You are on page 1of 44



International Rice Research Institute January-March 2007, Vol. 6, No. 1

The king of rice

Political support for rice research
Environment special
The importance of biodiversity
Environmental solutions in Java

Once were rice fields

Typhoons devastate Asian rice-farming communities
ISSN 1655-5422
Vol. 6, No. 1

Editorial ................................................................. 4 India hosts world’s largest .......................... 16

Is the rice ball rolling? rice gathering

News . ........................................................................ 5 Agriculture ministers come ........................... 18

IRRI changes copyright policy together over rice
Three into four will go
Once were rice fields......................................... 20
Iron-fortified rice The week after Typhoon Durian slammed into the
Securing access to biodiversity Philippines’ Bicol Region, Rice Today ventured into
Boost for rice reserve the stricken area to find that the rice-farming
communities had been hit hard.
Africa Rice Center wins United Nations award

Strength in diversity........................................ 26
People ...................................................................... 8 Biodiversity is more than just a nice green concept—
Nobel for former IRRI board member farmers rely on it Prosperity, pollution, and the ...................... 34
Achievements Green Revolution
Keeping up with IRRI staff In search of new seeds ..................................... 30 The Green Revolution in Indonesia delivered more rice
The improved New Rice for Africa varieties are helping but also brought social and ecological problems
not only African grain farmers but seed producers that, almost 40 years later, still affect people’s
Beating the weather ............................................ 9 lives—but solutions are emerging
Every year, typhoons and other extreme weather as well
events devastate rice fields—but new research is
helping protect rice farmers Fighting Asia’s postharvest problems ....... 32 Obituary ................................................................ 40
The fate of rice after harvest is a crucial but often- Rice pioneer passes away
The rice king ......................................................... 11 neglected part of the production chain. Now, a
Thai rice farmers are fortunate to have a head of state major effort to overcome postharvest problems is books ..................................................................... 40
who does more than offer symbolic support—His gaining momentum.
Majesty the King of Thailand is a monarch who Rice Facts . ............................................................. 41
genuinely makes a difference Considering gender
As men’s and women’s roles change, how should
we address gender issues in rice-based agriculture?

Grain of Truth . ................................................... 42

Food or fuel?

On the cover:
John Oliver Leron crouches in
front of what were rice fields
in Bicol, Philippines, before
Typhoon Durian obliterated
them in November 2006
(see pages 20-25).

cover photo Ariel Javellana International Rice Research Institute

publisher Duncan Macintosh DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines
editor Adam Barclay Web (IRRI):
art director Juan Lazaro IV Web (Library):
designer and production supervisor George Reyes Web (Rice Knowledge Bank):
contributing editors Gene Hettel, Bill Hardy
news editor Juanito Goloyugo Rice Today editorial
Africa editor Savitri Mohapatra (Africa Rice Center) telephone (+63-2) 580-5600 or (+63-2) 844-3351 to 53, ext 2725;
environment editor Greg Fanslow fax: (+63-2) 580-5699 or (+63-2) 845-0606; email:
photo editor Ariel Javellana
photo researcher Jose Raymond Panaligan
circulation Chrisanto Quintana
printer Primex Printers, Inc.

Rice Today is published by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the world’s should not be construed as expressing IRRI policy or opinion on the legal status of any
leading international rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines and with country, territory, city or area, or its authorities, or the delimitation of its frontiers or
offices in 13 other countries, IRRI is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on boundaries.
improving the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and consumers, Rice Today welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. Potential contributors
particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural resources. IRRI is one of are encouraged to query first, rather than submit unsolicited materials. Rice Today
15 centers funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research assumes no responsibility for loss or damage to unsolicited submissions, which should
(CGIAR), an association of public and private donor agencies. For more information, visit be accompanied by sufficient return postage.
the CGIAR Web site (
Responsibility for this publication rests with IRRI. Designations used in this publication Copyright International Rice Research Institute 2007
IRRI changes copyright policy

A fter being given an important

new role by the rice-producing
nations of Asia to support the free flow
of rice research and knowledge, the
International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) is making an important change
to its copyright policy from the original
“all rights reserved.”
The change effectively echoes
the software industry’s open-source
movement. Others will now be able to
use IRRI’s intellectual property without

restriction provided they do not place The newly developed Bokto seeder—rapidly adopted by South Korean rice farmers over the past 2
restrictions on its use by anyone else. years—has been successfully tested on a North Korean farm. The seeder (pictured) allows farmers to
plant rice with precise sowing depth and even seedling establishment. It also offers simultaneous silicate
The practical change will not application and placement of basal fertilizer, resulting in high nitrogen-use efficiency. These features
be great—IRRI previously offered help farmers improve seedling stand, avoid lodging, and improve yields and grain quality. The seeder
relatively free use of its information was developed by Kwang-Ho Park from the Korea National Agricultural College of the Rural Development
Administration. Professor Park has also worked on transferring the technology to farms in South Korea
to other parties. The major difference and, now, North Korea.
now is that users no longer need to
ask permission. The change is also
symbolic, representing the Institute’s
Three into four will go Iron-fortified rice
goal of promoting the free exchange of
ideas and information.
IRRI’s decision follows the release
T he Dec ember 9 issue of The
Economist reported on IRRI leading
an effort to transfer the more efficient
T he Sw iss Federal Institute of
Technology (ETH) in Zurich has,
for the first time, been able to fortify
of the Delhi Declaration on Rice by photosynthetic process of maize (called rice with iron. In clinical trials, the
the Ministerial Round Table at the C4) to rice, which has a less efficient rice—which has had iron added, as
International Rice Congress in New C3 process. IRRI crop scientist John opposed to rice with endogenous high
Delhi, India, on 9-13 October, wherein Sheehy plans to screen the Institute’s iron content—helped overcome iron
the Institute was asked to “host a task collection of 6,000 wild rice varieties deficiency in Indian schoolchildren.
force … to prepare a road map” that to see if any display a predisposition for A team led by scientist Michael
would help achieve the main objectives C4 photosynthesis, which, if successfully Zimmermann conducted a study on
of the declaration, which include a transferred to commercial rice varieties, 134 primary school children between
plan “to establish a comprehensive would enable higher yields under the ages of five and nine in Bangalore,
partnership among the participants tougher conditions. IRRI Director India. For 16 weeks, a proportion of the
through strengthened dialogue on a General Robert Zeigler admits the task children—who all suffered from iron
regular basis for strengthening rice is daunting and will take 10 years or deficiency, and some also from anemia
research and development efforts.” more. But the potential is enormous. caused by the deficiency—were given
the iron-enriched rice as part of their
lunch. A control group received the
Securing access to biodiversity that took place on World Food Day, 11 same meal with ordinary rice.
centers of the Consultative Group on After the trial, the proportion of
International Agricultural Research children in the fortified rice group
(CGI AR), including IRR I, placed suffering from iron deficiency fell
their genebank collections under the from 78% to 29%. Additionally, the
International Treaty on Plant Genetic proportion of those with an excessively-
Ariel Javellana

Resources for Food and Agriculture, high lead level dropped from 65%
now ratified by 105 countries. to 29%. The number of children in
CGIAR centers hold more than the control group similarly afflicted

W orld agricultural research leaders

have signed agreements that
guarantee long-term access to the
600,000 sa mple s of crop -pla nt
diversity. This includes wild relatives
and more than half of the world total
decreased only slightly, due to the meal
that was offered daily.
Dr. Zimmermann said, “This is
world’s most important collections of of farmer-created varieties, which are a breakthrough because it is the first
agricultural biodiversity while requiring a rich source of sought-after breeding time that rice has been successfully
commercial users to share benefits with traits. IRRI itself holds more than fortified with iron. Since there is no
the global community. 100,000 rice germplasm samples in its patent on the technique, it can be used
In a 16 October 2006 ceremony T.T. Chang Genetic Resources Center. anywhere.”

Rice Today January-March 2007 

Boost for rice reserve by ASEA N countries that require
food after natural or human-created

J apan, South Korea, and China may

join the emergency rice reserve
program of the ten-nation Association
ASE A N comprises Indonesia,
Ma lay sia, Si ngapore, Tha i la nd,
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Mya nma r, L ao PDR , Ca mbod ia,
according to a 22 November Bloomberg Vietnam, Brunei, and the Philippines.
The newcomers would boost by
more than five times—from 87,000
tons in 2006 to as much as 500,000
tons in 2007—the stocks available to
the group’s members should they be
al benavente

affected by calamities.
Although, according to the United
Renowned Japanese sculptor Mitsuaki Ta- Nations, global rice production may
nabe—creator and donor of the Momi wild rice have increased to 634 million tons
seedling sculpture in IRRI’s Riceworld Museum
and Learning Center—plans to hold an exhibition in 2006, the U.S. Department of
entitled “MOMI-TAIWAN 2007: In Situ Conser- Agriculture has said that inventories
vation of Wild Rice,” at the National Taiwan of the world’s most important crop
Museum of Fine Arts in March and April 2007.
Momi is the Japanese word for unhulled rice. are near a 26-year low and will drop

Jose Raymond Panaligan

The exhibition will promote the need to revive
Taiwan’s traditional wild rice growing areas, which The reserve, established in 1979,
have been lost since the 1970s. Tanabe has long
championed the conservation of wild rice, many is made up of rice stocks held in each
species of which harbor traits that can be bred of the member countries that are
into cultivated varieties. earmarked for emergency distribution

Flood-tolerant rice for Indonesia Science. In their article, Comparing for some areas, as many countries lack
IRRI has provided Indonesia with the whole-genome-shotgun and map- the technical capabilities and infra-
seeds of a recently developed submer- based sequences of the rice genome, structure to carry out such programs.
gence-tolerant version of the popular they argue that the most serious dif-
IR64 variety. The Indonesian Agency ferences between the sequences are Vietnam trade restricted
for Agricultural Research and Devel- mostly found in highly variable areas of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen
opment plans to test the performance DNA that are not part of the rice genes Tan Dung last November instructed
of the submergence-tolerant lines in themselves. Once this is factored in, traders to stop exporting rice without
flood-prone areas of the country. For say the authors, there is “remarkable government approval, according to
more on submergence-tolerant rice, see agreement in the sequences produced a November 2006 Associated Press
From genes to farmers’ fields on pages by these two methods.” report. In a statement, the prime min-
28-31 of Rice Today Vol. 5, No. 4. ister said that natural disasters such
Record rice yields as typhoons and pest infestations had
Genome discrepancies Egypt recorded the world’s highest reduced food production, increased
Discrepancies between the draft rice national average yield—9.5 tons per prices, and threatened food security.
genome sequence released in 2002 hectare—in 2005, thanks in part to a According to the report, traders would
(by the Beijing Genomics Institute United Nations Food and Agriculture be able to export rice as part of gov-
and the Syngenta Corporation) and Organization (FAO)-led project to ernment-sponsored export contracts
the sequence released in 2005 (by the develop and use hybrid rice varieties. with Cuba and Indonesia. Any other
International Rice Genome Sequenc- Some of the locally developed hybrid contracts would need government
ing Project) prompted some scientists varieties outperformed the best Egyp- approval.
to question the validity of the results. tian varieties by 20–30%, according
The two groups used different tech- to the FAO. The project, aimed at Rice fashion
niques to obtain the sequence, with growing more rice with less water and Scientists at the University of Nebras-
the former employing a “whole-genome less land, also involved training seed ka–Lincoln plan to turn rice straw into
shotgun method” and the latter a breeders, production personnel, ex- conventional-looking fabric as a way
map-based approach. Jun Yu and col- tension workers, and farmers. Despite to reduce the use of petroleum-based
leagues investigated this problem in the the success, the FAO notes that hybrid synthetic fabrics. The researchers are
August 2006 issue of Trends in Plant rice seed production is not appropriate developing cotton-like fabric from the

 Rice Today January-March 2007

Africa Rice Center wins United Nations award

T he Africa Rice Center has been

named as w inner of the 2006
United Nations Award for South-South
Nations General Assembly.
The groundbreaking NERICA
work earned research leader Monty
Triangular Partnership in recognition Jones—then an Africa Rice Center
of its New Rice for Africa (NERICA) scientist—the 2004 World Food Prize,
initiative. the first-ever won by an African.
This award is presented Dr. Jones is currently the executive
to indiv idua ls or inst it ut ions secretary of the Forum for Agricultural
for “spearheading, transforming, Research in Africa.
empower ing, mobilizing, and/or The for ma l awa rd ceremony
expanding the South-South agenda was scheduled to take place on 19

Shirley Geer
by increasing human and financial December 2006 at United Nations
resources of t he Sout h t hrough headquarters in New York City, USA,
partnership for development.” to mark the third United Nations Day IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler (right)
“WARDA is receiving this award for South-South Cooperation. His briefs World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz on
IRRI’s new Strategic Plan Bringing Hope, Improv-
because of its pioneering efforts in Excellency Kenzo Oshima, permanent ing Lives at the annual general meeting of the
brokering North-South partnerships representative of Japan to the United Consultative Group on International Agricultural
in order to create hybridized varieties Nations, has been invited to present Research (CGIAR) in Washington, D.C., on 5
December 2006. At the same meeting, Dr. Zeigler
of rice applicable to conditions in the the award and invited speakers include gave a presentation that outlined the plans of
South,” said His Excellency Eladio United Nations Secretary-General Kofi CGIAR-supported centers, including IRRI, to
Loizaga, permanent representative of Annan and former U.S. President Bill engage the climate-change research community
in an increasingly urgent effort to develop cli-
Paraguay to the United Nations and Clinton. mate-adapted agricultural technologies—such as
president, High-level Committee of For more on NERICA, see In search drought-tolerant crops—and help mitigate global
South-South Cooperation of the United of new seeds on pages 30-31. environmental change.

