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Theme 6: Supporting the Growth of the Global Rice Sector
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.
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.