International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) in Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to further research and academic cooperation in the agriculture and forestry sectors of Nepal.

Under the MoU, the IRRI will collaborate with AFU students and faculty can work with IRRI scientists in its headquarters in the Philippines and other country offices. Joint training programs, collaborative research projects, access to agricultural research and educational facilities, and exchange of knowledge and expertise by way of faculty, researchers, and students also are proposed under the MoU.

Sharada Thapaliya, vice-chancellor of AFU, emphasized that the MoU is a means to strengthen teaching and research capabilities, covering the broad areas of natural resource management, including food security.

The partnership will help strengthen the university’s teaching system through quality extension works, linking AFU with government agencies, international and national NGOs, community-based organizations, cooperatives, industries, and other key stakeholders. 

“This major new initiative will help Nepal achieve its development goals primarily through training the next generation of researchers and agriculturists,” said Nafees Meah, IRRI regional representative for South Asia.

According to IRRI, rice is Nepal’s most important staple food crop and agricultural product, providing 53% of cereal consumption and 30% of protein intake for 30 million Nepalese. It also contributes to 21% of the country’s agricultural gross domestic product (AGDP) and 7% to gross domestic product (GDP) and rural employment.

“Nearly 6 in 10 Nepalese are directly engaged in agriculture, making it the primary source of subsistence and livelihood in the country,” IRRI said. “At the same time, 8 in 10 people in Nepal reside in rural areas, where the incidence and severity of poverty has been twice as high as in urban areas over the last few years.”

Director General Matthew Morell said the MoU will help expedite the Nepal-IRRI Collaborative Five-Year Workplan that will potentially boost food and nutrition security, end poverty, and improve livelihoods.

In June 2018, the government of Nepal, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Management, and Cooperatives (MoALMC), and IRRI signed a Collaborative Five-Year Workplan, 2018-23, to reinvigorate Nepal’s rice sector and help achieve food and nutrition security.

The MoU was signed by Yubak Dhoj G.C., Secretary of MoALMC, and Morell. The work plan outlines projects intended to build technical skills and capabilities, increase grain yield, and promote a more market-driven seed system for climate resilient rice varieties to reduce Nepal’s burden of rice imports.

AFU was established in Chitwan in 2010 and is the first technical university of Nepal promoting education and R&D in agriculture, veterinary, fisheries, forestry through teaching, research, and extension. With over 100 faculty, 250 support staff, and 1,880 students, AFU aims for the holistic development of agriculture, livestock, aquaculture, and forestry to raise the socio-economic conditions of rural Nepal.