straw, as well as wool-like fabric from klinik (techno clinic), a consultation National Academy of Sciences suggests
chicken feathers. Rice-straw fibers activity whereby some 100 farmers per that the combination of global warming
have already been developed using a municipality will be given a chance to caused by greenhouse gas emissions and
chemical process that is now under consult with rice experts on varieties the smog seen over much of Asia—known
patent review. The researchers antici- and seeds, crop protection, and nutrient as the “atmospheric brown cloud”—has
pate that rice fibers will be able to be management. negatively affected rice harvests in India
spun into fabrics using common textile over the past two decades. According to
machinery. Rice News 1,000th story the researchers, India’s rice production
would have been more than 14% better
Espresso pesticide from 1985 to 1998 without the negative
Researchers at the U.S. Department of combined effects of greenhouse gas
Agriculture’s National Wildlife Research emissions and the brown cloud. Further,
Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, think there has been no sign of improvement
they’ve discovered a simple way to in more recent years.
keep blackbirds away from rice fields: In December 2006, a feature quoting
coffee. It seems that, unlike humans, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler Rice commerce
birds don’t like caffeine. Working with on climate change in the UK newspa- The World Rice Commerce Conference,
chemists, the team was able to make a per The Guardian became the 1,000th held 18-19 October in Ho Chi Minh
caffeine solution that could be sprayed story placed on IRRI’s Rice News City, Vietnam, attracted more than
on fields. When applied to rice crops Worldwide since it began on 22 June 200 delegates, representing most of
in trials, the caffeine spray reduced 2005. See for yourself stories from the world’s major rice buyers and
the number of seeds lost to pecking by other major outlets such as the BBC, the sellers. Melissa Fitzgerald, head of
up to 76%. International Herald Tribune, India’s IRRI’s Grain Quality, Nutrition, and
Financial Express, Reuters, and many Postharvest Center, gave a presentation
Mobile rice clinic others at on Certification and the international
A team of PhilRice rice production rice trade: developing a way forward,
experts will tour towns in Pangasinan, Pollution stunts rice harvest which focused on new technologies that
Nueva Ecija, and Pampanga provinces A paper published in the 26 December allow rice traders to better certify the
as par t of the mobile rice tekno 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the rice they buy and sell.

Rice Today January-March 2007 

Nobel for former IRRI board member Keeping up with IRRI staff

F ormer IRRI Board of Trustees

member (1989-94) and economist
Muhammad Yunus has won the
Grameen Bank itself shares the prize
with Dr. Yunus.
A not her key Gra meen Ba n k
R einer Wassmann joins the
Crop and Environmental Sciences
Division (CESD) as coordinator of the
Nobel Peace Prize for 2006. principle is that loans should be made Rice and Climate Change Consortium.
Dr. Yunus developed microcredit predominantly to women, who are often Dr. Wassmann previously worked
under the belief that credit is a right, best placed to serve the needs of their at IRRI on secondment from the
not a privilege, and that those who entire family. As of May 2006, the bank Fraunhofer Institute for Atmospheric
possess the least should be the first, had 6.61 million borrowers—97% of Environmental Research in 1993-
not the last, to receive a loan. This whom are women—and more than 200 99. E l i z abe t h Hu mph r e y s,
philosophy led him to set up the branches providing services in more than former principal research scientist
Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1976. 70,000 villages across Bangladesh. at the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organisation’s
Achievements Land and Water Division in Australia,
also joins CESD as an international

C olin McClung, former associate

director at IRRI (1964-71), shared
the 2006 World Food Prize with former
research fellow and Challenge Program
for Water and Food team leader.
Zainul Abedin has rejoined IRRI as
Brazilian Agriculture Minister Alysson FoSHol project team leader and IRRI
Paolinelli and former technical director ROLAND BURESH representative in Bangladesh.
receives his medal
of the Brazilian Agricultural Research from IRRI senior Marco van den Berg began in
Corporation's Cerrado Research Center scientist T.P. Tuong. November 2006 as head of Information

Edson Lobato. The recipients played a Technology Services. He replaces
vital role in transforming the Cerrado— and Rural Development presented a Paul O’Nolan, who, during 7 years
a formerly infertile region of tropical medal of merit to IRRI soil scientist at IRRI, oversaw a period of immense
high plains stretching across Brazil— Roland Buresh in August 2006. change during which the Institute made
into highly productive cropland. IRRI anthropologist Florencia Palis important gains in its information
The Un ited St ate s House of received a best paper award for The social technology capabilities.
Representatives voted on 6 December and cultural dimensions of rodent pest IRRI also welcomes Zhao Ming,
to honor World Food Prize Founder management during the International IRRI liaison scientist for China; Hao
and 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Conference on Rodent Biology and Chen, postdoctoral fellow, Plant
Nor ma n Borlaug w ith the Management in Hanoi, Vietnam, 28 Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology
Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, August-1 September 2006. (PBGB); Daisuke Fujita, project
the nation’s highest civilian honor. Vito Butardo, Jr., of IRRI’s Grain scientist, PBGB; Zahirul Islam,
Dr. Borlaug led the development of Quality, Nutrition, and Postharvest international research fellow, Social
modern, high-yielding wheat varieties Center, received a Ph.D. scholarship Sciences Division; Minu Joseph,
through his work with the Rockefeller under the Australian Leadership postdoctoral fellow, PBGB; Susanna
Foundation and the International Awards program. Polleti, postdoctoral fellow, PBGB;
Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. Rice breeder B.D. Pathinayaka Edilberto Redoña, senior scientist,
His approach was subsequently adopted of the Sri Lankan Department of PBGB, and International Network for the
with similar results in rice. Dr. Borlaug Agriculture received the IRRI award Genetic Evaluation of Rice coordinator;
is widely credited with ushering in the for outstanding rice scientist during the and Dule Zhao, postdoctoral fellow,
Green Revolution of the 1960s, thus Sri Lanka-IRRI Work Plan Meeting at PBGB. IRRI bids farewell to Jingsheng
averting widespread famine. the Plant Genetic Resources Center in Zheng, postdoctoral fellow in PBGB
The Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture Gannoruwa on 30 September 2006. (2004–06).
IRRI also says farewell to Board of
IRRI geographic information Trustees member Fazle Hasan Abed
systems (GIS) researcher (2001-06) and welcomes three new board
Aileen Maunahan performs
ground truthing—collecting members: plant pathologist Jillian
GIS data on location—with Lenne (U.K.), financial management
a global positioning system specialist M. Syeduzzaman
device in an IRRI experimental
field. The photo won social (Bangladesh), and plant biotechnologist
scientist Aileen Lapitan third Usha Barwale Zehr (India). Dr.
prize in the 2006 IRRI Filipino Zehr, as part of the IRRI-International
Scientists Association photo
Aileen Lapitan

competition in November. Maize and Wheat Improvement Center

Alliance, will act as the institutes’ first
shared board member.

 Rice Today January-March 2007

Typhoon Xangsane flattened

Beating the
rice fields around IRRI's
hometown of Los Baños and
(below) flung debris across
the research campus.

Greg Fanslow
by Duncan Macintosh

Every year, typhoons and other extreme weather events yphoons are one of the
oldest and most destructive
devastate rice fields—but new research is helping challenges facing rice
production in tropical
protect rice farmers Asia. These vicious storms
flatten crops, shatter grain, and
make harvests impossible.
And it’s not only the areas
hit with the violent winds of a
typhoon that suffer. Every year,
crops in some of Asia’s most
important rice regions are flooded
by rains that emanate from
typhoon weather systems. Seasonal
flooding causes an estimated
US$1 billion in losses each year.
As Rice Today went to press, 22
tropical storm systems had swept
across rice-growing Asia in 2006,
causing widespread destruction. In
September and October, Typhoon,
Jose Raymond panaligan

Xangsane (see Packing a nasty

punch on page 10), destroyed more
than 800,000 hectares of rice and
caused over half a billion dollars
in damage in rural areas alone.

Rice Today January-March 2007 

Jose Raymond Panaligan

Greg Fanslow
On 30 November, Typhoon Durian Claire Arboleda, seen here holding her one-
Packing a nasty punch slammed into the Bicol region of the
month-old son Angelito, lives with her husband
in the town of Bay, close to IRRI headquarters.

I n late September and early October Philippines, causing landslides that On 28 September, in the same place she stands
killed hundreds of people (see Once here, floods from Typhoon Xangsane rose to the
2006, Typhoon Xangsane or its remnants level of her shoulders when the raised roadbed
swept across five nations—the Philippines, were rice fields on pages 20-25). of the national highway effectively formed a
Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. A Many scientists now expect that long dam that flooded upslope areas. Less than
category 4-equivalent storm (wind speeds climate change may increase the 200 meters away, a man drowned in his house.
of 210–249 km per hour and storm surges frequency and severity of extreme
of 4.0–5.5 meters), Xangsane was the 16th weather events such as typhoons,
tropical storm and ninth typhoon of the and—perhaps just as damaging— genes to farmers’ fields on pages
2006 season.
alter their timing and location. 28-31 of Rice Today Vol. 5, No. 4).
Xangsane made landfall in the
In 2004, the final sequencing The development of a flood-
Philippines on 27 September, battering
the archipelago’s northern islands with of the rice genome by a Japan-led tolerant rice variety for India shows
torrential rains and strong winds, and international consortium signaled that modern science can help protect
causing widespread flooding and landslides. a knowledge revolution in our rice farmers from the flooding caused
On 28 September, the typhoon passed understanding of the rice plant. by typhoons. Every year, extreme
directly over the International Rice Research This new knowledge accelerated the weather events such as typhoons
Institute (IRRI) just south of Manila and, development of flood-tolerant rice, a affect rice production. As the climate
after emerging over the South China Sea, technology that could save hundreds continues to change, this is only
made a second landfall in central Vietnam, of millions of dollars in losses across expected to get worse. Already,
before moving on to cause major flooding Asia every year. Although rice thrives IRRI has had urgent requests from
and landslides in Thailand. It also caused
in standing water, like all crops it will Bangladesh, the Philippines, and
heavy rains in northern Cambodia and
die if completely submerged for more India for the new flood-tolerant rice.
southern Laos. Xangsane was responsible
for around 300 deaths, with two-thirds of than a few days. The development But there is good news. As
these in the Philippines. and cultivation of the new flood- our knowledge of the rice plant
IRRI itself sustained extensive damage tolerant rice varieties are expected to grows rapidly, rice researchers
but escaped lightly compared with many increase food security for 70 million can help protect rice farmers—and
residential areas and other organizations. of the world’s poorest people and therefore rice consumers—from
The Philippine National Plant Genetic provide protection for millions of rice the disastrous effects of extreme
Resources Laboratory in the Institute of farmers in Asia and Africa (see From weather such as typhoons.
Plant Breeding, University of the Philippines
Los Baños, for example, suffered damage to
or loss of 70% of its accessions. As well as rudely damaging
IRRI’s welcome sign, Xang-
The overall regional damage estimates sane destroyed research trials
for the storm are (top left) and caused flooding
• Rice area damaged or destroyed: 869,000 throughout the campus (top
hectares—Philippines: 125,000 hectares; middle and right).
Thailand: 444,000 hectares; Vietnam:
300,000 hectares.
• Rice price increases recorded across the
affected region.
• Damage estimated at more than US$700
million—Vietnam: more than $600 million;
Jose Raymond panaligan

Philippines: more than $100 million.

• People affected (mainly rural): 6.8
million—Philippines: 2 million; Thailand:
3.5 million; Vietnam: 1.3 million.

