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Concept Paper[4]


Rice is Life for major populations of the world and it is deeply embedded in the cultural heritage of societies. Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world population. In Asia alone, more than 2 billion people obtain 60 to 70 percent of their food energy from rice and its derived products. Rice is the most rapidly growing food source in Africa and it 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 a billion people in rural areas in developing countries. About four-fifths 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 to promote economic development and increase quality of life.

It is estimated that there are about 840 million undernourished people, including more than 200 million children, in developing countries. Undernourishment greatly limits development. Improving the productivity of rice systems would contribute to hunger eradication, poverty alleviation, national food security and economic development. However, rice production is facing serious constraints, including a declining yield growth rate, natural resource depletion, labour shortage, gender issues, institutional limitations and environmental pollution. Overcoming hunger, poverty and malnutrition, while protecting the environment, requires collective action by all stakeholders.

The initiative for establishing IYR commenced in 1999 when the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), reflecting the growing concerns of its members over an increasing number of serious issues facing rice research and development, requested and obtained FAO collaboration in having an international year declared. This was pursued by FAO member countries leading to a resolution, adopted at the thirty-first session of the FAO Conference (Resolution 2/2001) requesting the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to declare 2004 as the International Year of Rice. The request, submitted to the UNGA by the Delegation of the Philippines and cosponsored by an additional 43 countries, was considered at the fifty-seventh session, which declared 2004 the International Year of Rice. FAO was invited to facilitate the implementation of IYR in collaboration with other relevant organizations.

The importance that member countries are giving to sustainable rice development is reflected in a growing number of global initiatives. These include those taken at the 1992 Rio Summit and elaborated in Agenda 21's chapter on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD), at the recent World Conference on Sustainable Development, in the Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action, and in the United Nations Millennium Declaration in 1996. These initiatives share a common theme that is central to the declaration of IYR: in a world of increasingly interlinked institutions, societies and economies, coordinated efforts and shared responsibilities are essential.


The UNGA declaration of IYR not only emphasizes the importance of rice, but also points to the importance of agriculture systems as a whole when addressing issues of global concern. Agriculture systems affect and are affected by nearly every aspect of sustainable development. IYR envisions rice as the focal point of a prism through which the intricate and interdependent relationships between agriculture, culture, nutrition, environmental resource management, biodiversity, economic policies, science, gender and labour issues can be viewed clearly.

Rice and culture

Thousands of years ago, people from East to South Asia settled in river deltas and domesticated wild rice. The productivity of wetland rice crops enabled population growth and led to the development of society and civilization. Past and present, the intense labour needed to reclaim land for rice cultivation, to build and maintain the terrace system, or to synchronize the cropping pattern against soil erosion, landslide and flooding, has required villages to work collaboratively. The unifying effect of rice on people is particularly illustrative in the vast Mekong River Delta, where multitudes of different villages with separate cultures joined to tame the land and cultivate their staple crop.

The relationship between rice and people has inspired songs, paintings, stories and other modes of communication. Festivals have been devoted to rice and rice cultivation, such as the well-known Land Opening Festival, which honours the beginning of the rice season in China. Rice was considered divine by many Asian emperors and kings in ancient times. The Japanese, even today, refer to rice as their "mother" and regard rice farmers as the guardian of their culture and the countryside.

Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is now cultivated in 113 countries and on all continents except Antarctica. It is significant that almost every culture has its own way of eating rice and that these different recipes are, in fact, part of the world's cultural heritage. Rice terraces beautify landscapes, and the terraces in Banawe, the Philippines, have been declared a world cultural heritage site by Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Efforts are underway to establish the conservation of other rice-based production systems as world cultural heritage sites.

Rice and nutrition

More than 2 billion people still suffer from micronutrient malnutrition. Although rice provides a substantial amount of dietary energy, it has an incomplete amino acid profile and contains limited amounts of essential micronutrients. Malnutrition reduces children's ability to learn, decreases adult productivity and leads to premature death, particularly among women and children. Nutritional considerations, therefore, are essential to IYR and the concept that Rice is Life.

Rice is the staple food for 17 countries in Asia and the Pacific, eight countries in Africa, seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one in the Near East. When all developing countries are considered together, rice provides 27 percent of dietary energy supply and 20 percent of dietary protein intake. Rice is a crop rich in genetic diversity and the two rice species, Oryza sativa L. (originally from Asia) and O. glaberrima Steud. (originally from West Africa), have spawned thousands of different varieties with different nutritional properties. If better utilized, varieties with higher nutritional value could contribute to reducing the global burden of malnutrition.

Preparation techniques also affect the nutritional value of rice. Most commonly, rice is milled, yielding white rice. While this process reduces cooking time and increases storage life, it also removes a large percentage of many nutrients, including protein, fibre, fat, iron and B vitamins. People in a number of countries parboil rice grains to preserve the nutrients naturally present in rice. Fortification techniques can be used to add essential vitamins and minerals to the grain. Unfortunately, this practice is not widespread in many rice-consuming countries due to limited resources for processing, regulatory control and marketing of fortified foods.

