Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New partnership strategy encourages Asian governments to invest in rice research

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—The world’s leading rice research institute has renewed its call for stronger partnership with all rice-growing countries, particularly across Asia.

“It is high time for Asia’s rice producers to not only benefit from the results of scientific rice research,” said Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). “The rice-growing countries should also invest in the research that they benefit from."

“In the last six years, the economies of Asian countries have been moving forward and upward, at least partly spurred by growth in their rice sectors,” said Tolentino (photo). “Such growth has been experienced as the traditional donors from the West have faced their own domestic economic challenges, leading to reductions in official development assistance for agricultural research.”

Although 90% of all rice is produced and consumed in Asia, it has been primarily western countries that have been footing the bill for IRRI’s rice research since it was established in 1960.  IRRI’s partnership strategy focuses on elevating the discussion to the Asian countries, which have been the principal users and beneficiaries of the technologies that the institute has developed over the years.

“We want leverage in this partnership because we're giving away services,” said Tolentino. “These governments need to finance those services.”

Under the partnership strategy, the institute’s programs need to  become part of  national budgets. “We need to engage with national governments, not just at the project level,” Tolentino added. “We want to look at government support more broadly. When a country has a donor-funded project, we need to ensure that technical assistance for that project is supplied by IRRI. That means we are built into the loan program.”

In the past, IRRI talked with the Western donors to fund projects in the recipient countries in Asia. Now, IRRI is talking to donors who are also the beneficiaries, according to Tolentino. “IRRI has created country-specific engagement teams so that its scientific and technical inputs for each county specifically support the country’s rice sector,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to ensure that whatever IRRI does is directly relevant to the country. We also need to change the mindset of many countries from being mere recipients to becoming true program partners that not only use research, but also fund it.”

Collaboration and strengthening partnerships and capacity building with IRRI’s national research partners are very important in the new strategy, according to Ms. Michele Weldon, head of Partnerships and Development at IRRI. “These are the key influences in ensuring financial support from member states for rice sector strategies as well as IRRI’s country strategies and activities,” said Weldon. “They are also instrumental in implementing the solutions to rice problems that IRRI provides.”

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