Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bangladesh: Farmers choose BRRI dhan48 as best aus rice variety

Farmers from Stkhira District in Bangladesh say aye for BRRI dhan48,
a new variety recommended for cultivation in the aus rice season. 

Ninety farmers from six villages in the Stkhira District of Bangladesh chose BRRI dhan48 as the best aus rice variety after going on a motivational tour and participatory evaluation of aus rice varieties on 18 July 2012.

BRRI dhan48 matures about 10-15 days earlier than Jamaibabu, a variety of Indian origin, and BR26—varieties that farmers currently use because it allows them timely planting of the succeeding aman rice crop. BRRI dhan48 also has longer panicles with more filled grain and could potentially produce higher yields. The farmers also noted that its plant is strong and stout and, unlike Jamaibabu, is not susceptible to disease.

It was also observed that BRRI dhan48 seems to produce more straw, which also has value to farmers as cattle feed. The participants indicated their interest for securing BRRI dhan48 seeds for cultivating in their respective areas in 2013.

The tour was organized by TMSS, a partner of the Cereal System Initiatives for South Asia project in Bangladesh (CSISA-BD).
Md. Harunur Rashid, cropping system specialist, and Debabrata Mohaldar, agriculture development officer of CSISA-BD's Khulna Hub, facilitated the event.

Bangladesh: IRRI holds rice production course in Barisal

A one-day training session on rice production for local service providers or LSPs was held at the Barisal regional station of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute on 18 July 2012.

LSPs are local folk who own or operate an agricultural support service such as a power tiller, water pump, fertilizer and pesticides dealership, or seed trade. Eighteen of them from Barguna, Barisal, Patuakhali, and Jhalokathi districts attended as participants.

Common and area-specific problems were identified and the corresponding information gaps determined during the training. Problems or concerns identified were: newly developed salt- and submergence-tolerant rice varieties, new season-specific high-yielding varieties for favorable ecosystems, quality seeds and suppliers, seedbed preparation and maintenance, quality seedling production, water management technologies, water pumps, area- and variety-specific fertilizer doses and applicators, pests, and pest management.

The role of LSPs and how they were to support local farmers were also discussed.

IRRI organized the event under the project Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) in Bangladesh. Md. Shahidul Islam of CSISA-IRRI in Barisal and Md. Harunur Rashid of CSISA-IRRI in Khulna were among the facilitators of the participatory training program.

IRRI holds information sessions on NRS career path development

IRRI’s Human Resource Services (HRS) held 12 information sessions between 26, 27, and 30 July 2012 at IRRI headquarters.

Over 450 HQ-based staff attended the information sessions facilitated by Fiona Farrell, director of Human Resource Services, to update staff on the ongoing process of creating NRS career paths. Participants learned about the three-phased approach and the importance of having standard Job Profiles as a foundation for modern career paths. The process for developing the standard job profiles was shared and participants were informed of their roles in the next steps and the timelines for completion and implementation.

The process of developing the NRS career paths has been underway since May 2012 and started with the establishment of the NRS Job Profile Committee consisting of IRRI staff from across disciplines, levels and units. They are supported by external consultants from Towers Watson, the HRS team, and internal consultants/advisors. The first phase of this complex project, the creation of standard job profiles, will run until mid October 2012 and will involve the training of over 100 NRS facilitators and wide consultation with a large number of IRRI staff.

For those staff at headquarters who were not able to attend the information sessions, additional meetings will be organized on Friday, 3 August 2012 at Hawk Room, Training Center. The first session will be from 1315 H to 1415 H while the second session from 1430 H to 1530 H.

Country Office-based staff will also participate via Webex meetings on 9-14 August 2012.

More details can be found in the English and Filipino language brochures. For further inquiries, please email the NRS Job Profile Committee at nrs-job-profile-committee@irri.org.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

IRRI moves to paperless data collection

IRRI researchers collecting data on Android tablets
using the IRRI-developed app, FieldLab.

With the ubiquity of portable digital devices such as smart phones and tablets, data collection in agricultural research is going paperless.

The Molecular Plant Pathology Group has adopted collection of phenotype data the digital way and is one of the teams pioneering paperless data collection at IRRI. The group, led by Chitra Raghavan, is using the app FieldLab, designed specifically to collect rice germplasm data. The app was developed for Android by Alex Cañeda, programmer at the Crop Research Informatics Laboratory at IRRI.

Dr. Raghavan’s group observes diseased leaves and records these in percentage of affected areas (% DLA) for several bacterial and fungal pathogens on the MAGIC rice population. Her assessment shows that paperless data collection takes almost twice the time to gather data as when using paper. But when data is collected digitally, no encoding needs to be made. This saves about 10 hours of encoding work that came with the paper-based method, which was more prone to errors because of the extra step.

The INGER Multi-Environment Rice Varietal Testing group, led by Angelito Galang, has also started using FieldLab to collect agronomic data from their varietal trials in and outside the IRRI campus.

Other adopters of the technology include scientists from the C4 Rice Center, agronomy, nutrient management, crop modelling, irrigated rice breeding, and submergence breeding.

