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Theme 6: Supporting the Growth of the Global Rice Sector 

Overview

Rationale and objective

GRiSP aims to achieve large-scale productivity increases in rice, reduce poverty, improve environmental sustainability, and make gains in global, regional, national, and household food security. Regionally, links between research and development investments are often weak. As a result, opportunities for large-scale exposure of farming and agribusiness communities to new rice technologies and management principles (such as knowledge of insect cycles, plant nutrients, weed flora, collective decision-making, seasonal work plans and budgets, etc.) are missed. The recent GCARD consultations highlighted the prevailing divide between research and extension. New technologies and principles that have met with strong farmer acceptance in participatory research networks are often not scaled up and out sufficiently to reach millions of farmers and others in the rice value chain. 
Diverse learning, innovation, and dissemination approaches, through multiple actors and pathways, are imperative to cater to the varying institutional and biophysical environments and specific approaches needed for particular technologies. Actors and pathways for disseminating a new rice variety, for example, are different from those required for a water-saving technology. The diversity and complexity of rainfed environments in Africa or Asia will often require greater farmer participation in technology adaptation than in the more homogeneous irrigated systems. The best ways to reach poorer households, women, or disadvantaged groups are highly location-specific. Innovations in information and communication technologies (ICT) provide opportunities for large-scale dissemination of information to overcome prevailing weaknesses in public and private extension systems, NGOs, and farmer associations. The objective of this theme is to support the growth of the global rice sector through better linkages (feedback loops) between research networks and development initiatives in the public sector, civil society, and the private sector. 

Research approach

The facilitation of large-scale testing, adaptation, and adoption by farmers of rice technologies and agroecological and socioeconomic principles requires that international and national research centers connect to a much larger number of farmers, using existing networks and new partnership models (Box 16). This type of “last-mile delivery” effort is likely to vary in form and scale according to regional, national, and local differences and it needs to be inclusive of poorer households and women. International centers will also need to build better in-house and partner capacity to link to major regional and national investment efforts that aim to boost the rice sector, and use innovative communication technologies to support and strengthen extension capacity. 
    The independence and interdependence of networks and individual stakeholders (comprising the private sector, public sector, and civil society) are recognized. At the same time, facilitating the establishment of learning alliances between such networks and stakeholders (within-country, regionally, and globally) will nurture innovation and provide a critical voice and momentum to efforts to increase production and productivity of the rice sector in a sustainable manner. Such learning alliances will facilitate learning across the four regions (Africa, Southeast and East Asia, South Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean). Approaches learned in one region may have important implications in another region. An example is the FLAR Agronomy Program in LAC for FLAR—a south-south public-private partnership for irrigated rice production.
    In addition, strengthening links to FAO in its global commitment to ICT for agriculture and extension capacity development will enhance the impact of GRiSP.  In a similar way, CABI, with its strong commitment to plant health, will become a partner at the global level. The innovations in value-chain development and training expertise at the regional level of ICRA, in its partnership with AfricaRice, will bring lessons learned to other regions. Learning is expected to have a catalytic effect through more effective private-public and public–civil society partnerships. Finally, learning alliances will ensure strong inclusion of small and marginal farmers, and women, as direct beneficiaries, as illustrated, for example, by the participatory learning and action research (PLAR) approach developed by AfricaRice. 
    Civil society partners such as CRS with its experience in targeting poorer households, and country-specific partners such as RDRS-Bangladesh in regional forums and Li-BIRD-Nepal in village-level adaptive research, are expected to enrich out-scaling across regions. Capacity development for stakeholders that empower farm households will strengthen the voice of end-users.  This is illustrated, within-country, in the partnership between IRRI and national agencies in the Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance Project.
    The Emergency Rice Initiative in Africa is an example of a link between a research network and regional investments of major donors and national governments to enhance rice sector development in West Africa, with AfricaRice providing technical and planning support. The African Development Bank has supported the African Rice Initiative (ARI) in seven West African countries since 2005, which has greatly stimulated the uptake of NERICA and other improved varieties. AfricaRice is also involved in rebuilding rice research and extension capacity in postconflict countries, such as Liberia, similar to IRRI’s experience in Cambodia.
    In Asia, IRRI has, for example, promoted good agricultural practices for rice in many countries or subregions within a country. At the national level, the partnership of IRRI with the Philippine government in implementing the national Rice Self-Sufficiency Program is another recent example of the role an international center can play in effectively supporting such national efforts. At a more local level, an example is the work of IRRI and its research and extension partners in An Giang Province, Vietnam, where, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the provincial government, and the World Bank, agriculture in an entire key province is being modernized. Two consortia, CURE and IRRC, provide the technical foundation for these types of activities. There are also many good examples of engagement at the grass-roots level with NGOs, private companies, national programs, and farmer-to-farmer extension in major regional initiatives. CSISA and STRASA (Stress-Tolerant Rice for Poor Farmers in Africa and South Asia) are illustrative. The respective aims are to disseminate new management options for intensive cereal systems and new varieties of stress-tolerant rice to millions of poor farmers through hundreds of partner organizations. Strong links have also been built with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) investment projects in both Africa and Asia. In Latin America and the Caribbean, FLAR provides both seeds and technologies to member organizations, which then adapt them to local conditions and deliver them to farmers.
    The technical capability of partners will be strengthened to extend the interface between demand-driven technology development at centers and their national and regional partners. Support for capacity development in the research and extension sectors is an important component. Initiatives will often be at a national level, such as the new self-sustained extension agronomist program being implemented in India. Support will extend to the grass-roots level through strengthened capacity of dealers, technicians, and multiskilled service providers. A grass-roots competitive fund for NGOs and local associations will be established to nurture innovative initiatives to disseminate technologies to poor farmers. 
The provision of coherent, up-to-date information in formats suited to extension specialists and farmers will underpin delivery initiatives. This will involve innovative use of multiple ICT formats, such as video and radio, and Internet and mobile phone technology (linked to themes 2, 3, 4, and 5). The Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) of CG centers IRRI, AfricaRice, and CIAT and national RKBs will be the principal platforms. These resources will include information on specialist topics as well as extension training materials. 

