IYR Concept Paper [summary]
THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF RICE 2004
Mission Statement: The International Year of Rice promotes
improved production and access to this vital food crop, which feeds more than
half the world's population while providing income for millions of rice
producers, processors and traders. Development of sustainable rice-based
systems will reduce hunger and poverty, and contribute to environmental
conservation and a better life for present and future generations.
THE INITIATIVE FOR AN INTERNATIONAL YEAR
OF RICE (IYR) came in 1999, when the International Rice Research Institute -
responding to its members' growing concerns over the serious issues facing rice
development - requested FAO's collaboration in having an IYR declared. This led
to Resolution 2/2001 of the Thirty-First FAO Conference, which requested the
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to declare the IYR. The Philippines,
co-sponsored by 43 countries, submitted this request to the Fifty-Seventh
Session of UNGA, which declared 2004 the IYR on 16 December 2002. The
dedication of an International Year to a single crop was unprecedented in the
history of UNGA. FAO was invited to facilitate IYR implementation in
collaboration with other relevant organizations.
The theme of the IYR - "Rice is life"-
reflects the importance of rice as a primary food source, and is drawn from an
understanding that rice-based systems are essential for food security, poverty
alleviation and improved livelihoods. Rice is the staple food of over half of
the world's population. In Asia alone, more than 2 billion people obtain 60 to
70 percent of their energy intake from rice and its derivatives; it is the most
rapidly growing food source in Africa and is of significant importance to food
security in an increasing number of low-income food-deficit countries.
Rice-based production systems and their associated post-harvest operations
employ nearly 1 billion people in rural areas of developing countries and about
four-fifths of the world's rice is grown by small-scale farmers in low-income
countries. Efficient and productive rice-based systems are therefore essential
to economic development and improved quality of life, particularly in rural
There are about 840 million
undernourished people, including more than 200 million children, in developing
countries. Improving the productivity of rice systems would contribute to
eradicating this unacceptable level of hunger. However, rice production is
facing serious constraints, including declining yield growth rates, natural
resource depletion, labour shortages, gender issues, institutional limitations
and environmental pollution. Enhancing the sustainability and productivity of rice-based
production systems, while protecting and conserving the environment, will
require the commitment of many parts of civil society, as well as government
and inter-governmental action.
Many countries attach great importance
to sustainable rice development, and there are a growing number of global
initiatives aimed at promoting it. These include the Agenda 21 chapter on
Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) approved by 1992 Rio
Summit; the 2002 World Conference on Sustainable Development; the 1996
Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action;
and the United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000. Among the
intergovernmental regulatory instruments that are of key importance for rice
are those related to: food quality (CODEX Alimentarius); climate change; trade,
and non-tariff trade barriers; biological diversity and the safe movement of
modified living organisms; and ensuring equal access to and benefit sharing
from plant genetic resources. Together with the IYR, these initiatives
recognize that, in a world of increasingly interlinked institutions, societies
and economies, it is essential that efforts are coordinated, responsibilities
shared and participation included at all levels, from the local to the international.
"Rice is life": Aspects of rice-based
The IYR envisions rice as the focal
point through which the interdependent relationships among agriculture, food
security, nutrition, agro-biodiversity, the environment, culture, economics,
science, gender and employment can be clearly viewed.
- Rice Production. From its Asian
homeland, rice is now cultivated in 113 countries and on all continents except
Antarctica. It is grown in a wide range of soil moisture regimes, from deep
flood to dryland, and in different soil conditions. Rice plays a variety of
roles that are related to the following important aspects of food security as
well as rural and economic development.
- Nutrition. In the developing world as
a whole, rice provides 27 percent of dietary energy supply and 20 percent of
dietary protein intake.
- Agro-biodiversity. Rice-based systems
are hubs of biodiversity. They combine well with other agricultural production
activities, such as the raising of fish or ducks on waterlogged rice fields,
and the feeding of rice straw to livestock. In turn, ducks and fish feed on
weeds and small aquatic organisms, while livestock help with transportation and
land preparation, as well as providing organic fertilizer. Rice is also grown
together with vegetables and fruit trees such as banana and coconut. Rice
fields also host a wide variety of natural enemies that control harmful insects
and pests. In these ways, rice-based systems provide great opportunities for
improved nutrition, diversified agriculture, increased incomes and the
protection of genetic and agricultural resources.
