Going beyond yield: IRRI Education to build human capacity in farming

Manila, Philippines – Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao and several senior management and Board members of ADB attended the launch of IRRI Education at the ADB headquarters in Manila, Philippines on 17 April. They joined members of the International Rice Research Institute’s Board of Trustees (BOT) and senior management in a show of support to IRRI Education’s mission.

“Agriculture is now at a crossroads,” said President Nakao. “With increased population, threats of climate change, and growing demand for nutritious food, the agricultural sector needs more rapid transformation and to make use of the best available knowledge and technology. This means investment in human capacity building must increase together with science and technology. This makes IRRI Education very timely. We congratulate IRRI for the initiative.”

Rice Science for a better world.

IRRI Director General Matthew Morell spoke about the multi-faceted nature of capacity development that will be necessary for the agri-food systems of the future.

“Our goal is that, through IRRI Education, we will move beyond providing foundational knowledge and skills through to executive and leadership education. We have the ability to assist those already in the agri-food sector by providing an understanding of the more complex requirements that a more mature rice sector will demand,” Morell said. “Agriculture today has changed. Through our successes, we are able to be less obsessed just with high yields to ward off mass starvation. Rather, we deal with the complexities of adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change, addressing food and nutrition security in an urbanizing world and ensuring an equitable and sustainable global rice sector,” he added.

Since 1964, more than 15,000 students have benefitted from training at IRRI, including 66 alumni from 11 developing countries supported through the ADB Scholarship Program that started in 1988. Many of these alumni have become leaders—agriculture ministers, scientists, thought leaders—within their national agricultural research and extension systems.

IRRI Education builds on that training foundation. It aims to provide knowledge and skills to everyone in the agricultural sector through a demand-driven business model that allows for customizable programs specific to the niche needs of its clients.

IRRI Board Chairperson Jim Godfrey spoke about the similar histories of the two institutions as well as their decades-long partnership.

“The Asian Development Bank and IRRI share a unique and intertwined history,” Godfrey said. “Through the path of each of our organizations and in our combined efforts, we have helped build resiliency in the economies and social structures of the countries we serve. In my mind, this is the very essence of why our organizations exist,” he added.

“While our successes over the past half century are a testament to this very purpose, our intention today is to paint a picture of the next phase of the same commitment. It includes a notion of how we continue to serve countries in the region as they flourish and develop their own national capacities so that they continue to increase their self-determination and improve their resiliency in the face of the rising challenges of climate change and global economic shifts,” Godfrey concluded.

IRRI Education Head Peter Brothers believes that the challenges of building capacity can be tackled by ADB and IRRI’s continuing collaboration.

“IRRI’s partnership with ADB is a key element in the work that we’re doing. Given that the two organizations have the same fundamental goals, there is much value in our initiatives being aligned and mutually supported. We look forward to seeing how the partnership can evolve and deepen,” Brothers stated.

Building on their long history, ADB and IRRI signed a knowledge partnership agreement in June 2016, under which the two institutions pledged to deepen their collaboration. In line with this, the two organizations will meet at ADB headquarters on 18–19 May to develop a workplan for initiatives in Bangladesh and Cambodia.