Rome, 18 Jun 2014 -- FAO's Regional Rice Initiative in Asia, an effort to make rice farming more productive and sustainable, is gaining momentum, FAO officials announced today.
The Initiative was endorsed earlier this year by FAO member States at the 32nd Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Today, the Regional Rice Initiative was given a global platform during a side event at the 149th FAO Council Session in Rome, Italy.
The Initiative represents a unique effort undertaken jointly by the FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Headquarters and Country Offices that offers member States an array of options to help make rice farming more productive and sustainable through their applications to rice ecosystem and landscapes.
“In 2013 the Initiative was implemented as a pilot project of FAO’s Strategic Objective 2 aimed at ‘making agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable’ and now demonstrates a model where staff across FAO technical departments and from different decentralized offices work together to make a difference,” said Clayton Campanhola, Director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division who coordinates Strategic Objective 2.
“In Asia, people depend upon rice economically, socially and environmentally. Given that Asia is home to rice, the Initiative has been welcomed by countries in the region, particularly due to its flexibility in offering innovative solutions and a knowledge base of farming practices that will focus on efficiency,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific.
Rice-based farming systems and rice economy in Asia have been experiencing important structural changes such as the 2008 rice price crisis and environmental challenges, which induced governments across the world to look further for sustainable ways of rice farming as well as rice policies and strategies.
Earlier this year, FAO finalized a regional rice strategy for Asia and the Pacific at the request of FAO member countries. In close collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other concerned partners, the strategy will be further utilized for the formulation or reformulation of national rice policies and strategies.
Senior government officials from Indonesia and the Philippines contributed to today’s event. Both countries have developed good practices in rice production and resource use efficiency. In addition, a large number of FAO countries also participated and joined in the event’s discussions.
Preliminary results of Save and Grow management practices in the Philippines that the Initiative promote show an average 30 percent increase in yield and over 30 percent reduction in costs, resulting in a close to 60 percent increase in net income. In Central Java, Indonesia, farmers increased rice yield by 20 percent. Returns on investments increased by as much as 57 percent, primarily resulting from higher farm gate prices for certified-organic rice, intended for the export market.
“In the second phase of the Regional Rice Initiative, all approaches are integrated in the overarching Save and Grow paradigm through integrated Farmers Field Schools in order to maximize the impact of synergies of the Initiative,” said Naoki Minamiguchi, the Initiative’s Delivery Manager. “The Regional Rice Initiative also informs policy processes, especially the (re)formulation and implementation of national rice strategies or policies with due consideration to the multiple goods and services provided by rice production systems and landscapes.”
The Regional Rice Initiative takes an inclusive, multi-stakeholder approach. Apart from government ministries concerned with rice and ecosystem services, key partners and enablers include Civil Society Organizations and academia such as VECO International, International Centre for Research in Agroforestry and Visayas State University.
It’s anticipated that with additional resources, more evidence and knowledge on sustainability and resource use efficiency in different rice ecosystems and landscapes can be generated to substantiate the relevance of the Regional Rice Initiative model, and of the Save and Growparadigm. These could then be replicated or scaled up in other regions or countries including Africa where rice production and consumption have been steadily increasing.