IRRI has a special relationship with the Philippines, the country being its home since the Institute’s founding in 1960. IRRI’s partnership with the Philippines began on September 1959 when the government of the Republic of the Philippines, in cooperation with the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, approved the proposal to establish IRRI in the country. IRRI’s international prestige lends prominence to the country as the center for collaboration in rice research.
IRRI's headquarters was established in the Philippines in 1960. Among the many milestones in this partnership, an important one was that in 1985, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) was created. IRRI has been in collaboration with Philrice in most of its research and training projects in the Philippines.
The advocacy for rice research found serious and solid support from nongovernment organizations like the Rockefeller and Ford foundations. This came as the importance of rice as staple food of “half of mankind” became clear. Such was the precursor to the rising of a research and education complex in Los Baños, Laguna where the strongest academic institution on agriculture in Asia, the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA), is located.
IRRI and UPCA combined to create a strong capacity building vehicle for local and foreign scholars and scientists. Before the establishment of Philrice in 1985, IRRI had granted 194 research scholarships to Filipino researchers for their MS and PhD degrees. IRRI also appointed postmasteral and postdoctoral fellows and offered long and short-term training courses in research.
IRRI has strong relations with its community in Los Baños. IRRI’s community projects in Bay and Los Baños have benefited scores of poor families and dependents through computer donations to public schools, training on emergency response to natural disasters, information seminars and awareness campaigns to improve the quality of life of community residents, and various livelihood projects. IRRI also spends half of its budget in the Philippines, which helps the local economy. IRRI employs about 1,200 Filipino employees, as well as more than a thousand contract farm workers.
IRRI works with its Philippine partners in areas of technology transfer, water-saving technologies, pest management, nutrient management, real-time crop monitoring, and capacity building. Recently, a mobile communication-based nutrient management technology was launched for Filipino farmers.
Current research and development with the Philippines
Supporting the Food Staples Sufficiency Program
IRRI provides technical support to the Philippines to accelerate the delivery of high-yielding rice varieties and related technologies, and unify capacity building support by training national, regional, and local rice trainers. A memorandum of agreement (MOA) on a new collaboration under the FSSP was signed betweem IRRI and the Philippine government last December 2012.
Breeding better varieties
IRRI is working on a new generation of “problem-solving” rice to help boost rice production in marginal areas and help the Philippines increase its rice productivity. New varieties are released every year.
Community seed banking and production
From 2003 to 2005, in partnership with the University of Southern Mindanao, seeds from IRRI's International Rice Genebank were provided to farmers in Arakan Valley in North Cotabao for multiplication. These farmers became suppliers of high quality and farmer-preferred Dinorado and other modern upland varieties. In Iloilo, tungro and rat infestation and adverse soil problems were addressed with IRRI from 2000 to 2005 through a participatory action research project called DAPITSAKA.
Developing healthier rice
To help overcome vitamin-A deficiency among Filipinos, IRRI and PhilRice are working with other local partners to develop Golden Rice, which contains beta carotene, a source of vitamin A.
Protecting rice farmers
Using satellite data, IRRI and its partners are developing real-time maps to accurately gauge the status of rice production at any given time.
Transferring technology with ICT
IRRI and its local partners are pilot testing the use of ICT tools and technology transfer models in eight municipalities to accelerate the impact of rice research to improve farmers’ livelihood. In addition to its Rice Crop Manager tool, IRRI also developed other ICT tools such as the Rice Doctor, Rice Knowledge Bank, and WeRise to aid in extension and training efforts.
Engaging farmers in research
Through participatory action research, problems with tungro, rat infestation, and adverse soil conditions are being tackled.
As of 2016, 123 IRRI-bred varieties for different rice growing environments were released in the Philippines through national channels. The IRRI-developed varieties are flood-tolerant IRRI-147 or Submarino1 (NSICRc194), drought-tolerant IRRI 148 or Sahold Ulan 1 (NSICRc 192), and salt-tolerant RC 147 or Salinas 1 (NSICRc 182).
