Friday, December 4, 2015

External reviewer lauds CORIGAP's transdisciplinary approach

Los BaƱos, Laguna – An external review of CORIGAP—a project working on closing rice yield gaps through environmentally sustainable means—evaluated the key outcomes and the quality, relevance, and effectiveness of its research and collaboration in six Southeast Asian countries during the first 3 years of implementation.

According to Ian Willet, one of the evaluators and an expert in soil, water, and agricultural development, “The transdisciplinary approach of the project was very well executed. It is important to keep an eye on targets, and we will later discuss how to fine tune and suggest ways of doing things.”

The first phase assessment of CORIGAP (Closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprint) was commissioned by IRRI’s office of the Deputy Director General for Research. Specifically, the review focused on progress made in developing best management practices that increase yield and productivity using less input, while reducing the environmental footprint of rice production.

The project is implemented in six major rice-growing countries—China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, and is aimed at ensuring food security and gender equity, and alleviating poverty through optimized productivity and environmental sustainability of irrigated rice production systems.

The external reviewers, composed of Willet, and Karen Barroga, a development communication expert, met with key CORIGAP researchers and scientists to (1) assess the key outputs and future direction of the CORIGAP project; (2) identify areas to strengthen, modify, and refocus activities and outputs; (3) assess relevance and quality of research and extension approaches of the project; and, (4) review the effectiveness of collaboration for sustaining research and extension partnerships in the countries. 

Grant Singleton, CORIGAP coordinator, provided an overview of the multi-disciplinary project that focuses on sustainable intensification of rice production in major rice bowls in the six Asian countries. He highlighted effective partnerships with national agencies and an active advisory committee, which ensures that the CORIGAP research is well aligned with national rice program initiatives.  He also reported on strong progress in building the capacity of the next generation of rice scientists.

“I am delighted to see the progress of how CORIGAP took off from the initiatives of the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium,” Barroga said. “The new research fields made the work more interesting and integrative. The challenge is to communicate the research outcomes well, considering the complexity of the project,” she added.

Aside from providing country progress reports, CORIGAP scientists discussed progress of research on ecological indicators (Sarah Beebout), field calculators (Ando Radanielson), biodiversity (Buyung Hadi), postharvest (Martin Gummert), women in rice farming (Pieter Rutsaert), yield gaps (Alex Stuart), entry points for sustainability and value chains (Matty Demont), and learning alliances and communication (Reianne Quilloy).

After the progress reports and field visits, reviewers will assess the current setup of CORIGAP and, if a second phase is warranted, will give recommendations on the direction of the next phase. The project’s second phase is expected to commence in 2017 and run for 4 years. 

CORIGAP began in January 2013 and the first phase of this USD5.2 million-project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation concludes in December 2016.


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