Box 16. Cycling from research to impact through multiple channels and learning alliances

Large-scale dissemination of new rice technologies through multiple channels requires the association of stakeholders with complementary roles and expertise. As such, innovation can be nurtured on multiple fronts, from technology adaptation, seed systems development, and micro-credit to a positive policy environment. In Asia, the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC), and the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) provide examples of platforms with a wide range of partners involved in adaptive research and delivery—public, private, and civil society. Participatory learning and adaptive research approaches of AfricaRice and the partnership of FLAR with CIAT in Latin America are other examples of innovative and effective approaches. Progress results from an iterative process, involving different actors at each of the stages leading to successful adoption. Pathways tend to differ according to the nature of local and national conditions but local involvement is a “common thread.”

New rice technologies can have a positive impact on poverty, yet poorer households and women often have very limited access to new technologies or lack either adequate knowledge or the financial capital to apply them. Pathways that are inclusive of poorer farmers and women will be required if GRiSP is to have a significant impact on poverty at scale. Civil society organizations may provide the necessary networks for local adaptation and for scaling out of new rice-based technologies to poorer households and women, and for the required development of the value chain and micro-finance linkages. Current examples of civil society–international center–national public research alliances are the Catholic Relief Services/CIAT agro-enterprise alliances in eastern Africa and Central America. In Bangladesh,   IRRI built strong partnerships between government research and development institutions and NGOs, such as BRAC and RDRS. Poorer farmers and women were the particular targets of these efforts. Another avenue for moving to large-scale targeted dissemination is the formation of NGO alliances that will seek investments to support demand-led access of poorer households and women to technologies. Further, learning alliances, operating across different scales, will provide a strong reflective environment to bring together active learning from adaptive research of themes 2, 3, and 4 and the social auditing and analysis of theme 5. Through such associations, accountability will be nurtured and large-scale exposure of farmers and other rice-development stakeholders to (prototype) technologies and principles facilitated.


