Thursday, September 29, 2016

JICA and IRRI ignite a “seed revolution” for African and Asian farmers

Photo by Rene Guevarra, IRRI 

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—The lack of good-quality seed is one of the major constraints in rice production in many developing countries. In many poor rice-growing countries, the farmers rely heavily on farmer-saved seed for their crop production rather than commercial seed produced by the private sector.

Unlike commercial seed, farmers’ seed is not certified by government authorities to ensure the best possible harvest.  By providing seed with inferior quality, the farmers themselves may be unintentionally contributing to food insecurity, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Knowledge of the technical aspects of seed production and understanding the benefits of using quality seed are important aspects of enhancing the seed systems and the use of quality seed among farmers to improve their food security.

To bridge the gap, the Training and Impact Acceleration Units of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and IRRI Education conducted the Quality breeder and foundation seed course for researchers, seed inspectors, and seed producers. The course was developed by IRRI in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“The program covered the principles and crop management practices for producing seeds in different rice ecosystems in Africa and Asia,” said Dr. Peter Brothers, head of IRRI Education. “It focused on the correct postharvest practices and seed processing activities that will minimize contamination and optimize both seed quality and quantity. The course also included review of standard procedures and modern techniques for upgrading the rice seed value chain.”

The training is a component of the Extension Capacity Development for Rice Food Security in Africa, a three-year (2016-19) JICA-IRRI cooperation project. Now in its second phase, this initiative aims to amplify the impact of rice research through capacity building of rice farming practitioners and the development of the seed sector in the region.

“The program was designed to provide a mix of skills training in the field, interaction and learning from researchers and scientists, and discussions and cross-learning opportunities among participants,” said Jason Beebout, project manager of the Impact Acceleration Unit. “At the end of the course, participants were asked to pull together what they had learned into a plan so that they can integrate their new knowledge into their day to day work roles and responsibilities."

Twenty-one rice researchers and seed specialists from 10 countries attended the 3-week course, which ran 12-30 September. Most of the participants were from member-countries of the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) including The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. Three participants came from Cambodia, India, and Nepal.

CARD is an initiative of JICA and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. The coalition aims to double annual rice production in Africa from the present 14 million tons to 28 million tons by 2018. CARD also forms a consultative group of donors, research institutions, and other relevant organizations to work with rice-producing African countries.“While this effort is relatively small in terms of numbers, we do hope this contributes to the ongoing CARD activities and can be a spark that ignites a seed revolution,” Beebout said.

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