Donating flood-proof rice seeds is but one part of IRRI’s long-term assistance to farmers in Leyte Province and other areas affected by the supertyphoon, and starts with assessment of the damage in rice-growing areas, which IRRI will carry out jointly with the Department of Agriculture (DA). IRRI is continually consulting with the DA about other ways through which it can help.
Fundraising for typhoon survivors
In the immediate period, IRRI has set up the Yolanda Fund Drive that puts together donations of cash and goods from IRRI staff and friends.Collection through the fund drive plus cash has so far amounted to Php 379,130.00. Donations of sacks of rice, canned food, and medicines have also been pouring in.
A representative of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) is coming on 20 November to fetch the funds and supplies from V. Bruce J. Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnerships.
IRRI’s collection of donations will be channeled through the PNRC, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
Using science to cope with climate change
In a letter to President Benigno S. Aquino III, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler expressed sympathy for the plight of thousands of Filipinos in the Visayas region affected by the huge devastation from the supertyphoon and conveyed support to the Philippine government for the rehabilitation of Leyte province, especially in agriculture.
Flood-tolerant rice, also called ‘scuba rice’ and known as ‘Submarino’ in the Philippines, is a product of research being done at IRRI that aims to breed rice varieties that can withstand flooding, drought, and salty soil—environmental stresses that are predicted to intensify with climate change.
In a recent international symposium on rice genetics held in Makati City—just as Typhoon Haiyan started making its way into the central part of the archipelago—President Aquino cited in his message to participants (read on his behalf by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala) the “urgency of scientific research helping countries cope with the challenges posed by climate change.”
The Haiyan aftermath remains a stern reminder of just how urgent the need has become, with food production being just one of several fronts that bear the brunt of extreme weather events—and with which science can help.
“Rice production in the affected regions accounts for less than 10% of the Philippines’ annual rice production,” said Sam Mohanty, IRRI economist and head of the Institute’s social science and policy arm, in his blog . Luckily, most of the rice crop in these regions had already been harvested when the typhoon hit.
Dr. Mohanty added, though, that it will take a little more time to see the full extent of the damage, as flooding from the typhoon and storm surge will likely have ruined the harvested grains stored on-farm or in warehouses.