Other laboratories and research teams are lined up next to go digital in their own data collection.

Tablets used for data collection were provided by the office of the Deputy Director General for Research. The Research Data Management team of the Risk Management and Quality Assurance office is providing training and support on the use of these devices.

IRRI breeder is guest in July researchers' lunch

Parminder Virk (third from left) is a scientist in plant breeding at IRRI.

Parminder Virk, plant breeder at IRRI, was the guest scientist in the Young Researchers Lunch for July.

Dr. Virk led a very informative discussion on topics related to breeding for yield potential, such as target genes for marker-assisted selection, yield potential traits, and aspects of variety release. He encouraged the young researchers to stick to the task and dedicate at least 5-10 years in plant breeding, because that is the amount of time needed for one to see the results of one's work and have an impact.

Lunch attendees were Crisanta Bueno, Hasina Begum, Michaela Hoffelmeyer, Tahir Awan, and Ma. Rebecca Laza.

The Young Researchers Lunch is a monthly meeting for scientists who are in the early stages of their careers. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for discussion with senior scientists on a range of topics that including research and career paths.

For more information, please contact Joy Sagabay (M.Sagabay@cgiar.org) or Amelia Henry (A.Henry@cgiar.org).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

India: IRRI South Asia rice breeding hub opens

Robert Zeigler (left) and William Dar (second from right), directors general of
IRRI and ICRISAT, respectively, inaugurate IRRI's new rice breeding hub
in India. Darshan Brar (in red turban), former head of plant breeding
at IRRI, also came to witness the event.

The IRRI South Asia Rice Breeding Hub at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, was inaugurated on 9 July 2012 by Robert Zeigler and William Dar, directors general of IRRI and ICRISAT, respectively.

The opening of the breeding hub at ICRISAT is part of IRRI's strategy of targeted breeding efforts for South Asia, done in collaboration with national partners in various countries in the region, and is a step toward achieving the objectives of the CGIAR Research Program on Rice-Based Production Systems through the Global Rice Science Partnership or GRiSP.

Dr. Zeigler, who was in Hyderabad to also attend an international meet on designer rice, said the new facility would go a long way in IRRI’s endeavour for a strong regional presence in South Asia. He thanked ICRISAT for its support and for hosting the hub in the ICRISAT campus.

Dr. Dar, in turn, expressed gladness for IRRI coming to ICRISAT to carry out rice research for South Asia, and assured IRRI of continued support.

Speaking during the occasion, E.A. Siddiq, former deputy director general (crop science) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and former member of the IRRI board of trustees, said that he has "desired so long for IRRI to have a regional facility in South Asia" and expressed happiness on IRRI's decision to open a regional facility in India.

B.C. Viraktamath, head of the Directorate of Rice Research in Hyderabad, is confident that the presence of IRRI in India shall complement rice research that is being carried out by ICAR and agricultural universities in India.

The inaugural ceremony was attended by several representatives from ICRISAT (Hector Hernandez, Rajesh Agrawal, and M. Prabhakar Reddy) and IRRI (J.K. Ladha, M.S. Rao, Paul Quick, Ajay Kohli, Jauhar Ali, Michael Thomson, Arvind Kumar, and Murali Krishna Gumma), including former IRRI scientists Darshan Brar and Melissa Fitzgerald.

The IRRI South Asia Rice Breeding Hub office is located in Rooms 121-126 in Building 303 of ICRISAT and can be reached by phone at 0091-40-30713071, extension 2091 to 2093.

Bangladesh: CSISA holds training workshop on rice technology adoption

A training workshop on rice-based cropping systems and adoption of rice production technology was held in Khulna for rice-related service providers.

The workshop was organized by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia in Bangladesh (CSISA-BD), with the assistance of the Directorate of Agricultural Extension (DAE), and was held on the CSISA-IRRI Khulna Hub premises on 19 July 2012.

Eighteen local service providers from remote areas in 6 upazilas in Khulna, Satkhira, and Bagerhat districts attended as participants. The service they provide include supplying seeds of new high-yielding, salt-tolerant, and other rice varieties, and of other crops; fertilizers; pest and disease management; irrigation; and crop management.

Participants learned to identify information needs of farmers against the type of information provided by them and the technological packages recommended by the NARES and CSISA-BD project for the area. They determined the gap between what is available and what is sought, and discussed ways to overcome this gap.

M.A. Aziz, DAE deputy director in Khulna District, encouraged the participants to provide services appropriate to a community and emphasized the judicious application of fertilizer and other farm inputs.

Timor-Leste: IRRI holds report-writing and presentation skills training course

The first batch of participants in the Report Writing and
Presentation Skills Course
held in Timor-Leste.
Second batch
Sixty-eight participants from the Seeds of Life program of Timor-Leste's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) attended the Report Writing and Presentation Skills Course held in Dili on 26 June-13 July 2012.

The course was offered in three batches to accommodate the number of participants, who were a mix of researchers, extension workers, and administrative personnel. It aimed to help participants write reports more effectively, develop confidence in articulating and sharing their ideas about their work and research, and deliver effective presentations.