Rice and agrobiodiversity

Rice-based systems support enormous reserves of agrobiodiversity, which serve to safeguard the environment, enhance rural people's livelihoods and enrich their diet. Local people often introduce cultivated plants, domesticated animals and aquaculture into the rice-based system. Fish, frogs, snails, insects and other aquatic organisms derived from these ecosystems help diversify and complete the rural diet. Fisheries are particularly important for poor people, especially the landless, who may earn a modest income from marketing fresh or processed aquatic food and medicinal products.

Various kinds of livestock are supported by rice-based systems. Ducks feed on small fish, other aquatic organisms and weeds within the paddy fields, while buffaloes, cattle, sheep and goats graze on rice straw as their main food source in rice-producing areas. Rice bran, a byproduct of rice milling, and low quality and surplus rice grains provide feed supplementation for livestock. In turn, livestock help farmers with transportation needs and land preparation; for example, livestock waste can be recycled into organic fertilizer.

Rice fields also host a wide variety of natural enemies or predators; they provide a mechanism to control harmful insects and pests, thus reducing the need for pesticides. Similarly, fish feed on weeds and assist in weed control. Plant varieties are used by farmers for food and medicine and as feed for fish and livestock.

The agrobiodiversity within the rice-based system presents great opportunities for improved rural nutrition, increased farmer income through crop diversification, and the protection of a wealth of genetic resources for future generations. It follows that measures must be taken to responsibly manage the land and water resources upon which rice-based systems depend.

Rice and the environment

Water management is a key feature to creating sustainable rice-based production systems, particularly because rice is the only major cereal that can withstand water submergence. However, rice cultivation does not necessarily require water submergence: during the 1990s, about 11 percent of the world's rice harvested areas were upland.

The relationship between rice and water is complex. For example, submerged rice systems enable organic matter to accumulate in soils, creating a nutrient reservoir for plants and animals. These systems also act as a "sponge" or reservoir, capturing carbon in the atmosphere. However, the continuous flooding of rice fields without an adequate drying period has negative environmental effects, such as a slowed rate of soil decomposition, salinity build-up and waterlogging. In addition, the standing water in rice-based systems provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which carry diseases such as malaria. At the same time, this very same water presence supports natural predators for mosquitoes (the malaria carriers) together with a wealth of biodiversity that helps to enhance farmers' livelihoods.

While upland systems use less freshwater resources than submerged rice systems, they also support less agrobiodiversity. Therefore, actions to convert submerged rice paddies into systems requiring less water need to realistically account for the multiple benefits and uses associated with rice-based water use.

Rice, employment and income

There is a strong relationship between rice production and local livelihoods. Rice is often the main source of employment, income and nutrition in many poor, food-insecure regions of the world. In South Asia, where 530 million people live on less than US$1 a day, the calories supplied by rice account for about 60 to 70 percent of the total food intake. Rice cultivation is the principal activity and source of income for about 100 million households in Asia and Africa. Post-harvest activities employ a large share of the total labour force in Southeast Asia. Several countries are also highly dependent on rice as a source of foreign exchange earnings and government revenue.

Although global per caput demand for rice is declining, rice demand as a whole will continue to expand due to population growth and increasing consumption patterns in different regions, including Africa. In the past two decades, international rice prices have followed a marked declining trend, both historically and in relation to other cereals. This tendency has been fostered by technical improvements, resulting in a lower production cost per unit and sizeable gains in global production during the late 1990s. For many small farmers, the plunge in rice prices has seriously undermined household food security, encouraging migration from rural to urban areas. Rice farmers are also exposed to high degrees of risk due to the vagaries of weather and price fluctuations. Given the direct relationship between the rice market and rural livelihoods, many governments intervene and play an active role in domestic rice price stabilization.

Rice and post-harvest production activities

Post-harvest rice activities support the livelihoods of more people than does rice cultivation itself. The term, "post-harvest activities", refers to the series of processes "from the floor to the fork", including threshing, milling, processing, market transport and cooking. Although much progress has been made in the prevention of post-harvest losses in rice, rice losses average between 15 and 16 percent in developing countries. These rice losses are significant during critical operations such as drying, storage and milling. The principal reasons for these losses are poverty, insufficient or scarce access to technical information, and lack of access to appropriate technologies.

Rice is Life not only because of the food provided by its grains, but also because of the contribution of various parts of the rice plant to human life. For example, rice straw has been used as roofing material. The production, servicing and maintenance of tools, implements and equipment for harvest and post-harvest operations have created additional sources of employment for rural populations, while the trading of rice tools has supported the development of many manufacturing industries.

Gender in rice farming systems

Women and smallholder farmers play an important role in both rice production and post-harvest activities, yet they often do not receive proportionate social and economic benefits when improvements in rice cultivation are initiated at field level. Women often encounter more limitations than men regarding access to critical productive resources and services or when trying to access credit, farm inputs, marketing facilities, extension services and information. Furthermore, members of smallholder farming households, in particular women, children, the elderly and people afflicted by illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, may have information needs which differ from those provided by current extension services.

National laws may give men and women equal rights to land, but in practice this is not always the case. Real strides in poverty alleviation and improved livelihoods cannot be achieved if the female portion of the population is left behind. For this reason, there is a need to increase awareness of women's work in rice fields and to also increase women's access to information on improved crop production techniques. Finally, there is an urgent need for equitable land and resource policies at national level, with corresponding enforcement, to ensure that women are in a position to benefit from improvements in rice-based systems.