10 Rice Today January-March 2007

His majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej
harvests rice at Prachin Buri in 1998.
Royal Household Bureau

by Bob Hill Rice King
Thai rice farmers are fortunate to have a head

of state who does more than offer symbolic

support—His Majesty the King of Thailand is a

monarch who genuinely makes a difference

patron is defined as a distinguished it warrants not only a public declaration of
person who gives support to support, but also that such support is of a long-
an organization or cause by standing nature. Moreover, royal patronage is
accepting an honorary position. rarely granted outside a monarch’s kingdom.
Since there is no more distinguished The International Rice Research Institute
person than a king, it follows that royal (IRRI) is both privileged and honored to
patronage is something special. It is have as its Royal Patron “the Development
recognition from a royal figure that the work King,” King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
of an organization is so deeply favored that For while mental visions of spectacle and

Rice Today January-March 2007 11

formality inevitably tumble into successfully eliminated opium procedure to make artificial rain,
any consideration of royalty, it is growing in the country’s two floating aerators for improving
astonishing, with a perception thus mountainous north, directly the quality of polluted water, and
blurred, to discover that there is affected the lives of at least 50,000 a process for making bio-diesel.
another, largely unpublished, side people, and won the 1988 Ramon On the occasion of the 50th
to the remarkable reign of King Magsaysay Award. Early last year, anniversary of his accession to
Bhumibol: a selfless dedication the United Nations recognized King the throne, in June 1996, King
to the welfare of his subjects that Bhumibol as “the Development Bhumibol accepted the first and
vastly outweighs the notional King,” and, in October, His Majesty only International Rice Gold Medal
bounds of noblesse oblige. received the first Dr. Norman E. awarded by IRRI in recognition of his
For much of his 60 years on Borlaug Medallion, awarded by the passionate personal interest in, and
the Thai throne, King Bhumibol World Food Prize Foundation for devotion to, improving the well-being
has ventured restlessly throughout individuals at the highest levels of of rice farmers and consumers. Just
every corner of his kingdom, often international society who have given over a year later, in September 1997,
spending more than half of any year exceptional humanitarian service King Bhumibol recognized IRRI’s
away from Bangkok, studying the in reducing hunger and poverty. work and became the Institute’s
countryside, listening to the problems His efforts to improve the Royal Patron. The Royal Plaque, “the
of his people, proposing, suggesting, livelihood of his people are never Great Crown of Victory,” together
innovating, and inventing. remote or detached. His is a with His Majesty’s portrait, have
His ideas and suggestions, after hands-on, sweat, and rolled-up since taken pride of place in IRRI’s
considering the people’s needs, shirtsleeves commitment. He main administration building.
the physical environment, and holds patents for a cloud-seeding Looking back, it was on 9
agricultural practices, have been
put to the test in more than 4,300
royal projects. They cover almost
every conceivable aspect of what is
generally labeled “development,”
but they concentrate heavily on
water resources, agriculture, and
conservation. The King’s projects
have long supported the livelihood of
small-scale farmers and particularly
the rice farmers that constitute
the heart of rural Thailand.
His innovations have benefited
millions of people, and have given
the little people of Thailand the
kind of strength that saw them
twice deliver record rice harvests,
enhancing the country’s capacity to
export, in the bleak years following
Thailand’s financial collapse in 1997.
During the massive gatherings
in Bangkok to mark the 60th
anniversary of his accession to the
throne, in June last year, it was a
common sight to see mature Thai
people weeping unashamedly,
overcome with the emotion of sharing
the moment with their King. For
if there is one characteristic that
marks King Bhumibol, and has
nurtured the success of his many
projects, it is his almost uncanny
connection with the common folk,
the poor, and the dispossessed.
His landmark Royal Crop
Replacement Project, which

12 Rice Today January-March 2007

June 1946, when his country was launched for public
still emerging from the Japanese donations, so he
occupation of World War II and could do more.
was finding peace after having Soon, the
declared war against England, projects assumed
France, and the United States, that the distinctive
Bhumibol became Thailand’s King nature of
Rama IX. Much of the country physical, social,
was undeveloped; sickness and and economic
malnutrition were commonplace. development,
Despite his tender age of 19, it was driven by His
only a few brief years before his first Majesty’s often-
royal projects began to emerge. expressed
The first involved public health, conviction that
including a laboratory to produce to be strong and
BCG vaccine to combat tuberculosis, a independent, Thai King Bhumibol greets former IRRI Director

Official photo
plant to refine intravenous saline, and people should first General Ronald Cantrell during an August 2004
a Red Cross river barge dispensing be self-sufficient. visit to update His Majesty on IRRI’s work.
mobile medical help from the banks First, His Majesty
of the country’s rivers. At first, was given a gift
they were funded from the King’s of Tilapia fingerlings by the emperor experimentation, and are funded
own pocket, but a campaign was of Japan. He raised them in a pond, from his private resources. In
then had them distributed to village other cases, the King gives advice
and district leaders so they could be and guidelines to private-sector
farmed as an alternative source of projects, while in many other cases
The King said: “If there is
any land where rice can grow,
protein. Then he donated bulldozers His Majesty plans and advises
then it must be grown.” Her for a road development project, government agencies in the study and
Royal Highness Princess Maha and later proposed construction implementation of development work.
Chakri Sirindhorn heeds her
father’s words by transplant-
of a dam to supply irrigation water His Majesty championed vetiver
ing rice on a vacant plot of to a district in Prachuap Khiri grass as a means of stabilizing
land at Chulachomklao Royal Khan Province. And so the projects erosion-prone land, and his
Military Academy in Nakhon
Nayok Province in 2001.
grew. However, individually, they advances in the difficult field of
never assumed a grand, sweeping artificial rain-making have led
scale. King Bhumibol insists that to the formation of a year-round
such work should never “attempt cloud-seeding force with 45 aircraft
to overhaul the whole system,” flying from 12 bases around the
but rather, development should be country, bent on avoiding drought.
taken one small step at a time. It may be easy to assume that,
Now, after more than half a since he is the King, what he says will
century, there are so many royal happen. It is not that simple. He is a
projects, and their scope is so broad, constitutional monarch and, as such,
that to refer to them individually can only give advice. Nevertheless,
is virtually impossible. They are his moral authority is monumental.
grouped under headings: agriculture, Still, his initiatives must be feasible
animal husbandry, crop substitution, and complement government
education, fisheries, irrigation, policy, and each is judged on these
land development, medical, bases before adoption. Directing,
personal, rain-making, river basin coordinating, and monitoring the
development, road development, vast development network is the
and watershed development. Royal Development Projects Board,
Some of them involve only study, whose office is a department within
and are intended to fully inform the Office of the Prime Minister.
Thailand Rice Research Institute

His Majesty of social and physical The nature and purpose of

parameters, so that development the projects are guided by the
guidelines can be written. Others King’s pronouncements, many of
relate directly to solving problems which established clear principles
faced by the people. Some are that, some years later, were to
based on His Majesty’s own become accepted practices for the

Rice Today January-March 2007 13

prevent farmers and environmental conditions of
Palace worker
Akkhradat Kuamklang
from being the country’s different regions.
shows charcoal tubes affected by price The centers set out to be “living
made from compressed fluctuations.” natural museums,” bringing together
rice husks in an ex-
perimental plant on the
“Development and integrating the innovations,
grounds of Bangkok’s must take techniques, and systems developed
Chitralada Palace. account of the over decades of experimentation,
topographical research, and trial. The doors of
and sociological the centers are open to anyone
environments wishing to learn. People in each of
involved. The the regions can observe models of
sociological modern knowledge and technology,
environment which they can then apply on their
means the habits own farms. Likewise, students
and attitudes and researchers use the centers,
of the people. which have become popular
We cannot force meeting-grounds for scientists,
others to think bureaucrats, nongovernmental
Bob Hill

in the same way organization workers, and

as we do. We can ordinary people, from district
only approach, and village officials to farmers,
wider international development and suggest. We cannot offer housewives, and school children.
community. Some examples are assistance by expecting them to think Of particular emphasis in the
“Understanding the situation the same as us. When we approach study centers is the King’s concept
facing those we want to help is them we must learn what their real of sufficiency economy. Originally
most important. Helping them to needs are, and explain to them how called “The New Theory,” it aims
acquire the basic needs of life is the they can best achieve their aims and to promote sustainable self-
most effective means of assistance. how the principles of the development sufficiency on small farm holdings
Therefore, in each case, before plan can be successfully applied.” by combining organic rice, vegetable,
giving assistance, we must take Explaining those principles and fruit growing with fish and
account of their wants and needs. became the driving force behind livestock production. It preaches
We must understand the situation a unique “show window” on the full integration of farming systems
they are encountering and decide royal projects launched in the early and careful resource management.
the means and extent to which 1980s. His Majesty established six His Majesty urged farmers to adopt
they can be helped. We should also Royal Development Study Centers, the system following the Asian
adhere to the important principle scattered throughout the country financial disaster in 1997, and many
that we help them in order to and catering to the different climatic have successfully taken it on.
enable them to help themselves.” Although many of the royal
“Providing occupational projects have been aimed at
assistance to farmers to enable agriculture in general, some have
them to be self-supporting is involved rice growing in particular.
crucial because once they become His Majesty established a rice
self-supporting, they will certainly bank, from which farmers can
be able to build up a higher level borrow, either for seed or for family
of development. In undertaking consumption. In a drive to provide
the step-by-step approach to a greater range of rice varieties for
development, it is significant to farmers in the country’s diverse
promote caution and economy, environmental zones, different
to protect against failure, and varieties were evaluated under
to ensure full success.” different growing conditions.
“It is not necessary to promote Soil fertility studies have
World Food Prize

agricultural production only in also been aimed at rice farming

terms of quantity because this may problems, particularly declines in
be a waste of production costs and irrigated rice yields and the effects
destructive to the quality of the soil. The Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Medallion, awarded of acidity and salinity, but also at
In fact, we should examine the state by the World Food Prize Foundation for individuals developing composting techniques
who have given exceptional humanitarian service in
of the agricultural market, including reducing hunger and poverty. King Bhumibol was the to support organic rice farming,
some form of price regulation, to first-ever recipient in October 2006. with an emphasis once more on

14 Rice Today January-March 2007

self-sufficiency. One royal study In recent
even discovered that a rat infestation years, King
problem afflicting one group of rice Bhumibol’s
growers was a direct result of a local health, as he
habit of killing and either eating or approaches his
selling snakes, thereby disrupting the 80th birthday
natural biological balance in the area. this year, has
His Majesty maintains a restricted his
close interest in the work of constant roaming
both Thailand’s rice science of the Thai
community and international rice countryside
research, and regularly speaks and his direct
out against farmer pessimism intervention to

Thailand Rice Research Institute

for the future of rice growing. improve the lives
“If someone says it is nonsense of his subjects.
to grow rice—that it brings poor But Her Majesty
returns—then just think: if we the Queen Sirikit,
do not grow rice, we will end up the Crown Her Majesty Queen Sirikit harvests
rice from an experimental plot.
having to buy it from Vietnam or Prince, His
Burma (Myanmar),” the King said. Royal Highness
“If we buy from Vietnam, we will Prince Maha
have to pay for transportation and Vajiralongkorn, and Her Royal ponds and fountains, polo fields,
give profits to someone else. Highness Princess Maha Chakri and stables—perhaps resembling the
“Thailand must grow more Sirindhorn are ensuring that the European style of regal grandeur.
rice because in another 20 years King’s work continues. All have The Chitralada compound, in the
we may have 80 million people their own development projects jam-packed mayhem of downtown
and, without enough rice, there modeled after those of the King. Bangkok, is a complex of agricultural
may be disagreements among the If there is one example that stations, model industrial
Thai people. Even if the quality of epitomizes the King’s extraordinary plants, laboratories, and farming
Thai rice is not as high as that in development work, it is the Chitralada experiments. Crowded with workers,
other countries, we must still grow Palace in Bangkok. Hidden from the palace has a full-scale dairy
it. And who cares if people say I’m public view behind a moat, tall farm, a milk-processing and cheese-
foolish for saying this. If there is fences, spreading trees, and armed making factory, a fruit-processing
any land where rice can grow, then sentries, it is easy to imagine that plant, factories producing bio-gas and
it must be grown. Thais must eat within the one-square-kilometer bio-diesel, a tissue culture laboratory,
rice, three times a day. Thais don’t compound are manicured lawns experimental rice fields, a factory
eat bread—that is just a snack.” and tropical gardens, ornate statues, producing charcoal from rice husks,
and a germplasm bank. It also has a
school for more than 1,000 children
of the people who work on the King’s
projects. And, at its heart is the
Chitralada Villa, with King Bhumibol
King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit in residence.
and Queen Sirikit
inspect the IRRI Rather than isolating himself
agricultural within the pomp and ceremony
engineering unit that are the common view of his
during a July
1963 visit. extraordinary reign, Thailand’s
Development King—IRRI’s Royal
Patron—prefers to live at the active
heart of a development engine
that promises a better future
for his 64 million subjects.

We are grateful for the assistance of

the National Rice Research Institute
of Thailand in preparing this story.
Bob Hill is a Thailand-based writer

specializing in science and technology.

Rice Today January-March 2007 15

India hosts world’s largest
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh presents the M.S. Swaminathan
Award for Leadership in Agriculture
to former IRRI principal plant breeder
Gurdev Khush, with Dr. Swaminathan
and IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler
(second from right) looking on.

ach day of the 2nd and every major religion on Earth ministers—traveled from other
International Rice Congress were represented here. And all were countries to make up the largest-
(IRC) 2006, delegates from drawn together by one simple—but ever gathering of rice workers.
47 countries crisscrossed also not so simple—thing: rice. Participants deliberated on various
through the office block In total, 1,383 delegates from 46 aspects of rice production, commerce,
lobby at the impressive New Delhi nations, including host-country India, and international cooperation,
headquarters of the Indian Council attended the IRC, which aimed for with a special focus on the latest
of Agricultural Research’s National greater application of rice science and research, science, and technology.
Agricultural Science Complex technology, and cooperation among The event was inaugurated by the
(NASC). Here, the global nature of countries to address the problems Honorable Prime Minister of India
rice was thrown into sharp relief. of poverty and hunger. Almost Manmohan Singh at Vigyan Bhawan,
People from every corner of the globe one-third of the attendees—who New Delhi. During his speech, the
crossed paths and, more often than included rice researchers, traders, prime minister noted that “Despite
not, stopped to chat. Every continent rice millers, farmers, and agriculture remarkable achievements, hunger

Left to right: at an 11 October dinner, retiring IRRI Board of Trustees member Fazle Hasan Abed (at right)—founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Rural
Advancement Committee—accepts a toast from IRRI Spokesperson Duncan Macintosh and Michiko Otsuka, wife of IRRI Board Chair Kei Otsuka; M.A. Salam, chief scien-
tific officer and head of the Plant Breeding Division at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute in Gazipur, accepts the 2006 Senadhira Rice Research Award, with Dr. Zei-
gler looking on; the main building of the National Agricultural Science Complex; a Greenpeace activist—one of several who interrupted a press conference to voice fears
about genetically engineered rice—sits beside a bowl of rice containing a symbolic question mark; traditional Indian dancers at the IRC cultural night on 10 October.