Higher farmer income
Filipino rice farmers are earning an additional Php 2,184 per hectare annually by using IRRI-bred rice varieties, and the country overall benefits by Php 8.5 billion a year.
Community seed production and banking
From 2003 to 2005, and in partnership with the University of Southern Mindanao, seeds from IRRI's International Rice Genebank (IRG) were provided to farmers in Arakan Valley in North Cotabao, for multiplication. These farmers became suppliers of high-quality and farmer-preferred Dinorado and other modern upland varieties. In Iloilo, tungro and rat infestation and adverse soil problems were addressed with IRRI from 2000 to 2005, through a participatory action research project called DAPITSAKA. IRRI also worked from 2002 to 2004 with ICDAI, an NGO in Infanta, Quezon, where farmers learned about rice seed health and quality seed growing.
Higher farmer income: Filipino rice farmers are earning an additional Php 2,184 per hectare annually by using IRRI-bred rice varieties, and the country overall benefits by Php 8.5 billion a year.
Philrice is linked with the IRRI Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB), the world’s first digital extension service that contains an increasing wealth of information on rice production. The IRRI-RKB is linked with the Philippine Rice Knowledge Bank (PRKB), which contains information on promising rice technologies generated from Philrice research in the last 25 years. This application of knowledge-intensive technologies generated enhances the capacity of Filipino researchers, government extension workers, nongovernment workers, and other stakeholders through an unprecedented access to rice knowledge and training information.
Technology promotion and delivery
Through the PRKB, IRRI and PhilRice have harmonized training materials to upgrade this system, a rich source of online information for farmers and farmer-intermediaries to improve their crop management practices.The first phase of the Cyber Village Project that started in 2006 has reached 3,500 farmers in 12 municipalities across the country.
Super Bags commercialized
IRRI’s air-tight Super Bags that protect stored rice grain from pests and moisture are now available in more than 200 retail stores nationwide.GrainPro, Inc. reported sales of about USD 120,000 in the Philippines alone from 2013 to 2016.
Conserving genetic diversity
IRRI supplied Philrice with seeds of more than 2000 types of rice to complete its collection of Philippine traditional varieties. By 2011, the Genebank has repatriated close to 4,000 of both traditional and improved varieties to the country. The Philippines has also contributed 9,977 types of rice for Genebank. As of June 2016, the Genebank holds more than 127,000 types of rice from all over the world.
Smart fertilizer advice
The Department of Agriculture and IRRI launched the Rice Crop Manager (RCM), a free mobile phone service that allows Filipino farmers and extension workers easy access to information to help reduce fertilizer waste and ensure rice crops have enough nutrients to reach their yield potential.This program is available in five local languages—Bicolano, Ilokano, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Tagalog. This has helped raise farmer income by about PHP 4,000 per crop per hectare.
Water saving technologies
The Philippine government has adopted water-saving technologies—particularly, the IRRI-developed alternate wetting and drying technique—that can reduce water use by up to 30% and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50% while maintaining yield.
- UPCA in the late 1950s had a strong Cooperative Rice Improvement Program. This program had many interdisciplinary projects, and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), the Bureau of Agricultural Extension (BAE), and agricultural colleges and penal colonies participated in field-testing of improved technologies. Beginning in 1963, IRRI provided scholarships for those who wished to learn special techniques in rice research. Many scholars, particularly Filipinos, registered for their coursework at UPCA while their thesis research was done at IRRI under the supervision of IRRI senior scientists. IRRI scientists were appointed as affiliate professors at UPCA, not only to serve as thesis advisers but also to teach courses at the graduate level. IRRI’s investment in the training of Filipino scientists also helped contribute to the establishment of PhilRice on 5 November 1985.