Rice and science

Science can help solve the riddle posed by a growing rice-consuming population with access to diminishing land and water resources. In recent decades, the increasing demand for rice has been met mainly through the yield-enhancing measures of the Green Revolution in the 1970s, which introduced improved rice varieties and improved production technologies. In recent years, however, the return on these technologies has levelled off and experts have identified negative side effects, such as increased resistance to pests over time and decreased biodiversity.

Research is now focused on creating improved technologies that enable farmers to grow more rice on limited land with less water and labour and fewer pesticides, thus reducing damage to the environment. There are new rice varieties under development that exhibit enhanced nutritional value, minimize post-harvest losses and have increased resistance to drought and pests. Recent advances in hybrid rice and New Rice for Africa (NERICA) are just two examples of the contributions of science to rice development. Partnerships between Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres, National Agricultural Research Systems and the private sector, especially in the area of modern biotechnology, should be strengthened to improve rice quality, productivity and efficiency in rice production.

Economic policy issues

With few exceptions, major rice-producing countries are also large rice-consuming countries. Governments are often confronted with the dilemma of keeping prices low for poor consumers but attractive to producers. Traditionally, the need to resolve these conflicting interests has led to a large degree of government intervention in the sector, making rice one of the most heavily protected and subsidized agricultural commodities. This high level of protection has contributed to the low level of international trade in rice, which currently accounts for only 4 to 6 percent of global production, compared with about 12 percent for maize and 18 percent for wheat.

This situation began to change in the 1980s, with the implementation of structural adjustment programmes and, in 1994, with the World Trade Organization Agreement on Agriculture, which provided the basis for reduced government intervention and trade liberalization. Consequently, world trade in rice is expanding greatly, with a growing number of countries relying on imports to meet their domestic needs, especially in Africa. While the benefits of opening to trade have accrued mainly for urban consumers by enabling them to buy rice at lower prices, most of the brunt has been borne by the small, poor farmers in developing countries. Developing countries are now confronted with the challenge of keeping abreast of the trade liberalization momentum, while also providing some alleviation to the plight of small producers.


IYR aims to confront the many issues associated with rice-based systems in a global, coordinated framework in order to positively harness the potential of properly managed rice-based systems. The following discussion examines the facets of the rice prism to identify the size of the challenges and the opportunities for synthetic solutions that benefit rice-based systems as a whole.

Improving nutrition and food security

IYR can help increase dietary diversification through the promotion of complementary crops and livestock or fisheries activities within the rice-based system. This will enhance household food security through improving producer income and by adding essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals to the diet.

Another strategy for improved nutrition is to improve processing techniques and the nutrient content of the varieties produced. As new food technologies, such as biotechnology, come to the fore, consumers and producers must be better informed of their potential benefits, risks and limitations. IYR can help nations develop the infrastructure to support and regulate these advances.

Managing water resources in rice ecologies

There is growing concern for the sustainability of global freshwater resources. At present, there are two main approaches for rationalizing water scarcity within rice-based systems. The first approach aims to reduce the amount of water required for cultivation. It includes the development of rice varieties that are better suited to dry soils (such as aerobic rice varieties), introducing intermittent and improved irrigation systems and strengthening management practices. The second approach focuses on justifying water use by employing each drop of water for multiple uses - one example being the concurrent use of water for both irrigation and aquaculture. It emphasizes that water management techniques must be introduced consistently with the system so that water savings at field level do not deprive other existing uses.

IYR can help raise awareness among the many beneficiaries of water in rice fields, for example, with regard to the diversity of life forms that are sustained within the rice-based system, while at the same time promoting the development of rice cultivation in low water regimes.

Environmental protection

There are a growing number of environmental concerns in rice production. The indiscriminate use of pesticides and inefficient use of fertilizers need to be confronted, as do the emissions of greenhouse gases. Air, water and soil pollution exerts immense pressure on the terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity in rice-based ecosystems.

Environmental resource protection is of increasing public concern and has been reflected in a growing number of international agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The attention being given to protecting the environment must be channelled into action complying with these agreements using an ecosystem approach that considers all the various issues related to rice development and the complexity of rice-based agro-ecosystems. IYR will help to exchange concrete ideas concerning these environmental issues and related challenges and opportunities among the various stakeholders.

Enhancing productivity: New technologies with the efficient use of resources

Closing the yield gap: Improving crop management techniques

Most existing rice varieties, and particularly high-yielding varieties (HYVs) and hybrids, have a potential yield that exceeds actual yield. Furthermore, there is considerable variation in the actual yield levels achieved even under similar production systems. The gap reflects numerous deficiencies arising primarily from inadequate crop, nutrient and water management practices. Improved crop management technologies are available but many have not been widely introduced, tested or modified to suit local conditions. Methods for improving technology transfer include innovative means for sharing and exchanging knowledge and technology among research institutions and providing services to growers without large public sector support; successful examples (e.g. farmer field schools) exist and can be more widely promoted. However, the institutions providing support, especially the extension agents at local level, have limited funding and inadequately trained staff.

