By Maria Rowena M. Baltazar
Rice production is very important to the food supply and national economies of Nepal and Cambodia. However, these countries suffer from low production of rice caused by insufficient rain, irrigation problems, flooding, lack of seeds, and outdated traditional technology.
Accelerating the Adoption of Stress-Tolerant Rice Varieties by Smallholder Farmers in Nepal and Cambodia (USAID-ASTV) was launched to help solve some of the problems plaguing their rice productivity. The project seeks to contribute to the efforts of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the governments of Nepal and Cambodia toward poverty and hunger reduction and increase food and income security for resource-poor farm households, through provision and distribution of high-yielding rice varieties tolerant of abiotic stresses.
USAID-ASTV, funded by USAID, recently concluded its inception and planning workshop for Nepal in Hotel Annapurna, Kathmandu on 16 September. The event had intensive discussions on quality seed production of STRVs and multiplication by both public and private sector, as well as how the project can capitalize on the seed system and new seed policy in Nepal for the success of the project.
Welcoming the participants totalling 110 in the opening session, Director General Yubak Dhoj G.C. of the Department of Agriculture, Government of Nepal, acknowledged IRRI’s efforts for providing about 252,000 tons of seeds of different stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) such as drought-tolerant, Sukkhadhan 1 to 6 and submergence-tolerant, Swarna-Sub1 and Samba Mahsuri-Sub1, to name a few.
“Farmers in Nepal will have more STRV seeds available to them,” said Director General Dhoj. “They will adopt more of the varieties once the seeds are disseminated to them.”
Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail, overall project leader and IRRI principal scientist, acknowledge the contribution of all the participants to the group discussions and workplan development for the project’s main activities. These are the drought- and flood-tolerant varieties; seed production and distribution and policy issues; biotic stresses; gender and social equity; GIS and targeting; and M&E and other socio-economic studies.
Meanwhile, Dr. Faith Bartz from USAID-Washington, presented the Feed the Future program, the U.S. Presidential food security initiative, to which this new project is aligned.
“I would like to see strong collaboration of project stakeholders with agriculture secretaries and ministers in achieving the project’s activities and updates,” said USAID Mission in Nepal AID Project Development Specialist, Mr. Navin Hada. He encouraged the project implementors to come up with strong coordination mechanism with public and private sector.
“The USAID has been helping to establish foundation in agriculture research and development in Nepal,” said Chief Guest, Mr. Uttam K. Bhattarai, Secretary, Ministry of Agricultural Development, Government of Nepal stated, “Now, it provides funds through IRRI for disseminating and promoting drought and submergence-tolerant as well as mid-mountain rice varieties to increase rice production.”
During the closing of the program Dr. Ismail remarked that “such active and enthusiastic participation and involvement of all partners will ensure successful implementation of the project.”
Dr. Uma Shankar Singh, acting IRRI representative to India and Nepal, and Dr. Bhaba Tripathi, senior associate scientist in IRRI-Nepal office, served as overall coordinators for the event.