Third batch
Topics included report writing, preparing visuals, and presentation, conducted through lectures and hands-on exercises.

Achu Arboleda and Lanie Quinto, both of the IRRI Training Center, conducted and facilitated the course, respectively.

Donated dolls and medicines help kids in IRRI medical mission

What can help lessen the fear in children while they endure a physician's cold metallic stethoscope during consultation? How about dolls and rice cookies?

The Tsuno Food Industrial Company, Ltd. from Japan donated these items and helped make IRRI's medical mission and community health education activity certainly less frightening among the sick children from Barangay Tagumpay in Bay, Laguna, on 20 July 2012.

The white faceless doll, a project of the Kiwanis Club, was intended to take away anxiety and discomfort from sick children and become an outlet for their expression. By drawing a face on the doll, the children can express fear, unhappiness, or pain from an injury they feel, thus allowing adults to discuss concerns or pains more objectively with the child.

More than 500 residents of the lakeshore barangay were recipients of July's medical mission and health and wellness counseling. They are of low-income households and thus have less access to medical services.

IRRI provided free medicine while medics from the Philippine Army provided health counseling and medical consultation. Common illnesses found among the group were respiratory infection, urinary tract infection, diabetes, hypertension, malnutrition among children, and skin infection.

IRRI's Host Country and Community Relations Office conducts such activities monthly in depressed areas within its host communities of Los Baños and Bay in Laguna Province to help improve health and wellness among residents.

IRRI holds training on presentation skills for local staff

IRRI's Human Resource Services (HRS), in partnership with Guthrie-Jensen Philippines, held the Effective Presentation Skills (EPS) training for the second time on 17-19 July 2012 at IRRI headquarters.

Eleven HQ-based nationally recruited staff attended the 3-day workshop facilitated by Ralph Guzman, managing consultant at Guthrie-Jensen.

EPS is an 11-module program that aims to develop and hone the presentation skills of participants. This interactive training continues to receive positive participant feedback since it was held for the first time in 2011.

For inquiries or reservations on upcoming learning and development programs, please contact HRS's Annabelle Aquino (a.aquino@irri.org or IRRI extension 2824).

IRRI Filipino scientists' group meets with new communications and partnerships head

The leaders of the IRRI Filipino Scientists Association, Inc. (IFSA) met with V. Bruce J. Tolentino, IRRI's new deputy director general for communications and partnerships, on 17 July 2012 to formally introduce the organization and its goals.

The members of IFSA's board of directors who met with Dr. Tolentino were led by Dennis Tuyogon, IFSA president. They were delighted to hear positive feedback from Dr. Tolentino, but were also keen on learning more ways in which they could continue to help Filipino scientists through the DDG-CP, such as improving the working environment and career path of IFSA members.

The meeting is one of several regular meetings in which IFSA, representing IRRI's nationally recruited research employees, dialogues with the DDGs about the group's role in fulfilling IRRI’s goals and issues affecting Filipino scientists at IRRI.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Philippines: Season-long rice farming training program starts for African agronomists

An 18-week season-long rice farming training program for extension agronomists from African countries commenced at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in Nueva Ecija, Philippines, on 25 June 2012.

The program, now in its second offering, has 26 participants from 6 countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Sierra Leone. It is a joint undertaking between the Government of Japan, through its Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and IRRI and runs from 25 June to 26 October 2012.

It will contribute to a greater and sustainable harvest of quality rice in each country and will demonstrate that the application of up-to-date rice farming practices and farm mechanization will result in increased food security and improvement in the livelihoods of rice farmers and their families and communities.

The program introduces a model of effective extension by a team of extension agronomists that are supported by researchers and research technicians that effectively incorporate the latest crop management technologies into farm practices. Extension agronomists are skilled in technology transfer to farmers.
The course includes participatory technology demonstration and the farmers' field school, conducted in partnership with Philippine farmers.

Also within the program, IRRI will hold meetings in collaboration with the participating organizations in Africa and follow up on participants’ implementation of a small project applying knowledge and skills acquired from the training in their own country. 

The course is led by Noel Magor, IRRI Program 6 leader and Training Center head; Joseph Rickman, East and Southern Africa program coordinator; Eugenio Castro, Jr., project coordinator/facilitator; Takahiro Nakamura, JICA-Japan; David Shires, consultant; and Zakaria Kanyeka, training coordinator in Africa.

Thailand: Young socioeconomic researchers undergo methodology and data management training

The Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) organized a training-workshop on methodologies and data management for socioeconomic studies for young researchers on 11-13 July 2012 at the Nakhon Ratchasima Rice Research Institute (NRRC) in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Thailand.
Eleven researchers and assistant researchers (8 women and 3 men) from the NRRC participated in the training-workshop, which aims to enhance the skills of CURE’s NARES partners in the conduct of socioeconomic surveys, data management, and in the use of systematic data entry.

Digna Manzanilla, social scientist and associate CURE coordinator, and Leo Angelo Ocampo, assistant scientist of CURE, conducted the training-workshop, which covered the socioeconomic aspect of research, the survey questionnaire, and good practices in the conduct of surveys.

