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Revolutionizing Rice Production in ASEAN through Regenerative Agriculture

24 Nov 2023
AIT webmaster

AIT-RF Project REGA-ASEAN Aims to Transform Rice Farming Practices for a Sustainable Future

24 November 2023: In a groundbreaking initiative that promises to reshape the future of rice production in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) has been awarded a USD 300,000 grant by The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) for implementing an ambitious project, “Regenerative Agriculture in ASEAN: Promoting Nature-Positive Solutions for Rice Production” (REGA-ASEAN).

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(Project implementation team: Prof. Avishek Datta, Dr. Farhad Zulfiqar, and Dr. Sushil Kumar Himanshu)

With rice being a cornerstone of the region’s economy and food security, the urgency to address the challenges posed by climate change and conventional farming practices has never been greater. The REGA-ASEAN project seeks to revolutionize rice production systems by introducing regenerative agriculture principles in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Thailand. The empirical evidence generated through this project will be the cornerstone of this revolution.

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(Rice cultivation at the AIT Experimental Farm)

Leveraging a comprehensive approach, the project is poised to drive impactful change in the ASEAN countries. In the first phase, AIT will meticulously analyze existing data encompassing greenhouse gas emissions, water utilization, soil biodiversity, and farmer incomes related to rice production. This empirical evidence will underpin the project’s subsequent steps.

Subsequently, the project will identify and validate nature-positive agricultural practices that foster positive impacts on production and emissions through rigorous field testing and data extrapolation. The identification of nature-positive solutions will also involve inputs from farmers at the design stage during the inception meeting. The experimental work will involve both greenhouse and field experiments. The spotlight will then shift to on-the-ground implementation where selected nature-positive regenerative agriculture solutions will be demonstrated to farmers using immersive field trials. This empirical evidence will be a guideline for future researchers in the region. This crucial step aims to showcase the feasibility and applicability of these solutions in real-world scenarios. This step will also have active engagement with the Regen10 (https://regen10.org/) partners in Southeast Asia. The farmer representatives from Regen10 will be involved in the design and implementation of capacity-building activities of REGA-ASEAN.

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(Preliminary discussion and demonstrations of experimental greenhouses to The Rockefeller Foundation media team)

Moreover, the REGA-ASEAN project is committed to exploring opportunities for scalability. By highlighting the manifold benefits of the proposed solutions — ranging from enhanced soil health, climate resilience, and water resource preservation to improved soil biodiversity, strengthened ecosystem resilience, increased farmer profitability, and community empowerment — the project envisions a far-reaching and sustainable impact on the agricultural landscape.

The project aspires to improve soil health, protect the climate and water resources, enrich soil biodiversity, increase farmer profitability, and contribute to equity and community empowerment through the diligent application of regenerative agricultural practices. The outcomes of the REGA-ASEAN project hold the promise of revolutionizing rice production in ASEAN countries, reducing their reliance on food imports, and fortifying the region’s resilience in the face of potential future food security challenges.

(Ongoing greenhouse and field experiments for identifying and validating nature-positive agricultural practices for Rice Production)

The Asian Institute of Technology is proud to embark on this pioneering journey toward a more sustainable and regenerative future for rice production in ASEAN. By driving innovation, collaboration, and actionable solutions, the REGA-ASEAN project stands as a beacon of hope, promising a greener and more abundant tomorrow.

The project team includes Professor Avishek Datta (Agricultural Systems and Engineering), Dr. Farhad Zulfiqar (Agribusiness Management), and Dr. Sushil Kumar Himanshu (Agricultural Systems and Engineering) from the Department of Food, Agriculture and Bioresources, School of Environment, Resources and Development.

For inquiries and further information, please contact the project team members.