16 Rice Today January-March 2007

IRC conclusions
rice gathering T he IRC would be meaningless if it did not
promote action. Key recommendations and
conclusions included the following:
• Hybrid rice breeding and modification of plant
architecture were discussed as strategies to
increase yield potential and help meet rice
the IRC incorporated the 26th production demand.
International Rice Research • Site-specific nutrient management should be
Conference (at which 900 research used to minimize nutrient deficiencies and
papers were presented), the 2nd improve rice production with optimum use of
International Rice Commerce the most appropriate fertilizer.
Conference, the 2nd International • Climate change is a real threat and adaptation
Rice Technology and Cultural strategies need to be developed. Earlier
Exhibition (which featured displays observed benefits of increased carbon dioxide
from 49 companies, institutes, are smaller than first predicted and could
International Rice Research be overridden by the negative effects of
Consortium Coordinator Grant and organizations from countries
Singleton chats with Haryana increasing temperatures.
including India, the United States, • Quality seed is the single most crucial input
rice farmer Bhavneet Singh at
the IRRI exhibition. Japan, China, and the Philippines), for securing rice productivity and production.
and the 2nd International Farmers need access to affordable quality seed
Ministerial Round Table Meeting of the right variety and at the right time. To
(see Agricultural ministers come ensure this, strong linkage is needed between
and malnutrition continue to afflict together over rice on pages 18-19). the private and public sectors.
millions and millions of people across The event was sponsored by the • There is a need for harmonized international
the world. About 815 million people Ministry of Agriculture, Government treaties and intellectual property rights that
in developing countries are reported of India; the International Rice support resource-poor farming communities and
by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Research Institute (IRRI); and the nations.
Organization) to be undernourished. Agricultural and Processed Food
• There is a worldwide need to minimize the
average 20% losses caused by diseases and
Hunger and malnutrition are the Export Development Authority, and pests. Both biotechnology and effective
underlying cause of more than half was organized by the Indian Council germplasm exchange have significant roles to
of all child deaths, killing nearly for Agricultural Research and the play.
6 million children each year.” Dr. National Academy of Agricultural • Information and communication technologies
Singh said he was confident that Sciences. Special recognition are readily adaptable tools that can help
the IRC 2006 would help pave was also given to the organizing increase profitability by offering access to
the way for a better tomorrow for team led by Indian Agricultural market information and linking smallholders.
the rice farmers of the world. Research Institute Head Pramod • A consistent scientific basis for defining rice
Held on 9-13 October 2006, Aggarwal and IRRI’s J.K. Ladha. quality for export is needed.
Adam Barclay (6)

Representatives from IRRI and the national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) of 15 countries attended the 10th meeting of the Council for Part-
nership on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA) on 14 October 2006 at the National Agricultural Science Complex in New Delhi. One of the meeting’s key outcomes was
CORRA’s approval of Vietnam as host of the next CORRA meeting, and a resolution to support efforts for Vietnam to host an international rice research conference in
2007. The annual meeting is the major get-together of NARES heads in their efforts to guide, facilitate, support, and thereby strengthen partnership among NARES,
IRRI, and other relevant institutions.

Rice Today January-March 2007 17

Agriculture ministers come
D uring the International Rice
Congress 2006, nine ministers
of agriculture representing China,
the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam,
and India made a historic Delhi
Declaration at the 2nd International
which they stressed the fostering of
cooperation among Asian countries
to safeguard the environment and
Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, Ministerial Round Table Meeting, in food and nutritional security.

The Delhi Declaration

Adopted at the 2nd International Ministers’ Round
Table Meeting held on 10 October 2006 during the 2nd
International Rice Congress in New Delhi, India. Zhang Baowen
Honorable Vice Minister of
The undersigned ministers and representatives of agriculture: Agriculture, Government of the
People’s Republic of China

• First
Confirming the spirit of the Beijing Declaration following the
Round Table Meeting held on 15 September 2002;
Sutarto Alimoeso
Director General of Food Crops, Ministry
• as
Confirming our commitment to intellectual property rights of Agriculture, Government of Indonesia
per World Trade Organization stipulations and provisions
including indigenously developed improved varieties of rice;
Ty Phommasack
• Stressing the strategic importance of the Asian nations in Honorable Vice Minister of
Agriculture, Government of Laos
the production of rice and moved by the will to give their
future thrusts a new dimension, based on comprehensive
cooperation, in keeping with the privileged nature of
Mahanth Thakur
the links forged by neighborhood and history; Honorable Minister of Agriculture and
Cooperatives, Government of Nepal
• more
Aware that the farmers are facing the challenge of producing
rice at less cost in a deteriorating environment and rice
research and development needs to address the Millennium Fazal Abbas Maken
Development Goals on poverty alleviation, food and nutritional Minister (Trade), High Commission
for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
security, and environmental conservation in a partnership mode;

• framework
Resolve to establish to that end a multilateral
Domingo F. Panganiban
based on a spirit of partnership; Secretary (Minister) of Agriculture,
Government of the Philippines
• aRegarding this multilateral framework as the counterpart to
strengthening of bilateral relations which it is important to
safeguard, while laying stress on their specific nature; Maithripala Sirisena
Honorable Minister of Agriculture,

• other
Stressing that this initiative is not intended to replace the
Irrigation, and Mahaweli Development,
Government of Sri Lanka
activities and initiatives undertaken in the interests
of the peace, prosperity, stability, and development of the
region, but that it will contribute to their success; Bui Ba Bong
Honorable Minister of Agriculture,
Hereby agree to establish a comprehensive partnership among Government of Vietnam
the participants through strengthened dialogue on a regular basis for
strengthening rice research and development efforts laying greater
emphasis on the social, cultural, and human dimensions and IRRI Shri Sharad Pawar
Honorable Union Minister of Agriculture,
would host a task force comprising experts from all the countries and Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public
centers of excellence in the area to prepare a road map for the purpose. Distribution, Government of India

18 Rice Today January-March 2007

together over rice


Shri Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food, Minister Pawar outside the National Agricultural Science
and Public Distribution, Government of India (left), talks with Indian Complex with Mangala Rai, director general of the Indian Council
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the IRC inauguration at Vigyan of Agricultural Research and chair of the organizing and advisory
D.K. Seth

Bhawan, New Delhi. committees of the IRC.

Led by Minister Pawar, the ministers of

agriculture of China, Indonesia, Laos,
Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri
Lanka, and Vietnam, together signed the
Delhi Declaration on 10 October 2006.

Southeast Asia endorses major initiatives to boost regional rice production

R ice production in Southeast Asia—

arguably the region’s most important
industry—has received a major boost with
Specifically, ASEAN has endorsed the
development of a series of environmental
indicators for rice production focused on
ASEAN includes Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia,
Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar,
the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and
the endorsement of three new strategies by production, biodiversity, pollution, land Vietnam.
the Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry of degradation, and water; the further “To have ASEAN member countries
the ten-nation Association of Southeast Asian development of the Rice Knowledge Bank endorse these very important activities at the
Nations (ASEAN). for rice farmers (www.knowledgebank.irri. ministerial level is obviously a crucial step
The International Rice Research Institute org), Asia’s first digital extension service forward, and we are very grateful for such
(IRRI) implemented and coordinated the new in agriculture; and the development of rice high-level political support,” IRRI Director
measures, which are aimed at three major camps for young Asians to encourage them to General Robert Zeigler said. “With major Asian
challenges facing rice production in ASEAN: consider a career in rice. rice producers such as Thailand, Vietnam,
protecting the environment, ensuring that The decision to endorse the three new Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar now
rice farmers receive the latest knowledge activities was made at the 28th meeting officially part of these activities, we hope to
and information, and developing the next of the ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and reach out to other countries in Asia—especially
generation of rice farmers and scientists. Forestry in Singapore on 16 November 2006. China and India—for their support also.”

Rice Today January-March 2007 19

Rice fields in Albay
Province, Bicol, stretch out
to the foothills of Mayon
Volcano when it was threat-
ening to erupt in July 2006.
Six days after Typhoon
Durian struck, the scene
(right) is very different. The
huge mudflow at the right
of the photo claimed many
lives and obliterated rice
fields and homes.

Once were
story by Meg Mondoñedo, photography by Ariel Javellana

The week after Typhoon Durian slammed he road to Albay from the
Los Baños headquarters
into the Philippines’ Bicol Region, Rice Today of the International
Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) is long but not
ventured into the stricken area to find that the tedious. After 12 hours of driving
through town after town of busy
rice-farming communities had been hit hard. markets lined with parol (Christmas
lantern) vendors, deep green coconut
plantations, quiet rice fields, and
shimmering blue coast, the landscape
gave way to a city of darkness
and desolation—Legaspi in Albay
Province, Bicol, Philippines. Five
days earlier, Typhoon Durian (locally
known as Reming) had struck the
region, bringing winds upward of 220
km per hour and leaving hundreds
dead, missing, and homeless.
Children are in the streets,
barefoot and begging, the houses
The remains of a house in San behind them destroyed. Everywhere,
Isidro, Albay, perch precariously
over a ditch fashioned by the river people are digging, either to rebuild
of mud, rocks, and volcanic ash homes or find missing relatives.
that carved through the region. With no power, no water, and
roads that have collapsed into

20 Rice Today January-March 2007

A group of children pose
in front of rice fields in
Santo Domingo, Albay
Province, in happier times
in 2001. John Oliver
Leron (below) sits in the

Al Benavente
same area after Typhoon
Durian triggered the
devastating mudslides.

rice fields
rivers, Rice Today set out to find
the rice farmers who live at the Children in Daraga, Albay, sit atop
foot of Mayon Volcano in Albay. a mammoth boulder—evidence of the
deadly forces unleashed by the typhoon—
It has been a difficult year for swept into town by the mudslide.
Albay, to say the least. Only a few
months previously, Mayon was
threatening to erupt (see Rice in
harm’s way on pages 24-27 of Rice
Today Vol. 5, No. 4). The volcanic
activity died down, and but then
Durian did what the volcano, this
time, couldn’t. The intense typhoon
rains dislodged the tons and tons
of volcanic ash, creating massive
landslides that obliterated houses and
rice fields and, as Rice Today went to
press, killed more than 400 people,
with at least that many still missing.
Here, Rice Today brings you
images and stories that offer a
glimpse of the terror that Durian
blasted into the lives of some of
the Albay rice-farming families,
as well as the despair and hope
that the typhoon left behind.

Rice Today January-March 2007 21

Ariel Javellana, 6 December 2006

Rice Today January-March 2007, Vol. 6, No. 1

30 November 2006: Typhoon Durian triggers deadly mudslides that swallow entire rice farms in Albay Province, Bicol, Philippines.
Rice farmer Gloria
Miranda’s house at the
foot of Mayon Volcano was
threatened by lava flows
in July 2006 and (right)
half-destroyed by Typhoon
Durian in November 2006.

Gloria Miranda, 51 destroyed. The flood was caused its spectacular silhouette rising
Gloria lives with her partner and their by the mud flow from Mayon. above the lahar. But, right now, it’s
teenage daughter, Fanela. Durian This is the strongest typhoon I have hard not to think it’s just another
destroyed most of her crops and more seen. Good thing my house did not fall disaster waiting to happen.
than half of her house (see photos apart, but all of my seedlings are dead.
above), and killed her farm animals. Thank God no one died in my family.
Because of the damage, I will A satellite photo of Typhoon
We just stayed inside the house
lose my income of 5,000 Philippine Durian over the Philippines on
from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. We couldn’t 30 November 2006, the day
pesos [US$100] a month unless I
go out because the rain was so it hit the Bicol region, several
can get new seedlings soon. We will hundred kilometers southeast
hard. All our things got wet.
have to start over again. Our only of Manila.
We will plant again, start over,
source of income is now gone.
and raise animals again. We’re
I’m thinking of moving my house to
not leaving. It’s hard to evacuate
a higher place so my family can be safe.
because this is our home.
We were safer during
As long as we have rice, fish sauce,
Mayon’s lava flow. With this
dried fish, and water, we’ll be ok.
typhoon, we lost everything.
Albay Province,
Sofroneo “Fron” Rodriguez, 59 Two farmers. Two stories. Bicol Region
In July, Fron and his family were Although they lost so much, Gloria
taking refuge from Mayon volcano in and Fron can count themselves
an evacuation center. This time, he lucky. They and their families are
was taking stock of what used to be alive and well. As well as losing their
his farm and is now a swath of lahar, fields to mud, rocks, and ash, many
the black, tar-like mix of ash and mud others lost loved ones. Thousands
characteristic of volcanic eruptions. are living in evacuation centers
and will be there for who knows
Many cows, carabaos,
how long. Hundreds of bodies were
and pigs died. I don’t know the
buried in mass graves, unidentified.
number, but even the piggery was
As Rice Today leaves Albay, the
smell of rotting garbage and dead
Rice farmer Sofroneo animals is at times overwhelming.
“Fron” Rodriguez.
People’s bodies are still trapped
Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA

beneath the earth. The air is cool,

with the tropical “winter” bringing
relief from the usual humid heat.
It’s almost Christmas but not a
single parol can be seen. Mayon
Volcano remains a beautiful sight,

24 Rice Today January-March 2007

Rice farmer Oscar Ballaran,
whose photo appeared in
Rice in harm’s way (pages
24-27 of Rice Today Vol. 5,
No. 4), lost his house in San
Isidro, Albay. Thankfully, his
family was unharmed.

