Wednesday, September 19, 2018

IRRI transforms rice breeding processes through market-oriented product profiling

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Cambodian farmers invest in future rice varieties—digital product profiling through the
Investment Game Application (IGA) (photo credit: Matty Demont)

IRRI is purposefully engaging with farmers to inform policies and establish standards that transform rice breeding to become more efficient and market-oriented.

Together with the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA), IRRI conducted behavioral experiments with Cambodian rice farmers in Prey Veng and Takeo to elicit their preferences for future rice varietal trait improvements.

Farmers were trained in digital product profiling through an interactive app called Investment Game Application (IGA). The app enables them to participate in a simulated investment market for public rice breeding.  More specifically, IGA helps farmers express their preferences for the varietal trait improvements that they need to improve their livelihoods. Since the app simulates and exposes farmers to the cost and risk trade-offs that rice breeders face under resource constraints, it compels them to prioritize their preferences and design focused product profiles for their future needs as rice farmers. IRRI senior economist Matty demont explains, “By placing farmers in the shoes of donors and by allowing them to decide on the allocation of rice breeding funds, we are able to determine their preferences and priorities. In turn, this helps researchers starting priority setting at an early stage in the field, helping breeding programs become more cost-efficient, market-driven, client- and product-oriented, and forward-looking.”

According to IRRI consumer expert Marie Claire Custodio, “The behavioral experiments are truly participatory and gender-inclusive. We invite both husbands and wives of farm households to participate and give them a chance to express their preferences first individually and then as a household. The latter enables rice breeders to develop product profiles that are gender-inclusive. Moreover, farm households are informed about the latest trends in urban markets and climate change to ensure that the product profiles they design through IGA are market-driven and climate-smart.”
Through this initiative, IRRI will be able to boost the national capacity of its partners. Tho Thanak, agronomist at CARDI and animator of the IGA experiments, concludes, “IRRI trained 10 staff members from CARDI and GDA in digital product profiling thereby strengthening our capacity in research, market-driven rice breeding, and extension. This would ultimately help CARDI in developing country-specific rice breeding strategies for Cambodia, including breeding lines for elite rice varieties with broad-spectrum resistance to different diseases.”

The study is being financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) under the VERDE project (Leveraging Diversity for Ecologically Based Pest Management) and the CGIAR Research Program on rice agri-food systems (RICE, 2017–2022).

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