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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds So this approach has to work very much, I think, in the complexity of existing food systems and their policy spaces or contexts. There aren’t really any clear examples so far of what that might mean– however, there are certain activities that I think I can mention now, which may evolve into something more sector-wide. So the first one is the Sustainable Rice Platform. And the Sustainable Rice Platform is a public-private partnership at UNEP. It co-convenes this with the International Rice Research Institute. Rice absolutely is a key crop for Southeast Asia.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds It provides livelihoods for very, very many smallholders. But it’s also the demand for it is increasing, and that is having an impact on water use and natural resources. And actually, it’s more and more people are eating rice, more than the foods that they used to be eating. So one of the things that we’re doing now– it’s now a 50-member alliance– is that quite organically actually country-level activities, country-level platforms have grown up. Because we have realised that, OK, if we want to talk about methodologies, we can create a rice standard, which we have done. So if you want to go to www.sustainablerice.org, you can download our tools and methodologies.

Skip to 1 minute and 43 seconds But, in fact, if we really want to get these implemented and rolled out and to reach our goal of a million farmers by 2020, we have to look at the national context. This is very, very important. So in the last six or seven months Pakistan, Cambodia, to name but two, are coming up with country-level chapters where we can look at specific contexts when it comes to the rice sector. Now, this I think is an example of the level at which we can actually be effective when it comes to taking a more of a systems approach to the food and agriculture.

Skip to 2 minutes and 25 seconds Now it remains to be seen if these platforms can evolve into looking at the food and agriculture sector more generally. But I think it’s a good indication of an entry point that could be applicable for Southeast Asia. Now, the second point that I want to make, and it’ll be my last point, is that there is actually one example where this issue of consumption and understanding demand when it comes to policy is in fact coming to fruition, and that is in the Philippines.

Skip to 2 minutes and 57 seconds What we are seeing actually is that within their rice strategy they’re saying, OK, we need to increase our productivity, but we cannot afford to just increase, increase, increase the amount of land that is given to rice production– that there has to be something about managing demand. And this is why that there is a part of the Philippines national rice strategy, which is dedicated to getting consumers or creating a shift for consumers away from white rice to more sustainable and healthier grain alternatives. So as you can see there are activities that are happening.

Skip to 3 minutes and 47 seconds However, if we want to create a proper shift towards more sustainable food systems, let’s look at what’s working, let’s look at what’s out there, and see what we can build on that’s already happening.

Sustainable rice

As we know, rice is a vital crop produced and consumed across Southeast Asia. However, are the rice systems in the region sustainable? In this video, James Lomax, of the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, considers some positive examples - namely the Sustainable Rice Platform, and the national rice strategy of the Philippines.

The Sustainable Rice Platform, convened by UNEP and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), is a multi-stakeholder partnership to promote resource efficiency and sustainability both on-farm and throughout the rice value chain, which is gaining momentum throughout Southeast Asia. James also highlights the Philippines as an example where attempts are being made to shift to rice that is both healthier and more sustainable.


As you can see, there are sustainable practices occurring in rice production systems in Southeast Asia. We are interested to hear and connect different ideas and strategies from around the world, and find out what is working and what isn’t. What other sustainability platforms or initiatives do you know of in your country? Tell us what impacts they are having, and what obstacles they might be encountering.

Image Sources: “Cambodian farmers planting rice” (CC BY 2.0), by Brad Collis via Wikimedia Commons; “Rice farmers Mae Wang Chiang Mai Province” (CC BY-SA 4.0), by Takeaway via Wikimedia Commons; and “White, Brown, Red & Wild rice” (CC BY-SA 3.0), by Earth100 via Wikimedia Commons

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This video is from the free online course:

Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Stockholm Environment Institute