Thursday, February 9, 2017

Nepal project explores technologies and training opportunities for highland rice farmers

(Representative photo. Photo: IRRI)

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Twenty-five senior agriculture officials and specialists from Nepal visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to learn about its impact-driven work and training opportunities. The delegation included members of the High Mountain Agribusiness and Livelihood Improvement (HIMALI), a project that aims to promote agribusiness development in the country’s high mountain districts.

Mr. Ram Mani Paudyal, a project team leader at HIMALI, is trying to help make farmers in the highlands become more entrepreneurial by providing agribusiness grant opportunities,  empower farmers to add value to their products, and strengthen market linkages.

 "We want them to sell some of their products in the market because they have been producing rice and other food crops in the mountains," Paudyal explained. "In the highlands, we have some rice varieties and these are good.”

But an erratic monsoon pattern due to climate change is affecting the country’s farmers. In particular, water for crop irrigation is becoming a major problem.

“Sometimes we have plenty of rainfall, other times we have little rainfall,” said Mr. Dala Ram Pradham, another HIMALI project team leader.  “Then there are times when we have no rainfall at all."

 “There are abundant rainfed lands below the highlands but these have no regular sources of water,” said Paudyal. “”Drought-proof rice varieties would be useful.”

Dr. Peter Brothers, head of IRRI Education, explained how IRRI is developing different kinds of rice varieties to help countries like Nepal adapt to the complexities of climate change.

"What you have cited is very common," he said. "There are several areas of work that IRRI is pursuing. One is developing varieties that are drought-tolerant, flood-tolerant, saline-tolerant, heat-tolerant, and even cold-tolerant.

"The other is water management,” Brothers explained. “We have scientists working on alternate wetting and drying system to help farmers cut water use without reducing yields,"

He also shared how he recently received a request from a seed grower's group in Nepal to design a course on quality seed production.

"We are negotiating with them to see if we can design a course that meets their needs," said Brothers. “In addition to technical courses on different aspects of rice production, IRRI Education also offers science and leadership courses for a wide range of partners.”

The visit by the Nepal delegation to IRRI on 7 February was organized by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development.

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