$300 million fund-raising campaign launched for rice food security in Asia

November 25, 2009

Singapore - In the face of unrelenting pressure on Asian rice production, a US$300 million fund-raising campaign has been launched in Singapore to support rice research to help find sustainable solutions.

Organized by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to mark its 50th anniversary in 2010, the five-year campaign has already raised $59 million, with just over $50 million being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Although we obviously have a long way to go, we are very grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for giving the campaign such a strong philanthropic start," said IRRI Director General Dr. Robert Zeigler.

He noted that already the campaign was developing a wide range of support from personal donations of $1,000 to larger gifts from big companies. "Rice is fundamental not just to Asian economies but also to Asian culture, so the people we are meeting are very motivated to provide support - I believe we already have another $20 to $25 million in the pipeline," Dr. Zeigler said.

The campaign's launch comes at a key time for rice production and food security in Asia and around the world. Rice prices are again approaching last year's historic highs that caused social upheaval in some nations. A range of factors, including extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, put increasing pressure on production in countries such as India and the Philippines.

"There is no doubt that rice research can help," Dr. Zeigler said. "For more than four decades, rice production has steadily increased in Asia, pushed ahead by new varieties developed through research that has helped ensure enough rice for all Asians. We have the knowledge. What we need more than anything is to make the necessary investments, especially with the looming threat of climate change."

Although the campaign has received some government support, such as a seed grant from Singapore's Economic Development Board, its main focus is on philanthropy in Asia and support from individuals, organizations, and companies from around the region.

"IRRI was founded by the philanthropy of the U.S.-based Rockefeller and Ford Foundations in 1960," said Dr. Zeigler. "We would now like to urge the great philanthropists of Asia - of which there are many - to look at these examples and realize that rice is fundamental to the future of not only their families but also their nations and the entire region."

To support the campaign, IRRI has established The IRRI Fund in Singapore as an international charitable organization and will also be active in Hong Kong. "We want to reach out to all Asians and ask for their support as rice research touches the lives of all rice consumers," Dr. Zeigler added. "After all, in Asia, rice is life."
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International Rice Research Institute

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