Rice farmers, researchers, and government extension workers have taken steps to solve the perennial need for quality rice seeds in Laos.
SAVANNAKHET PROVINCE, Laos—There are a myriad of ways to improve and sustain rice production in Laos, where rice is the most important crop. But, a basic requirement for attaining rice security in the country is the availability of quality and climate-resilient seeds.
A scarcity of seeds
“Research stations under the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) in Vientianne can only supply 20% of the demand for quality seeds,” said Khamlouy Yattivong, director of the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office (PAFO).
Additionally, most farmers in Phailom Climate-Smart Village (CSV) in Savanakhet Province often rely on their own seeds or exchange seeds with their relatives. The seeds provided through this channel may be of poor quality and could result in low yields or even crop loss.
Thus, Dr. Yattivong urged local farmers to create a good quality seed production system for varieties that are sustainable and capable of withstanding drought and floods—the common climate-related problems across the country.
Establishing seed networks
Rice farmers, researchers, and government extension workers have taken steps to solve the perennial need for quality rice seeds through a seed fair in Phailom CSV. The event addresses the farmers’ lack of access to high-yielding rice varieties that can withstand climate change challenges through the production of good quality seeds.
With the theme Community-based seed management under changing climate, the seed fair raises the farmers’ awareness of the diversity of locally available rice seeds, directs them to alternative sources of certified seeds, and strengthens farmer-stakeholder linkages.
“The event was an occasion for farmers to interact and exchange information among themselves and with researchers and extension workers,” explained Mrs. Ketsana, deputy director of PAFO.
The seed fair showcased an array of rice varieties from participating farmers in Phailom CSV and the local research stations. The village people evaluated and ranked their favored varieties. Six varieties—XBF1, TDK 8, PNG 3, TDK 11, TDK 8, and TDK 7—emerged as the most preferred during the evaluation. The seeds of these rice varieties will be distributed to and tested by 10 farmers in their demonstration lots during the planting season this year. The farmers will be trained on proper rice seed production and postharvest best practices through a Farmer Field School.
“The flood-tolerant XBF1 and XBF2 varieties are what the farmers need as they produce good yield compared with local varieties and are able to survive days of flooding,” said Phetmanyseng Xangsayasane, a plant breeder at the NAFRI Agriculture Research Center. “But to achieve optimum yield, good agronomic practices need to be implemented.”
Community-based seeds systems
“The overarching aim of the seed fair is to establish the rice seed resource base in Phailom CSV and eventually to institute a community-based seed management system with well-established seed producer group and seed bank,” said Bernard Okumu, a seed improvement advisor from Cuso International.
Architesh Panda, a coordinator at CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Laos, stressed the importance of more stakeholder collaboration to successfully set up a community-based seed system.
“As follow-up activities, a Farmers’ Field Day and a second seed fair will be held in August and November 2017, respectively,” added Okumu.
The event was organized by the International Rice Research Institute and Cuso International, under CCAFS.
Rice and Climate Change
Mr. Pamisa is an intern at IRRI and Ms. Joven is a Senior Communication Specialist at IRRI.