Friday, October 7, 2016

Laser land leveling introduced to Indonesia’s tidal swamp areas to boost rice productivity

by Reianne Quilloy
(Reposted from Rice Today)

Farmers, extension workers, and students in Palembang learn firsthand the basic of laser land leveling.
(Photo by R. Quilloy)
SOUTH SUMATRA, Indonesia—“Now, I and my fellow students who came here can better help our parents in running our farms,” exclaimed Dulhamid, a high school student at a specialized agricultural school in nearby Tanjung Lago. He was enthusiastically talking about his recent attendance at a demonstration of a laser land-leveling system that could improve the productivity of rice farms in the tidal swamp areas in Palembang and other parts of Indonesia.

Twenty-four farmers, extension agents, and local students attended the demonstration, held 28-29 September. It clearly showed how the technology could become a vital tool for increasing agricultural production while reducing the cost of growing rice and thus encourage its adoption.

One of the challenges that limit farmers’ rice production in Mulya Sari and neighboring villages in Banyuasin District is their unleveled fields. Unleveled rice fields consume three times more water than leveled fields. They also suffer a 5-10% yield reduction due to uneven crop maturation and higher weed infestation. However, traditional land leveling using draft animals or two-wheeled tractors are quite laborious that still leave the field inadequately leveled.

Land leveling using the laser system is faster and more effective in ensuring an even surface. In laser-leveled fields, irrigation water reaches every part of the field thus reducing waste from waterlogging and runoff. Evenly distributed water in rice fields can also control weeds so farmers can reduce their use of herbicides.

The event was organized by Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprints (CORIGAP) project in collaboration with the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technologies (AIAT).

“Our goal at AIAT is to assess technologies being introduced and make recommendations for the government’s extension arm,” said Budi Raharjo, AIAT researcher and postharvest specialist. “This is part of our efforts to reach our national rice sufficiency goals and an initial step to introduce the laser-leveling technology in the country. It is also gaining a lot of interest in other provinces.”

Caling Balingbing, a scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), conducted the demonstration and provided training on topographic field surveying and operating and maintaining a tractor.

“We want to know more about this technology and the experience of farmers in other countries, said Pak Ruwanto, a farmer from Banyuasin. “We also hope that other farmers in Indonesia can see and use this technology so we can all benefit.”

“We learned how to do the pace method as part of the topographic surveying and I was able to operate a tractor,” added Dulhamid.

During the demonstration, IRRI and AIAT introduced the concept of the Learning Alliance. This is an interactive and participatory activity that brings together different stakeholders to assess and develop ways to optimize the use of new technologies so smallholder farmers can truly benefit from them. The CORIGAP project has been using the Learning Alliance as a platform where different stakeholders with common interests can share and learn from each other’s experiences.

CORIGAP is a 4-year project implemented by IRRI and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

More Myanmar rice farmers are trying improved technologies to reduce postharvest losses

by Reianne Quilloy
(Reposted from Rice Today)

Myanmar farmers learn about improved methods for drying paddy at a recent Learning Alliance meeting.
(Photo by Christopher Cabardo)

LETPADAN TOWNSHIP, Myanmar –A project that improves the productivity and sustainability of irrigated rice systems continues to engage Myanmar farmers and other actors in using improved technologies that will protect them against postharvest losses. The new technologies are expected to help upgrade the country’s overall rice value chain.

Closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprints (CORIGAP) is a project implemented in six countries to improve food security and alleviate poverty by optimizing the productivity and sustainability of irrigated rice production systems. The project uses an interactive and participatory process among farmers, scientists, extension agents, public and private sectors, and other stakeholders—known as the Learning Alliance—to conduct action-oriented research centered on improving the rice value chain for smallholder farmers.

In previous meetings with CORIGAP, most farmers in Gyoe Pin Sakhan village said it takes them 2 to 3 days to dry their rice grains under the sun, a traditional method they usually practice. While sun drying is cheap, it is also unreliable and difficult to control the temperature. They lose up to 7 baskets of paddy if they are unable to dry it to the ideal moisture content for storage. Some farmers opt to sell their paddy right after harvesting due to the lack of storage facilities and drying spaces.