This rice mill in San Isidro, Albay, is owned by Luis Balilo, 22 (in white t-shirt), who is now unsure
about when he can resume his milling operations after his one and only mill was buried deep in mud. In Rice Today Vol. 5, No. 4, we
“I don’t know what my plans are,“ he said. ”I’ll just open it again when I have the budget.” More incorrectly named Oscar Bal-
important to him in the immediate aftermath was the loss of his three German shepherds, who used to laran as Sofroneo Rodriguez.
guard the mill.
We would like to apologize to
both men for the mix-up.

The landslide consisting of mud, rocks, and volcanic

ash inundated towns throughout Albay Province.

Rice Today January-March 2007 25

Strength in
by Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton

Biodiversity is more than

just a nice green concept—
farmers rely on it

he loss of biological to 60,000 plant species could be of terrestrial and aquatic habitats.
diversity is one of lost by 2025 if the present rate of The rice field itself can be rich in
the most serious extinction is maintained. The Food biodiversity, with more than 100
environmental problems and Agriculture Organization of useful species associated with it. Rice
in the world today. The the United Nations has estimated fields provide habitats for wildlife
maintenance of biodiversity in that, since 1900, about three- species, including fish, amphibians,
healthy balanced ecosystems is quarters of the genetic diversity reptiles, crustaceans, mollusks, and
crucial to the survival of life on of domestic agricultural crops insects, besides various aquatic and
Earth. Yet, the loss of biodiversity has already been lost. free-standing plants. Domesticated
is alarmingly high worldwide. Up Rice includes more than 20 wild species, such as ducks and cattle, also
species and two cultivated species make use of the vegetation for their
of the genus Oryza, with probably food. A balanced farm also contains a
well over 100,000 varieties of the range of other crops, trees, and wild
cultivated forms. The worldwide habitats. The rice-field ecosystem
loss of biodiversity is also affecting has developed over thousands of
rice biodiversity in all rice-growing years: it is dynamic, stable, and
countries, especially after the sustainable, and has adapted to
introduction of modern high- different environmental conditions
yielding varieties of rice from the in different countries and regions.
1960s onward. In the Philippines The overall impact of traditional
alone, where several thousand agriculture on biodiversity is positive.
varieties of rice were grown in the Traditional farmers have, over 10,000
1950s, only a few varieties now years or more, created huge amounts
cover the majority of the rice area. of novel and valuable biodiversity.
The rice-farmed landscape is Starting with the unproductive wild
more than just rice. It is a patchwork ancestors of our crop plants, they

26 Rice Today January-March 2007

and therefore at risk of erosion.
In contrast to traditional
agriculture, intensive agriculture,
which requires the use of chemical
inputs and uniformity of seed
material, threatens this rich
biodiversity. Pesticides also kill off
the natural enemies of rice pests
and remove forms of biological
control that occur naturally in a
more balanced ecosystem. Runoff
of fertilizer and pesticides pollutes
groundwater and surface waters, and

Ariel Javellana (4)

can cause epidemic outbreaks of algae
and the few other wild plant species
that thrive on nitrate-polluted water.
Rice breeding by large multinational
corporations is economically more
profitable if based on a small number
created new species and new forms Traditional farmers know of mega-varieties that dominate the
far more dramatically novel than well the value of diversity on their marketplace and achieve widespread
anything being produced by modern- farms. Many of them grow mixtures adoption. Legal restrictions
day genetic technologies. Imagine of crops or mixtures of strains of protecting plant breeders’ rights in
hundreds of thousands of farmers, one crop, knowing that a mixture many countries dictate that modern
each farmer working to breed suffers less damage from pests and varieties must be genetically uniform,
better crops, and all with their own diseases and can produce a more unlike the older, genetically diverse,
perceptions of the quality of product reliable yield from year to year and adaptable farmer-bred varieties
they want, their own distinctive set of despite the vagaries of weather and that they replace. In some countries
constraints (pests, diseases, weeds, rainfall. In some places, farmers (but, as of now, few rice-growing
soil types, climate) to overcome, deliberately re-constitute mixtures countries), those restrictions also
and their own parental materials to each year. In some places, they prohibit farmers from saving their
start breeding with. The result was use mixtures with overlapping own seed for sowing the next year’s
millions of different varieties of crops, cropping seasons to reduce the commercial crop, thus forcing them
and a huge diversity of crop plants. length of time that soil remains bare to choose from the comparatively
small number of modern varieties
and destroying the traditional
farmer-breeding system on which
the whole of agriculture is based.
At the landscape level and
above (regional, national, global),
the need to devote an increasing
percentage of the landscape to
agriculture in order to feed an
increasing world population per
se reduces biodiversity. There is

Rice Today January-March 2007 27

just less and less land available or less diverse than other cereal and unmanaged parcels, and a
for nonfarmed ecosystems. The crops. It is believed that rice was different balance between farmed
conversion of rare and threatened domesticated at least twice in Asia, parcels and parcels managed for
habitats to farmland is causing a independently by farmers in China nonagricultural use such as orchards,
major continuing loss of biodiversity. and the southern Himalayan belt, timber, tourism, and aquaculture.
Thus, modern intensive from different ecotypes of Oryza As long as diverse choices are made,
agriculture has reversed the trend rufipogon. The mixing of the two the landscape will be diverse.
of increasing biodiversity under primitive types has generated loads of Centralized control and large
traditional agriculture. This is diversity. Recent estimates of the date businesses tend to result in similar
often cited as one of the key factors of domestication make it older than decisions being made over large
driving the loss of biodiversity. other crops too, so there has been tracts of land. Even if the business
In many places, rice farmers more time for diversity to evolve. is for ecotourism, sustainable
grow a range of crops for special On the other hand, rice is quite forestry, or other environmentally
purposes—one rice variety that possibly no more diverse than other friendly purposes, the impact on
is ideal for rice wine, another for crops. Compared with wheat and biodiversity can be negative at the
a dish used in religious rituals, potatoes, for example, cultivated level of the whole landscape.
another that grows particularly well rice is relatively close to its ancestral Increasing population density
in that shaded field at the bottom wild form and so hybridizes quite also amplifies the degradation of
of the valley, a set of varieties with readily with its wild relatives. biodiversity, as more and more land
differing maturity dates to spread the One can therefore find almost a must be taken under cultivation or
labor of harvesting, a small plot of a continuum of variation along the used for houses, factories, shops,
particularly early-maturing variety to wild-weedy-cultivated forms. In and roads. Wealth helps mitigate
avert a period of hunger, and so on. contrast, cultivated maize and wheat the loss of biodiversity. People stuck
Although rice is impressively have become so distinct that it’s very in the poverty trap may regard
diverse, it is a complex issue to difficult to hybridize them with their loss of biodiversity as the least of
speculate whether rice is more wild relatives. In fact, maize is so their troubles. Poor governments
distinct that it took a lot of effort just likewise may place biodiversity low
Improving productivity to identify its closest wild relative. in their development priorities.
through biodiversity In theory, the same principle Generally, the more complex the
applies to all crops—their forms interactions between organisms and

O n farms, biodiversity of the farming

system itself can be diversified in
many ways to improve productivity:
and traits are shaped by a balance
among natural selection for fitness,
farmers’ selection for productivity,
their environment, the more varied
the surrounding environment and,
in turn, the greater the biodiversity.
• Mixtures of crops or mixtures of and distinctive selection pressures To an extent, one can say
varieties of one crop can dramatically by different farmers with that almost every natural process
reduce the instance of diseases, in different preferences. All these promotes biodiversity in some way
some cases even from near total
selective pressures contribute provided it involves events or states
failure of unmixed crops to almost no
detectable disease in mixtures.
to a rich crop biodiversity. that persist for long enough to affect
• Mixtures of crops, or different varieties Landscape management
of one crop, with different adaptation is another key factor
to temperature and rainfall can affecting biodiversity, either
increase the reliability of yield in the positively or negatively.
face of climatic uncertainties from As a broad generalization,
year to year. one can state that individual
• Planting different fields to different choice and small enterprises
crops or different varieties that differ in landscape management
in their harvest date can spread the tend to be more beneficial to
harvesting period over a longer period
biodiversity than centralized
of time, giving farmers time to obtain
a bigger total harvest.
control and large businesses.
• Sequentially planting different crops Individual choice and small
in the same field can reduce soil enterprises result in different
erosion by reducing the duration of management decisions being
bare, unprotected soil. made on different parcels of land.
• Mixing products with complementary This in turn leads to a diverse
resource requirements—such as rice patchwork landscape in which no
Ariel Javellana (5)

and fish—can dramatically increase one ecosystem dominates. The

productivity compared with keeping choices can be different drainage, a
them separate. different balance between managed

28 Rice Today January-March 2007

the life around them. Every stream, of a biodiverse system, we can biodiversity conservation can coexist
every death of an insect, every strike promote productivity sustainably. (see Balanced on a wing on pages
of lightning, and every rice plant Biodiversity of both the farmed 34-36 of Rice Today Vol. 5, No. 3).
create around them a distinctive and unfarmed areas of the landscape The necessary basic research centers
set of environmental conditions can positively affect agricultural on two key underlying issues.
that are favorable to the survival of productivity in many ways. Certain The first issue is the relationship
some organisms and unfavorable forms of animal life can benefit a crop between diversity and productivity.
to others. Even a sulfur-laden hot because they act as natural enemies This encompasses a whole set of
water spring by a volcano, while of the pests and diseases of the crop. related issues concerned with the
killing most forms of life, provides These natural enemies may have different elements of diversity
the conditions for a particularly their primary habitat outside the crop and the different components of
distinctive ecosystem of sulfur- itself, and so rely on the presence productivity—particularly the
loving and heat-loving organisms. of other forms of biodiversity, stability, resilience, sustainability,
Even large-scale events such as El which can be in various places and reliability of production
Niño or the North Atlantic Current such as the ecosystem of a healthy in diverse systems. There is no
create distinctive niches favoring the soil under the crop, nonfarmed generalized relationship between
survival of a distinctive set of species. ecosystems adjacent to the crop, the diversity and productivity, but,
Although a catastrophic event weed flora growing with the crop, by choosing the appropriate
like a volcanic eruption may destroy adjacent fields of other crops, and components, we can build diverse
all biodiversity under the eruption, adjacent plots of other managed systems that are stable, resilient,
in the longer term, this results in systems such as aquaculture, sustainable, and reliable.
the creation of new types of habitat orchards, or timber trees. The second issue covers the
with distinctively fertile soils in The mechanisms by which social aspects of biodiversity in
which new forms of life appear. biodiversity can promote productivity agriculture—how communities
Agricultural intensification (see Improving productivity through can base productive agriculture
during the 20th century was based biodiversity, opposite) depend on diversity, and how extension
on reducing biodiversity, but it on environmental heterogeneity. officers, agricultural scientists,
is not clear whether or to what Yet, intensive agriculture usually and policymakers can refocus their
extent increasing biodiversity reduces environmental heterogeneity outlook to help base sustainable
per se might reduce productivity. to produce a uniformly optimal development on diversity.
In theory, by judicious selection environment for high productivity— Applied agricultural research is
of the appropriate components we plough the field to get a uniform playing an increasing role by taking
seedbed, we level it for efficient ecological and evolutionary expertise
irrigation, we fertilize the field to and applying it to understanding
make it uniformly fertile throughout, the dynamics of the farmed and
we weed the field to keep it uniformly interacting nonfarmed components of
free of weeds, and we spray for a farmed landscape. The “nonfarmed”
a field that is uniformly free of components have to include not
pathogens and pests. Moreover, with only the organisms that reduce
mechanized harvesting, we need productivity—pests, diseases, and
the mature seed to be presented to weeds—but also those that are
the harvester on the same day at beneficial to the farm economy—
the same height with the same ease natural enemies of harmful organ-
of threshing. To the extent that we isms and their primary habitats.
are successful in maintaining the
uniformity of these components of the
environment, a system that is diverse Dr. Sackville Hamilton is head of the
for response to those components International Rice Research Institute’s
T.T. Chang Genetic Resources Center.
is likely to be less productive than
one that is a uniform optimal fit for This feature story is adapted from
those conditions. Despite appearing an article originally published on
to be at odds, rice production and (

