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IRRI, WorldFish, and IWMI commit to a food system transformation in Southeast Asia


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The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), WorldFish, and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) yesterday signed a five-year tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The agreement provides a framework for cooperation on research for development (R4D) initiatives focused on the sustainable intensification and management of rice-fish production systems in irrigated landscapes and wetlands in Southeast Asia.

The agreement aligns with the CGIAR 2030 Plan which calls for transformations of its research programs to usher in a “food systems revolution” to tackle challenges related to sustainability, nutrition, genetics, socio-economics, and information and to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through greater cooperation between Centers.

“This agreement exemplifies a food systems approach to transforming the global rice sector. The combined global research expertise and influence of IRRI, WorldFish, and IWMI in the core elements of diets such as rice and fish, as well as land and water systems make this strategic collaboration essential to a food systems revolution,” said IRRI’s Director General Dr. Matthew Morell.

Previous individual and joint program partnerships involving IRRI, WorldFish, and IWMI have yielded positive results. Among them include the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (2004), and an earlier project on fish-rice between IRRI and WorldFish with Bangladesh research and non-profit agencies.

More recently, WorldFish, IRRI, and IWMI came together for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)-funded Development of Rice Fish Systems (RFS) in the Ayeyarwady Delta project. The project aims to improve the productivity and profitability of rice-fish systems in Myanmar and seeks to benefit small-scale rice farming households, and fishers by diversifying production in rice-based farming systems and landscapes, enhancing resilience of rice-based farming systems.

WorldFish Director General Dr. Gareth Johnstone shared that the multi-agency partnership provides a strategic push for wider research, promotion, and implementation of integrated rice-fish systems and builds on previous successes of WorldFish and its partners.

“This partnership helps create better synergies for leveraging our individual research expertise and network strengths to accelerate the sustainable supply of nutritious fish and rice into national, regional, and global food systems. Together, we will also be able to better support regional cooperation by increasing awareness, disseminating knowledge, and scaling critical solutions for this intensification to be truly sustainable.” IMWI’s work on sustainable water and land use converges well with IRRI’s work on landscape-level water management and environmental sustainability.

“What we aim to achieve as individual organisations is interconnected and geared toward the fulfillment of almost the same SDGs.  We envision a sustainable food, nutrition, and water secure world and this strategic partnership gets us closer to that goal,” said IMWI Deputy Director General - Research for Development, Mark Smith.

Under the MoU, IRRI, WorldFish, and IWMI will co-develop and implement R4D activities to discover the impact of rice-fish production systems on environmental, socio-economic, and cultural values on land and waterways. The R4D projects will be developed based on themes which include constructed water bodies, rice-fish landscapes, climate resilience and water, trade-offs and foresight analysis, and ICT and big data.


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