The training-workshop kicked off the conduct of surveys in the two villages of Srapatoom and Nongbuan in Nakhon Ratchasima. It was organized with support from the IFAD project Improving livelihoods in the drought-prone lowlands of southeast Asia in collaboration with Varapong Chamarerk, senior scientist and CURE keysite coordinator in Thailand; Sommai Lertna of NRRC, and the Ubon Ratchathani Rice Research Center.

The activity was graced by Duangjai Suriya-Arunroj, NRRC senior scientist, who represented the center director.

India: Research and delivery stakeholders meet in Odisha

More than 50 representatives from the government, private sector, universities, NGOs, and various other institutions gathered for the Odisha research and delivery hub expert consultation meeting at the Mayfair Convention Center in Bhubaneshwar, India, on 10 July 2012.

Samarendu Mohanty, program leader for policy and targeting and head of IRRI's Social Sciences Division, organized the meeting to finalize planned activities of the hub as part of the Cereal Systems Initiative in South Asia (CSISA) project.

As the project moves into its second phase, plans are in place to expand its activities in the eastern state of Odisha by setting up a research and delivery hub to enable public-private-civil society partnerships for participatory technology development that are relevant and responsive to local conditions and priorities. Inputs from various stakeholders are thus needed to help the CSISA team formulate its work plan in the state.

Represented in the meeting were the Central Rice Research Institute, Directorate of Research on Women in Agriculture, Directorate of Water Management, Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, BISWA, AID/IRRI Programme, Digital Green, G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, ICRISAT, ILRI, IFPRI , CIMMYT, CIP, IIT Guwahati, KIIT School of Rural Management, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Orissa State Seeds Corporation, Ltd., PALLISHREE, PRADAN, PRAGATI, VARRAT, and the IRRI-CSISA team from IRRI headquarters and the India office.

New system to support IRRI staff nears implementation

OCS, or One Corporate System, is a new software that IRRI is adopting to help staff manage projects, human resources, and finances, and perform other administrative functions.

In the last quarter of 2012, OCS will start replacing outdated, costly, and unsupported administrative and management software systems currently in use at IRRI. OCS will provide a more efficient and effective administration service to IRRI staff.

OCS Phase 1 Go Live is scheduled for October 2012 starting with Human Resources and Project Management. Phase 2 Go Live will start in November with Finance, Procurement, and Internal Trading. It is important to note that the phased rollout is just the beginning, with only a few basic functionalities at work. Over time, each new phase will make more functions available. Once the OCS phased rollout begins, the IRRI Helpdesk will provide OCS technical support.

Focus group briefings will be held in August and early September across IRRI to further inform staff about OCS and the changes related to its deployment. Following this, OCS training will be held for all staff. 

OCS is part of IRRI’s strategy to improve processes and partnerships within the CGIAR. IRRI can expect OCS to have the capacity to boost efficiencies and collaboration across the CGIAR centers and research programs, such as GRiSP—the Global Rice Science Partnership.

IRRI is one of the CGIAR centers leading the development and implementation of OCS. Joining IRRI in the first wave of implementing OCS this year are the International Potato Center (CIP), Consortium Office, and Worldfish. Later, OCS will be implemented by AfricaRice and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Bioversity International, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF).

The OCS Steering Committee in IRRI is led by Norman Macdonald (chairman), Eric Clutario (project manager), Corinta Guerta (project/donor management), Fiona Farrell (human resources), Sunil Jhunjhunwala (finance), Elisa Panes (treasury), Melba Aquino (budget), Hiram Gomez (procurement), Sarah Beebout (research), Marco van den Berg (information technology), and Sophie Clayton (communications).

For more information on OCS, visit their FAQs page or contact Elemarie Rosellon, IRRI’s internal communication specialist for the project.

Filipino professor at NYU is guest in June researchers' lunch

Young IRRI researchers with NYU genomics professor Michael Purugganan (rightmost).

IRRI's budding scientists had a lively discussion with Michael Purugganan during the IRRI Young Researchers Lunch (YRL) held on Wednesday, 27 June 2012.

Dr. Purugganan is professor of genomics and associate director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at New York University.

Participants during the June meeting were Ebna Syod, Md. Harunur Rashid, Sumanth Kumar Mutte, Adithi Ravikumar Vardarajan, Rowena Oane, Jeanaflor Crystal Tahir Concepcion, Dennis Lozada, and Amelie Gaudin.

The YRL is a monthly meeting for NRS and AFSTRI scientists who are in the early stages of their careers. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for discussions with senior scientists on a range of topics including science and career paths.

For more information, please contact Joy Sagabay (M.Sagabay@cgiar.org) or Amelia Henry (A.Henry@cgiar.org).

IRRI holds personality development course for out-of-school youth

IRRI, through its Host Country and Community Relations Office (HCCRO), designed and facilitated another 2-day training course on personality development and team-building for 45 students of the Alternative Learning Systems (ALS) in Los Baños, Laguna.

HCCRO organized the activity in partnership with the Philippine Department of Education-Region 4. The ALS enlists out-of-school youth.

