Sustainable Energy and Environment

Bangkok, May 1, 2024 – In a bid to tackle the climate crisis and its impact on rice production, Mekong Institute (MI) gathered rice farming experts in South and Southeast Asia for a two-day stocktaking workshop to fine-tune drafts and plans for a set of knowledge products centered on low-emission rice cultivation technologies. The regional event marked a milestone in the ongoing “Inventory of Innovative Cultivation Technologies in the Rice Sector that Contribute to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) in South and Southeast Asia,” a project supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH under its Fund to Promote Innovation in Agriculture (i4Ag).

In her opening remarks, GIZ Thailand’s Director of Agriculture and Food Cluster, Dr. Nana Kuenkel, highlighted how the information from the ongoing inventory project will be “beneficial for policymakers, agricultural extensionists, and

development organizations to support farmers in making informed decisions and

adopting the most viable [rice farming] options.” She added that the project seeks to facilitate the transformation of South and Southeast Asia towards having sustainable and resilient agricultural and food systems.

Setting the context for the workshop, MI Executive Director, Mr. Suriyan Vichitlekarn emphasized how rice cultivation stands at the intersection of climate change, acting as both a contributor to and a victim of its impacts. The compounding effects of rising temperature, and water stress and scarcity in rice-growing regions further exacerbate poverty and food insecurity. He underscored how smallholder farmers, who play a crucial role in sustaining food systems and supporting rural economies, are disproportionately affected by these climatic shocks.

Dr. Kuenkel and Mr. Vichitlekarn also stressed the significance of rice in global food security and livelihoods, with about 3.5 billion people worldwide relying on rice as a staple food, and 200 million smallholder farmers depending on rice cultivation as their primary source of income. However, according to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), rice cultivation accounts for 2.5% of all human-induced GHG emissions and 12.0% of total methane (CH₄) emissions, making it the second-largest CH₄ source in agriculture, following closely behind the livestock sector. The Global Climate Risk Index 2021 also named at least four South and Southeast Asian countries among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. These are Bangladesh, India, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

With 90% of global rice production coming from smallholder farmers in South and Southeast Asia, the project covers these two region’s top rice growers, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Viet Nam. It seeks to produce two
evidence-based knowledge products – one is an inventory of low-emission rice cultivation technologies, and the second is a set of guidelines for the application of scalable technologies. These resources will offer detailed insights into the background, benefits, suitability, and impacts of these innovative methods.

The workshop served as an opportunity to present the progress on the two knowledge products. Experts shared experiences, guiding the project’s next steps, while the rest of the participants learned from successful case studies, showcasing the potential for scaling of specific rice farming techniques.

In particular, Dr. Vichien Kerdsuk, the project’s lead researcher, identified 19 distinct groups of rice farming methods, comprising a total of 38 specific technologies. Of the 38, 18 are considered low-emission practices. Currently, 15 of the 18 are being implemented across the seven countries covered in the project.

In the long term, the project seeks to facilitate the increased adoption of these technologies among smallholder farmers. As such, a central focus of the workshop was the discussion of factors influencing the enabling, adoption, and scaling of low-emission rice cultivation technologies. Participants engaged in group discussions, exploring strategies to overcome barriers and promote widespread adoption. The event also explored potential partnerships and collaborations to advance and expand the project’s objectives.

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