Soil-nutrient management is also an important aspect of improving crop management techniques for enhanced productivity, through the adoption of nutrient-efficient rice varieties, improved nitrogen placement methods and the use of appropriate diagnostic tools. Integrated management of pests, weeds and diseases in rice production, with the use of a combination of resistant varieties, natural enemies, good agronomic practices and the timely application of appropriate dosages of pesticides, has proven more economically and environmentally sound. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) promotes the development of agricultural biodiversity in rice fields. These management techniques can be achieved by improving the flow of information from agricultural research institutions to the farmers.

It follows that crop management limitations are interlinked and require a fully integrated system approach, known as Rice Integrated Crop Management (RICM), which holistically combines variety, soil and water, nutrient, pest and other crop management practices for optimum economic efficiency and environmental sustainability. IYR can help promote information exchange and the use of the RICM approach for "good agriculture practices", a term that encompasses the concept of using inputs more efficiently for increased productivity and economic return. It ensures that environmental and social aspects are taken into consideration at each decision point in the production chain.

The systems approach to post-harvest operations

The post-production system for rice has become a stimulus for growth with the introduction of high-yielding varieties of rice and improved crop management. Small-scale rice producers dominate production systems in the low-income countries and require considerable help to keep abreast of changing technological and economic innovation in order to remain competitive. IYR can increase awareness of the importance of improving information mechanisms from the national level to the local level through "training and extension" services. In particular, IYR can emphasize the importance of "adding value" to rice products, a term that refers to processing activities that strategically use all parts of the harvest for economic return. For example, the polishing process results in a low-value broken rice, which can be transformed into rice flour. This product can then be transformed into high-value rice pellets to feed fish or into rice noodles (for human consumption), thus increasing farmer income and livelihood.

Harnessing science: Development, safety assessment and technology transfer

High-yielding rice varieties, hybrid rice and the recently developed NERICA rice are available to achieve higher or more stable productivity in different ecological zones. Though science has the potential to positively address almost every aspect of "Rice is Life", there continue to be a number of challenges confronting the scientific community working on varietal improvements, which must be considered in a more long-term perspective. Still, opportunities do exist for facing these challenges. Raising the yield ceiling can be achieved by adopting a redesigned rice plant with improved yield potential and through the development of hybrid rice for the tropics. For example, international research institutions collaborating with national institutions can bring a broader approach to confronting genetic uniformity and erosion leading to an end product that is highly vulnerable to major biological attack, as well as encouraging the adoption of varieties with greater nutritional quality and the integration of varieties requiring less water and fertilizer in rice-based production systems. Collaboration amongst these institutions and with other stakeholders also has an important role in promoting a scientific understanding of biotechnology developments. Biotechnology research can help scientists to understand the traits in new rice varieties that confer resistance, stabilize yields and help sustainable rice production.

The successful mapping of the rice genome in 2002 has further increased the potential for scientific development. Through genetic alteration, the yield potential of rice could increase, while disease, weed and pest resistance and tolerance to drought and salinity could be achieved without harming the environment. However, these opportunities create new imperatives for biosafety, field-testing and capacity-building within nations to ensure that the new innovations benefit local people and do not incur long-term costs to the environment. IYR presents an opportunity for developing countries to acquire assistance to increase capacity-building and establish biosafety regulations, as recommended during the twentieth session of the International Rice Commission, held in Bangkok in 2002.

Rice in the institutional context

In the wake of reduced capacity in national agricultural research and extension, non-governmental development partners, including civil society organizations and the private sector, have, in some cases, begun to work with governments on sustainable agriculture and rural development. Good examples of such partnerships can be found within the context of smallholder rice, such as the expansion of NGO-facilitated farmer field schools on integrated production and protection management programmes throughout Asia and, more recently, in Africa. More partnerships are required, however, to increase farmer access, particularly among women, to land, to credit for investment in resources and to new technologies and innovations. The expansion and widening of partnerships, also in the private sector, will be a major challenge in many countries.

Intergovernmental regulatory instruments affecting agriculture are becoming more prominent and of key importance for major crops such as rice; for example, the negotiations related to food quality, climate change, trade including non-tariff trade barriers, biological diversity and related issues of safe movement of modified living organisms, as well as the recent treaty on plant genetic resources to assure equal access and benefit-sharing, all affect crops like rice.


The fundamental objective of IYR implementation is to promote and help guide the efficient and sustainable development of rice and rice-based production systems now and in the future. In order to meet this overarching goal, the IYR strategy will focus on the following intermediary objectives:

In achieving its objectives, IYR is committed to a participatory, consultative, innovative and pro-active approach, which acknowledges the ability and capacity of all stakeholders at all levels. In order to synchronize IYR efforts at global, regional, national and local level, the Year will be implemented within an IYR framework. As the nominated lead organization for IYR, FAO has established an IYR Coordination and Implementation Unit to help coordinate activities within the IYR framework at all levels.

At global level, coordination of the IYR activities will be the responsibility of an Informal International Working Group, established at the Informal International Planning and Coordination Meeting for IYR.[5] Daily management will be undertaken by the Secretariat of the International Rice Commission, hosted by the Crop and Grassland Service at FAO.

