Friday, July 31, 2015

IRRI scientist receives Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award for outstanding research

Dr. Arvind Kumar receives the award from Minister of State for Agriculture Molhanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya (in deep khaki Nehru jacket).
Arvind Kumar, IRRI senior scientist, received the prestigious Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award for Outstanding Research in Agricultural Sciences 2014 from the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) during the celebration of ICAR's Foundation Day on 25 July in Patna, India.

Dr. Kumar was honored for his outstanding research under the area of crop sciences. Specifically, he was recognized for his significant contribution to increased rice production in rainfed environments, which are most susceptible to climate change-related stresses such as drought. To help farmers in these areas, his research enabled him to develop 35 drought-tolerant rice varieties, 15 of which have been released in India. Sahbhagi dhan, one of the first drought-tolerant rice varieties developed by IRRI and released in the country in 2010-11, has provided farmers with yield gain of 1 ton per hectare. It has now been disseminated to half a million hectares in India. He was also acknowledged for his work on identifying major genes for important traits such as grain yield, lodging resistance, and disease resistance, among others that have been used continuously by several breeding programs across the country.   

The Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award was instituted by ICAR in 1956 to recognize outstanding research in agricultural and allied sciences and provide incentives for excellence in agricultural research. 

A total of four awards were given, one for each of the following areas: crop and horticultural sciences, natural resources management and agricultural engineering, animal and fisheries sciences, and social sciences.  Aside from citation, each award came with INR500,000 in cash. 

The award is named after the late Sh. Rafi Ahmed Kidwai who was ICAR president from 1952 to 1954.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Photo exhibit on heirloom rice culture opens at IRRI

Opening of the Rice Culture of the Cordilleras photo exhibit. 
L-R: DA-CAR OIC Virgie Tapat; Cong. Teddy Baguilat, Jr.; IRRI DG Bob Zeigler; 
the artist, David Leprozo, Jr.; and IRRI head of external relations, Corinta Guerta.

Heirloom rice varieties, mostly grown in the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, are handed down from generation to generation and have become prized commodities. To further promote heirloom rice and its culture, the Heirloom Rice Project (HRP) hosted a photo exhibit by renowned photographer David Leprozo, Jr., titled Rice Culture of the Cordilleras.

“This event underscores the importance of indigenous peoples’ contribution of their knowledge system to the conservation of heirloom rice varieties,” said Casiana Vera Cruz, IRRI scientist and HRP project leader. HRP is led by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Special guest at the opening was Teddy Baguilat, Jr., representing the Ifugao people in the Philippine Congress, who spoke about the challenge of motivating Cordillera youth to help ensure the continuity of their cultural heritage and preserving their heirloom rice varieties.

‟This exhibit will hopefully give more knowledge not just to IRRI employees but also to our youth. I hope that you can get a glimpse of how important the rice terraces and heirloom rice are to the life of the Cordillera people through these photos,” Baguilat said in his message.

Robert Zeigler, IRRI director general, said that the spirit of the event itself captures the broader commitment that the Institute has toward heirloom rice varieties and the people that these support. Through the HRP, IRRI and its partners seek to understand more about the indigenous rice varieties and thus help preserve cultural traditions surrounding this culture in the Cordilleras.

“We are asking them to share with us so that we can benefit from their cultural richness and heritage and, at the same time, they can benefit from IRRI’s products as well,” Zeigler said.

The artist, David Leprozo, Jr., is donating all 35 photos on exhibit to IRRI at the end of the exhibit.

“It’s a very welcome donation from a prestigious artist,” said Corinta Guerta, head of external relations at IRRI. “The collection will indeed be a precious addition to IRRI’s art collection.”

Throughout the event, traditional Cordillera dances were performed by members of the Hapiyu Mi Cordilleran Dance Troupe, and various heirloom rice dishes were served.

HRP is an initiative under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) of the Philippine Department of Agriculture and is supported by various agencies of the DA and IRRI. It aims to enhance the productivity and enrich the legacy of heirloom rice varieties through empowered indigenous communities in unfavorable rice-based ecosystems.

Also present during the opening of the exhibit were representatives from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; HRP constituents from the Cordilleras and South Cotabato; Virgie Tapat, OIC of the Operations Division of the DA-Cordillera Administrative Region; Neil Doton of DA-Central Mindanao; and some guests from IRRI’s neighbors, the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Philippine High School for the Arts.

Rice Culture of the Cordilleras, which opened on 22 July 2015, will be on exhibit at the Asia Room of the IRRI Riceworld Museum until 21 August. The Museum is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

IRRI conducts workshop on Filipino version of Rice Doctor app

Rice Doctor is an interactive mobile app that helps diagnose and manage rice pests, diseases, and other problems. The English version of the android app—developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and Lucid Team—is currently available for download at Google Play.

IRRI’s Training Center has been developing a Filipino version of the app to make it more accessible to more Filipino farmers, extension workers, researchers, and students. To prepare the translation of its contents into Filipino, the Training Center conducted the Rice Doctor Filipino Translation Validation Workshop.

The two-day workshop was attended by 15 extension workers and farmers from the provinces of Cavite, Laguna,  Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon along with researchers and content developers from PhilRice and IRRI. Development communication students from the University of the Philippines Los Baños and agricultural technology students from Laguna State Polytechnic University also participated in the workshop. The participants proofread and polished the translated text, discussed improvements for the translation, and considered the app’s ease of use and comprehensibility in the field.

Rice Doctor Filipino Translation Validation Workshop was held on 15-16 July at IRRI headquarters.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Philippines: Joint seminar held to boost dissemination of agricultural information and technology

The Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) held an event promoting the dissemination of technology in the agricultural sector.