The course is composed of modules that include interactive exercises on knowing the self, interrelating with others, becoming effective members of the family and communities, and being in control of one's choices in life.

The HCCRO had previously partnered with DepEd in holding storytelling sessions on the illustrated story book, Gabby Ghas, to elementary school students in public schools in the hope of helping children become better acquainted with the values of rice farming and train teachers on interactive storytelling.

First offering of RDM 201 training course held

The first offering of Research Data Management 201: Advanced SQL started today (17 July 2012) at the I.T. Learning Center in IRRI and will run for 3 half-days.

In this course, some advanced functions and queries that can be useful when building more complex applications were introduced. It will refresh participants on basic database management skills by defining and looking at the structure of the (preferred) relational model as compared to the hierarchal model of handling data.

Participants are also taught to identify denormalized data and correct data redundancy up to the third normal form (3NF). Fourteen (14) research staff and scholars coming from CESD, PBGB, GQNC-ASL, and SSD are participating in this pilot offering. All have undergone RDM 101 as a prerequisite. 

The RMQA-RDM 201 training team is composed of Menchu Bernardo, Icoy Mercado, and Dec Arreza.

IRRI holds training course on personal skills for professional development for staff

IRRI's Human Resource Services, in partnership with Learning Tree International, conducted a training program, Personal Skills for Professional Development (PSPD), for the third time in the Philippines.

Course participants are postdoctoral fellows and other scientists in the early stages of their careers. The program ran 10-13 July.

PSPD focuses on learning techniques that help an individual achieve his or her professional goals. These techniques include assertive communication, evaluating one's strengths and style, productive working relationships, and achieving results in pressure situations.

PSPD ran as an inter-center training program in 2011 and was hosted in different CGIAR centers, such as WorldFish in Malaysia and Bangladesh and IWMI in Sri Lanka. This year, the inter-center collaboration will continue as this program will be hosted again in other centers such as ICDDRB in Bangladesh, IRRI India, and IWMI in Sri Lanka.

For more information, please contact Beng Aquino (a.aquino@irri.org, IRRI extension 2824).

IRRI Toastmasters Club wins award, elects officers

The IRRI Toastmasters Club (TMC) has been conferred the President's Distinguished Club award, the highest award given to Toastmaster International (TI) clubs, for the fourth time—earning a mention by TI President Michael Notario in his speech during the TI International Convention in 2011.

On Saturday, 14 July, IRRI TMC hosted a training event for officers of the Los Banos Toastmasters Club at the Khush Hall.

IRRI TMC has also recently elected its new set of officers for 2012-13:

President: Helen Grace S. Centeno, CC; VP Education: Joel Janiya, ACB; VP Membership: Shanta N. Karki, CC; VP Public Relations: Sylvia P. Avance, ACB; Secretary: Gladys Jannette Thielke, CC; Treasurer: Ma. Rebecca C. Laza, CC; Sgt. at Arms: Jeehyoung Shim, CC; and IP President: Darlene L. Sanchez, ACB.

IRRI TMC was started in 1997 and helps its members improve their speaking and leadership skills. A typical meeting is a "learn-by-doing" workshop in which members hone their public speaking skills through an atmosphere of positive feedback-giving.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cambodia and Myanmar: IRRI conducts training course on fan testing

Postharvest technologies are being adapted at an increasing rate in Cambodia and Myanmar. To ensure the sustainability and success of the dryer technology, the ADB-funded IRRI Postharvest Project is conducting a training on fan testing at the Department of Agricultural Machinery (DAM) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF), in Phnom Penh.

Myanmar partners of the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium Postproduction Workgroup also flew in to join the training, which runs throughout this week (9-13 July). Most of the participants came from Cambodia’s agriculture department.

The opening ceremony was graced by Chan Saruth, DAM director, and Meas Pyseth, MAFF international programs coordinator.

IRRI's Pat Borlagdan, mechanization and postharvest expert, is conducting the training.

Philippines: Conference on ecological engineering in rice landscapes held in Ifugao Province

The Land-use intensity and ecological engineering assessment tools for risks and opportunities in irrigated rice-based production systems (LEGATO) project held a 5-day conference, Ecological engineering for sustainable management in rice landscapes, last week in Banaue, Ifugao Province.

LEGATO aims to quantify ecosystem functions and services it generates in rice systems in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam (Tien Giang Province, Sapa, and Red River Delta) and the Philippines (Banaue, Nueva Ecija, and Laguna).

Guided by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment framework, its researchers will look into provisioning, regulating, and cultural services in rice-based ecosystems.

Presented during the conference were preliminary field observations and reassessment of achievements made in the first 16 months of the project. Some of the topics discussed were: methodologies of various work packages, communication platforms to promote LEGATO, and potential collaborations with associate partners.

Participants visited Batad, Hingyon, Banga’an, Tam’an, and Pu’itan villages.

Sixty participants from German universities, Southeast Asian partners (MARD, VSU, CABI, CEPSTA, PhilRice, and IRRI), and associate partners (UPLB, Rice Department, Pensoft, and BIOSS) attended the event, which was held on 2-6 July at Banaue Hotel and Youth Hostel.

