A new agreement between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – FAO – and the International Rice Research Institute – IRRI – on closer co-operation to bolster sustainable rice production was signed at the end of March in Rome, Italy. The agreement seeks to better pool the scientific knowledge and technical knowhow of the two organisations so that they can expand and intensify their work globally.
According to FAO, the partnership primarily aims to enhance sustainable rice-based farming systems through capacity building activities – including assisting governments in drawing up and implementing national and regional policies and strategies – to the benefit of small-scale farmers, especially women.
"The world faces very significant changes over the next few decades to produce the volume and quality of nutritious food to feed a global population heading for ten billion people," said IRRI Director-General Matthew K. Morell and added that addressing these issues relied on global partnerships, like the one IRRI had just signed with FAO.
"With over three billion people across the globe eating rice every day, rice is critical to global food security," said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources. "Ensuring sustainable rice production is a key contribution to the global goal of ending hunger. By teaming up with IRRI, already a long-standing partner, we will be able to scale up, complement and amplify our work towards reaching this goal."
Making the rice value chain more sustainable
In many countries around the world, rice is a staple crop for food security and consumption trends are growing. At the same time, rice production is vulnerable to the increasing impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events such as droughts and floods.
Both FAO and IRRI are actively promoting more sustainable rice practices throughout the value chain – production, marketing and consumption – to optimise its nutritional properties and as a means of improving livelihoods and tackling poverty, particularly in rural areas.
FAO has developed the Regional Rice Initiative for Asia and Pacific which promotes enhanced crop resilience while increasing efficiency and farmers' income. In Africa and in Latin America the UN agency is engaged in scientific and technical co-operation including the sharing of technologies and best practices to increase production and productivity, such as the reduction of post-harvest losses and improved grain quality.
IRRI is engaged in strengthening capacities of all rice sector actors through its capacity development activities, including IRRI Education and the Sustainable Rice Platform.
The Sustainable Rice Platform is a global alliance to promote resource efficiency and sustainability in trade flows, production and consumption operations, and supply chains in the global rice sector. The Sustainable Rice Platform recently established the world's first standard for sustainable rice. Through the Sustainable Rice Platform, IRRI aims to use environmental and socio-economic benchmarks to maintain yields for rice smallholders, reduce the environmental footprint of rice cultivation and meet consumer needs for food safety and quality.
FAO and IRRI will together assist rice producing countries to adopt improved and adapted rice varieties, enhance availability of certified seeds and also the transfer of knowledge – including on pest management – through participatory approaches such as farmer field schools.
The two organisations will also seek to strengthen partnerships for post-harvest handling, and help farmers and other rice producers add value by developing and marketing rice by-products rich in proteins and micronutrients, and explore the appropriate use of rice by-products to generate energy, animal feed and other agricultural products.
In addition, FAO and IRRI will work together to ensure that women farmers can participate in viable, safe and dignified entrepreneurial opportunities in the rice value chain and that there is an improvement in work conditions in the rice sector.