Wednesday, June 11, 2014

IRRI joins rice-themed Asian book festival

By Leah B. Cruz

Tony Lambino, head of communication at IRRI, talks about the 'magic' that rice research has been for the work
to secure food for billions globally, before writers and illustrators during the AFCC 2014 in Singapore.

Asia’s food staple was the theme of the 5-day Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) held last week at the National Library of Singapore.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in support of the AFCC 2014 theme which is rice, launched two children’s books and an exhibit booth at the Library plaza. The two books are The Rice Books for Kids by Norma Chikiamco and Travels of Little Rice Grass by Anupa Roy.

Also launched during the AFCC was All About Rice, a bibliography of rice-themed books, published by the National Book Development Council of Singapore; the Rice Bowl Game, an interactive digital setup developed by VastPotato; and an “urban rice paddy,” an installation artwork by the Edible Art Movement.

A featured talk, Rice: Science, Art, and Magic, was given during the AFCC by Tony Lambino, head of communication at IRRI, who expounded on IRRI’s success stories to an audience composed primarily of producers or consumers of literature and other media formats for children. Analogies were drawn between magical moments in the research and creative process.

Through these activities, IRRI introduced its mission and work, particularly on research aimed at making rice a healthier part of the Asian diet and, for farmers, making rice more resilient against climate change.

Tony told the story of how some IRRI-developed rice varieties have saved whole countries from famine in the past, and how IRRI’s work evolves to address new challenges in securing the world’s food. IRRI continues to help regions overcome not only hunger and poverty but the onslaught of extreme climate events that leave poor rice farmers destitute and put them at severe risk of losing investments in any cropping season. Also, through its healthier rice portfolio, IRRI and its partners aim to address malnutrition or “hidden hunger,” which affects two billion people globally.

IRRI believes that exposing children very early to what it takes to produce rice, as well as to the crucial contributions of science to ensuring food security, is important not only for them to appreciate what it takes for a bowl of rice to get to the table but to hopefully make agriculture a future career option for the best and most creative minds.

Claire Chiang, chair of the board of advisors of the AFCC, said in the foreword for All About Rice: "Our thanks and appreciation to IRRI for enriching the project with an information booth full of interesting facts, stories and beautiful photos, a talk on Rice: Science, Art and Magic, introducing authors of rice-themed picture books, and inspiring the creation of a virtual reality rice-bowl challenge and an interactive art installation."

Though not a rice-growing country, Singapore is home to some of IRRI’s partners and supporters of its research. It is also a major market for special types of rice that are preferred by discriminating palates, common in cosmopolitan cultures. These special rice types are also more expensive, and represent an opportunity for some farmers to earn more per kilogram of produce. Part of IRRI’s work also seeks to help farmers earn more from rice farming and thus improve their livelihoods.

IRRI's participation at the AFCC was coordinated by Flaminia Lilli of IRRI Fund Singapore.

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