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UN Environment and IRRI join hands to drive climate-smart sustainable rice

4 October 2017, Bangkok: UN Environment and the International Rice Research Institute today announced a new agreement to reinforce their long-standing collaboration to promote innovative environment-friendly technologies for rice production in developing countries.

A Memorandum of Understanding was today signed by the two institutions to strengthen collaborative initiatives focusing on climate-smart sustainable best practices in rice production, with a particular focus on meeting the needs of rice farmers in developing countries.

Collaboration began in 2008 when the two institutions established the Sustainable Rice Platform as a multi-stakeholder initiative, bringing together governments, private sector actors, research and grass-roots organization to address the many challenges facing the rice sector. The alliance was officially launched in 2011 and now counts 80 institutional members around the world, linking together research, production, policymaking, trade and consumption to enhance sustainability throughout rice value chains.

Rice is critical to rural economies and global food security, but rice farmers worldwide are increasingly suffering from the combined impacts of climate change, declining yields and loss in soil fertility. Droughts, floods, increasing temperatures and rising sea levels are all taking their toll, affecting livelihoods, and impacting on biodiversity and health.

Speaking at the opening of the First Global Sustainable Rice Conference and Exhibition held at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok, Dr Matthew K Morell, IRRI’s Director General, commented: “We are proud to strengthen our broad-ranging partnership with UN Environment through this Memorandum of Understanding, to work together on our shared goals. Given the many challenges the global rice sector faces as we look ahead over the next 25 years, major transformation will be needed in order to meet the needs of a fast-growing global population in a sustainable way.

“The International Rice Research Institute and other research institutions have developed a wide range of sustainable technologies that will help reduce use of water, chemicals and energy in rice, and protect the crop from pests, disease and the impacts of climate change. Together, through our collaboration under the Sustainable Rice Platform, we aim to help 1 million small farmers over the next 5 years to adopt climate-smart sustainable best practices.”

Under the agreement, the two institutions will work to enhance sustainable rice-based production and food systems through awareness raising, capacity development, knowledge exchange, and evidence-based analyses for policy support, as well as adoption of the new Sustainable Rice Platform Standard on Sustainable Rice Cultivation.

"We need to increase the adoption of climate-smart sustainable technologies to small-scale rice farmers around the world, and this partnership, as well as working with the private sector, will help in that job," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. "This work goes beyond just putting food on plates. It's about boosting sustainable production, and therefore giving farmers and consumers a better deal. It's about delivering on our global goals, and taking concrete climate action."

Rice is grown by some 144 million small rice farmers and feeds 3.5 billion people around the world including 800 million living on below US$1.50 per day. However, by 2050 the world will face a shortfall in rice supplies. While projections point to a 25% increase in global rice consumption over the next 25 years, yields in key rice producing countries may fall by up to 20% due to climate change impacts such as rising sea levels, salinity, temperature rise, droughts and floods. Rice also accounts for 9-11% of global emissions of methane- a potent greenhouse gas.

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading organization within the United Nations system in the field of environment and has as a major area of focus of its global mandate, the conservation, protection, enhancement and support of nature and natural resources, including biological diversity. UN Environment hosts the Secretariat of the Sustainable Rice Platform, a multi-stakeholder initiative with 80 institutional members, co-convened by UN Environment and the International Rice Research Institute to promote resource efficiency and sustainability in the global rice sector, through an alliance that links research, production, policy, trade and consumption.

In 2015, the launch of the SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation- the world’s first voluntary sustainability standard for rice triggered commitments by a number of major private sector food industry actors to achieve 100% sustainable sourcing within their global corporate supply chains by 2020.

About the International Rice Research Institute

The International Rice Research Institute is a nonprofit, autonomous, nonpolitical, international organization established in 1960 under international treaty, with a mission to reduce poverty and hunger through rice science, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers and ensure environmental sustainability through collaborative research, partnerships and strengthening of national agricultural research and extension systems.