Practical Sustainability: Reconciling Researcher and Stakeholder Perspectives in Rice
By: Steven D. Prager and Carlos Eduardo Gonzalez
What are the most important research priorities for rice in Latin America and the Caribbean? How to different research activities support sustainable agriculture? Well, it depends on who you ask
Rice is an important food around the world and, in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), makes up approximately 11.5% of the diet (CGIAR, 2014). In LAC, rice serves an important role in food security and is, likewise, an important commodity in both domestic and international economic activity. Yet, production of rice in Latin America only accounts for approximately 3.7% (CGIAR, 2014; FAO, 2015) of the global total.
What does this mean for rice producers and consumers in Latin America? In short, given relatively low levels of production and high levels of dependence on imported product, the sustainability of rice production in LAC is highly sensitive to the global market. Likewise, this adds a certain level of volatility and serves to link food security in Latin America and the Carribean to any number of factors outside the region.
What can we do? Given relatively favorable growing conditions and adequate availability of water in many places, LAC has the potential to increase rice production. Ideally, increases of rice production should be done in a manner that also bolsters the agricultural sustainability of the crop. Research should address not only how to increase yields, but also how different investment decisions affect issues such as distributional equity, how to best use inputs, and more.
Where do we begin? Answers to these sorts of questions can be thought of as offering “foresight” into complex problems and thus considered by our Global Futures and Strategic Foresight project. We conducted a two-part prioritization exercise for rice with the intent to understand potential areas for focusing research. The first phase involved asking researchers around the world, concentrating in Latin America, to prioritize fundamental research activities. In the second phase, we asked members of the Latin American Foundation for Irrigated Rice to evaluate those priorities relative to following criteria:
- Diminishing poverty*,
- Increasing food security*,
- Improving nutritional quality and health*,
- Preservation of the environment and efficient use of natural resources and water*,
- Improving social equality and gender balance in decision-making,
- Strengthening the rice sector and its institutions.
(* Criteria directly aligned with CGIAR SLOs )
What was the result? In short, the irrigated rice stakeholders determined areas for emphasis include:
- Enhanced use of climate information to adjust planting dates relative to available solar radiation,
- Understanding regarding the health and environmental risks associated with the use of pesticides in rice systems,
- Improved management of water in rice production systems,
- Improved varieties to increase yields,
- Enhanced surveillance for potential local varieties that can contribute to increases in yield, tolerances and resistances in production varieties.
These results offer a jump off point for researchers with interest in irrigated rice and in improving the sustainability of rice agricultural in Latin America. For full results and to contrast the perspectives of the two groups of stakeholders, check out:
- Informe: Prioridades de investigación (Research priority report)
- Poster: Portafolio de opciones de investigacion