IRRI communications and partnerships head speaks at CSR expo

V. Bruce J. Tolentino (second from right), IRRI’s deputy director general for communications and partnerships, delivered a talk and participated in an open forum on the impact of climate change and global warming on the economy, ecology, and biodiversity during the CSR Expo 2012 held on 5 July 2012.

Dr. Tolentino joined Sheila Marie Encabo, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director, and Vicente Paragas, National Water Resources Board executive director, as resource persons during the forum.

More than 50 participants that included representatives of nongovernment organizations, private sector corporate social responsibility (CSR) practitioners, and members of the media attended the session.

CSR Expo 2012 ran for two days and was held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, Philippines.

Protecting our information assets: IRRI staff members train on risk management

Forty-four IRRI staff members underwent training on information security management systems (ISMS) to enhance staff awareness on emerging threats to information security.

The training was conducted by the Risk Management and Quality Assurance (RMQA) Office and  Information Technology Services to support the corporate effort to protect IRRI’s information assets.

The 3-day course, which ran 4-6 July 2012, provided an in-depth look at how ISMS uses an international benchmark—ISO/IEC 27001:2005—by presenting the requirements of ISO 27001 as well as 11 security control domains.

Richard Regalado, consultant from EIAN Management Consulting, was resource speaker.

Norm Macdonald, deputy director general for management services, opened the workshop. Marco van den Berg, chief information officer, and Sophie Clayton, public relations head, discussed on IRRI's approach regarding information security and communicating to the public, respectively.  

"While we endeavor to communicate our work to our stakeholders, it is also important to understand and appreciate the risks involving our information assets," said Marichu Bernardo, RMQA head. "Through a risk management framework, the process of selecting controls become structured and aligned with IRRI’s business needs."

Staff members who underwent the training were: Bonifacio de Ocampo, Loreto Puyod, Carlos Ortiz, Lea delos Reyes, Kate Quintos, Jose Luis, Hershey Aquino, Albert Borrero, Gerry Laviña, Leah Baroña-Cruz, Kenneth Lojo, Velinda Ilao, Betty Sarah Carreon, Fernando Florece, Dehner de Leon, Arnel Rala, Pie Moya, Teri Ulat, William Eusebio, Vic Alcantara, Jack Lagare, Norman Oliva, Grace Lee Capilit, Lilibeth Sison, Rolando Santos, Jr., Jun Ulat, Manfred Cardenas, Roslen Anacleto, Arnie Santos, Rizalina Sulabo, Jun Correa, Rowena Castillo, Olivyn Angeles, Lauro Atienza, Enrico Mercado, Deacart Arreza, Cristina Mendoza, Sophie Clayton, Ma. Lizbeth Baroña, Sharlene Santos, Marilyn Belen, Bianca Ferrer, Jemina Manansala.

IRRI offers Covey's 7 Habits development programs

IRRI Human Resource Services (HRS) in partnership with the Center for Leadership and Change, Inc. (CLCI), the international partner of FranklinCovey in the Philippines, successfully delivered a back-to-back pilot of two of its most in-demand development programs, the 7 habits for highly effective people Signature Program and the 7 habits application for managers.

The 7 habits for highly effective people Signature Program is based on Stephen R. Covey's best-selling book, The 7 habits of highly effective people. The program provided a sequential framework for understanding personal and professional development. It also enabled participants to better apply timeless principles that yield greater productivity, improved communication, strengthened relationships, increased influence, and focus on critical priorities. It was attended by 19 administrative and research staff of IRRI and was held on 2-4 July 2012 at the Umali Auditorium, IRRI.

The 7 habits application for managers, attended by 18 managerial level IRRI staff, tackled the fundamentals of leading the modern, mobile knowledge worker. Both new and experienced managers acquired a set of tools to help them meet new management challenges including conflict resolution, prioritization, performance management, accountability and trust, execution, collaboration, and team and employee development. It was held 5-6 July 2012 in the same venue.

For more information on these programs, please contact Beng Aquino at IRRI extension 2824.

Filipino scientists' group recognizes excellent scholars, announces new grantees

The IRRI Filipino Scientists Association (IFSA), Inc., held its annual Scholars’ Day on 7 July 2012 to welcome its new scholars and recognize current ones with outstanding academic performance.

Nine scholars attended the event. Jireh Vic Lubigan, a T.T. Chang grantee and PBGB thesis scholar, gave a short message to fellow scholars, emphasizing the importance of dedication and passion for the field of study. 

An open discussion ensued to elicit inquiries, concerns, and ideas from the scholars.

Stipends were distributed during the program to two newly admitted scholars for the D.S. Brar grant.

IFSA manages financial grants that benefit academically outstanding and financially needy high school and college students who are dependents of IRRI staff. The grants come from philanthropic foundations, such as the Don Manuel Galatas Foundation, former IRRI staff (T.T. Chang, K.C. Ling, Y. Hayami, S. Bhuiyan, and D.S. Brar), and from IFSA, through fundraising activities.