- Water and land management. Rice is the
only major cereal that can withstand water submergence and rice-based systems
can make productive use of all the available water and land resources.
Terracing allows cultivation on steep slopes, helps prevent soil erosion and
landslides, controls floods, minimizes weed growth and generates water
percolation and groundwater recharge, while submerged conditions enable organic
matter to accumulate in soils.
- Employment and income. Rice
cultivation is the principal activity and source of income for about 100
million households in Asia and Africa, and several countries are highly
dependent on rice as a source of foreign exchange earnings and government
revenue. In addition, the threshing, milling, processing, market transport and
cooking of rice helps support rural livelihoods. Other rural people generate
income from producing, servicing and maintaining tools, implements and
equipment for rice cultivation and post-harvest operations.
- Gender. Women and men often develop
different agricultural expertise and knowledge, and women play important roles
in both rice production and post-harvest activities. However, women have less
access to credit, farm inputs, marketing facilities, extension services and
information, and often miss out on the benefits of improved rice cultivation at
the field level.
- Science. Improved technologies enable
farmers to grow more rice on limited land with reduced need for water, labour
and agro-chemicals. Genomic studies by public and private research laboratories
have resulted in a comprehensive database of rice DNA, which is useful for
breeders in developing rice varieties with higher yield and tolerance to pests
and diseases. These varieties also have greater tolerance to abiotic stresses,
such as drought and salinity, and higher nutritional value. Golden rice, a
product of genetic engineering, has high vitamin content and is being evaluated
by international and national research systems for its biosafety. The
introduction of integrated crop management systems also helps increase
efficiency while reducing production costs and negative environmental impacts.
- Economic policy issues. For many
decades, rice was one of the most heavily protected agricultural commodities.
Since the 1980s, structural adjustment programmes and the 1994 WTO Agreement on
Agriculture have changed this situation, and world rice trade is expanding
strongly. However, urban consumers enjoy most of the benefits (especially lower
rice prices), while small-scale, low-income farmers in developing countries
bear the brunt of change. Developing countries now face the challenge of
reaping the benefits associated with more efficient resource allocation, while
alleviating the plight of small producers.
IYR: Challenges and opportunities
The IYR offers an important opportunity
to use a collective approach towards resolving the increasingly complex issues
that affect the sustainable development of rice and rice-based production
systems. This has important technical, political, economic
and social dimensions, including enhancing the role of rice in meeting human
- Improving food security and nutrition.
Although rice is a rich source of energy and protein, it has an incomplete
amino acid profile and contains limited quantities of essential micronutrients.
Nutrition can be improved by better rice processing and cooking techniques, the
use of rice varieties with high nutritional values, and the fortification of
rice with vitamins and minerals (e.g. through applying food technology). Food
security can be enhanced by promoting complementary crops, livestock and
fisheries activities within rice-based systems. IYR can help countries develop
the infrastructure to support the responsible utilization of biotechnology. It
can also increase awareness of the need to support the diversity of rice
varieties to reduce genetic vulnerability and to enhance both rice productivity
and quality. Diversity in rice-based systems greatly contributes to rural
income and complete nutrition in a more balanced diet.
- Enhancing the productivity of
rice-based systems. Sustainable rice development requires: i) genetic
improvements for higher yield potential, e.g. hybrid rice; ii) better crop
management techniques; iii) reduced post-harvest operations; and iv) the
development of integrated production systems. It also requires improved
national capacity, through training and information exchange, and the
national-level transfer of safety-tested new technologies to the field.
- Managing water resources. There is
growing concern about the sustainability of global water resources. Water
scarcity can be addressed by reducing the quantity of water required (through
developing new rice varieties or improved irrigation systems) or by recycling
water through multiple uses. The cultivation of rice in low-water regimes will
lead to changes in water and nutrient management, cropping patterns and tillage
practices. IYR can help improve understanding of the costs and benefits of
water use in rice-based systems (e.g. the diverse life forms that such systems
sustain). Technological developments and management interventions will also be
- Environmental protection.