Knowledge Sharing and Learning aims to build partnerships with farmers, extensionists, the academe, government and non-government organizations, and other stakeholders in order to ensure timely and effective information and technology dissemination.

The event also demonstrated ICT-based resources for rice farming during the Rice TechnoKlinik, a part of the three-day event.
Rice TechnoKlinik highlighted the three agencies’ free digital-based services: IRRI’s Rice Knowledge Bank, DA-ATI’s E-Extension, and PhilRice’s Minus One Element Technique App, Farmers Text Center, and Rice Crop Manager.

PhilRice and DA-ATI also presented some challenges facing the Philippine agricultural sector. Among these are the aging farmers, declining number of extension workers, growing population, and natural calamities such as droughts and floods.

The event was hosted by PhilRice at PhilRice Agusan del Norte; San Francisco, Agusan del Sur; and Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, respectively, on 1-3 July.

Learn more about the RKB and its services at

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Philippines: Radio campaign to promote climate-smart technology in farming communities

The Radio Campaign shall tap rural broadcasters and other media practitioners to disseminate climate change information across the country, particularly in rural areas.

PHILIPPINES – Radio has been the medium used most extensively and effectively for disseminating information in rural areas that help initiate social and community development.

To harness the power of radio, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, and the Philippine Federation of Rural Broadcasters, will launch a campaign engaging rural broadcasters in informing agricultural communities on climate change issues and help them adapt to its impacts. The Radio Campaign will focus on climate-smart technology options for farmers for improved productivity, increased capacity to adapt to climate risks, and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural activities.

At least 75 broadcasters from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao will be trained to produce ready-to-be-aired broadcast materials in five local languages through a series of regional trainings and seminars. Media practitioners, campaigners, and the public can access scripts, news, digests, reference materials, backgrounders, voice clips, and videos through a web portal that will be developed to distribute the materials.

By the end of 2016, the project is expected to contribute to increasing farm productivity by 5%.

Other partners in this pilot climate change Radio Campaign include the Philippine Agricultural Journalists, Philippine Science Journalists, Cagayan State University, Aklan State University, and Central Mindanao University. A Letter of Agreement, signed on 1 June, sealed this collaborative partnership.

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Myanmar: Lessons in postharvest identified by Learning Alliance members in wrap-up meeting

Bogale, Myanmar — The Learning Alliance (LA) in Bogale Township in Myanmar was established in July 2013 to improve Bogale rice quality and obtain higher market prices. The members, composed of farmers, millers, NGO partners, and other rice value chain actors, had a wrap-up meeting on 29-30 June 2015. The 20 members (4 female, 16 male)  shared what they experienced and learned from the different LA activities conducted from 2013 to 2015, and developed plans to continue the alliance.  The event is part of the final review program of the Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which aims to improve food security livelihoods in the lower region of the Ayeyarwady Delta.

Using interactive group learning activities, the participants traced their key learning from trying postharvest options, i.e., flatbed dryers and lightweight threshers that will help improve paddy quality. Members also recalled visiting wholesale and export markets in Yangon.  LA members identified that the flatbed dryer provided by the LIFT project enabled them to dry their grains even during bad weather and risky conditions.

U Aung Kyi, a rice farmer in Kyee Chaung village, used the dryer and shared his experience to LA members from other villages. “During the 2014 monsoon 2014 season, I was able to dry my wet paddy overnight using the flatbed dryer. I used it again in the 2015 summer season and was able to sell my paddy  in Yangon,” he shared.

Through the alliance, five farmers from Pa Dae Kyaw village were able to try the lightweight TC-800 thresher, and shared how easy it was to use.

IRRI postharvest expert Martin Gummert and project consultant Dr. Myo Aung Kyaw discussed with the LA members the future activities of the alliance, which will include provision of solar bubble dryers for mobile drying, and business models for the flatbed dryer with group storage to ensure that the smallholder farmers will continue producing good-quality grains to help increase their income.

Some LA activities were co-funded by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, through the project Closing the Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint project.

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Former IRRI trustee wins 2015 World Food Prize

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
Photo courtesy of
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed of Bangladesh, founder of BRAC and former member of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Board of Trustees was awarded the 2015 World Food Prize.

The honor was bestowed on Sir Fazle for his unparalleled achievement in building the unique, integrated development organization BRAC, which is headquartered in Bangladesh and operates programs in 10 other countries around the globe. Since he created it over 40 year ago, Sir Fazle's organization has provided an opportunity for nearly 150 million people worldwide to improve their lives, has enhanced food security and follows a pathway out of poverty through its dynamic and effective development programs. Formally known as Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, BRAC has been hailed as the most effective antipoverty organization in the world. Its agricultural and development innovations have improved food security for millions and contributed to a significant decline in poverty levels through direct impacts to farmers and small communities across the globe.

 "Being selected to receive the 2015 World Food Prize is a great honor,” said Sir Fazle. ”I consider this award a recognition of the work of BRAC.  The real heroes in our story are the poor themselves and, in particular, women struggling with poverty. Only by putting the poorest, and women in particular, in charge of their own destinies, will absolute poverty and deprivation be removed from the face of the earth."

From 2001 to 2006, Sir Fazle also served as a member of IRRI's Board of Trustees, which sets the Institute's  scientific directions, policies, and strategies. Its 15 members are selected for their outstanding achievements and leadership in their respective disciplines.

The USD 250,000 World Food Prize has been awarded annually since 1987 to "outstanding individuals who have made breakthrough achievements contributing to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world".

The announcement was made at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department, presided over by U.S.  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who gave keynote remarks. The event was hosted by Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles H. Rivkin, with Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, making public Sir Fazle's name.

Press release: World Food Prize Laureate: Leading a Generation out of Poverty

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