Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bangladesh, India and Nepal sign historic agreement in the evaluation of rice varieties

T.C. Dhoundiyal & U.S. Singh

The Secretaries of Agriculture of the Governments of Bangladesh, India and Nepal signed a protocol on cooperation in the evaluation data of rice varieties released in their respective countries for release and commercialization. The agreement was made during the Regional Cooperation on Seed Issues workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal on 18 October 2014.

The protocol on regional cooperation, which applies to rice varieties developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and public sector organizations in the three countries, was hailed as historically significant by the agriculture executives.

“I firmly believe that signing of this agreement usher new era of collaboration and cooperation and will help in improving the livelihood of the poor farmers in the entire region,” said Dr. M. Nazul Islam, agriculture secretary of Bangladesh.

Nepal’s Department of Agriculture Secretary Jaya Mukund Khanal said “We have opportunities and options to improve the livelihood of poor farmers in the region. This cooperation will provide platform to share the good practices of one country to other and time has come to materialize that in real sense to benefit our clients, the farmers. The exchange of technologies and quality seed can help attain higher rice productivity in the region.”

Ashish Bahuguna, India’s agriculture secretary, stressed that while the agreement presently covers only rice, it can be extended to other crops later on. “This cooperation is not limited to seed sector, this will lead to agriculture development in the region,” Mr. Bahuguna said. “There is need to broaden this cooperation and replicate it to other part of the world. SAARC can play vital role in bringing in more countries to the platform.”

The agriculture officials also greatly appreciated the role played by IRRI in getting this agreement materialized in such a short period of time. “We should complement IRRI for bringing up with new ideas and platform to share the ideas and evolve the measure to concretise these ideas,” said Mr. Buhuguna.

The signing this agreement in South Asia has shown the way for regional cooperation, according to Robert Zeigler, IRRI’s director general.

 “This is a historic moment and truly a highest honor to our partnership in the region,” said Dr. Zeigler. “Scientific revolution has been taken place in rice research. The seed sector should adapt these technologies and have a seed system in place. We need to establish production system to make available quality seed, marketing mechanism to reach the farmers and develop better management of our technologies to realise the benefits of new technologies to the farmers.”

Farmers’ participation is equally important in value generation and developing new traits to accelerate the adoption of new technologies. The seed system should be responsive to new technologies to deliver the quality product to the farmers, Dr. Zeigler added.

Other officials at the event also welcomed the cooperative effort in the region.

“The regional cooperation in seed sector is milestone in achieving the food security and mitigating the climate change affect in the region,” said Dr. Dil Bahadur Gurung, executive director of Nepal Agricultural Research Council. “This agreement will go a long way to fast track varietal release and dissemination to meet the growing demand of the quality seed and enhancing the livelihood of the resource poor farmers.”

“It is essential to work towards reducing the time for the varietal evaluation and release and seed multiplication and out scaling to reach farmers in shortest possible time,” Uma Shankar Singh, South Asia Regional Project Coordinator (STRASA), said. “This could be achieved only through regional cooperation. The agreement will prove to be a milestone in this direction. It will also help in more efficient use of resources to take the scientific innovations to farmers by sharing the data and seed exchange.”

“In the past, we accrued the benefits of successful collaboration with IRRI thru STRASA project that helped develop rice varieties which can sustain submergence, salinity and drought and offered solution to threats posed by climate change,” said Dr. Jiwan Krishna Biswas, director general, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute. “The cooperation in seed sector will strengthen this partnership.”

In his remarks S.K. Datta, deputy director general (Crop Sciences), Indian Council of Agricultural Research, said “We need to harmonize most of the positive aspects and approaches in practice of all the three countries to benefit the farmers of the region in the shortest time.”

IRRI is playing vital catalytic role in crop improvement, bringing global sciences, scientific guidance and accelerating the process. Emphasis should be given to implementation of those sciences and policy decisions effectively and reduces the time in identifying the varieties and utilizing them across the borders, Dr. Datta added.

Regional Cooperation on Seed Issues was jointly organized by the Ministry of Agricultural Development of Nepal and IRRI and attended by about 45 delegates from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, IRRI, and international organizations based in Nepal.

Mr. Dharam Datta Baral, chief of Seed Quality Control Centre, Ministry of Agricultural Development, Nepal delivered the welcome address. Mr. Birendra Bahadur Hamal, deputy director general of Nepal’s Department of Agriculture gave the closing remarks.

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