Environmental concerns in rice production include indiscriminate use of
pesticides, inefficient use of fertilizers, and emissions of greenhouse gases.
At the same time, rice-based ecosystems host a wealth of biodiversity, and the
majority of the planting material used by poor farmers is derived from seeds
that they produce themselves and that represent generations of local genetic
resources. IYR can spread awareness of the importance of preserving
biogenetic and natural resources and can help stakeholders exchange ideas on
environmental issues, challenges and opportunities.
- Traditional rice-based systems as part
of world heritage. IYR will raise awareness of the importance of benchmark rice-based systems, and will carry out activities to safeguard such systems and
redress their erosion. The inclusion of outstanding rice-based systems in the
multi-stakeholder, multi-agency Globally Important Agricultural Heritage
Systems (GIAHS) Project represents a major opportunity. GIAHS is expected to
lead to the creation of a new World Heritage for Agricultural Heritage Systems
category under the World Heritage Convention.
- The institutional context. More and
expanded partnerships between government and non-governmental (including
private sector) development and agriculture institutions are required in order
to increase farmers' - particularly women farmers' - access to land, credit,
information and new technologies and innovations. This will be a central
challenge in many countries.
- The challenge and opportunity for
synergy. The overall challenge for rice-based systems is to identify and
execute synergetic solutions for rice development, and these are possible only
if decision-makers, technicians, farmers and civil society are well aware of
the many factors related to sustainable rice production. In addition, sound
policies on rice development depend on the harmonization of diverse policy
instruments, which are often under the auspices of different ministries.
IYR aims to be an "information broker" for increasing information exchange,
technology transfer and concrete action among all levels in the rice production
chain and across all nations, for a synergetic approach to rice development and
the improved management of rice-based systems.
A conceptual framework for IYR
The fundamental aim of IYR
implementation is to promote and guide the sustainable development of rice and
rice-based production systems, now and in the future. In order to meet this overarching
goal, the IYR strategy focuses on the following intermediary objectives:
- increasing public awareness of the
contributions that rice-based systems make to food security, better nutrition,
poverty alleviation and livelihood improvement;
- increasing public awareness of the
diversity and complexity of rice-based production systems, and the challenges
and opportunities for their sustainable development;
- promoting and providing technical
support to ensure the sustainable development of rice and rice-based systems at
the global, regional, national and community levels;
- promoting the conservation and
enhancement of rice-based products in order to derive economic, social,
cultural and health benefits for the world's human population.
In achieving its objectives, the IYR is
committed to the following guiding principles:
- a participatory, consultative,
innovative and proactive approach that acknowledges the abilities and
capacities of all stakeholders to make a valuable contribution to enhance the
sustainability of rice-based production systems;
- recognition of the agro-ecological,
socio-economic and cultural differences among rice-based production systems, as
well as of the constraints to their sustainable development in different regions,
countries and communities;
- coordination and harmonization of
efforts, contributions and participation among all stakeholders, through an
This IYR framework will consist of an
organized system of UNGA-nominated partners at the global, regional, national
and local levels. As the nominated lead organization, FAO has established an
IYR Coordination and Implementation Unit to coordinate IYR activities at all
The basis of the IYR implementation
strategy is to engage the entire community in initiating combined and mutually
beneficial actions that address the challenges associated with a sustainable
increase in rice production. This is to be achieved through: data collection
and analysis; information dissemination via the multimedia; national, regional
and global workshops, competitions and exhibitions; case studies; and the
provision of technical support to member countries and farming communities.
Reporting activities are particularly important and will include networking with
stakeholders in order to monitor and advise on their activities, as well as
producing a final report for submission to the Secretary General of the United
Nations and to all stakeholders.
The IYR will establish a framework for
enhancing the sustainable development of rice-based production systems, and
will provide some of the means for achieving this. The IYR will utilize its
resources efficiently by helping to establish and assist national IYR
organizing committees; these committees can continue to develop the IYR vision
beyond the Year. After 2004, FAO will collaborate with partners in establishing
and assisting follow-up activities for medium and long-term sustainable
development of rice-based production systems. Sustainability must continue to
be pursued beyond the IYR.