Rice Today January-March 2007 29

In search of
new seeds
The improved New Rice for Africa varieties are helping not
only African grain farmers but seed producers as well
by Savitri Mohapatra

t is said that if you want to be a Seybou doesn’t want to be just a
good gardener you should always good farmer; he wants to be efficient
sow three seeds: one for the bugs, as well because the happiness of
one for the weather, and one for his entire family depends on the
yourself. But if you tell this to Seybou quantity and quality of the NERICA
Lema, who produces and sells seeds seeds he produces. The NERICA
of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties, which are bringing hope
in the West African country of Togo, to millions of poor people in Africa, for their own use, and to exchange
he wouldn’t agree to waste even were developed by the Africa Rice or sell excess seed to other farmers.
a single seed. Center (WARDA) and its partners. A major advantage of CBSS is that it
“With the money I got from shortens the time required for seed of
selling NERICA seeds, I bought food, improved varieties to reach farmers.
paid school fees for my children, and CBSS-trained farmers, such as
bought clothes for them,” Seybou Seybou, are now quietly changing
said. “I have also used the cash the rice scenario in sub-Saharan
to extend our house,” he added, Africa, where farmers traditionally
proudly showing the new extension save, exchange, and use rice seeds
made of concrete, next to his hut. from one harvest to the next or, in
Seybou belongs to a new breed times of shortage, buy rice paddy
of African rice farmers trained in from the market to use as seed.
seed production techniques as part Even for Seybou, it was difficult
of a program on a community-based to accept at first that one could sell
seed production system (CBSS) that seeds. But, when he found out to his
was introduced by WARDA and its great amazement how much money he
partners as an integral part of the could make by selling NERICA seeds,
NERICA dissemination program. he abandoned cotton farming and
In sub-Saharan Africa, seed began to devote all his time, effort,
production and distribution are major and land to NERICA seed production.
bottlenecks to the dissemination of Seybou started NERICA seed
new crop varieties. A study conducted production on half a hectare in 2004
Togo farmer Seybou
Lema inspects his
by WARDA economists in 2005 and gradually increased the area to
NERICA seed crop found that only about 30% of rice 6 hectares in 2006. “But I am still
farmers interviewed were growing unable to cope with the demand for
improved high-yielding rice varieties seed from farmers of neighboring
because of a severe shortage of seed. villages,” he told a delegation from
The main reason for the seed the African Rice Initiative.
shortage is that national seed systems The African Rice Initiative
lack the staff, equipment, and funding is particularly interested in
to assure farmers an adequate supply NERICA seed production because
of quality seeds on a regular basis. To it was established to scale up the
overcome this problem, CBSS trains dissemination of NERICA and
farmers on how to produce good seed complementary technologies across

30 Rice Today January-March 2007

“The African Rice Initiative International Development Agency,
and WARDA are exploring with International Fund for Agricultural
relevant partners, particularly Development, World Bank, Food
the national systems, to put in and Agriculture Organization of
place sustainable NERICA seed the United Nations, Sasakawa-
production and delivery strategies,” Global 2000, Centre Songhai, and
says Inoussa Akintayo, ARI regional World Vision International.
coordinator, who is based at WARDA. To overcome problems of poor
The demand for NERICA rice seed quality and health, an
seed is not restricted to West and initiative to scale up technology
Central Africa. In fact, the biggest transfer of good seed production
surprises are emerging from techniques using video has been
Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania in launched by an International Fund
East Africa, where NERICA was for Agricultural Development-
introduced just 4 years ago. funded WARDA project in Mali,
NERICA’s potential as a cash Guinea, The Gambia, and Ghana.
crop has captured the attention of Rice seed health videos produced
Uganda’s seed companies. This is by the International Rice Research
R. Raman, WARDA (3)

partly explained by the fact that rice Institute, CABI, Countrywise

is considered more of a cash crop Communication, and the Rural
Seybou Lema with his family.
than a food crop in East Africa in Development Academy Bogra in
contrast to West and Central Africa. association with rural women in
Subsistence farmers are Bangladesh are being shown to
sub-Saharan Africa through a also seeing the positive impact African rice farmers to enable them
coordinated effort. The Initiative of commercial NERICA seed to learn from their Asian colleagues.
has been actively involved in the production in Uganda. “The new “We are getting these videos
production of NERICA foundation rice has changed our living,” says translated into French and local
(basic) seed as well as in the training one Ugandan farmer. “Our incomes languages in close association
of extension staff and farmers in have increased. We have bought with our national and local
seed production, with the support clothes, a house, and a bicycle.” nongovernmental organization
of many partners and donors, At present, targeted NERICA partners,” says WARDA Technology
including the African Development seed production and distribution Transfer Specialist Paul Van Mele.
Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, projects across sub-Saharan Africa “In Guinea, where NERICA has
Japan International Cooperation are supported by many donors and been widely adopted, these videos
Agency, and the United Nations international nongovernmental have reached thousands of farmers
Development Programme (UNDP). organizations, including Japan, in less than 6 months, contributing
In 2005, a US$35 million 5- UNDP, Rockefeller Foundation, the to better seed quality of local
year project was launched by the African Development Bank, Canadian and improved rice varieties.”
African Development Bank to support
NERICA dissemination in seven
West African countries—Benin,
Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra
Leone, and The Gambia. About
80% of the targeted beneficiaries of
this project, which is coordinated
by the African Rice Initiative, are
the rural poor, mostly women.
The project estimates that by the
5th year, about 33,000 farm families
will be involved in participatory
varietal selection, a process in
which farmers and breeders work
together to choose new varieties
best suited to the farmers’ needs Mother-and-daughter
(see Taking part on pages 22-26 of rice farmers Affiwa
(right) and Conforte
Rice Today Vol. 3, No. 2). Many of Kagnivi with their seed
them will also be involved in CBSS to crop in Deve, Benin.
accelerate NERICA dissemination.

Rice Today January-March 2007 31

Fighting Asia’s
postharvest problems
by Trina Leah Mendoza and Martin Gummert The fate of rice after

harvest is a crucial
f you’re a rice farmer anywhere in or outdated rice trained postharvest
Asia, you are likely to experience mills, and losses to but often-neglected researchers and
high postharvest grain losses. pests throughout extension workers
Total losses from harvest to the postharvest part of the production in both the public
market can reach 30–50%, which chain. These and private sectors.
means that, conservatively, farmers losses result in chain. Now, a major A plastic storage
are losing around US$30 per ton lower quality rice bag developed at
of rice harvested. For an average for consumption effort to overcome IRRI is one example
four-member farming family, an or sale, smaller of postharvest
additional $30 can go a long way. returns to farmers,
postharvest problems technology that is
Studies by the International higher prices for is gaining momentum. already making a
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) consumers, and difference. Farmers
in Cambodia, Indonesia, and greater pressure in Battambang
the Philippines have found that on the environment as farmers try to Province in Cambodia consider
postharvest losses occur mainly compensate by growing more rice. this hermetic “super bag” an
because of spoilage and wastage With the urgent need to solve inanimate superhero in its own
at the farm level, delay in drying, postharvest problems in developing right. Typically, farmers store three
poor storage, poorly maintained countries, the Postproduction Work bags of seeds with 70 kg each for
Group (PPWG) was formed their own fields. The hot, humid
in 2003 by the Irrigated conditions cause the germination
Rice Research Consortium ability of the seeds to drop quickly.
(IRRC). By the end of its When farmers finally use the seeds
first year, the PPWG had after 5–6 months of storage, often
established partnerships less than 50% germinate in the
in Cambodia, Indonesia, fields. By comparison, farmers
Lao PDR, Myanmar, and who used the super bag to store
Commercial furnaces,
Vietnam. The PPWG’s key seeds maintained germination
like this one in Long An objectives are to increase rates above 90% and thus reduced
Province, Vietnam, with farmers’ incomes through the amount of seed required.
Martin Gummert

a 4-ton reversible airflow

paddy dryer, ensure high-
improved postharvest The super bag allows cereal
quality produce. management and technology, grains and other crops such as coffee
and build a network of to be stored safely for periods of 6–12

32 Rice Today January-March 2007

months. One Another training participant,
farmer reported from the Myanmar Rice and Paddy
that he sold Traders Association, produced
an additional various dryer prototypes, includ-
70 kg of seeds ing a low-cost dryer with a 1-ton
in the market, batch capacity for the farm level
earning him and flat-bed dryers with up to 4-ton
an additional batch capacity for the commercial

Martin Gummert
income of $9. A sector. The Association—which has
super bag costs installed eight flat-bed dryers at
only $1 and, rice mills and five others for farmer
Farmers and extension officials test the low-cost
as long as it is groups—now visits different prov- moisture meter on rice stored in a super bag in
not punctured, inces in Myanmar to demonstrate Hau Thanh Village, Vietnam.
can be reused, the dryers to farmers and millers.
cutting back on Although they offer major moisture meters are priced steeply at
cost per harvest. advantages, mechanical dryers more than $200. IRRI has developed
The PPWG add cost to the drying process. To a low-cost moisture meter that costs
now focuses minimize drying cost, the PPWG only $30–50 (depending on where
on evaluating helped develop a new rice hull it is purchased). These moisture
Geert Claessens

Trainees in Lao hermetic furnace in Vietnam as an alternative meters have been distributed
PDR manually storage systems to the kerosene burners used in most by the PPWG to pilot villages in
harvest paddy.
with farmers rice dryers. The PPWG also assists Cambodia and Vietnam, and to
(Indonesia, national partners in continuous partners in the national agricultural
Vietnam, adaptation of drying systems research and extension systems,
Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar) to local conditions and farming where farmer groups can easily
and rice millers and traders systems to provide appropriate share them for their postharvest
(Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia). drying technology options for management decision making.
Samples from farmers’ trials taken farmers, traders, and rice millers, In addition to its achievements
for milling and trials with rice and to help manufacturers produce to date, the PPWG has developed
millers have proven that hermetic commercially viable machines. country-specific training programs in
storage also increases head rice As the old saying goes, knowledge 2006 and will continue in 2007 in an
(grain fraction that has at least 75% is power. For farmers, knowledge effort to further promote information
of the whole undamaged kernel on up-to-date market information exchange among countries. Training
length) recovery significantly. enables informed decisions on what materials and postproduction e-
One of the main culprits to produce, where to sell, and the learning courses (conducted online
for deterioration in seed quality best quality grade for maximizing or via CD) are being translated into
is delayed or improper drying, returns from rice harvests. Farmers’ different languages, beginning with
especially when rice is spread in knowledge on markets and paddy Vietnam and Cambodia. National
the open to dry under the sun. quality also puts them in a better outreach programs such as the Prima
Mechanical dryers— another PPWG negotiating position when they Tani program in Indonesia will be
focus—are the best way to ensure deal with local middlemen. bolstered to include postproduction
high-quality products, especially In a project funded by the Asian technologies and management
in the wet season, with its frequent Development Bank and the IRRC, options. Dissemination of market
rains and high relative humidity. extension workers in Vietnam and information through modern
At Nong Lam University in Ho Cambodia collect market information information communication
Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the PPWG in different villages and provincial technologies will be pilot-tested
trained dryer manufacturers from and national capitals. In four pilot in some Cambodian villages.
Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Cambodia villages in Vietnam and eight in
in manufacturing and performance Cambodia, village market boards
This story is adapted from an article of the
testing of dryer components. A manu- have been displayed to keep farmers
same name on pages 1-2 of Ripple (Vol. 2,
facturer in Lao PDR who attended the informed about market information. No. 1)—the newsletter of the International Rice
training subsequently built low-cost, The PPWG also collects baseline and Research Consortium (
farm-level dryers that he plans to annual data on rice markets in Lao
demonstrate and promote in key PDR, Indonesia, and Myanmar. Trina Mendoza is a communication specialist
with the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium.
provinces throughout the country. Determining moisture content
Martin Gummert, a postharvest specialist
In Cambodia and Vietnam, farmers’ is the most critical aspect in in IRRI’s Grain Quality, Nutrition, and
groups and cooperatives are now maintaining rice grain quality. Postharvest Center, is facilitating the
installing their own flat-bed dryers. Unfortunately, most commercial Postproduction Work Group of the IRRC.

