Workshop on improving food security through rice-based farming systems
Researchers from Lao PDR, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Australia are gathering in Vientiane this week for a three-day workshop on increasing the productivity and profitability of rice-based farming systems. The ACIAR workshop will track progress of a suite of research projects and highlight further opportunities for improving food security in the region. One 13 June 2012 Dr Bounthong Bouahom, Director-General, National Agricultural Forest Research Institute, Lao PDR, will make the opening remarks at the workshop. The attendees will include representatives of many key agricultural research agencies that are partners in the ACIAR projects.
Cycles of hunger and poverty
“In Cambodia rice yields lag up to 50 per cent behind comparable systems in other parts of South-East Asia, and there are similar yield gaps found in the uplands of Laos and the poorest parts of Bangladesh,” said ACIAR’s Principal Regional Coordinator for Mekong countries, Dr Gamini Keerthisinghe. “Many farmers who rely on rice-based systems cultivate small areas of land and don’t have access to new crop varieties and technologies to help boost production. As a result, low productivity and shrinking farm size has seen some parts of Laos, Cambodia and Bangladesh facing cycles of hunger and poverty. “The Australian Government through ACIAR is investing nearly AU$15 million over five years in an integrated portfolio of projects in Laos, Cambodia and Bangladesh to identify promising management practices that are best suited to the rice-based farming systems in these countries,” Dr Keerthisinghe said
Researchers and farmers working together
In the Savannakhet and Champassak provinces of Laos the research involves approximately 300 farms in ten villages, including the poor upland districts of Sepon and Phim. The researchers and farmers are working together to test and adapt new water management, crop and livestock technologies, along with new marketing approaches. In Cambodia, demonstrations of commercially viable direct-seeded technologies and practices are underway, while in western Bangladesh the role of short-duration pulses, such as lentils and mungbean is being tested as a means of delivering improved soil nutrition and additional dietary protein. “The purpose of the mid-term technical workshop is to develop cross-project synergies to enhance the program’s overall success, and to identify future research priorities,” Dr Keerthisinghe said.