The need for all stakeholders to work together for sustainable rice development was expressly acknowledged by the UNGA when it nominated the following major partners to work together for IYR:

The IYR strategy

The basis of the IYR implementation strategy is to engage the entire community in initiating combined and mutually beneficial actions for facing the challenges associated with a sustainable increase in rice production. This is to be achieved through the following activities:

Given that IYR is a global awareness and action campaign, reporting activities are necessary to increase awareness of successful IYR initiatives, and they shall accompany all of the actions listed above. A final report on the activities and achievements of IYR will be prepared by FAO in collaboration with the Informal International Working Group, for submission to the Secretary-General of the UN and to all stakeholders. In addition to reporting on the outcome of IYR, the document will also identify priority areas for follow-up activities beyond 2004.

In order to make IYR activities a success, adequate funding is essential. FAO will contribute considerable human resources from Headquarters and its decentralized regional, subregional and country offices. However, voluntary contributions from a wide range of sources will be necessary to implement the activities envisaged for IYR. To meet these requirements, FAO proposes to establish a Trust Fund for IYR covering the period from 2003 to 2005. The IYR strategy will make efficient use of its resources by using IYR funds to help establish and inform national organizing committees for IYR; these committees can continue to develop the vision of IYR beyond 2004.

Expected outputs

IYR 2004 is not simply a one-year effort, to be forgotten in 2005. Therefore the IYR strategy is to employ the Year as a catalyst for information exchange and the initiation of medium- and long-term programmes for sustainable rice development. For this reason, the establishment of IYR committees at national and regional level is an essential aspect of the Year and FAO places particular emphasis on supporting the formulation of national programmes and development strategies for the medium and long term.

Global outputs

1. Publication of information on existing and planned international activities leading to scientific and economic contributions to efficient and sustainable rice development approaches and practices.

2. Transfer of successful economic and technology methods at national and local level.

3. Dialogue and demonstration at international level contributing to heightened awareness of the importance and linkages of international inputs to the development efforts.

4. Strengthened communication networks between global partners and those at other levels.

5. Adoption of approaches for strengthening the linkage between research and development projects and activities at global level and those at regional, national and local level.

6. Global recognition and improved understanding of outstanding rice-based agricultural heritage systems.

Regional outputs

1. Contributions to regional conferences, consultations and meetings to improve awareness of challenges and opportunities relating to the sustainable development of rice and rice-based production systems.

2. Enhancement of communication and networking systems for linking IYR partners both within and outside the region and at all other levels.

3. Regional initiatives and activities contributing to the sustainable development of rice-based production systems.

National outputs

1. Publication of guidelines and approaches for national policies for the sustainable development of rice and rice-based production systems and examples of their successful implementation.

2. Development and issue of educational and training material on IYR-related issues in appropriate formats for distribution to educational, vocational training and technical institutions and made available to all partners.

3. Establishment of networking mechanisms for information dissemination and for monitoring of the implementation of activities for the sustainable development of rice-based production systems.

4. Formulation and initiation of national projects for implementing policies and programmes required for the sustainable development of rice and rice-based production systems within the national agricultural development context.

Community outputs

1. Design and implementation of programmes for strengthening linkages between partners at local level.

2. Development and implementation of networking between local, national, regional and international partners.

3. Establishment of mechanisms to ensure local empowerment and participatory approaches in resource use and general rice development decisions.

Beyond 2004

IYR will establish a framework for enhancing the sustainable development of rice-based production systems and will provide some of the means for achieving sustainability. However, sustainability must be rigorously pursued following the conclusion of IYR. When reporting on activities and observance of the International Year of Rice, proposals that highlight priorities, make use of lessons learned and garner support for future action at all levels will be presented. Following the observance of IYR in 2004, FAO will collaborate with partners in establishing and providing assistance for follow-up activities.


The UNGA decision to observe an International Year of Rice is timely, offering an important opportunity to use a collective approach to resolve the increasingly complex sustainable development of rice and rice-based production systems, which have important technical, political, economic and social dimensions. Rice is the staple food of more than half the world population, particularly in developing countries. Numerous rice recipes, uses and products illustrate the international appeal and cultural significance of the food. By-products of rice are fed to livestock, fish, other aquatic organisms and wildlife. Rice and rice by-products are the starting point in many food chains leading to daily food on the table. Rice cultivation and post-harvest activities provide employment to several hundred million people in low-income countries; thus, improvements in rice-based production systems are closely linked to poverty alleviation. Rice and rice-based production systems maintain water, assist in land reclamation, provide a habitat for fish, livestock, beneficial insects and wildlife, help reduce soil erosion, aid in carbon sequestration, and their natural beauty can be harnessed for economic initiatives related to ecotourism and cultural awareness. The complexity, diversity and utility of rice-based ecosystems underscore the need for a coordinated, international approach to sustainable rice development. The mission of the Year is to achieve a more sustainable increase in rice production, leading to less hunger, better nutrition, less poverty and a better life.