Rice Today January-March 2007 33

and the Green

story and photos by Greg Fanslow

The Green Revolution in Indonesia delivered more rice but also

brought social and ecological problems that, almost 40 years
later, still affect people’s lives—but solutions are emerging

he logic of the Green radically as in other places. The rich on roughly half the nation’s rice fields.
Revolution—spurred by volcanic soils and large floodplains However, the Green Revolution
the introduction of modern of Java have lent themselves to would be something dramatically
high-yielding crops in intensive agriculture since at least different, even in relatively bountiful
the 1960s—was that food the 14th century, when the two- Java. In the 1960s, traditional
security was the most important century reign of the Hindu Majapahit practices yielded about 3 tons per
factor in social development. That Empire began. At its peak, this hectare in irrigated lands and 1.25
logic paid off with food supplies empire controlled an area larger tons in nonirrigated areas. With
that have outpaced the dramatic than present day Indonesia, with its the full-scale implementation of
population growth and urbanization success largely attributed to irrigated the Green Revolution through the
across Asia for the last 30 years. agriculture in East Java’s lowlands. BIMAS, or “mass guidance,” program,
The fertile lowlands of Java are By the 1960s, with Indonesia the Suharto regime invested heavily
hardly new to intensive agriculture now a republic, Java continued to be in every facet of rice production.
and the Green Revolution in East the country’s rice basket, producing Ultimately, according to David Dawe,
Java didn’t change the landscape as about two-thirds of the country’s rice an economist with the Food and

34 Rice Today January-March 2007

Agriculture be the major indicator of overall
Organization prosperity, increasing population
of the United and urbanization mean that the
Nations environmental dimensions of
(FAO), the prosperity are important too.
new approach In addition to insufficient food
roughly doubled availability, overexploitation of
production in resources and environmental
both irrigated damage are also becoming
and nonirrigated important constraints to human
systems. well-being. The unprecedented
And, other intensification that came with
Anwar Arif, pictured before the sacred
improvements the Green Revolution brought Penanggungan volcano that looms over his
in postharvest fertilizers and pesticides and, with native town of Trawas.
storage and them, the potential to dramatically
transportation reshape the environment.
would have Anwar Arif, a civil servant viewed as a threat to economic
meant an even and farmer in the town of development by the stridently
greater increase Trawas—a small highland town anticommunist government. The
in rice on the that was heavily marginalized regime aggressively replaced local
market. by the Suharto regime—echoed leadership structures with centrally
People sentiments commonly expressed by controlled decision making.”
who had relied agriculturalists in Java. He explained As food security became a
on traditional Javanese history in terms of three major concern during the Suharto
belief systems dominant emotions: confidence years, the government’s BIMAS
and local during the Sukarno regime (1945- program replaced traditional ways
knowledge to 67), fear during the Suharto regime of passing knowledge between
direct their crop (1967-98), and confusion under generations with networks of
management the current young democracy. scientists and agricultural extension
were thrust into “Under Sukarno,” explains (training, technology transfer, and
the modern Anwar Arif, “the local governments communication) workers. This era
world. Yields were strong and had relatively free was characterized by dramatically
would more than reign to make policies and decisions higher yields, but with the high
triple in just 25 that were rooted in local traditions. social costs of a poor human rights
years, chemical Production wasn’t high, but people record and a sense of loss of cultural
Retired farmer fertilizer and felt a sense of confidence that their identity among many farmers.
Darmono surveys the
concrete pipe factory pesticides local leaders were aware of their While the government may
that replaced his rice appeared on needs and people tended to trust that have officially allowed farmers to
paddies 2 years ago. the scene, recommendations were appropriate. choose which crops and varieties
and society “Under Suharto, the power to grow, Anwar Arif and others
joined the of local leadership structures was say that resistance to abandoning
global cash economy.
Along with the technical
achievements that put more rice
in the fields and food stores of
farmers, the Green Revolution also
brought a social and environmental
revolution as higher yields sustained
a rapidly increasing population.
The more-is-better logic of
the Green Revolution lent itself
to correspondingly simplistic and
heavy-handed implementation—
especially in Indonesia under A farm worker gathers
the Suharto regime. seedlings for transplanting
into irrigated terraces just
Almost 50 years later, things outside the town of Trawas
have changed. Although food in the East Java highlands.
security was and continues to

Rice Today January-March 2007 35

Solving a rural pollution puzzle
1 2 3

ollution in the rice-farming town of Kota per night (5). Several small factories process
Batu, in the highland district of Trawas, several tons of food per day (6). Waste from
epitomizes many of the pollution issues all of these operations flows untreated directly
faced in the Javanese countryside. More than a into canals and streams.
generation ago, this community was composed A project funded by the U.S. Agency for
mainly of farmers, but things have changed International Development’s Environmental
dramatically over the last 40 years. Services Program supported a community
Development has brought agricultural forum known as Fokal Masra to evaluate
surpluses and access to markets. Now, within environmental issues in Kota Batu. The forum
a few hundred meters of the apparently classic identified polluted surface water as a major
rural setting where farmers hoe a dry-season issue. The project called in the services of
crop of cabbage (photo 1) and a man gathers Yayasan IDEP, a Bali-based nongovernmental
aquatic invertebrates to feed his chickens (2), organization, to help residents design and
there is a surprising degree of entrepreneurial build a “wastewater garden” (7) that uses a
activity normally associated with an urban settling tank and a series of percolation beds
area. Agricultural pollution from fertilizers and artificial wetlands to purify water from a
and pesticides from farmers’ fields certainly small local stream, thus providing residents
contributes to pollution in Kota Batu, but with a steady flow of clean water for washing
there are other more important sources. and bathing.
A large population without a proper
sanitation system means most domestic
waste goes directly into surface water (3). 6 5
Entrepreneurs have diversified their livelihoods
and, in addition to countless small mechanics
and blacksmiths (4), some 20 slaughterhouses
are processing a combined 3–5 tons of poultry

36 Rice Today January-March 2007

Men in the Javanese highland
town of Trawas bathe in a
spring in the 500-year-old
ruins of a Hindu shrine built
on the site during the Hindu
Majapahit Empire, during which
Javanese intensive agriculture
was born.

traditional varieties was considered government has realized that a one- became a threat to Indonesia’s
tantamount to insurrection. size-fits-all approach won’t work, food security. In placing so
Efforts to maintain traditional but it doesn’t have an alternative.” much faith in seeds developed
practices were often smothered Distrust of the technological by scientists, and not enough in
by excessive use of chemicals or approach itself adds further to the farmers’ knowledge, the Green
fields of traditional varieties were confusion. The Green Revolution in Revolution alienated some farmers.
sometimes burned if discovered. Java suffered from an excessive faith Getting around the one-size-fits-
The outcome of the Suharto in technology to solve agricultural all Suharto approach and resolving
era is, understandably, a lot challenges and an ignorance of
more bad feeling toward the the complicated ecological and
Green Revolution than yield social systems that stabilized
figures alone might suggest. the local rice systems. Perhaps
In the new Indonesian nowhere has this shortcoming
democracy, people are left with been more clearly exposed than
the complex and difficult task of with respect to pest control.
recreating the democracy and local Under the belief that pesticides
responsiveness of the Sukarno era could reduce yield losses to
with the production potential of insect pests, the government
Suharto’s technological approach. prescribed heavy pesticide use.
“People have to come to grips This led to reduced populations
with a system that is neither rooted of predators of rice pests and a
in long-trusted tradition, nor consequent resurgence of some A field worker on a farm in
prescribed by a central government, pests. Entomologists say the Purwodadi, East Java, pauses
and they are like chicks without a brown planthopper, previously during the harvest of a dry-
season crop of onions.
mother hen,” says Anwar Arif. “The unreported as a pest of rice, quickly

Rice Today January-March 2007 37

Once a farmer
the confusion of the new Indonesian
democracy is not without precedent
and ironically began with an initiative
by Duncan Graham
by President Suharto himself. In

1986, as a result of direct discussions
ike many Indonesians, Darmono has
with a wide range of Indonesian
only one name. He was born about 64
and international experts, Suharto
years ago (he’s unsure). He does know
recognized the role of pesticides
he had three formal years in an elementary
in disrupting natural pest control
school and then he was on the land.
and removed subsidies for, and
But Darmono (pictured here and on
then banned, most insecticides.
page 34) is no longer a farmer. Two years
To marry farmers’ traditional
ago he reluctantly sold his land to a
knowledge of pest control with the
businessman and decided to quit farming.
useful parts of Green Revolution
On what was once irrigated paddy growing
technology—such as disease-resistant
three rice crops a year is a factory making
high-yielding varieties, high-quality
concrete pipes.
seeds, and improved soil fertility—the
The factory that now uses the land
government implemented a large-
Darmono sold employs more people and
scale farmer extension program
generates more income than his farm ever
in the form of integrated pest
did. So this story could be labeled Economic We should be able to make ends
management (IPM) farmer field
Success. meet if we had fertile land, but there are
schools in 1989. This program was led
Instead, Rural Failure may be a more political pressures to sell from within
by Peter Kenmore, Kevin Gallagher,
appropriate label—and it’s not an isolated the community. People see the factories
and others from FAO. These “schools”
event. Which is why Darmono’s experience providing jobs.
involved regular meetings of a group
is significant. His story shows what’s Two years ago, I sold the last of my
of farmers and would follow a rice
happening to Indonesian agriculture when land for the concrete pipe factory. Even
crop through a growing season.
planning isn’t implemented. Here, he tells my brother, the village head, pushed me
The classic way to implement
it himself: to sell. Now I tend a few goats for fun.
an extension program had been
I was one of eight children. We all Darmono and his wife, Tamini, 61,
worked on the land, as did our parents. now live in a house built with the proceeds
Sometimes we owned land and worked of their land sale. They rely on their five
it ourselves. Or we worked for other children for food, for Indonesia has no social
farmers. Although we bought and sold, welfare system. The house is just 250 meters
we always lived in the same area. down a slope from the pipe factory, where
We had a vanilla plantation, but rubble has replaced rice.
thieves made that crop unprofitable. So Indonesia has regulations affecting
we grew rice. In good seasons, we could the location of factories, but these are
harvest plenty of rice. seldom followed. Even in suburban areas,
When Suharto (Indonesia’s second noxious industries can be found alongside
president) started the Green Revolution residential homes.
(in the early 1970s), we had to use As with all social change, there’s no
fertilizers and pesticides. We had no single cause for the decline in agriculture.
choice. Higher wages elsewhere, small-town
When people offered top money boredom, and lack of city facilities are
for our land to build factories, we’d sell, factors. So is the belief that farming is a low
and use the money to buy elsewhere. But status job unworthy of modern youth.
they usually wanted the best level land The loss of productive land to roads,
with good water. So we had to move to cities, and golf courses is well known. But
poor-quality land. the uncontrolled spread of small factories
There are now factories growing into rural areas, where land is cheap and
mushrooms and intensive chicken farms labor plentiful, is a phenomenon only
in our area—even one making industrial now being understood as it becomes more
alcohol. Their waste goes into the water, common. An old farmer demonstrates an
which is getting dirtier. The fertilizer ani ani, the small knife used in
the past to harvest traditional rice
from farms higher up the hill gets into Duncan Graham is an Indonesia-based writer
varieties. The short, sturdy stalks of
our water. specializing in multicultural issues in Indonesia. modern varieties require a sickle.

38 Rice Today January-March 2007

Shadow puppets reflect old ways
by Duncan Graham Soleh Adi Pramono knows much about the
old ways. His father, uncle, and grandfather

umpang is an ancient hillside farming were all performance artists. As a child, he
village in the center of Indonesia’s East was taken by his grandmother to the ancient
Java Province. It squats on the flanks ceremonies, the nightlong dances, the
of Mount Semeru, an active volcano puffing mysterious wayang shows recounting tales
light gray ash across the countryside and so from long ago.
fertilizing the land. Temple ruins date back to After training as a dancer and dalang in
the 13th century Singosari kingdom. Yogyakarta, a major cultural base in Central
According to connoisseurs, Tumpang Java, Soleh returned home to Tumpang Such performances have long been part
was once home for some of the nation’s most determined to maintain the old culture. This of government social engineering. Under
delectable rice. The locals go further. They he has done with his American wife Karen President Suharto’s administration, wayang
say Tumpang is where rice culture began, Elizabeth Sekararum. was used to propagate messages about the
and that anthropologists—who source Unexpectedly, at least one arm of need for family planning.
the grain and irrigation techniques from authority has tentatively tried to turn farmers Soleh said that the wayang play he
northern Vietnam during the Dongson Period back to remembering traditional ways. Soleh wrote—The descent of good fortune and
more than 3,000 years ago—are wrong. was commissioned by the local agricultural material wealth—didn’t go into technical
“People used to come to Tumpang just training center to write and stage a play details on how to grow rice or why some
to buy the special varieties, even though praising the virtues of the old system. techniques failed. It was about caring
the price was three times higher than that for the land through recognition of its
of normal rice,” says Soleh Adi Pramono importance in the cycle of life.
(pictured). He’s a local dalang (puppet “The play tells the legend of how the
master) in the wayang kulit shadow puppet planting of rice has always been a spiritual
theater. Using two-dimensional figures made activity,” he says. “Of course, it’s too late to
from cow hide, one of his regular jobs was go back entirely to the old methods because
to choreograph shows to mark planting and they can no longer support modern society.
harvesting ceremonies. “But, I feel the ceremonies, offerings,
“Then, in the early 1970s, the and wayang performances must be
government ordered farmers to start using maintained. They provide information about
modern varieties of rice as part of the Green uniting the basic issues of rice and farming
Revolution,” recalls Soleh. “The taste wasn’t with the lofty intelligence of the gods, and
so good, but yields were higher. Instead about keeping them happy. Even though
of two harvests a year at specific periods, modern methods are used, they must be in
growers could produce three crops, planting tandem with the ancient ceremonies and
at any time. More money was available, but the wayang.
the new system shattered the ways of doing “This is important so that no one
things. It hurt the spiritual side of farming. forgets the traditional philosophies and
Rice became a commodity—not a culture. the proper way to respect the gods and
People stopped working together.” their ancestors.”

a scientist in a classroom telling and farmers worked extremely points out that “the Green Revolution
farmers what to do. Unfortunately, well,” he says. “These schools relied led to rapid and disorganized
Dr. Kenmore points out, this on the rice field to define problems development of large areas of
tended to fail because farmers and let farmers collaborate with countryside, so that now it’s not
often mistrusted scientists and scientists and extension workers even practical to deal with urban
disliked being told what to do. to solve their problems without and rural pollution separately, as
According to Dr. Gallagher, risking their livelihoods.” happens in developed countries.
structured learning exercises gave Jim Davie of Development However, this is also a really
farmers the chance to field-test Alternatives Incorporated, exciting time because people are
recommendations and gain in-depth which directs the U.S. Agency for enthusiastic about democracy and,
understanding of the ecological International Development–funded with access to the right information,
processes underlying IPM. Environmental Services Program they’re quite creative and ultimately
“In the field school project, a in East Java (see Solving a rural successful at finding solutions to
dialogue approach between scientists pollution puzzle on page 36), their environmental problems.”