    In summary, theme 6 is catalytic and seeks to leverage effort for the growth of the rice sector. There is a strong emphasis on mobilizing partners to use their own resources and seek their own funds, through public-sector commitment, private-sector investment, or civil society projects. 

R&D product lines and outputs

    6.1 Innovation in learning and communication tools and extension capacity development 
    6.2 Effective systems for large-scale adoption of rice technologies in South Asia
    6.3 Effective systems for large-scale adoption of rice technologies in Southeast and East Asia
    6.4 Effective systems for large-scale adoption of rice technologies in Africa
    6.5 Effective systems for large-scale adoption of rice technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean

In the medium term, strong links with regional/national organizations and within-country investment programs will have been established, together with a flow of demand-driven rice technologies and agroecological principles being tested, adapted, and adopted by farmers through public, private, and civil society institutions. At the same time, a cadre of competent extension agronomists will provide leadership in demand-driven technology transfer to farmers through the wider extension community using local practices adapted from international best practice. Extension personnel will have stronger facilitation skills that empower farmers. Tools, such as PLAR, illustrate an empowerment in rice technology development. Further, all target countries will have a system of knowledge management and a national rice knowledge bank that provides effective delivery in suitable media. Innovations in ICT will be a strong driver in facilitating the widespread diffusion of new technologies. Diverse approaches will cater to regional and local differences, and encourage cross-country learning and sustained innovation. An adaptive research approach to delivery will foster achieving the desired outcomes of theme 6.

Innovative contributions

Novel communication approaches will support seed delivery systems; agronomic, postharvest, pest management, and processing innovations; and extension capacity development. The mobile phone technology for nutrient management recommendations for farmers as developed by IRRI is one such example. Alliances will be strengthened between international centers and national and local delivery agents. Public-sector research institutions will be encouraged to engage with relevant public, private, and civil society agencies and help develop closer links between research and extension. RKB development nationally and internationally will ensure the availability of up-to-date information to diverse users. Finally, to enable wider learning, the monitoring and evaluation activities (managed under theme 5 and with links to themes 2, 3, and 4) will audit the performance of the different delivery approaches, overall acceptance of technologies, and the inclusion of women, ethnic minority groups, and poorer households. 

Partnerships

National development and extension systems, the private sector, farmers’ organizations, and NGOs are key partners in theme 6 to provide the large-scale investments that are needed to accelerate the dissemination of new management technologies and information. For last-mile delivery and making information widely available, even in real time, theme 6 will collaborate closely with modern communication companies and organizations. Grass-roots-level NGOs are expected to play a major role in farmer-to-farmer extension, with technical and capacity-building support from GRiSP theme 6. Innovative public-private partnerships for delivery, including suitable business models and new professional certification schemes, will provide another important avenue. 
To support partnerships for innovative delivery through NGOs and farmers’ associations, GRiSP aims to establish a modest partnership development fund under the centrally managed Global Program Coordination and Support budget. On a regional basis, theme 6 will interact with many other CRPs, particularly Mega-Programs under TA 3 (wheat, maize, pulses, livestock) and TA 1 (dryland systems, humid zones, aquatic systems/coastal zones). Delivery approaches that cut across GRiSP and these other MPs will be addressed through joint projects, often in “hubs” that represent major target environments. An example for this is the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). Collaborating CGIAR centers are IRRI, CIMMYT, CIP, ICARDA, ICRISAT, IFPRI, IITA, ILRI, IWMI, and WorldFish, and AVRDC is a nonassociated center. 

Impact pathways

Theme 6 will be closely aligned with activities in themes 2, 3, and 4 to provide feedback to product development, and with the social science research and monitoring and evaluation of theme 5. Impact pathways for large-scale dissemination will be linked to regional, national, and nongovernmental agricultural development programs and investments, particularly those related to extension. Leadership in extension will be developed through an accreditation program of extension agronomists and women’s leadership development. This will be coupled with support for grass-roots extension capacity in farmer intermediary institutions and organizations. Such capacity development will be underpinned directly with the online and up-to-date technical information in RKBs and innovative communication products. The information, materials, and guidance will empower skilled extension personnel in the delivery of new rice technologies.