U Tin Shwe is a farmer who has been participating since 2015 in CORIGAP’s Learning Alliance activities organized by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Myanmar’s Department of Agriculture. He learned about different drying options and decided to tap IRRI’s collaborator, the Pioneer Postharvest Development Group, to build a flatbed dryer that could provide farmers with an alternative to sun drying. Locally made dryers ensure the use of readily available materials for easier maintenance and after-sales service.

In a Learning Alliance meeting conducted on 11 September, 25 farmers expressed their interest to assess the performance of the flatbed dryer. Five farmers from the group also volunteered to dry their paddy using U Tin Shwe’s newly built flatbed dryer during the coming monsoon season in October. “We want to assess the benefits related to the use of a flatbed dryer,” one participant said. “Are we going to get a higher price for our paddy if we use the flatbed dryer?”

The farmers were also interested in using GrainSafe™ to store their grains. GrainSafe™ is a 1–ton capacity hermetic storage system that maintains grain viability.

“I appreciate the IRRI team for coming to Letpadan,” U Tin Shwe said. “We hope that IRRI continues to visit us. We are excited to see the trial results. This can pave way for more farmers getting better quality rice.”

CORIGAP activities in Myanmar are funded by the Swiss Development Agency and Cooperation. Similar Learning Alliance activities in Myanmar are also conducted in Maubin Township, through the MyRice, a project funded by the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research.

Indonesian farmers and extension workers receive training on participatory video production

by Reianne Quilloy

(Reposted from Rice Today)

PALEMBANG, Indonesia—Indonesian farmers and extension workers were recently trained in basic video editing as part of making effective participatory videos for spreading new technologies to other rice farmers.

Forty-five farmers and extension personnel from the tidal swamp villages of Sumbur Mulyo, Sidorharjo, Telang Rejo, and Mekar Sari on Sumatra Island attended the training provided by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and funded by Give2Asia on 1-2 August. This training is a part of a bigger participatory video effort that focuses on disseminating technologies developed through Closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprints (CORIGAP), an IRRI project with Indonesia as part of its geographic focus.

The budding videographers worked together to edit video materials they produced during an earlier production training in March. Trina Mendoza, a development communication expert and consultant to Give2Asia and CORIGAP, and Reianne Quilloy, IRRI communication and outreach specialist, facilitated the training. The edited videos were exhibited to allow participants to receive feedback on how to improve their production skills.

“I am grateful about this training,” an enthusiastic participant said. “In Mekar Sari village, we have someone who knows how to shoot videos but does not know how to edit them. He goes all the way to Palembang to have our videos edited. Now, that is no longer necessary.”

Participatory videos can be effective in documenting local people’s experiences, needs, and solutions based on their own perspectives. The videos can be useful tools in promoting community-led movements, technology, and innovations.

“An advantage of creating participatory videos is that realities are captured well,” Mendoza said. “They tell more compelling stories worth sharing with fellow farmers and the world.”  She encouraged the participants to continue creating videos that reveal their stories of farming challenges and significant changes.

Harmanto, director of the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (BPTP) in South Sumatra, expressed his gratitude for the activity. “This will help us disseminate solutions to improve rice production that will benefit our farmers,” he said. “The videos are being uploaded onto the BPTP website to reach a wider audience.”

CORIGAP is a regional consortium led by IRRI on developing and demonstrating best crop management approaches for improving irrigated rice farming in an environmentally sustainable manner. Give2Asia ensures safe, effective, and impactful international philanthropy. IRRI has partnered with the organization to engage more donors who share IRRIs cause. The donations received through Give2Asia support IRRIs work across Asia.

Rice-based cropping system project in Myanmar makes significant contribution to local agriculture

by Romy Labios

(Reposted from IRRI News)

NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar, 13 May—A project that promotes the adoption of new stress-tolerant rice varieties, greater crop intensification, and diversification, and postharvest management for smallholder farmers in the Ayeyarwady Delta has led to important developments in the local agriculture, according to farmers.

The project, Diversification and Intensification of Rice-based Cropping Systems in Lower Myanmar (MyRice), aims to improve farmers' profitability in Maubin and Daik Oo Townships in the Ayeyarwady and Bago regions, respectively, The project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Department of Agriculture (DoA), the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), and private sector partners.

Led by IRRI scientist Grant Singleton, the project is developing best practices for rice production, including postharvest management and innovative approaches to improve the productivity of rice-rice and rice-pulse cropping systems.

