Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New blood needed in rice science, IRRI urges ASEAN

By Rona NiƱa Mae Rojas-Azucena

IRRI calls on ASEAN to build a new generation of rice scientists and extension professionals. According to V. Bruce J. Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships, these efforts will help ensure secure and stable rice supplies across ASEAN and the world. The proposal calling for more support for science education and extension was presented during a series of high-level meetings with the ministers and senior officials of the ASEAN Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) on 20-26 September in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.

Through science education, the aim is to: (1) produce at least 80 ASEAN PhDs, (2) 45 resident scientists, (3) 50 ASEAN participants in a Rice Breeding Academy, and (4) launch the ASEAN food security forum for senior-level policy- and decision-makers.

Development of extension professionals would be through (1) advanced extension courses for at least 3,000 extension professionals, (2) development of country-specific rice information platforms, and (3) development of an online rice crop forecasting system for ASEAN.

“Why do we need a new generation of rice scientists and extension professionals? Our farmers are getting old,” Dr. Tolentino said. “In agricultural universities, only a few young people are taking agriculture courses.

“We need modern blood to get into rice science for a sustainable future. We need to promote focus on agricultural science education to meet the current and future challenges that threaten our long-term food security goals,” he added.

IRRI was one of a select group of international agencies invited to address the meetings and set up an exhibit that featured the Institute’s work and impact in each ASEAN country. ASEAN cooperation in the agriculture sector dated back as early as 1968, with cooperation in food production and supply.  The partnership between IRRI and the ASEAN member-states has been very productive over the past decades and the region has benefited greatly from the research conducted by IRRI.

The 2014 AMAF meetings were hosted by the government of Myanmar.

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