Filipino scientists' group holds UPCAT refresher course

The IRRI Filipino Scientist Association, Inc. (IFSA), has organized another University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) refresher course for this year. It started 7 June and will conclude with a mock exam on 28 July.

The refresher course aims to help fourth year high school students prepare for the upcoming UPCAT. Twelve dependents of IFSA members and non-members alike are enrolled in the course.

The refresher consists of lectures on various subjects that cover the four main UPCAT exam categories—science, mathematics, reading comprehension, and language proficiency. Lecturers are IFSA members that have majored in or are experienced in the subject matter.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Vietnam: Training course held on testing stress-tolerant rice in coastal areas of the Mekong Delta

A 5-day training workshop, Technology updates on stress tolerant rice testing in coastal areas of the Mekong Delta, was held on 25-29 June 2012 at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Bac Lieu, South Vietnam.

Sea-level rise, which results in floods and salt-water intrusion, is a huge concern in the coastal areas of the Mekong Delta, especially as it impacts on rice production. The GIZ Bac Lieu Project and the CLUES Project are the working together to aid and improve rice production in Bac Lieu Province. 

One area of this technical collaboration is enhancing the technical capability of the local agricultural workforce in the affected province and districts on the use of recent technologies for submergence- and salinity-prone areas. Specifically, the collaboration is introducing stress-tolerant varieties and associated production management practices to the agricultural staff for disseminating in these areas.

The workshop was attended by 44 participants from DARD-Bac Lieu, Can Tho University (CTU), and the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute (CLRRI). It included a field practicum on PVS preference analysis, held at Truong Xuan in Can Tho, and a visit to CLRRI laboratory facilities and experimental farms.

Topics discussed were: (1) best management practices in saline- and submergence-prone environments, (2) rice production components in stress-prone environments (i.e variety and seed selection, land preparation and crop establishment, nutrient management, integrated pest management, and water management), (3) stress tolerant rice screening techniques and variety development, (4) participatory varietal selection, information requirements and data management, (5) seed system, distribution and outscaling, and (6) upland crop integration in paddy fields.

As an output of the course, the participants prepared an action plan for saline- and submergence-prone rice food production systems that they can implement the following cropping season and for the next 2 years (2013-14).

Resource persons were from IRRI, CTU, CLRRI, and Institute of Agricultural Sciences for South Vietnam—all partner institutions of the CLUES Project.

Romeo Labios (consultant, CLUES Project), Andres Godwin Sajise (IRRI-PBGB), and Ngo Dang Phong (postdoctoral fellow and facilitator, CLUES Project) were the resource speakers from IRRI.

Philippines: IRRI and partners install community dryer in Bukidnon

Up in the mountain ranges of Impasugong, Bukidnon, rice farming is a challenge. Farmers deal with rainy weather all throughout the year, making grain drying a difficult task. To ease their problem, nongovernment organizations Kaanib Foundation, Inc. and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) worked with the Asian Development Bank-funded IRRI Postharvest Project and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and helped install a reversible airflow flatbed dryer for the community.

On 20 June 2012, a turnover ceremony was held in Kalabugao Village and was attended by local government representatives, CRS program manager Terry Tuason, and marketing project coordinator, Lionel Mendoza, PhilRice engineer Dexter Ona, Kaanib Foundation director Imelda Esteban, and IRRI communication specialist Trina Mendoza.

The construction of the facility was completed in May and is now ready for use in time for the June-July rice harvest season in the uplands of Bukidnon. Engineer Ona demonstrated the operation of the dryer, and trained some members of the community on the operation and maintenance of the dryer.

“With the installation of the dryer, the quality of their rice will increase, and they can therefore ask for a higher price in the market,” says Anthony Hendrix, municipal agro-enterprise facilitator of Kaanib.

IRRI funded the manufacturing cost of the dryer blower and assisted CRS and their local NGO partner in establishing a new business model using a business plan for the dryer. This assistance was provided by the ADB-funded IRRI Postharvest Project that brings multistakeholder partners for introducing improved technologies and business models for reduced postharvest losses and increased farmers’ income.

Philippines: IRRI communications and partnerships head speaks at rice industry meet

V. Bruce J. Tolentino, IRRI's deputy director general for communications and partnerships, delivered a Philippine, Vietnamese, and Thai rice industry situationer, including the impact of climate change on the industry, during the Philippine Rice Industry Symposium held on 27 June 2012.

Proceso Alcala, Philippine agriculture secretary, delivered the keynote message for the event and shared government direction, initiatives, regulation, and outlook for the rice industry.

Discussed in a forum during the event were financing products for sustainable and renewable energy that will help improve the efficiency, productivity, and profitability of farmers, millers, and traders.

Ninety-seven participants attended, representing the rice milling (22), rice trading (14), combined rice milling and trading (20), and fertilizer trading (5) sectors.

The symposium was sponsored by BDO Unibank, Inc., and was held at Manansala Hall of the BDO Corporate Center in Makati City, Philippines.

BDO is planning to facilitate similar activities in the various regions of the Philippines and to continually partner with IRRI for its expertise as resource in such events. Members of BDO management hosted the event.

