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IRRI and Cambodia to strengthen cooperation on rice agri-food systems

Dr. Yurdi Yasmi, the International Rice Research  Institute (IRRI) Regional Representative for Southeast Asia, met with Director General Ngin Chhay of the General Directorate of Agriculture of Cambodia to discuss ongoing collaboration between Cambodia and IRRI. 

Drs. Yasmi and Chhay agreed to continue strengthening the collaboration and reaffirmed the commitment to continue implementing the Cambodia-IRRI Work Plan 2020-2023 despite the challenging situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The two officials tackled the multiple challenges facing rice agri-food systems ranging from climate change, urbanization, degradation of natural resources as well as  many other stressors, such as the pandemic, that exacerbate the situation. 

“It is critical that new solutions must be invented and research plays a role in this,” Dr. Yasmi said,. “Building the resilience of farmers and the food systems is a must. At the same time, the rice agri-food systems need to transform in such a way that they can cope with the rapid change and contribute to solutions to various challenges our society faces.”

Cambodia aspires to further develop its rice sector for the benefit of its people. A rice-based farming system forms the backbone of Cambodia’s agricultural sector. Rice is mainly produced during the wet season, which accounts for more than 75% of total paddy output per year. However, dry season paddy cultivation remains an important component of rice production, particularly for consumers with a preference for dry-season varieties. Transformations in the country’s rice-based farming systems have played a key role in Cambodia’s  recent economic development and growth.

The IRRI-Cambodia partnership focuses on increasing food and nutrition security through improvement in productivity and diversity, contributing to ending poverty, and improving livelihoods among those who depend on rice-based agri-food systems. Given the critical importance of rice R&D to Cambodia, IRRI considers its partnership with the country and contributing to its national policy goals as high priorities. 

“In doing so, the partnership aims to protect the health and prosperity of rice farmers and consumers, ensure the environmental sustainability of rice farming, and build rice farmers’ resilience to climate change,” Dr Yasmi said. “The partnership also promotes the empowerment of women and supports opportunities for youth in an equitable rice agri-food system.”  

In 2019,  the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries visited IRRI headquarters in the Philippines for the signing of Cambodia’s first national seed strategy policy, which the institute helped develop to promote a more vibrant and diverse commercial seed industry in the country. 

IRRI’s support for Cambodia’s rice sector began in the 1960s when it trained Cambodian scientists and collected over 4,000 local rice accessions for conservation in the International Rice Genebank. In the late 1970s and early 1980s. IRRI was able to repatriate 766 varieties to replenish the country’s rice diversity that was reduced due to conflict and famine. The partnership was formalized with the first Memorandum of Understanding in 1986 and, through IRRI’s continued support, Cambodia was able to significantly increase its rice production from 2.4 million tons in 1993 to 10.8 million tons in 2019. 

IRRI is the world's premier research organization dedicated to reducing poverty and hunger through rice science, improving the health and welfare of rice farmers and consumers, and protecting rice-growing environments for future generations.