Meeting of the Steering Committee of the International Rice Commission

The Meeting of the Steering Committee of the International Rice Commission (IRC) took place at FAO on 17 January 2003 with Ms Louise Fresco, Assistant Director-General/Agriculture Department, 23 participants from the Committee's members and guests from the Office of Director/Library and Documentation Systems Division, the Office of Assistant Director-General/ Agriculture Department, the Office for Coordination of Normative, Operational and Decentralized Activities, the News and Multimedia Service, and the Management and Coordination Service of the Special Programme for Food Security. Mr M. Solh, Director, Plant Production and Protection Division, and Chairperson of the IRC Steering Committee, welcomed the participants and informed them that on 16 December 2002 the UN General Assembly declared 2004 the International Year of Rice (IYR), requesting FAO, in collaboration with stakeholders, in particular the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres, to facilitate the implementation of IYR. The objective of the meeting was to discuss and plan the activities for the organization of IYR. Ms L. Fresco was requested to provide opening remarks and guidance for the discussion.


Ms L. Fresco stated that rice contributes to many aspects of society and could, therefore, be considered a crystal or a prism through which to look at the complexities of sustainable agriculture and food systems. Rice should not be looked at in isolation but in the framework of agricultural production through ecological and integrated systems. Major issues confronting rice and directly affecting rice production are listed below:

It is important for the Steering Committee and invited guests to discuss and agree on the expected outputs of IYR and to be clear on what is to be achieved through IYR. There is a need for the Steering Committee:

As the Agriculture Department recognizes the funding requirements for IYR activities, Ms Fresco advised the Steering Committee to prepare a Trust Fund project for extra-budgetary funding. She informed the meeting that an initial undertaking by the Agriculture Department indicated possible extra-budgetary funding support for IYR, but more efforts are still needed.


Mr Tran, Executive Secretary of the IRC, presented the background to and the reasons for the declaration of IYR. Work on IYR began in June 1999 when Mr R. Cantrell, Director-General of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), sent a letter to the Director-General of FAO requesting collaboration between FAO and IRRI for the declaration of an International Year of Rice. From 1999 to 2002, a number of actions were undertaken by the IRC Secretariat and member countries leading to the resolution of the thirty-first session of the FAO Conference in 2001, and the approval by the fifty-seventh session of the UN General Assembly of the resolution in 2002 to declare 2004 the International Year of Rice, as submitted by the Delegation of the Philippines.

He presented the pertinent issues and major challenges of sustainable rice production and proposed the following general objectives of IYR:


Mr D. McGuire, Senior Officer in the Forest Conservation, Research and Education Service, presented the experiences gained from the International Year of the Mountains (IYM) 2002, comprising Goal, Objectives, FAO Responsibilities and Actions, Results, Beyond 2002 and Next Steps.

He reported that the achievements were possible by major funding support from the Regular Programme and Trust Funds totalling more than US$1.5 million and by a strong team comprising four full-time professional officers and one full-time secretary, as well as several part-time consultants. At any given time, there were more than ten staff members involved in the preparation and organization of the IYM. Funding support was also given to the National Organizing Committees (about US$5 000 per committee).


The draft Road Map prepared by the Secretariat of the International Rice Commission was distributed as a guide for discussion and improvement. The membership list of and the Terms of Reference for the FAO Organizing Committee were approved (see Annex).


The meeting proposed the following measures to support the IYR activities:

The Chairperson thanked the participants and requested the continued support of and contributions to IYR from the technical units of FAO. He requested that members of the Steering Committee send the IRC Secretariat contributions and suggestions made during the meeting.


FAO Organizing Committee for the
International Year of Rice 2004


Agriculture Department:

AGP - Secretariat of the International Rice Commission
M. Solh - Chairperson
E.A. Kueneman (Production)
D.V. Tran - Secretary

AGLW: D. Renault (Water Management)
AGST: F. Mejia (Post-Harvest)
AGAP: M. Sanchez (Animal Production)

Sustainable Development Department:

SDAR: E. Crowley (Rural Poverty Alleviation)
SDRR: I. H. Mwandemere (Agricultural Research)
SDRE: K. Qamar (Agricultural Extension)
SDWW: R. Laub (Gender Issues)

Economic and Social Department:

ESCB: C. Calpe (Rice Trade)
ESNA: P. Shetty/G. Kennedy (Nutrition)

Fisheries Department:

FIRI: M. Halwart/I. Fleischer (Fisheries)

General Affairs and Information Department:

GIIM: J. Riddle (Communication)

Technical Cooperation Department:

TCDS: L. Sonn/A. Tanyeri-Abur (Partnership)

Terms of Reference

1. Finalize the Work Plan or Road Map of IYR 2004.

2. Periodically review the progress and constraints of the implementation of the preparation for the organization of IYR and provide recommendations for improvement.

3. Contribute to the preparation of the Concept Document of IYR 2004.

4. Participate in the identification/preparation of the themes, guidelines and mechanisms for the Global Contest on Rice.

5. Contribute to the identification of the members of the Panel of Judges for the Global Contest on Rice.

6. Participate in the identification of the theme and programme for the International Symposium on IYR to be held in 2004.