Launched in 2012, MyRice received positive evaluations from its mid-term external review in May 2015. The project introduced stress-tolerant varieties of rice and pulses in the two-crop system and best management practices including postharvest management. Farmers and partners from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation (MoALI) in the two townships identified the introduction of these two technologies as important developments. The project has also supported the research theses of 17 MSc students from DoA and DAR enrolled at the Yezin Agriculture University (YAU).

“Building farmers' capacity is a long-lasting investment that is continuously helping improve the country's agricultural programs,” said Dr. Tun Winn, MOALI deputy minister. Winn, a former IRRI scholar, thanked the institute for its continued support and assistance to Myanmar. Meanwhile, Dr. Ye Tint Tun, director general of DoA, requested IRRI to further develop profitable rice and rice-mixed cropping systems, especially at the community level. “The great progress by IRRI and Myanmar partners in developing climate-ready varieties and the associated best management practices needs to be expanded for the benefit of all small-holder farmers,” he stressed.

The accomplishments of  the project’s adaptive research and related activities were presented early this year in Ayeyarwady and Bago along with new activities for a full-cost extension through December 2017. On 13 May, the research outputs and the regional plans were presented to the officials of the MoALI at DAR in Nay Pyi Taw (photo). Plans for the outreach and outscaling activities for each region were formulated by the DoA staff at the district and township levels.

“MoALI staff should observe carefully the output and outcomes of MyRice research to ensure sustainable implementation of project achievements even after the completion of the project,” said  U Naing Kyi Win, DAR director general,

The occasion was graced by Dr. Myo Kywe, rector at Yezin Agricultural University;  MoAI officials, the project’s scholars, and private industry partners. Ninety-two participants joined the activity, of which 57 were women. Also on hand were IRRI representatives Drs. David Johnson, Grant Singleton, Romeo Labios, Jongsoo Shin, Nyo Me Htwe, U Than Aye, Daw Ohnmar Tun, Daw Su Su San, U Yan Linn Aung, U Aung Myo Thant, U Hlwan Oo, Daw Aye Sabai, and  Daw Hsu Myat Noe Hnin.

Indonesian rice farmers and extension workers learn to produce participatory video for technology dissemination

by Rona Azucena

Reposted from IRRI News

PALEMBANG, Indonesia—“Technologies that do not reach the people who are meant to use them are rather useless, that’s why the outscaling process is crucial,” said IRRI scientist Buyung Hadi. To fill the gap between technology and the farmers, a participatory video production training-workshop (photo) was conducted under the Give2Asia-funded capacity enhancement project for sustainable intensification of rice ecosystems in Indonesian outer islands.

Twenty farmers and 13 research and extension staff of the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technologies (AIAT)-South Sumatra participated. They learned the basics of participatory video production during a training-workshop on 28 March-1 April at the AIAT compound in South Sumatra.

“When you involve the end-users (farmers) in scaling out a technology, you produce something that is potentially more effective because it (the technology) is communicated in layman’s terms from the perspective of a fellow end-user,” added Hadi who is also the project coordinator. “There will also be ownership by the farmers, which may encourage them to use the participatory video method in their own outscaling efforts.”

Dr. Harmanto, AIAT-South Sumatra director, expressed his appreciation to IRRI for organizing an activity that built the capacity of both farmers and AIAT staff. Also, he expressed hope that participatory outscaling methods will encourage more farmers to adopt rice-farming technologies.

The event—the first of three training sessions—taught the participants how to create a storyboard, properly handle equipment, practice filming techniques, and conduct outdoor hands-on exercises in filming videos and interviews. The participants came up with multiple storyboards on various topics, such as trap barrier system, drum seeder, and mechanical transplanter. The participants showed eagerness and enthusiasm in learning “outside their comfort zone” and promised to come back to the next training session with video clips based on their storyboards.

The farmers were from villages in tidal swamp areas where integrated best management approaches are promoted by CORIGAP (Closing rice yield gaps with reduced environmental footprint), an IRRI project that aims to increase farm productivity through environmentally sustainable ways.

Mr. Budi Raharjo, head of the mechanization and postharvest division of AIAT and CORIGAP country partner, was instrumental in bringing the farmers and AIAT staff together. Trina Mendoza, an IRRI consultant, led the participatory video production workshop. She was assisted by Rona Azucena, IRRI communication specialist.