youth in an equitable rice sector

In many developing countries, the disproportionate migration of men, particularly young men, from rural settings to urban centers has meant that an increasing number of farm households are headed by women who may not have access to the same technology, finance, and extension services. As a further consequence, the average age of rice farmers continues to rise in many countries. These combined factors risk the economic viability of rice farming. IRRI will develop independent strategies to empower women and youth appropriately to engage more fully in the rice sector, ensuring the full participation of these important actors.

Increase access to mechanization and ICT innovations as well as opportunities to act as service providers in order to drive profitability and sector attractiveness.

Work with national partners and farmers’ groups to encourage the effective increase in farm size as a means to entice youth into rice production.

Improve access to technologies, finance, and extension services for women.

Engage with women and their collectives to promote their entrepreneurial roles in service provision, postharvest value addition, and marketing.

Underpinning healthier populations

In Asia, where rice is a staple for the majority of the population including the region’s 560 million hungry people, biofortification of rice and diversification of diets represent key strategies to improve the food security and the nutritional status of malnourished people. Further, many of these countries are now beset with the double burden of under- and over-nutrition within their populations. IRRI will build on its expertise in developing and promoting standards and regulatory frameworks for the rice sector to speed the advancement of public health and mitigate potential public risk.

  • Steward the development of new rice varieties and products to meet international safety standards.
  • Spearhead public policy discourse to support dietary diversification, biofortification, and biotechnology as an effective means to complement public health efforts aimed at alleviating large-scale health issues such as Vitamin A, iron and zinc deficiencies.
  • Introduce and promote licensing of rice varieties and products that meet the Sustainable Rice Platform standards to achieve large-scale adoption of climate-smart, sustainable best practices in rice production.
  • Diversify and strengthen rice-based agri-food systems in order to help increase farm income and improve stability as well as diversify and improve diets.

Stimulating national resilience through economic self-determination

Clearly, a full range of policy interventions to drive national economic self-determination are beyond the scope of the rice sector to determine alone. However, as a strong convening force in rice-growing regions, IRRI has the ability to make the case for policies and investment in the rice sector that provide positive outcomes at the national level.

  • Encourage “small farmer-large field” approaches, such as those developed in Vietnam, in order to derive the benefits of land consolidation without the turmoil and political inertia faced by land ownership reform.
  • Provide business and technological assistance to countries in Eastern and Southern Africa to invest in domestic rice production in order to lessen their dependence on rice imports from Southeast Asia.
  • Through our partners and civil society actors, cultivate vibrant rural populations with an aim to stemming the drive to migrate in order to reduce pressure on urban centers.

Actively informing evidence-based policy and benchmarks

Over six decades IRRI has built long-standing relationships with governments and civil society organizations across Asia and Africa, some of whom are transitioning to the role of investor and regional influencer. As a trusted advisor, we will draw on our information and knowledge banks to provide evidence-based recommendations, taking into account the implications of key drivers of change in a notoriously unpredictable and politically driven global rice market.

  • Engage beyond the agricultural sector with the development organizations, government agencies, and investors to advise and tailor solutions to specific issues, such as land and water use.
  • Bring incisive information and/or big data to the table as an honest broker to enable proper consideration of rice in the larger economic or political perspective.
  • Actively seek opportunities to inform policy formulation and appropriations processes that cut across sectors or constituencies in order to cultivate an enabling environment for the rice sector.