7. Develop a detailed communication plan.

8. Promote publicity and media communication on the International Year of Rice.

9. Report to the Steering Committee of the International Rice Commission.

Informal International Planning and Coordination Meeting

The Informal International Planning and Coordination Meeting for the International Year of Rice 2004 was held at FAO on 6-7 March 2003. It was called for by FAO to bring together major stakeholders concerned with rice production in order to promote concentrated efforts in planning and coordination for the implementation of the International Year of Rice (IYR). The meeting was attended by 70 participants, including country representatives from Brazil, the People's Republic of China, Egypt, France (CIRAD, International Cooperation Centre of Agricultural Research for Development), Indonesia, India, Japan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United States of America and Viet Nam. A representative from the European Union also attended. There were representatives from international organizations and agencies, in addition to FAO itself, including the Global Forum of Agricultural Research (GFAR), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres: the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT/FLAR), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA). These organizations come from a broad spectrum of stakeholders from the UN system, international partners, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector. Representatives from Italy and additional NGOs and private organizations were invited and, although unable to attend, they will continue to be included in future IYR efforts. The meeting was chaired by Mahmoud Solh, Director of the Plant Production and Protection Division of FAO and Chairperson of the International Rice Commission Steering Committee.


1. The meeting resulted in the establishment of an Informal International Working Group for the implementation of IYR, with representation from the following member countries: Brazil, China, Egypt, France (CIRAD), India, Indonesia, Japan, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United States of America and Viet Nam, in addition to the European Union. It would also include the following organizations and agencies: FAO, UNDP, CGIAR centres (IRRI, WARDA, CIAT/FLAR, IFPRI and IPGRI), TAC, IFAD and GFAR; NGOs (IFAP); and the private sector (IAFN). The membership and terms of reference of the Informal International Working Group are presented in the Annex.

2. The consensus was that IYR would provide a platform for information on how aspects of production, sustainability, environmental management, livelihood enhancement, nutrition, and social and economic dimensions relate to food and rice-based production systems as a whole.

3. Approaching rice production within an integrated framework is a major focus of the IYR global awareness campaign. The Year is envisioned not only as a celebration, but as a platform to initiate medium-term and long-term actions on research and development to improve livelihoods and produce tangible effects at national, regional and international level.

4. IYR is an opportunity to confirm commitments to promote sustainable development for rice-based production systems through partnerships. It acknowledges that the principles of equality, interdisciplinarity, mutual benefit and joint ownership are pivotal to the success of the Year.

5. Based on presentations and discussions during the meeting, participants finalized the IYR Road Map, which may be revised further based on developments and initiatives from various stakeholders. The Road Map reflects the development of a shared vision of IYR activities and their implementation among stakeholders from member countries, international organizations and partnerships, NGOs, civil society organizations and the private sector.

6. The meeting generated discussion for guidance in improving the Concept Paper. Participants agreed to send additional comments and contributions for finalizing the Concept Paper by the end of March and agreed that the paper should be finalized in early April.

7. Meeting delegates reached a consensus that the official IYR slogan is "Rice is Life." According to all delegates, the slogan met the requirement that it has a broad enough meaning to encompass the entire scope of the IYR vision because the verb "is" implies that rice is a way of life, addressing the cultural aspect of the year. Sub-slogans were also identified for varying aspects of rice production and cultural significance: "Rise with Rice" for economics and livelihoods, "Save Rice, Save Life" for consumer awareness, "Beyond Rice" for sustainable development and "Seven Arts and Rice" for rice and culture.

8. Participants emphasized the importance of involving civil society, NGOs and the private sector in the IYR effort in order to improve the livelihood of farmers and the landless poor. Participants emphasized that the private sector includes farmers as important stakeholders, and is not limited to large corporations only.

9. FAO will administer a "Global Contest on Rice", to include three international components:

At national level, FAO will work closely with member countries on a contest for farmers and farmer associations as well as contests that engage children for curriculum enrichment. Terms of Reference will be designed for each contest (see Future Actions and Recommendations, p. 33 below).

10. The rice-based production system does not only regard rice, but a diverse and integral production system that supports other important crops, fish species and livestock. Furthermore, rice production ecology is highly diverse, including irrigated farming, upland rice, rainfed farming and tree crop-rice systems. Each system has its own features and presents specific challenges. The Year of Freshwater is a key component towards pursuing an IYR strategy founded upon "rice as a system" instead of "rice as a single commodity".

11. The importance of rice and culture was repeatedly raised. Ideas for rice festivals, rice museum displays, rice garden exhibitions, culinary feasts, rice icons and popular personalities, rice in canvas, rice in the seven arts, rice in music and dance and rice cultural publications were presented.

12. The need to preserve biodiversity and wild rices and to document their history was highlighted as important, not only for biosafety, but for preserving traditional cultural heritage.

13. Major technical, socio-economic and environmental constraints of rice production were identified, such as poor rural infrastructure, high input costs and economic polices that lead to low rice prices. These constraints require appropriate policies if sustainable rice production is to be attained. The upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations were mentioned as potentially pivotal for the IYR 2004 efforts in policy reform.

14. Synchronized efforts can help overcome production constraints and help meet IYR goals. Many nations have already established national committees to celebrate IYR and have initiated campaigns to reduce post-harvest losses and support national seed development centres. Participants emphasized the importance of harmonizing these programmes with IYR activities, including the adaptation of existing print material on rice for IYR purposes.

