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25th CORRA meeting affirms increased collaboration between member countries and One CGIAR, emphasizes opportunities in digital agriculture and Big Data for Asia

Composed of national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) from 16 Asian countries alongside the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Council for Partnerships on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA) has been a critical forum for collaboration and knowledge sharing in research and development, technologies and innovations, and enabling policies for rice systems and rice value chains to promote food and nutrition security, climate resilience, and environmental sustainability.

Last 19 November 2021, CORRA held its 25th annual meeting to discuss current challenges and opportunities for rice-based agri-food systems in the region, and of the role the new One CGIAR will play in contributing to Asia’s food systems transformation.

Hosted by the Rice Department of Thailand, this year’s virtual summit convened NARES and IRRI representatives to discuss CORRA’s milestones and achievements, member country updates, and how cooperation can provide solutions for new challenges such as pandemic disruptions, changing demographics and urbanization, and the ongoing biodiversity and climate crises.

The meeting opened with a welcome message from IRRI Director-General and CGIAR Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Dr. Jean Balie. Welcome Remarks were also given by the Acting Director-General of the Thailand Rice Department and the Inspector General for the Thailand Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives Mr. Chartree Boonnak. Finally, the inaugural address was given by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Thailand Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives Mr. Rapibhat Chandarasrivongs.

The meeting also featured key presentations and discussions on the capabilities and potential of digital agriculture and Big Data when applied to rice food systems. Delivered by IRRI Soil Scientist Dr. Sheetal Sharma for digital agriculture and IRRI Head of Bioinformatics Dr. Kenneth McNally for Big Data, the presentations included examples on how the 3000 Rice Genome Project dataset is helping breeders develop improved rice varieties, and that the Rice Crop Manager Advisory Service digital tool was recently turned over to the Philippine Department of Agriculture to be incorporated into its National Rice Road Map.

Anchoring the program was a presentation and discussion on the new One CGIAR Governance Reforms. Delivered by IRRI Chief of Staff Mr. Ola Fajobi, the presentation offered an extensive overview and details on how IRRI and the other CGIAR centers in Asia and around the world will come together under a unified governance framework, providing greater integration of capacities and programs across three action areas - Systems Transformation, Resilient Agri-Food Systems, and Genetic Innovation. Mr. Fajobi emphasized that through the support and partnership of CORRA, One CGIAR activities in the region can be more responsive and demand-driven, to better meet the needs of CORRA member countries.

At the end of the meeting, the body acknowledged the significant contribution of IRRI in its support of CORRA’s member countries, and affirmed the need for a more integrative system-based approach to agriculture research for development to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It recognized IRRI’s continued status as the main One CGIAR legal entity responsible for coordinating rice-based agri-food system research in Asia, and the need for continued One CGIAR investment and capacity building support for an international research program for rice-based agri-food systems in Asia.

The CORRA 25th Annual Meeting concluded with the organization endorsing six (6) declarations, listed below:

  1. Endeavor to enhance collaboration with the One CGIAR on South-South and Triangular cooperation programs within Asia and with Africa, to enhance both regional and global food and nutrition security, farmer welfare and prosperity, environmental sustainability, and resilience to climate change;
  2. Strive to harness the benefits of digital agriculture and big data for research and development, to achieve environmental sustainability, food and nutrition security;
  3. Support the continued implementation and resource mobilization for co-developed sub-regional programs with IRRI, such as ASEAN RiceNet, Shaping the Future of Rice-based Agri-food Systems in South Asia, and the initiation of new One CGIAR-wide regional programs;
  4. Aim to continue to organize special fora to identify issues of common concern, provide updates on science and technology development, and assist in the development and oversight of joint initiatives;
  5. Explore opportunities to consult CORRA as one of the key One CGIAR  partners in the implementation of Regional and Thematic Initiatives in Asia, where rice-based agri-food systems play the most important role in  regional food and nutrition security; and
  6. Recommend that a strong and explicit commitment to serving the needs of the rice-producing and consuming peoples of Asia, as well as other actors in the rice value chain, remains a central element of the One CGIAR through continued investment in international research for development and capacity development programs on rice-based agri-food systems in the region, and consider that IRRI is best placed to meet this need.

The declaration was endorsed by representatives from IRRI and the representatives from the NARES of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.