IRRI has been working on research issues that are directly or indirectly related to rice and climate change since 1991– at a time when climate change was considered a rather marginal topic within agriculture research. This perception on the significance of climate change has fundamentally changed. Over the years, a wide range of institutions have embarked in diverse climate change initiatives and projects that deal in one way or the other with adaptation and mitigation in the rice production system. Within this rapidly changing institutional setting, IRRI has defined a coherent research portfolio based on principles of maintaining the emphasis on the specific features of rice production systems in terms of adaptation and mitigation setting rice production into a broader context of food supply and food security alongside with socioeconomic issues such as rural development and gender mainstreaming.
The reform process of the CGIAR shifting towards research programs (CRPs) has greatly affected the role of climate change research at IRRI. By definition, research on ‘rice and climate change’ could possibly be allocated to the rice program (GRiSP) or the climate change program (Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, CCAFS). Both programs have been initiated simultaneously (starting operations in 2011), so that we had the challenging task to draw an imaginary thematic line between them. The overall concept was to keep genuine rice topics such as plant breeding within GRiSP – even if they relate to climate change issues in terms of their final outcome. In turn, CCAFS activities at IRRI were defined as activities that were primarily driven by the climate change agenda encompassing research questions such as mitigation or combined adaptation/ mitigation projects conducted within a regional context.
As a response, IRRI has developed a new framework for rice and climate change research reflecting this two-pronged institutional setting. However, these topics and subtopics defined in the framework do not represent a division among the two CRPs at IRRI, but rather serves two major purposes, which are to:
IRRI’s climate change work has never been -- and will never be -- a monolithic block of centrally coordinated activities. In fact, this range of different perspectives, contexts and approaches can also be seen as an asset of our work. Thus, IRRI’s climate change portfolio can capitalize on vast resources coming from a wide range of research area such as plant breeding – all of which have rice production as the common denominator. This pool of knowledge and facilities is harnessed and strategically supplemented to address the new challenges for rice production systems stemming from climate change.