- PhilRice is considered a model research agency, a center of excellence, and a world-class research institution. The Philippines has continued to benefit from various IRRI-sponsored courses as manifested by the sizable share of Filipino trainees relative to other countries (Paris et al 2004) up to now. The share in short-term training courses attended by Filipinos has decreased over time depending on the availability of funds from the Philippine government. Filipino scholars and fellows, on the other hand, increased. IRRI has also provided scientific training to 3,183 Filipino trainees and scholars from 1962 to 2012. The trainees themselves were not the only beneficiaries since they passed on the knowledge and skills they learned to other individuals. With the wide range of institutions and individuals that benefited from IRRI’s training and professional advancement programs, IRRI indeed contributed to the development of human resources engaged in rice research in the Philippines.
- Since 2009, IRRI, with the Philippine's Department of Agriculture and PhilRice, has been providing technical support to the “Accelerating Rice Self-Sufficiency through the Integrated Research, Training, and Extension Project,” which includes three components: a strategic assessment of yield limiting and -reducing factors in the Philippines; accelerating the development and adoption of high-yielding rice varieties and associated technologies for major ecosystems of the Philippines; and unified capability building support. As of 2011, 2,108 trainers from 16 regions, 59 priority provinces, and 247 municipalities have been trained through the 19 training courses.
Rice is the staple food in the Philippines. The country, an archipelago, is the 8th top producer of rice in the world. However, it is also the world’s top rice importer.
High prices of agricultural inputs, rising population, typhoons, and decreasing land area planted to rice, have all played roles in setting the nation back in its rice-self sufficiency efforts.
The Philippines raised its rice yields from 1.16 tons per hectare in 1960 to 3.59 tons per hectare in 2009. In 2009, Philippine rice yields were lower than the previous two years due to the damage done by the tropical storms "Ondoy" and "Pepeng". In 2007, average rice yield topped 3.8 tons per hectare and in 2008, was at 3.77 tons per hectare.
Average rice yield in the Philippines is also higher than of Thailand's, the world's biggest exporter of rice, where yields over the last few years have been around 3 tons per hectare.
The Philippine government, starting 2010, is implementing programs to support rice self-sufficiency. It is working closely with IRRI to help achieve these end. In 2011, the Philippine reduced its imports from 2,379,110 tons in 2010, to 707,670 tons in 2011.
Raising productivity and enriching the legacy of traditional rice varieties by empowering indigenous communities in unfavorable rice ecosystems
The Heirloom Rice Project is an initiative under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) of the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA). With support from various agencies of the DA and from the International Rice Research Institute, the project aims to enhance the productivity of and enrich the legacy of heirloom or traditional rice through empowered indigenous communities in unfavorable rice-based ecosystems.
Heirloom rice varieties are handed down for several generations and are grown by small landholders. There is high demand for these varieties, which thus command higher prices in both local and international markets.
Growing heirloom rice holds the promise of becoming a remarkable endeavor for culturally rich communities in isolated regions of the world, particularly the hinterlands of Asia, Latin America, and Africa. More information on the Heirloom Rice Project
- Healthier rice for healthier people
- Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III visits IRRI, 14 February 2013
- Philippines Climate Change in Coastal Areas
You may also view IRRI's YouTube playlist about Philippines.
Media release and news items
- 15 climate-smart rice varieties transferred to PhilRice for dissemination to farmers
- DA chief eyes advanced rice technologies to boost farmer productivity and income
- Climate-smart rice technologies to boost Philippine rice production
- Modern rice information system helps DA prepare for and respond to disasters in the Philippines
- IRRI and the Philippines
- DA and IRRI: sustaining rice self-sufficiency and food security in the Philippines
- The Heirloom Rice Project
- FSSP: Philippine Rice Information System (PRiSM)
- FSSP: Associated technologies
- FSSP: Cross-country research
- FSSP: Heirloom rice
- FSSP: IPaD
- FSSP: NextGen
- FSSP: Rice Crop Manager