Wednesday, September 14, 2022

IRRI Nepal and FWU train young scientists to strengthen research design and data analytics in the face of climate change

Participants and dignitaries of the training program at the inaugural session in front of Faculty of Agriculture, FWU, Tikapur, Kailai

A five-day training entitled “Robust experimental designs and smart statistical tools for rice research in the face of climate change” was held from August 29 to September 2 at the Faculty of Agriculture, Far Western University (FWU), in Tikapur, Kailali, Nepal. The event was co-organized by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and FWU with the objective of transferring critical skills on research design, data handling, processing, analysis and scientific writing.

The program was inaugurated by Prof. Amma Raj Joshi, Vice Chancellor of FWU and chief guest of the event. Eighteen early to mid-career faculty members, researchers, and extension workers from various universities, research, and extension agencies participated in the training program which was facilitated by two scientists from the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Dr. Mahendra Tripathi and Dr. Ram Khadka.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Prof. Joshi lauded IRRI’s efforts for organizing such a training in a timely manner, and highlighted the need and importance for such a training both in the academic and research sector of Nepal. He added that rigorous research and learning engagement of faculties and students needs to be increased by manyfold in the future. He added that this type of training program is not only useful for academic development but also for a change in society and in the long term overall development of the country.

The Vice Chancellor indicated that Nepali universities need to upgrade their teaching, research, and knowledge dissemination skills to meet the country's emerging challenges of food insecurity and livelihood. Recollecting his childhood, Prof. Joshi said that the harsh impacts of climate change are already visible. He highlighted that production zones of various fruits and other crops are shifting and harsh  climatic conditions are forcing farmers to bear the brunt of the climate crisis. This is where he sees the role of robust experimental designs and smart statistical tools that, if used correctly can identify technologies suited to diverse climatic conditions of Nepal. He also touched on research rigor and quality of research, and indicated that without this universities and research organizations cannot generate reliable technologies that can be accepted wildly by farmers in the diverse agro-ecologies of Nepal.

Interaction during practical session

Prof. Joshi also advocated that building strong partnership between Nepalese universities and other organizations in Nepal and abroad is key for the exchange of knowledge, learning, and best practices, and all of these are fundamental for the economic transformation of the country. He strongly stressed on application of knowledge into society  for reaping changes/impacts at community, sub-national, to the national level as well, and said that society benefits only after new knowledge is practiced by the ultimate client beneficiaries.

Dr. Krishna Dev Joshi, IRRI Country Representative for Nepal, cited the longstanding and very productive partnership between IRRI and the Government of Nepal, and stressed that this partnership needs to be nurtured and strengthened for the development of rice-based agri-food systems of Nepal in the face of climate change, ever increasing rice imports, huge trade deficits, and likely food insecurity. To revert this situation, Dr. Joshi stressed the need for fast deployment of high-yielding, climate-resilient, and nutrient-rich new rice varieties with best management practices to cope with the present situation of low production and productivity. He highlighted that rice and other crop researchers should be using robust experimental designs and smart analytical tools to be able to conduct research in the face of climate change. In the event of climate extremes, research plots may be damaged or plant populations may be partly or largely missing, and such conditions warrant more powerful and flexible research designs. Robust data capturing and analytics is needed more for the on-farm research, as farmers’ growing conditions are more diverse and complex. In this context, Dr. Joshi emphasized strong collaboration of IRRI with academic, government, and private sectors to accelerate development. Prof. Yagya Raj Pathak, Registrar of FWU also spoke at the event, and the Dean of the FWU Faculty of Agriculture chaired the session.

The training program covered concepts on basic statistics, research designs, data cleaning, management, and analysis, using statistical packages including R-stat, SPSS, and Genstat. The training also included scientific paper writing. The training sessions were organized to be very participatory and  interactive, and as a result all the trainees enthusiastically participated. Diversity of participants also helped in the exchange of knowledge, skills, and sharing about the constraints and opportunities for strengthening agriculture research for development. The effectiveness of the training was evaluated and responses from the participants were very satisfactory over the pre-test conducted before the commencement of the training. The added advantage of the training was that participants developed informal networks to foster collaboration in future. 


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