Nepal and IRRI
Since 1966 IRRI has provided improved germplasms to Nepal contributing to nearly 70% of its high yielding inbred rice varieties developed and released for irrigated and rainfed environments. The partnership has benefitted Nepal in conserving resources with the IRRI Gene bank that is maintaining 3,000 rice accessions from Nepal. In addition to core research and development, IRRI has supported Nepal in building a robust cadre of scientists and agriculturists by training over 313 Nepalese scholars on varied disciplines of rice science and technology, thereby strengthening its in-country capacity.In 1985, the partnership was further enriched by the refinement of research focus and targeting rice production domains for deploying improved rice varieties in rainfed lowland and irrigated areas. Supporting intensive research on agronomy, soil science, plant pathology, entomology and farming system, this collaboration has been instrumental in building the capacity of Nepalese scientists while encouraging technology transfer. Country projects implemented with the technical support of IRRI with improved rice varieties and related technologies, have thus been instrumental in improving farmers’
yields and incomes.
IRRI’s pivotal role in the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) established in 2002; the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project operational in Nepal since 2007, and the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) project since 2009, have consistently worked towards a more food and nutrition secure Nepal, where the staple food is rice.
Following the establishment of IRRI-Nepal country office in the capital city of Kathmandu in 2005, IRRI is working more closely with partners for building a robust national research portfolio for a more dynamic, rice and rice-based agri-food system in Nepal.
The inclusion of Nepal in important technical think tanks for rice research, such as The Council for Partnerships on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA), The Temperate Rice Research Consortium (TRRC), and the Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC) established in 2013 have advanced the research profile of Nepal.
Rice and rice-based agriculture in Nepal reached yet another milestone in the year 2014, by entering the multi-country seed sharing agreement steered by IRRI, referred to as ‘Seeds without Borders’. Nepal has benefitted from the fast-tracked release of a number of improved rice varieties made available from other partner countries under this agreement.
To intensify joint efforts for improving the rice and rice-based agri-food systems of Nepal, in 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture Development (Government of Nepal) and IRRI entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for advancing Nepal’s food and nutritional security under the overarching UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Over half of Nepal’s farmers produce for their own consumption, with nearly 40% selling only in case of surpluses and only 10% cultivating for commercial purposes. Since the 1990s, low agricultural surplus of cereals for commercial selling, is contributing to Nepal’s growing negative trade balance in food and food products. The average rate of growth of rice productivity in the country over the last 50 years has been around 0.16%, which is far below the rate of growth of population. A rice yield gap of 45 to 55% in Nepal stems from conventional farming practices for subsistence farming, lack of trained human resource, climate change and seasonal variations in rainfall and similar challenges that account for year-on-year fluctuations.
In readying a critical mass of trained scientists and agriculturists within Nepal’s National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES), IRRI is supporting partners with building capacity on cutting-edge rice science, farming techniques and technologies, and R&D innovations. Advanced plant breeding, precision farming in rice- based agri-food systems, mechanization, low emission technologies, and many other innovations that are being undertaken by way of IRRI’s mandate in Nepal, are contributing to transforming the country’s agriculture sector.
IRRI’s work in Nepal is being supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
under the aegis of the Government of Nepal. In the recent past, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have also supported R&D projects of IRRI in Nepal, working with a diverse range of partners in the public and private sector, academia, and farmer organizations.
The Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Department of Agriculture (Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development), Agriculture and Forestry University, Ministry of Energy, Water Resources & Irrigation, Ministry of Finance, National Planning Commission, provincial and local government entities, private seed and other input companies, community-based seed enterprises, and farmer cooperatives are some of the key partners that IRRI works with for improving the rice and rice-based agri-food systems in Nepal.
To address future food and nutrition security challenges for Nepal, and to sustainably increase rice production in the country, in 2018, IRRI and the Government of Nepal have co-developed and agreed upon the thematic areas for the Five-year Work Plan to be implemented.
The technical themes proposed under the IRRI Nepal work plan are:
- Enhanced profitability for smallholder farmers with better, healthier rice varieties.
- Optimization of rice production management for improved yield and climate resilience.
- Enhancement of scale-appropriate, gender-friendly mechanization and post-harvest technologies in rice-based agri-food systems.
- Reinforced product diversification, branding, and rice value chain development.
- Capacity building of scientists, extension workers and academia on advanced rice science, innovations, research and extension methods and tools.
- Enabling national rice policy environment
- Refining rice recommendations and quality of data.