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AIT awarded € 3.4 million grant by the European Union to intensify Sustainable Agriculture Development in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

New Asian Centre of Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (ACISAI) believes its "“less is more”" approach promises a “more intelligent pathway” for rice cultivation in the region to reduce poverty and improve food security.

AIT awarded € 3.4 million grant by the European Union to intensify  Sustainable Agriculture Development in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

Dr. Prabhat Kumar

Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand, 9 April 2013

Scientists at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) are set to introduce a “more intelligent pathway” for cultivating rice in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam through sustainable agriculture development and System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
In a bid to unlock sustainable solutions for managing agriculture systems in the Lower Mekong River Basin region, AIT researchers have embarked on a five-year project that aims to intensify the practice of sustainable agriculture by promoting the SRI as an entry point for innovations that could benefit millions of poor small-scale farmers.
By the year 2050, the global population is projected to be 9 billion. According to the United Nations, feeding such a large number, along with tackling climate change and maintaining productive land and sufficient water resources, will require dramatic improvements for managing the world’s agricultural systems.
Against this backdrop, AIT in Thailand has been awarded a landmark Euros 3.4 million (US$ 4.37 million) grant by the European Union for a project titled: “Sustaining and Enhancing the Momentum for Innovation and Learning around the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in the Lower Mekong River Basin.”

The grant enabled the launch on 9 April 2013 of the Asian Centre of Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (ACISAI) at its new home situated on the ground floor of the AIT Administration Building.

The ACISAI was officially inaugurated at a brief ceremony by Prof. Jayant K. Routray, Chairman of the AIT Academic Senate, on behalf of Acting AIT President Prof. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai, along with Prof. Norman T. Uphoff, Director, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, Cornell University; Dr. Rosa S. Rolle, Senior Agro-Industry and Post Harvest Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific; and Prof. Amir Kassam, OBE, FSB, School of Agriculture and Development, University of Reading.
The project aims to support the intensification of small-scale agriculture as a performing model that could ultimately provide jobs to millions of landless farmers and enhance food security. By contributing to poverty reduction, the project is designed to make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) No. 1 to Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger by 2015.
System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is an emerging alternative technology to conventional rice cultivation techniques that instills a social dimension to farming to produce healthy and profitable crops using less water and less seed, and through skillful management of plants, soils, water and nutrients, says project team leader Dr. Abha Mishra.
“It really is a less is more approach,” adds project regional coordinator Dr. Prabhat Kumar. “It requires less water, seed, energy, carbon footprint and investment costs while at the same time conserving valuable input resources and producing higher yields.”
Over half the world’s people depend on rice for survival. Moreover, 500 million small-scale farms world-wide, most still rain-fed, provide up to 80 per cent of the food consumed in a large part of the developing world. Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of global population. It is also the largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households.
More and more scientists, researchers, and analysts now believe that boosting sustainable agriculture, especially among small-scale farmers, can not only overcome hunger and poverty but can address other challenges from climate change.  Agriculture is very much at the center of the global transition to a resource-efficient, low-carbon green economy, they say.
Dr. Mishra says: “Sustainable agriculture has the potential to reduce the negative externalities associated with conventional agricultural methods, enhance environmental service flows, reduce national expenditures for food, foster new social infrastructure and cultural relations, help the emergence of new green enterprises that drive local communities’ economic growth, and ultimately improve the well-being of both rural and urban populations.”
Dr. Mishra holds that the “collaborative” nature of SRI makes it an excellent “model” to initiate multidisciplinary work involving various actors to combat climate change; starting from the local rice farmer in the Lower Mekong River Basin region and leading right up to the global-level policy maker.
With the launch of the Asian Centre of Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (ACISAI) in Thailand, AIT is now the region’s foremost institute for linking local practitioners to global actors and institutions to meet the goals of food security and environmental sustainability.