Thursday, August 18, 2016

Temina Lalani-Shariff arrives as new head of IRRI Communication

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines–On 2 August, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) welcomed Ms. Temina Lalani-Shariff as the institute’s new head of Communication.

Lalani-Shariff joins IRRI from Calgary, Canada, where she worked as the Change Management Lead for Plains Midstream Canada. As a bilingual communications professional, she brings to IRRI more than 15 years of experience in building global brands and advocacy programs.

Passionate about education and its potential to positively impact communities, Lalani-Shariff has worked with the University of Calgary, Bow Valley College, the Aga Khan University, Crossroads International, imagineCalgary, and other civil society organizations. She has created evidence-based policy advocacy programs that generate support for research innovations among government, private funders, and stakeholders.

Over the course of her career, she has lived and worked in Afghanistan, Canada, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Uganda where she has put in place communication and branding strategies for both small start-ups and multi-million dollar organizations.

Lalani-Shariff holds MBA degrees from the Kellogg School of Management and the Schulich School of Management, a graduate degree in Communication Studies from the University of Calgary, and a B.A. in International Politics from the University of Alberta. An avid community volunteer, she most recently served on the Board of the Calgary Public Library and as chair of Community Relations for the Ismaili Council for the Prairies. Previously, she served on the Board of River Valley School, a private Montessori school, Ten Thousand Villages, and the International Association of Business Communicators.

In her new role, Lalani-Shariff brings her skills in strategic partnerships, business planning and development, communications, public relations, and organizational transformation to help the institute meet its goals.

She describes herself as an adaptable leader and creative team-builder and is passionate about building relevant, quality programs for clients.

She is joined by her husband, Mahmud Lalani; two sons, Rakeen (17) and Kiran (13); and daughter Jaleesa (15). They are all looking forward to finding new friends and adventures.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Food festival at IRRI features 40 culinary delicacies from 15 countries

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Nothing bridges cultures across the world like good food. This resonated during the annual International Food Festival held recently at the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Around 40 culinary delights were prepared by IRRI scholars, trainees, scientists, and staff.

Organized by the Association of Fellows, Scholars, Trainees and Residents of IRRI (AFSTRI), the festival attracted a big crowd of food lovers within the community and outside guests on 12 August (photos).

Dishes sampled by the eager crowd came from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Vietnam. The festival also highlighted five local restaurants: Bonitos, Dal Cielo’s, Phuong’s Vietnamese Restaurant, and Bean Hub and Berris Food Services at IRRI.

The preparation for the festival provided an opportunity to have fun, be creative, and bond according to the participants. “It is very nice to see so many dishes served by representatives from different countries,” said AFSTRI President Prasad Senadheera. “The Food Festival is a very important event for us to experience and enjoy the world's different cultures.”

“While cooking, we celebrate together and we get to know each other,” shared Smita Joshi from Team India, the largest participating group who also sold the most food.

The excitement wasn’t limited to tasting exotic dishes. The festival was also a highly anticipated food competition. This year’s winners for the best dishes were Bangladesh for rice (Vuna Khichuri), China and India for vegetable (Sliced potato and onion with cumin and Bread chop, respectively), Vietnam for nonvegetable (stir-fried chicken noodles), and Indonesia for dessert (Klepon). India won the prize for the most popular food stall.

“Our team is very proud and happy to win in the best rice dish category,” said Satyen Mondal from Team Bangladesh. “We didn’t plan to get an award, but we did a lot of work together, planning for about 10 days on how to present our dish. Our objective was to make the event more festive.” The classic Vuna Khichuri is considered the ultimate comfort food for Bengalis particularly on rainy days. The ingredients for this winning entry are basmati rice, chicken, peas, and spices.

Thuong and Nhien Hieu from Team Vietnam shared the same sentiments. “We had no aspiration to win an award but we wanted to contribute to make the food festival more interesting,” they said. “We wanted everyone to have a taste of Vietnamese cuisine.”

When asked if they want to join the contest again next year, both scholars answered, “Absolutely!” Nhien Hieu was quick to add, “Hopefully, we can cook an even better dish next time.”

View 23 more photos on flickr by Isagani Serrano, IRRI. Video by Christopher Gapuz, IRRI. 

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JICA representatives in the Philippines briefed on partnership projects with IRRI

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines, 15 August—Representatives in the Philippines for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) were recently briefed on collaborative projects with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

JICA reps Morita and Ito with Bruce Tolentino, IRRI deputy director
general for communication and partnerships.
Isusumu Ito (center in photo) and Takahiro Morita (left in photo), chief and senior JICA reps, respectively, received updates on the Wonder Rice Initiative for Food Security and Health (WISH) project and training activities with IRRI.

Under WISH, scientists from JICA, Nagoya University, and IRRI have teamed up to raise rice production by developing new disease-resistant, high-yielding rice varieties. With conventional cross breeding, the scientists are using a rice improvement technique in which desired traits from specific rice varieties are marked for transfer to identified Asian and African varieties that are preferred by farmers.

The representatives also reviewed the capacity-building workshops conducted by the IRRI Training Center under the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD). JICA has been working with IRRI in Africa since the launch of CARD in 2008. Through the support of JICA and IRRI—in partnership with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)—training has involved rice production techniques, season-long courses for extension agronomists, and producing quality breeder and foundation seed.

“The presentations confirmed the good progress of the projects,” said Ito. “IRRI is a center of excellence and JICA is the largest bilateral development organizations in the world. Our institutions work well together. We find our collaboration excellent.”

