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Integrating new techniques and technologies into traditional rice value chains can be slow and difficult to achieve. Agricultural practices and needs in different areas can vary greatly depending on a multitude of factors. IRRI and its partners are investing resources into localized, impact-driven initiatives to promote innovation, build up capacity, and support the development of governments, farmers, and stakeholders in rice-growing regions around the world.

Educating Indian women farmers to be technology influencers

Eight participants from women self-help groups, women organizations, and producer companies attended training on advanced rice production to prepare them for their critical role as agents of change.

“The training program which we have developed is designed for women farmers all over India,” said Poornima Ravi Shankar, coordinator of the program. “It is being rolled out in different phases which exposes the participants to both locally appropriate solutions and best management practices from different parts of the world.”

The first phase of the program, an eight-day basic rice production course, was held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. The course, implemented by IRRI Education, featured new rice technologies and basic best management practices to boost rice production efficiency at the grassroots level. The participants will take these latest technological innovations and teach other women farmers. The implementation of these plans will be monitored by the Department of Biotechnology.

More long-term capacity-development programs for women farmer leaders are in the pipeline to jumpstart agricultural transformation and improve livelihoods through innovations in cropping system technologies.

Bringing intensive farming technologies closer to Nepal's rice farmers

Nepal has been IRRI’s partner in many initiatives that aim to transform the rice sector in Asia. However, most Nepalese farmers still practice traditional bullock-drawn and manual farming. These old mechanisms require more time and manual labor, but do not bring in much profit.

On a recent trip to Nepal, IRRI Director General Matthew Morell, along with rice scientists, extension professionals, and local governments, held a dialogue with smallholder farmers and project partners. Dr. Morell reviewed the progress of IRRI’s projects with national agricultural research and extension systems. A number of trials on climate-resilient rice varieties, mechanized direct seeded rice (DSR), and other activities have been set up in areas where a World Bank-funded irrigation infrastructure project is currently under construction.

He also visited spring rice fields where rice harvesting of the IRRI-developed climate-resilient variety Hardinath-3 was in progress. Intensification of spring rice is key to significantly improving rice production in Nepal.

“Mechanized DSR using best management practices and mechanized harvesting are key to reducing the cropping cycle by about two weeks and improving overall productivity and grain quality,” said Krishna Dev Joshi, IRRI country representative in Nepal. “It is important to customize these technologies and improve our capacity at all levels to be able to fully benefit from these rice science innovations”.

By expanding the availability of technologies and best practices for the rice agri-food system in the country, Nepalese farmers will be able to increase productivity and incomes —a goal that the World Bank, IRRI, and the Nepal Government are keen on achieving together through an innovative partnership.

Tapping Cambodian farmers for an important role in rice breeding

IRRI is engaging with Cambodian farmers to help transform rice breeding to be more efficient and market-oriented. Together with the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute and the General Directorate of Agriculture, IRRI conducted behavioral experiments with Cambodian rice farmers in Prey Veng and Takeo to learn their preferences that will guide breeders in future rice varietal improvements.

The participating farmers were trained in digital product profiling through an interactive app called Investment Game Application. The app enables them to participate in a simulated investment market for public rice breeding. This helps researchers in setting priorities and make breeding programs more cost-efficient, market-driven, client- and product-oriented, and forward-looking.

The study is being financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, under the Leveraging Diversity for Ecologically Based Pest Management project, and the CGIAR Research Program on rice agri-food systems.

Spreading climate-smart rice production technologies in Bangladesh

The Northwest Focal Area Network (FAN) in Bangladesh is a network of hundreds of farmers, well owners, researchers, and extension agents that focuses on rice-based systems. The network was recognized for the dissemination of climate-smart technologies like alternate wetting and drying (AWD), an irrigation system that floods and dries the field in turn, which saves water and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

This practice was introduced to over 5,000 rice farmers across 8 districts and 17 locations in Rangpur, with testing and practicing of the AWD technology underway, along with other mitigation measures.

The FAN initiative took form through the Mitigation Options to Reduce Methane Emissions in Paddy Rice, a project currently implemented by IRRI in Bangladesh and Vietnam. It is supported by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security.

“We are mobilizing the water users and suppliers, farmer groups, and extension people to practice the AWD system across 2 million hectares of rice area,” said Mamunur Rashid, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS) agriculture coordinator. RDRS oversees the program and activities of FAN as the network secretariat. “We aim to reduce methane emissions by more than 50% and irrigation water by 30% in 17 locations in the northern areas. This aligns with our government’s mission and global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

For its effort, FAN-Bangladesh received the Innovation in Behavioural Change Award from the CCAC during the 2018 Global Climate Summit.

Working to accelerate impact across the rice-growing world

Identifying what Vietnamese rice consumers want

As one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of rice, there is a pressing need for Vietnam to promote sustainable rice farming. A recent study by researchers from IRRI, Hue University, and Ghent University tested urban Vietnamese consumers’ response to sustainable production labels in rice.

Published in Food Policy, a leading international journal in agricultural economics, the behavioral market study revealed that consumers are willing to pay for rice produced and labeled under the national sustainable production standard “VietGAP.”

The researchers also found that consumers were willing to pay price premiums of 9% for certified sustainably produced rice on top of the price of regular rice. These premiums even further increased up to 33% when they were informed about what the label on sustainably-produced products mean and where exactly the rice was produced. Consumers that consider themselves as environment- and health-conscious tended to be most responsive to sustainable production labels.

“The Mekong River Delta is facing severe environmental challenges due to overuse of agrichemicals in rice production,” said Dr. Matty Demont, an economist at IRRI. “Recent food safety concerns may have fueled Vietnamese consumers’ demand for certification of sustainable production practices in agriculture.”

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Modernizing rice breeding programs around the world

IRRI, the Excellence in Breeding Platform, and the Genomic Open-Source Breeding Informatics Initiative gathered experts from advanced research institutes around the globe to advance breeding innovations and solve increasingly complex problems in rice-growing countries.

Forty participants from public sector breeding programs across ten countries attended the Joint Breeders’ Training and Workshop to discuss, evaluate, and enable agricultural institutions in Asia and some parts of Africa to modernize their breeding programs. IRRI Integrated Research Support, Intertek from Sweden, and Diversity Arrays Technology in Australia also participated, offering access to cutting-edge research technologies and services.

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Ushering in Agribusiness and rural transformation in Assam

The World Bank and the State Government of Assam launched the Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation project, a 7-year program that aims to add value and improve the resilience of agriculture value chains in the Indian state. It focuses on improving the food and livelihood security of smallholder farmers and agro-entrepreneurs by increasing their access to updated knowledge and technologies.

IRRI is tasked with providing technical guidance on improving rice production systems and management practices by promoting climate-resilient technologies, encouraging their adoption on-field, and facilitating market linkages.

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