Promoting Water Saving Rice Production in South Asia

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB will help develop and disseminate water-saving rice technologies in the drought-prone and water-short region of South Asia, through a US$1 million technical assistance (TA) grant.

Current rice production systems consume a high amount of water. It takes about 3,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of rice. Irrigated non-agriculture areas, which provide 75% of total Asian rice production, consume 50% of all freshwater diversions.

"This profligate usage of water in irrigated rice production is unsustainable, given the increasing demand for freshwater due to growth in rice demand and growing competition from other sectors," says Tumurdavaa Bayarsaihan, an ADB Senior Agricultural Economist.

"With the present rate of water usage, even maintaining productivity in many currently irrigated areas will be difficult unless more water-efficient rice production technologies suitable for irrigated areas are developed."

In South Asia, it is estimated that by 2025, 12 million hectares of irrigated rice may suffer from severe water shortage, with serious effects on the food security and social stability of the region.

The Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that a 10% reduction in water use for rice irrigation would free 150 billion cubic meters, or 25% of the total freshwater used in Asia for nonagricultural purposes.

The TA will support the development of new water-saving rice production technologies based on improved varieties at IRRI, that will be distributed to national agricultural research centers in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

These centers will further refine, evaluate, and then disseminate the developed varieties, validating them at selected target fields with the participation of farmers.

The TA will also help national agricultural and extension systems in four participating countries develop locally adapted water-saving rice technologies, including by sponsoring visits to IRRI, organizing an international workshop, and conducting a series of training courses.

Last, the TA will develop a regional network for information exchange to ensure the broader impacts of the project.

The total cost of the TA is estimated at $2.306 million. IRRI will contribute $566,000, while the national research institutes of the four participating countries will shoulder the balance of $740,000 in the form of staff time, land, and research facilities.

IRRI is the executing agency for the TA, which will be carried out over about three years.