Impact of IRRC's four phases evaluated by external panel

The Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC) commissioned an impact assessment and process evaluation of IRRC technologies and best management practices developed from phase 1 to phase 4 of the consortium, spanning 15 years.

An inception meeting held on 25-26 June 2012 at the IRRI Training Center marked the start of the process. The IRRC coordination unit and work groups gave presentations on the technologies developed, adoption rates, yield and income impacts, and identified sociocultural, gender, institutional, environmental, scientific, and policy impacts.

The communication approach of the IRRC was presented to highlight the strategies that have been implemented to promote the best management practices to irrigated rice farmers.

This review aims to determine the achievements attained during the four phases of IRRC and how the outcomes of the research contributed to the rice production issues in the Southeast Asian project countries. There will be an economic assessment focused on targeted countries to estimate the return on investment for the donor and for the coinvestment by IRRI.

The final consultancy report is expected to document evidence of successful outcomes and impacts, as well as pathways that led to these changes. Also expected to be documented is evidence of limited progress or setbacks, how these were addressed, and the lessons learned.

The external panel members are Roderick Rejesus, agricultural economist from North Carolina State University, USA; Adrienne Martin, social anthropologist from the University of Greenwich, UK; and Phrek Gypmantasiri, agronomist from Chiang Mai University, Thailand.

IRRC Coordinator Grant Singleton and sociologist Flor Palis led preparations for this meta-impact assessment. An interim report from the consultants will be available in November 2012. The manuscript will be submitted for possible publication in the special issue of the Food Security journal that will come out in March 2013.

Philippines: IRRI donates books to farmers' group

The Institute recently supported the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) through a donation of IRRI books, manual and guides, magazines, and scientific journals.

The donated materials were assembled by Communication and Publications Services (CPS) under the office of the Deputy Director General for Communications and Partnerships. They were distributed to FFF chapter leaders from various provinces who participated in the FFF national conference held in Calamba, Laguna, on 25-29 June 2012.

FFF, through its national manager, Raul Montemayor, thanked IRRI for the materials and enabling them to distribute these to their delegates during the national convention.

The FFF is a non-governmental organization of rural workers in the Philippines, organized in 1953, and has branches in some 50 provinces. Members include agricultural tenants, owner-cultivators, agricultural laborers, fishermen, and settlers, totaling around 200,000.

21 IRRI staff members receive certification on protocol

Twenty-one IRRI staff attended the Training on Protocol held on 25-27 June 2012.

The 3-module training workshop covered the following topics: official events management, diplomatic etiquette and decorum, conference organization and management, and general aspects of media relations for speakers.

Attendees were Israel Alforja (Events, Visitors, and Exhibits Office), Priscilla Argosino (Food and Housing Services), Manuel Bactong, Jr. (EVEO), Ma. Lizbeth Baroña (Public Relations), Ryan Jeffrey Custodio (Deputy Director General for Communications and Partnerships), Rosalinda del Rosario (Director General's Office), Ria Anna Dimapilis (EVEO), Ruth Ann Felismino (EVEO), Jocelyn Finegan (Human Resource Services), Charizabel Fortunado (Development Office), Kristine Genil (EVEO), Paul Benjamin Hilario (EVEO), Margaret Ann Jingco (National Programs Relations), Julian Lapitan (NPR), Salvie Mariñas (DDG-CP), Beatrisa Martinez (EVEO), Cristina Mendoza (DGO), Maricor Zen Reyes (Deputy Director General for Research), Mary Rose Joy Sagabay (HRS), Sharlene Santos (PR), and Katrina Evangeline Zapanta (HRS).

The group also went on a tour of Malacañan on 28 June.

The workshop was facilitated by Revimarc de Mesa, former deputy chief of presidential protocol of the Office of the President in the Philippines (2006-08). It was organized jointly by the HRS and the EVEO.

More photos

IRRI bows to UPLB in 26th Dual Meet

The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) hosted the 26th IRRI-UPLB Dual Meet, held on 29-30 June 2012 at the Copeland Gym on the UPLB campus.

Deputy Director General for Communications and Partnerships V. Bruce J. Tolentino and UPLB Chancellor Rex Victor O.Cruz gave the welcome remarks during the morning program, which kicked off with the Executive Fun Run. 

UPLB took the championship this year, but IRRI won in these events: plank walk (men), modified sack race, basketball (women), swimming (men), and cheer dance.

Fiona Farrell, director of Human Resource Services (HRS), coordinated this on behalf of IRRI.

More photos

IRRI acquires antivenin

Venom extraction from the Philippine Cobra (Naja philippinensis).
(Photo courtesy of RITM)

IRRI has acquired antivenin from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) on 26 June 2012, after hosting the Snake Bite Medical Management Training of the Joint IRRI-UPLB Management Committee on 20 June.

The recently conducted training and the acquisition of antivenin are significant improvements to the Institute’s emergency response capability to snake bite incidents.

The administration of antivenin requires medical evaluation by physicians, as antivenin could adversely affect the health and survival of a bite victim if improperly administered.

The Institute has also acquired snake-handling tools and personal protective equipment.