Rice Today January-March 2007 39

Rice pioneer passes away farm in western Nebraska, Dr.
Beachell originally planned to
work on wheat. Following univer-

H enry “Hank” Beachell, one of the

plant breeding pioneers behind
“miracle rice” IR8, which launched
played a lead-
sity, though, the only position he
could find, at the U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA), dealt with
the Asian Green Revolution 40 years ing role in rice. It was a twist of fate that would
ago, passed away at his home in the develop- prove fortunate for rice farmers
Alvin, Texas, on 13 December 2006. ment of IR8 and consumers across the world.
Less than 3 months previ- at IRRI in the After 32 years at the USDA,
ously, Dr. Beachell had celebrated 1960s. The Dr. Beachell came to IRRI, where
his 100th birthday on 21 Septem- short, sturdy he started work on IR8. In 1996,
ber. Friends and family gathered cultivar was he and former IRRI principal
in Alvin to celebrate the event. the first plant breeder Gurdev Khush re-
Tom Reid, the mayor of Dr. high-yielding ceived the World Food Prize,
Beachell’s hometown of Pearland, modern rice known informally as the “Nobel
Texas, led off the celebrations variety. At a Prize for Food and Agriculture.”
with a proclamation honoring the time of rap- Like the rice varieties he bred,
centenarian’s achievements. Other idly increasing populations in Asia, Dr. Beachell led a strong and produc-
notable attendees and well-wish- IR8—which resisted lodging (falling tive life. He will be missed by all.
ers included Nobel Laureate and over) and allowed farmers to har- For an account of the story
fellow plant breeder Norman Bor- vest more than one crop per year— behind the breeding of IR8, see
laug. U.S. President George W. helped avert widespread famine. Breeding history on pages 34-
Bush sent official greetings. Born and raised on a wheat 38 of Rice Today Vol. 5, No. 4.


Global advances with golden apple snail invasions. This determining a product’s potential success.
in the ecology publication will serve as a manual for For purchasing information, go to
and management field researchers and extension workers,
of golden apple and as a reference textbook for biological
snails (edited by science students, industry workers, IR varieties and their impact (by G.S.
R.C. Joshi and L.S. museums, and libraries. Khush and P.S. Virk; published by IRRI;
Sebastian; published To purchase, visit US$5).
by the Philippine
Rice Research
Institute; 600 pages; developed countries
or contact Chona Suner-Narvadez at or PhilRice,
Maligaya, Muñoz Science City, 3119 Nueva
T he CD of this popular publication
is now available. In addition to pdf
files of the book, the CD includes related
US$102, developing countries $52). Ecija, Philippines. historic publications

G olden apple snails are one of

agriculture's worst invasive alien
species. This new publication compiles all
The little book on hybrid rice
economics (by Robin Andrews; 124
and other
such as
available information on this devastating pages; US$16.95). Genealogy
pest and the rice systems and countries
it has afflicted. The book fills a vacuum
on the ecology and management of
R obin Andrews, former president
of RiceTec in the U.S., presents a
comprehensive guide to the economic
golden apple snails at a time when their evaluation of hybrid rice varieties. The Software. World
distribution continues to expand. book presents the economic criteria that Food Prize Laureate
Topics covered include snail determine product viability and insights Gurdev Khush and senior IRRI plant
taxonomy, impacts on aquatic ecosystems into why some hybrids fail and others breeder Parminder Virk summarize the
and farmers’ health, and pesticide misuse. succeed. available information on 34 IR varieties
Countries suffering golden apple snail With a foreword by Yuan Longping— and list 328 IR breeding lines released as
invasions have submitted individual the “father of hybrid rice”—Andrews’s 643 varieties in 75 countries. The CD also
reports. There are also chapters dedicated book offers something for plant breeders, contains a listing of 82,354 IRRI crosses
to the use of golden apple snails as a agronomists, farmers, seed producers, made from the early 1960s through 2004.
food and as a natural paddy weeder. and administrators involved in hybrid For purchasing information on the
Practical in its scope, the book offers rice development and production. The book and CD, go to
ecological and sustainable ways to deal publication also offers a model for publications/catalog.

40 Rice Today January-March 2007


• Threshing
• Seed selection
• Manual dehulling of paddy

Considering gender
• Parboiling Male
• Food preparation Land preparation
• Other farm activities Female
• Pulling of seedlings (in
Mungeshpur only; in
Basalatpur, it is equally
by Thelma Paris shared with men)
• Transplanting

Gender division of labor in

two villages—Mungeshpur
and Basalatpur—in Uttar
As men’s and women’s roles change, how should we Pradesh, India.
• Weeding
• Application of
farmyard manure

address gender issues in rice-based agriculture?

Harvesting (in Mungeshpur only;
Application of chemicals
in Basalatpur, it is equally shared
with men)

n many developing countries, higher than among those house- sure that women are consulted on va-
women are the primary man- holds without such out-migrants. riety selection and that women’s crite-
agers and users of natural Women’s roles are beginning to ria—particularly for postharvest and
resources. Poor rural women shift from unpaid family workers cooking and eating quality—are con-
play important roles in rice-based to de facto farm managers as they sidered in plant breeding objectives.
farming systems as unpaid fam- take on farm-related decisions and The issues are not limited to
ily workers, hired laborers, income managerial roles. Thus, women who gender alone. Labor-saving technolo-
earners, and major caretakers of are actively engaged in rice farm- gies, for example, can have differ-
family health and nutrition. ing should be trained in all aspects ent employment consequences for
In Asia, although farm size, of rice production so they can make women from farm versus landless
social and economic class, production informed decisions. Key knowledge households. In Vietnam, the plastic
systems, and cultural norms vary, includes what rice varieties to use drum seeder reduced the drudgery,
women’s contributions range from on specific land types and associ- work burden, and time requirement
25–80% of the total labor use in rice ated crop management methods. of women from farming households,
production. Except for land prepara- Generally, the poorer the house- but poor and landless women’s wage-
tion and spraying chemicals, rice hold and the more fragile the envi- labor income declined. Thus, policies
operations are dominated by women. ronment, the greater the participation and technologies that create alterna-
Women’s participation in rice of female family members in rice tive income opportunities for poor
production is highest among lower production and processing. However, rural landless women are needed to
socioeconomic status farming compared with men, women have less mitigate the negative consequences
households in rainfed rice environ- access to labor-saving technologies, of labor-saving technologies.
ments (see figure, above, for an formal credit, alternative sources of Despite the crucial roles that
example). They are also responsible income, and information on improved women play in sustaining household
for natural resource management rice production. International Rice food security and coping with
through their day-to-day tasks of Research Institute (IRRI) projects poverty, gender inequities exist in
providing fuel, water, and food for in collaboration with agricultural access to resources, technologies, and
household consumption and for sale. research and extension systems and opportunities in many agricultural
Traditionally, the male farmer nongovernmental organizations in projects and programs. Thus,
has been culturally perceived as rice-growing countries are now train- social analysis—including gender
the head, sole decision maker, and ing women in seed health and crop analysis—is important to increase
user of technologies. However, this establishment methods as well as understanding of the gender-
perception no longer holds as males enhancing their income-generating based division of labor and gender
increasingly become part-time farm- opportunities through, for example, differences in access to and control
ers. Studies on labor out-migration growing nonrice cash crops, mush- of resources and benefits. Reducing
from major rainfed and irrigated rooms, and multipurpose trees. gender inequities and tapping
farm households in India, Indone- IRRI studies have shown that women’s potential as agents of
sia, Thailand, and Vietnam revealed both men and women agree that change are key strategies for reducing
that males mostly move away for land type is a major determinant of poverty, sustaining household
nonfarm jobs. Consequently, women choice of rice variety. However, there food security and nutrition, and
are taking over responsibilities that are gender differences in rice variety protecting the environment.
were traditionally men’s. Women’s preferences based on differences in
authority on farm-related decisions gender roles in rice production and Dr. Paris is a senior scientist (socio-
among households where men move the use of rice as food and by-prod- economist and gender specialist) in
away for other jobs is found to be ucts. Thus, there is now a move to en- IRRI’s Social Sciences Division.

Rice Today January-March 2007 41

grain of truth

Food or Fuel?
Achim Dobermann

he International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that and it remains a key development target. World rice prices
renewable energy sources account for about 13% have already doubled in the past 5 years (48% in the past
of the world’s total primary energy supply. Nearly year alone) and are projected to rise further. Although most
80% of these renewables are in the form of combustible rice consumers in Asia, where most rice is locally consumed,
biomass—mostly wood, charcoal, crop residues, or other are shielded from the world market price, the emerging
wastes burned for cooking, heating, and other activities in biofuels industry will probably add to price pressure on
the developing world. cereals, including rice. Rice grain is not likely to be diverted
Now, high oil prices and the need to reduce dependency into ethanol production in significant amounts but some
on fossil fuels (and thus also offset greenhouse gas emissions) rice may be diverted to produce starch (for industrial use)
are driving rapid commercialization of solid, liquid, and to make up for deficits arising from the conversion of other
gaseous biofuels. For example, within the next 5 years, most crops to ethanol.
of the maize produced in the U.S. states of Iowa and Nebraska Another potential threat is that rice farmers may opt
is likely to be used in ethanol production. The overall share of out of rice and diversify toward more profitable cropping
maize used in the U.S. for ethanol systems, including potential biofuel
is projected to increase from the crops such as maize, sugarcane,
current 10% to 25% by 2010. or cassava. So, maintaining low
China, the world’s third-largest
Is biofuel production just a rice prices and lifting the income
ethanol producer, also emerged potential of rice farmers seem
as an ethanol exporter in 2006. short-lived gold rush or is this contradictory goals in a world of
Pioneer Hi-Bred is investing in rising input costs in agriculture.
developing “ethanol” corn hybrids an industry here to stay? Renewable energy options
for the Philippines. Indonesia must satisfy three conditions:
hopes to see biofuel account for resource availability, technical
10% of its fuel consumption by maturity, and a policy and economic
2010 and has earmarked US$1.4 billion for 2007 to develop environment that supports commercialization. The nearly
500,000 hectares of land for biofuel production. 600 million tons of rice straw produced each year worldwide
Is this just a short-lived gold rush driven by high oil represent such an exploitable biofuel resource. However,
prices and large profit margins, or is this an industry here many of the technologies that allow rice straw to be converted
to stay? What implications will this have for world cereal to ethanol are still at an early stage of development. It remains
production and how does rice fit into this picture? to be seen whether they can be scaled down to village-level,
A crude calculation illustrates some of the issues we face. on-site bioenergy production and how much straw can be
At present, average world cereal yield is about 3.1 tons per removed from rice land without threatening soil fertility and
hectare. If the world cereal harvest area remains unchanged, the overall productivity of the system. There is also much
this average yield needs to increase to 4.3 tons per hectare potential for developing technologies for producing a variety
by 2025 to meet the expected cereal demand of the growing of rice-based products, including ethanol, fibers, and biochar
world population. Factor in an extra 5% grain converted into (used for soil improvement).
ethanol, and the figure rises to 4.5 tons per hectare. This Growing food crops to also provide fuel for our cars or
represents a 45% increase over current yields and, unless homes is something many agricultural researchers will need
nitrogen fertilizer use becomes more efficient, it would come to get used to. Now is the time to address this and develop
at the cost of a 65% increase in nitrogen consumption on suitable technologies for integrated food and bioenergy
cereal land. If the decline in world cereal area observed in production systems in Asia that are energy-efficient and
the past 20 years (a reduction of 0.3% per year) continues, sustainable, provide new employment opportunities for the
the situation becomes much worse, requiring an average rural population, and also offer new sources of income for
cereal yield of nearly 4.9 tons per hectare by 2025. rice farmers.
Keeping the rice price low for the urban and rural
landless poor in Asia has been a primary achievement of the Dr. Dobermann is a professor of soil science and nutrient management
higher yields that came out of the Asian Green Revolution, at the University of Nebraska, USA.

42 Rice Today January-March 2007

Rice Today January-March 2007 43
44 Rice Today January-March 2007