We have arrived in the Philippines, a steamy 40 degrees with a relative humidity I'd about 90%, a bit of a shock for those of us from SA! I think I experienced a bit of a culture shock on arrival, and quickly learned that I could not apply western standards in the Philippines, there was no doubt I was not in Kansas anymore!
The main reason for this leg of the trip was to visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a world class research facility focused on feeding the world and providing farming improvements for rice growers throughout Asia and the World. The facility is also the site for the rice 'gene bank' where there are 117 000 varieties in cold storage, designed to remain viable for at least 100 years as a source of genetic material for rice breeders around the world.
3 billion people rely on rice as their staple food and this demand is projected to rise by 2% year on year.
Funding for IRRI is a combination of government and private sponsorship, with Bill Gates providing 27% of the total funding, with a large portion of this looking at creating a C4 rice plant (essentially making a more vigourus and fast growing plant) which is a very big ask but if achieved could drastically increase yields. Researchers are also looking at addressing mineral and vitamin deficiencies in these developing countries by creating varieties that have high levels of iron as well as vitamin A.
We were fortunate to be hosted by some great Australian scientists who are working at IRRI and they gave us a great insight into the vast differences between the way we farm in Australia compared to Asia which are polar opposites, farming in the Philippines is still very second world, with small land holdings and very little mechanisation.
We also had a couple of fantastic meals with our hosts Leigh Viall (2008 Nuffield scholar) and his wife Sue as well as Duncan McIntosh whose father was also a Nuffield. The most memorable in a good way was trying mangosteens a yummy tropical fruit and the most memorable in a bad way was the Filpino desserts (think black bean porridge and some weird concoction of jelly, baked beans, purple potato and milk, not good!)
Photos Below: Me at Corregidor Island, invaded on the first day of WW2 and occupied by the Japanese for 4 years and lookng around IRRI with Australian researcher Dr James Quilty