LOS BAÑOS, Laguna -- The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) recently hosted the four-day official visit of Nepal’s Secretary of Agricultural Development (MoAD) Uttam Kumar Bhattarai and his delegation to strengthen collaboration in helping Nepal's goal of attaining rice sufficiency.

IRRI officials described on Thursday the visit of the Nepalese agriculture official to the world’s premier rice research institute headquarters here as an opportunity “to pave the way for stronger collaboration, particularly in helping Nepal attain rice self-sufficiency.”

IRRI and Nepal currently have several major activities among them the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (Strasa) project which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Accelerating the Adoption of Stress-Tolerant Varieties (ASTV) by smallholder farmers in Nepal through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding.

The IRRI partnership with Nepal also embarked on the Improved Crop Management and Strengthened Seed System for drought-prone rain-fed lowlands in South Asia, funded by the European Commission-International Fund for Agricultural Development (EC-IFAD).

During the visit, Secretary Bhattarai and his entourage of senior Nepalese government officials from various agencies met with IRRI top officials that resulted in the strengthening of Nepal’s host agreement to further boost work on rice production and capacity building of national partners.

The discussions also highlighted the dissemination of the stress-tolerant rice varieties in various districts of Nepal through the Strasa and USAID-ASTV projects.

IRRI officials also conducted a joint meeting with the Nepalese delegation at the Asian Development Bank where they explored sources of funding to expand research and development activities to improve Nepal’s rice sector.

The Nepalese delegation also toured IRRI's Zeigler Experiment Station, International Rice Genebank, Grain Quality and Nutrition Center, and rice breeding and postharvest facilities.

The tours showcased areas where IRRI can help Nepal in its efforts to sustainably increase rice production and reduce rice importation.

IRRI officials Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships, and Jacqueline Hughes, deputy director general for research, welcomed the Nepalese delegation during the visit.

Joining them were Corinta Guerta, IRRI director for external relations and IRRI scientists Abdel Ismail David Johnson and Umesh Singh.

The four-day visit was facilitated by the Strasa and USAID-ASTV projects as part of the efforts to enhance collaboration and awareness of national program leaders in South Asia. (PNA)