Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Agriculture Partylist vows to help bring modern rice technology to Filipino farmers

Cong. Salon (left) visited IRRI headquarters to learn about the scientific research program of the institute and these can be shared with Filipino rice farmers.

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—“We need to popularize these technologies,” Congressman Orestes Salon of the AGRI Partylist of the Philippines said after being briefed on the activities of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).  

Congressman Salon and his staff visited IRRI headquarters on 9 September to learn about the scientific research program of IRRI and how the results of research can be shared with Filipino rice farmers.

“We want to be able to pick up technologies on producing more rice per unit area,” he said. “What are the new technologies that address climate change? The farmers need them because they are already feeling the impact of climate change like flooding and drought but they are not prepared. Climate change affects the rich as well as the poor. But the poor are the ones who are very vulnerable.”

The AGRI Partylist advocates for the welfare of farmers, fisherfolks, and families who belong to marginalized groups who do not have the access to basic social services in different parts of the country. They implement programs that aim to benefit those experiencing severe poverty and need assistance to meet their basic human needs.

During the Party’s visit, they learned about IRRI’s work in developing rice varieties that can thrive under erratic weather patterns and produce more nutritious grains, the application of satellite imagery to rice production, water-conserving technology, and training for young scientists and extension workers.

Dr. Olivyn Angeles (in photo) from Crops and Environmental Science Division, and Dr. Shoba Venkatanagappa from the Plant Breeding Division, also provide the party with an overview of the Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment and IRRI’s breeding lines.

“IRRI brings together the traits in rice that are required by the poorest of the poor farmers all over the world,” Venkatanagappa explained. “We are trying to help increase the profitability of farmers so they don’t have to spend too much on expensive agricultural input and they don’t have to suffer from complete crop loss. We are in the business of reducing poverty.  Every farmer needs to have a chance. We try to develop varieties that help farmers get that one chance.”  

Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director for Communication and Partnerships, emphasized that IRRI is an international public institution and its research and technologies can be accessed and used by everyone.

“This is really eye-opening,” said Congressman Salon. “We can translate the information into a popular form so that farmers and our other constituents can avail of them. We hope to come back with the entire Congressional Agriculture and Food Committee.”

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IRRI strengthens commitment to South Asia with two appointments

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Nafees Meah as the new IRRI regional representative for South Asia.

In his new role, Dr. Meah will work with governments of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh, and India to represent and coordinate IRRI’s programs regionally. In consultation with key universities, civil society organizations, international donors and organizations in South Asia, Dr. Meah will lead the development of a regional strategy and support the development of individual country strategies for IRRI’s research, outreach, training and resource mobilization activities.

Dr. Meah comes to IRRI from the Government and UK Research Councils (RCUK), where he served from 2012 to 2016 as Director of RCUK India office. During his time there, Dr. Meah lead RCUK’s presence in India and developed a programme of activities to deliver the organization’s strategy for deeper research and innovation engagement with India. He is also a recognized expert on sustainable agriculture, food security, and climate change.

Dr. Meah holds PhD and MSc degrees in Chemistry from the University College London and the University of Toronto, respectively as well as an LLB from the University of London. He has authored research papers, articles, and reviews in energy and climate change, chemistry, food science and risk assessment.

Dr. Meah will be based in the IRRI India office in New Delhi and will officially join the team in October, 2016.

In a complementary role, Dr. Noel Magor will take over as interim IRRI country representative for Bangladesh, beginning in mid-September. This is in addition to his current role as head of Impact Acceleration. As interim IRRI representative, Dr. Magor aims to strengthen the longstanding relationship and commitment of IRRI to Bangladesh.

With his move to Bangladesh, Dr. Magor will be returning to a country he knows well, having lived in Bangladesh for 21 years and seen his three children born there. Dr. Magor has significant professional experience in Bangladesh, and has supervised food security and poverty alleviation projects in the country. Previously, he was also seconded to the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute for 6 years as a Farming Systems Agronomist and has served as an IRRI representative for Bangladesh from 2001 to 2006.

