The Weather-rice-nutrient integrated decision support system (WeRise) is a web-based application that uses a seasonal climate prediction model and crop growth simulation model to improve livelihoods and productivity in rainfed rice areas. It provides advisories on the optimum sowing and fertilizer application timings using suitable varieties three months before the cropping season. This paper aimed to provide a narrative documentation of the experiences and key lessons learned during the implementation of WeRise technology transfer in Indonesia and the Philippines. Project implementers may not have all the answers as they develop and transfer the technology. Thus, technology transfer should be an ongoing process throughout the project life cycle.
In Southeast Asia (SEA), where most rice is produced and consumed globally, rice security is inextricably linked with food security. Irrigated and rainfed lowland rice areas account for approximately 89% of the total rice area in this region. Indonesia and the Philippines are among the countries with the largest irrigated areas in SEA. Unfortunately, these irrigated areas are now facing multiple challenges of water scarcity, competing demand for water from non-agricultural sectors, land conversion, and high development and operational cost of irrigation facilities.
Improving productivity in rainfed rice areas has become an important strategy to achieve food security. However, rainfed rice areas are often associated with poverty and characterized by low and unstable productivity due to variable conditions of the soil, topography, and weather .
Weather variabilities make it difficult for farmers to determine when to sow and perform other farm activities. Without access to timely and relevant information, farmers usually rely on their empirical knowledge – previous experiences, indigenous knowledge or by simply observing daily weather before or during the cropping season.
Unfortunately, these have become unreliable due to the impacts of climate change including erratic rainfall and increased occurrences of drought and other weather extremes. The rice research and development sector responded in cognizant to these challenges.
The Weather-rice-nutrient integrated decision support system (WeRise) is a web-based application that uses a seasonal climate prediction model and crop growth simulation model. It aims to improve livelihoods and productivity in rainfed rice areas. It provides advisories on the optimum sowing and fertilizer application timings using suitable varieties three months before the cropping season. The advisories are based on the weather characteristics of the upcoming cropping season, crop growth development, soil characteristics, and farm management practices.
With funding from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan and Japan International Research Center for Agriculture Sciences (JIRCAS), WeRise was developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) – Japan collaborative research project (IJCRP) and the IRRI – Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) – JIRCAS (IPJCRP) collaborative research project for the rainfed rice areas of Indonesia and the Philippines.
Through WeRise, these projects hope to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger by transforming rainfed rice areas into a more sustainable production system through efficient water and nutrient use; and improving the climate change adaptation capacity of farmers by enabling strategic crop production decisions. The IJCRP and IPJCRP ended in December 2020 and March 2021, respectively.
WeRise was transitioned to selected agencies of the national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) in both countries. International agricultural research for development (AR4D) institutions may lack the mandate to monitor research investments and assess their impact after projects end. However, they are expected to achieve the development-oriented impact targets.
Technology transfer pathways (TTPs) for WeRise in Indonesia and the Philippines were developed to facilitate impact by enabling systematic transitions and gaining the commitment of stakeholders to sustain project outputs beyond the project life cycle. Technology transfer is proactive, intentional and necessitates an agreement among the technology transfer agents and recipients. It involves a broad set of processes that covers the transfer of know-how, experiences and equipment among different stakeholders. It is different from technology diffusion which is a passive process and an intended outcome of technology transfer.
Using the cases of WeRise technology transfer in Indonesia and the Philippines, this paper mapped the processes used to develop TTPs and discussed the technology transfer implementation experiences and lessons learned. While documenting that technology performance is important, documenting and sharing the implementation experiences as well could result in more innovations to improve the system.
This paper aimed to provide a narrative documentation of the experiences and key lessons learned during the implementation of WeRise technology transfer in Indonesia and the Philippines. Project implementers may not have all the answers as they develop and transfer the technology. Thus, technology transfer should be an ongoing process throughout the project life cycle.
It should involve co-development of the technology and constant feedback among the transfer agent (project implementers) and recipients (NARES in this study) from the beginning. Technology transfer implementation should involve understanding the local context, early and consistent stakeholder engagement, partnership building, flexibility and responsiveness, and a strategic communication plan.
Developing technology transfer pathways (TTPs) at the onset is imperative. TTPs can enable systematic transitions and help gain the commitment of transfer recipients on project sustainability once donor funding has ceased. The TTPs developed for WeRise identified the institutions and their roles in three sub-pathways: technology development and adoption, capacity development, and policy influence.
It coincides with Douthwaite et al’s causal model showing how agricultural research for development contributes to impact through the three interconnected pathways. Research projects are time-bound with an implementation period of three to five years. Development-oriented impact goals set by projects (i.e., poverty reduction, improved livelihoods) may be realized long after projects end. However, research institutions may lack the mandate and financial resources to monitor research investments after projects end.
As such, Governments can play a crucial role by providing oversight and creating an enabling environment for the development of digital tools and in putting in place mechanisms to achieve impact after funding has ceased when projects end. The following were identified policy priorities from this paper:
The Governments through the appropriate departments/ministries (e.g., Agriculture, ICT) can maximize the potential benefits of digital tools developed by various institutions (international research institutions, NGOs, micro enterprises) by conducting audits on their performance in collaboration with the lead agencies where they have been transitioned. There should also be repository or one platform where digital tools may be accessed. While integration of some tools may be ideal, standalone tools accessible in one platform would allow users menus to choose from.
Since digital tools are data-driven and rely on good quality data, governments can also create an enabling environment to facilitate access to critical data requirements (weather and soil) that local institutions can provide. Some data are collected and maintained by agencies under different Ministries/Departments and may entail tedious administrative requirements before they can be accessed by projects. Government agencies may also benefit from the data that these projects acquire throughout their project life cycle. A mechanism for data exchange or data access after the projects end may be explored. Capacity building initiatives may also be jointly implemented by government institutions and projects.
The IJCRP and IPJCRP encountered some difficulties in seeking farmer cooperators for its research experiments. Through other government programs, incentives may be given by the Government to farmers who participate in research experiments that are necessary for the development of digital agriculture tools. Validation experiments in government demonstration sites or accredited learning sites should be promoted if not institutionalized.
Governments can also help in developing business models for these tools by linking the agencies. For instance, WeRise adopts a production and exchange business model where farmers can obtain information at the pre-production and production stage (Krishnan et al., 2020). Other preferred information of farmers such as market price and buyers are not provided. Linking the project implementers with other agencies and to existing digital tools could result to a more sustainable business model.
Read the study:
Bugayong I, Hayashi K, Orden E, Llorca L, Agustiani N, Hadiawati L, Siregar, Pantin FL (2022) Technology transfer in the agriculture sector: Implementation experiences of WeRise in Indonesia and the Philippines. The FFTC Journal of Agricultural Policy Volume 3; 13.