Rice is life for thousands of millions of people. It is deeply embedded in the cultural heritage of their societies. It is the staple food for more than half of the world population. In Asia alone, more than 2,000 million people obtain 60 to 70 percent of their calories from rice and its products. It is the most rapidly growing source of food 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 1,000 million people in rural areas of developing countries. About 80% of the world's rice is grown by small-scale farmers in low-income and developing countries. It follows that efficient and productive rice-based production systems are essential for economic development and for improved quality of life of much of the world's population.
Improving the productivity of rice systems would contribute to hunger eradication, poverty alleviation, national food security and economic development. According to FAO estimates, there are about 840 million undernourished people, including more than 200 million children, in developing countries. Undernourishment greatly limits development.
However, rice production is facing serious constraints including a declining rate of growth in yields, depletion of natural resources, labour shortages, gender-based conflicts, institutional limitations and environmental pollution. Overcoming hunger, poverty and malnutrition - while protecting the environment - requires collective action by all stakeholders. The diversity of the regions, peoples, and resources connected within the world's rice-based systems, requires a diverse approach for global rice-based development that includes participation from the local to the international level.