The two appointments align with IRRI’s commitment to further develop a rice sector research strategy in Bangladesh and the South Asian region. The representatives will work together to strengthen IRRI relations with government institutions, public and private sectors, and civil societies to further enhance research collaboration and ensure food security in Bangladesh and South Asia.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

GIS skills of Philippine agriculture field officers sharpened

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—The Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) project is conducting a series of workshops on basic geographic information systems (GIS) for its regional partners. Funded by the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA), the activity trains field officers and local government units in visualizing rice area and yield, GPS-based field observations, and other data generated by PRISM for planning programs and interventions for the country’s rice sector.

The training (photos above) is enhancing the skills of DA-Regional Field Offices and local government units (LGU) staff in using QGIS, a free and open source GIS software. The workshop uses actual data collected at PRISM monitoring sites throughout the country.

At the end of each season, PRISM generates accurate and timely information on rice areas, the start of cropping seasons, and rice yield that can help the national government and the rice-growing regions develop policies and plans related to rice production, particularly in mitigating the impacts of natural calamities and reducing yield losses caused by pests. Around 19 tropical cyclones or storms enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility every year, and of these, usually 6 to 9 make landfall causing considerable crop damage. The information collected by PRISM is available through its portal.

The training helps in understanding the value of presenting data in map format, according to a workshop participant.

"The training is useful in data processing and analysis," added another enthusiastic participant. “The information generated will serve as the basis for decision-making, evaluation, and development of rice projects.”

The Basic GIS Training was held in July and August for DA representatives from:
12-14 July: DA-RFO IX and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DAF-ARMM), which was held in Laguna
19-21 July: DA-RFOs I and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in La Union
19-21 July: DA-RFOs VI and Negros Island Region (NIR) in Iloilo City
26-28 July: DA-RFOs V, VII, and VIII in Cebu City
9-11 August: DA-RFOs X, XI, and XII in Davao City
16-18 August: DA-RFO’s IV and IVB in Tagaytay City
23-25 August: DA-RFO III in Pampanga
23-25 August: DA-RFO II in Tuguegarao City
23-25 August: Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) facilitators in Nueva Ecija

The remaining workshops will be held in September and October 2016 for DA-RFO XIII and PRISM crop health specialists, respectively.

The workshops are being conducted by PRISM staff from the International Rice Research Institute(IRRI) and PhilRice. The lead trainers from IRRI are Arnel Rala, Cornelia Garcia, Aileen Maunahan, and  Jeny Raviz. The PhilRice trainers are Mary Rose Mabalay, Juanito Maloom, Elmer Alosnos, Mabel Barroga, and James Leyte. 

Mary Anne Gutierrez, Jane Girly Balanza, Neale Marvin Paguirigan, Creigton Czar Guevarra, Ethel Princess Banasihan, and Frances Grace Amanquiton are co-facilitating the training series.

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ramiro Cabrera, pioneer graphic designer at IRRI, passes away

Ramiro ‘Ram’ Cabrera, 75, an award-winning graphic designer at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for more than three decades, passed away in Antipolo, Manila on 1 September.

Mr. Cabrera was among the first group of communicators hired in the early 1960s by Robert F. Chandler, IRRI’s first director general, to begin getting the message out about the new Institute’s mandate to fight hunger in the world. He retired in 1997 after 31 years of service to the Institute.

In the early days, he was responsible for developing IRRI’s visual identity, including its logo and other design elements used in the Institute’s publications and other communication materials—many still used to this day.

He led the design team that produced A farmer's Primer on Growing Rice, one of the most successful extension booklets for farmers in international agricultural publishing, resulting in around 50 editions printed in more than 40 languages and dialects for more than 20 countries.

Mr. Cabrera won a number of awards for his work from the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences. In 1996, he won ACE’s Outstanding Professional Skill Award in Graphic Design for a set of posters depicting rice activities including planting, harvesting, and marketing.