Significantly, these activities are the first to receive direct funding from JICA, according to Corinta Guerta, director for external relations at IRRI.  “This is the first time JICA has provided funding to a nongovernment organization such as IRRI,” she said. “Under this new funding model, JICA, IRRI, and PhilRice are able to work closely and our progress and accomplishments are directly monitored by JICA. I think it will be a very useful model for future collaboration.”

Dr. Noel Magor, head of IRRI's Training Center, commended the direct relationship between JICA and IRRI. “The training program for the 23 CARD countries would have not been possible if the project was not a direct agreement between JICA and IRRI,” he said.

Aside from these two activities, IRRI and JICA are now actively discussing training for extension workers in Afghanistan.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

15 climate-smart rice varieties transferred to PhilRice for dissemination to farmers

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Better access to improved, quality rice seed is essential for farmers to raise their productivity, particularly under unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change.

On 12 August, the Next-Gen ProjectAccelerating the development and adoption of next-generation rice varieties for the major ecosystems in the Philippines, turned over the seed of 15 climate-smart rice varieties to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). These included 1,005 kg of foundation seed of 14 varieties suitable for irrigated, rainfed, submergence, saline, and upland ecosystems.

Also transferred were 10 kg of NSIC Rc222 breeder seed to replace the current stock at PhilRice. NSIC Rc222 is a popular high-yielding variety developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The seed will be used for producing registered seeds to speed up introduction of the newly released climate-smart rice varieties in targeted environments, including marginal areas, to raise farmers’ yield. 

Dr. Georgina Vergara (left in photo), Next-Gen Project lead and scientist at IRRI, handed over the seed to Ms. Thelma Padolina of PhilRice. 

The Next-Gen Project is an initiative under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program of the Philippine Department of Agriculture. It utilizes advances in plant breeding methodologies and stratified multi-environment testing to speed up the development and field testing of new high-yielding inbred and hybrid rice varieties with multiple resistance/tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. Through high-quality seed production, the good quality seed is multiplied and immediately made available to farmers.

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Youth delegates learn valuable insights about IRRI’s goals


Dr. Tolentino briefs the APYE delegates on IRRI's research
activities aimed at ending global hunger and ensuring
sustainable rice production.
LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—A delegation from the 2nd Asia-Pacific Youth Exchange (APYE) visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on 5 August to get an overview of current research activities aimed at ending global hunger and ensuring sustainable rice production.

“APYE brings together young people so they can brainstorm on ideas that are more implementable,” said Savinda Rathanuga, regional director for AISEC, an international nongovernmental and nonprofit organization that provides young people with leadership development and cross-cultural internship and volunteer exchange experiences across the globe. “A visit to IRRI was suggested because rice plays such a major role in Asia.”

The 20-person delegation was introduced to IRRI’s initiatives toward meeting the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SGD) on hunger and responsible food consumption and production. The APYE delegates were briefed by Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director for Communication and Partnerships; Dr. Rosa Paula Cuevas, a scientist at IRRI’s Grain Quality and Nutrition Center; and Dr. Maricar Alberto, climate change expert.

“We try to understand these initiatives and how we can provide solutions or ideas to communities,” Rathanuga said. “We are not trying to formulate national policies but use the bottom-up approach on how can we turn these ideas into practice. We want to better understand how rice production and consumption can be sustainable for the demands of the future.”

The program is designed to aid in formulating solutions that will ease the problem of labor shortages that are affecting food production as well as unemployment among youth.

“Rice production is a major job opportunity,” Rathanuga said. “We try to engage young people and encourage them to consider agriculture since many of them already are entering the service industries and high-tech jobs.”

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Plant genetics specialist joins IRRI's Young Researcher’s Lunch




LOS BAÑOS, Philippines, 11 AugustThe Young Researchers' Lunch recently hosted John McKay (center in photo), associate professor of plant genetics at Colorado State University. Dr. McKay, who is at IRRI to serve as a resource person for the ongoing 2016 Rice Research to Production Course, is also the principal investigator at The McKay Lab. His research interest is to gain an understanding of the traits and genes of plants involved in adaptation to particular stresses such as drought.

The group discussed making comparisons between working with model plant species such as Arabidopsis spp. and crops such as rice. Dr. McKay also provided some perspectives on the current funding situation at U.S. universities that affects the enrollment of potential graduate students.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

IRRI donates office furniture to local public school library


LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—IRRI, through the Society of IRRI Non-research Professionals (SINOP), has donated cabinets, tables, and chairs for the Eva Corazon Library of the Bagong Silang Elementary School (BSES). Ms. Corazon is SINoP’s late former president.

“After our back-to-school activity to bring books and inaugurate the library in June, we noticed that the furniture and fixtures at the library were already dilapidated,” said Miriam Telosa, SINOP president. “They needed new ones to secure and safeguard the books and materials that were given to them.

SINOP endorsed the donation to Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI's deputy director general for Communication and Partnerships, who supported and approved request.

“These donations will also help the students enjoy using their library and enhance their learning experience,” Telosa added. 

Ms. Romelda de Jose, BSES principal, received the donations from Mr. Lito Platon, IRRI’s Community Project officer, during a turnover ceremony on 28 July.  

“On behalf of BSES teachers, parents, and pupils, please accept our sincerest thanks,” de Jose said.  “Your donations will allow us to complete the facilities of our library and they will be of great help to the students and teachers as well. We are so lucky to have your organization as a partner.” 

Members of the organization attended the turnover ceremony (photo)..  

BSES is an adopted school of SINoP and some of its deserving students are supported by its scholarship program. 

(This article was written by Gina Zarsadias, IRRI.)

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