15. Child labour is a delicate issue, as family labour is intertwined within the culture of rice, it strengthens family bonds and increases income. However, participants agreed that child labour must not jeopardize the youth's ability to go to school and help the community progress in the long term.

16. Environmental issues with respect to rice production are greatly variable. Paddies have an important and beneficial role in maintaining water for aquatic life and fish production, they prevent sea water intrusion which can cause serious salinity problems (e.g. the Egyptian delta) and create beautiful scenery. Negative environmental impacts include water pollution, greenhouse gas emission and pollution associated with excessive pesticide use and agrochemicals. Environmental issues are both positive and negative, and IYR will give particular attention to the negative dimension.

17. Participants noted that biotechnology is an innovative approach to poverty alleviation, and that research in genomics could assist efforts to produce high-yielding rice varieties. IYR must promote advanced science, including biotechnology, and the responsible application of its tools and products.

18. Participants emphasized the need to create public awareness publications and to tailor information to clearly identified target audiences (policy-makers, lay people etc.) in the IYR approach.

19. Participants established that between May and June the Road Map and major documents should be published in the five official UN languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish. CIAT offered to translate documents into Spanish, IRRI into Chinese, CIRAD into French, FAO Headquarters into English and the Egyptian delegation offered to translate documents into Arabic. All countries were strongly encouraged to translate documents into their native languages.


1. Recommendations on national, regional and global activities were clearly outlined in the proposed Road Map.

2. A communications strategy must be developed by 30 April 2003, as communication is the most important and pressing need for IYR 2004.

3. Options for the logo must be developed and circulated among the Informal International Working Group to select the most appropriate design for the international community. It was stressed that the logo must have global appeal and be comprehensible to a target audience comprising lay people, farmers, major stakeholders, international organizations and civil society in general.

4. It was recommended that FAO adopt the theme, "Rice is Life", for World Food Day, in reflection of the UNGA Declaration of IYR 2004. This day could also be used to announce the winners of the Global Contest on Rice.

5. The development of a Web site proposal was identified as an urgent step for IYR, to be reviewed in March with the aim of having a final product by April.

6. "Rice and Culture" was identified as a key aspect of IYR. The IYR Coordination Unit should seek cooperation with Unesco.

7. Participants highlighted the need to create mechanisms, such as national and regional projects within IYR, which ensure that farmers and the world's poorest directly benefit from IYR implementation, and that local people will therefore have a personal investment in continuing the efforts of IYR beyond 2004.

8. Participants recommended the launch of national level education programmes on rice and sustainable food systems. Rice curricula could include components on: rice production and the role of rice fields for terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity; the integrated system approach to rice production management; the environment; nutrition; value-added products; practical arts; and field tours so that urban youth can see the source of their staple food.

9. The need for distinguished personalities and celebrities to act as ambassadors for the year was stressed. It was recommended that all stakeholders contribute to the selection and nomination of personalities, such as the princess of Thailand, a member of the Japanese royal family, or the president of India. Furthermore, it was recommended that campaigns with the reputable mass media be pursued.

10. IYR celebration at national level should include partnerships among policy-makers, national agricultural research systems, universities and NGOs, in addition to the private sector/chamber of commerce and consumers and processors. Awareness-raising options should include radio and television announcements, posters, fliers and the establishment of an agri-communications unit for rural areas, field trips and discussion groups.

11. It was recommended that IYR attract the attention of governments by providing awareness-raising information regarding the link between rice production and national concerns, such as food security, poverty alleviation and higher income in rural communities. A key to capturing the attention of government audiences is the creation of national-level information on pests, local varieties and cropping systems, combined with information on livestock and fisheries, which would promote the diversification of rice-based production systems.

12. It was decided that FAO would develop the Terms of Reference and contest guidelines for the Global Contests on Rice.

13. Concerted efforts must be made to obtain external funds for the implementation of the IYR Road Map as soon as possible.


Informal International Working Group for
Coordinating the IYR activities



Australia,* Brazil, China, Egypt, France (CIRAD), India, Indonesia, Italy,* Japan, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, United States of America and Viet Nam, in addition to the European Union.


Private sector: IAFN

Terms of Reference

1. Promote guidance towards finalization of the Road Map and proposed activities.

2. Contribute to the improvement of the draft Concept Paper for IYR.

3. Coordinate and facilitate the implementation of IYR activities at country, regional and international level.

4. Promote awareness of all stakeholders in the interested countries/regions.

5. Periodically review the progress of global implementation of IYR and provide recommendations for improvement.

6. Take concerted action to organize the International Symposium and Regional Meetings on Rice and Related Issues in early 2004 for observing IYR.

7. Contribute to the planning and organization of a Global Contest.

8. Facilitate technical backstopping to the formulation and implementation of rice projects/programmes at community and national level, where appropriate, in the spirit of IYR.

* New members of the Informal International Working Group on IYR after the meeting.

Summary of progress in preparation[6]




[4] Excerpted from the full version of the Concept Paper for the International Year of Rice.
[5] See article on p. 31.
[6] 31 October 2003.

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