In 1997, his graphic design and layout work contributed to the team effort that produced IRRI’s 1995-96 annual report, Listening to the Farmers, which won an unprecedented set of ACE awards including Outstanding Professional Skill Award, two Gold Awards, and one Silver Award for design, photography, and the cover.

Also in 1997, he won ACE’s International Award of Excellence for his career body of work in art, graphic design, and photography.

After his time at IRRI, Mr. Cabrera also did similar creative design work for the Asian Development Bank.

Friends may send condolences to the family via cdcabrera@adb.org

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Former IRRI scholar receives AAEA fellowship award

Dr. Jikun Huang has been awarded an Agriculture and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Fellowship for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of agricultural or applied economics.

Huang was a PhD scholar in agricultural economics at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) from 1987 to 1990 while studying at the nearby University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

Recognition as an AAEA Fellow is AAEA's most prestigious honor. Huang was recognized for his exceptional contributions through research, mentoring students, institution building, and impact on policy. His leadership in agricultural economics in China is unsurpassed and his research has made significant influence on China’s agricultural policies, according to the AAEA.

As a researcher, his work is widely known for being empirically based and rigorously analyzed.  Among his most significant contributions are his research on biotechnology impact assessment, food security and policy, and food supply/demand/trade simulation model.

Huang is the founder and director of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is also vice presidents of Chinese Association of Agricultural Economics and Chinese Association of Agro-Technology Economics. 

In 2010, he received IRRI’s Outstanding Alumni Award. “Dr. Jikun Huang is one of the most well-known agricultural economists in the world,” said then IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler during the awarding ceremony. “His publications have been widely cited in international journals. His work has also influenced China’s agricultural policy and development, including China’s rice policy.”

Huang also received the UPLB Distinguished Alumni Award during UPLB’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2008.

Huang discusses the importance of training the next generation of rice scientists, beginning at 1:34 into an IRRI video on the subject

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Latest STRASA Newsletter now out

The STRASA Newsletter (Vol. 9, No. 2) is now available at strasa.irri.org. This issue features the strengthened collaboration with Nepal and Odisha State in India, the presentation of new stress-tolerant rice varieties at the Africa Rice Center station in  St. Louis, Senegal, and other STRASA activities. Also in this issue is the launch of Gender Corner, a new column that focuses on women's rights and gender equality in various countries involved in the STRASA project. The first installment of Gender Corner highlights the women farmers of eastern India as agents of change.

Download STRASA Newsletter.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Korea’s RDA appoints Hwang-keun Chung as new administrator

(Photo: RDA)

Mr. Hwang-keun Chung was appointed as the new administrator of Korea’s Rural Development Administration (RDA) on 17 August, succeeding Mr. Yang-Ho Lee. 

Mr. Chung has a B.A. in Agriculture from Seoul National University and has served as the deputy director of the Agriculture Policy Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries; director general of both the Rural Policy Bureau and Agricultural Policy Bureau under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries; and secretary to the President for Agriculture, Livestock, and Food.

Mr. Chung will continue to pursue all opportunities to strengthen the collaborative relationship between RDA and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), according to Dr. Jeom-ho Lee, director, International Technology Cooperation Center, RDA. 

“Our partnership is of paramount importance under the present challenges facing international agricultural,” Lee wrote in a letter to IRRI Director General Matthew Morell. “Our collaboration will contribute much to the development of agricultural science and technology, and ultimately to the welfare of farmers around the globe. Undoubtedly, in the capable hands of the new RDA administrator, our cooperation will be further consolidated. We look forward to building a more fruitful and lasting R&D partnership with you.”

The Government of the Republic of Korea has been collaborating with IRRI through the RDA since the 1960s. The research partnership includes rice breeding using temperate japonica rice varieties and tropical indica varieties as parents. This produced the rice variety Tongil, which transformed the country from a rice importer to a self-sufficient producer.

Learn more about IRRI (www.irri.org) or follow us on social media and networks (all links down the right column).