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" ..... it is beyound any question, rice industry has an overwhelming influence on national economy .."
Bangladesh Rice Foundation
For Bangladesh, rice is life! I
Although, quantitatively Bangladesh is the fourth largest rice producer in the world (behind India, China and Indonesia),' its
connections and involvement with, rice is more than in any other major nation i . n I the world. Consider these facts: about 77% of
Bangladesh's agricultural land grows rice; about 70% of the population are engaged in rice production; nearly one half of all
employments in Bangladesh is generated by the (ice sector; about 75% of the total calorie and 55% of total protein intake of an average Bangladeshi are obtained from rice. Undoubtedly, rice has a profound impact on rural Bangladeshi's life style, art and culture, and tradition and heritage. This should appear hardly surprising when one would reflect on the fact that the floodplains of this
country are one of the oldest cradles of human civilization where the rice plant was domesticated around the 5th millennium B.C.
Why was establishment of BRF necessary? .
It is beyond any question that the rice sector exerts an overwhelming influence on the national economy and its people 'in Bangladesh. Yet, investments on research and development (R&D) on rice in Bangladesh have been very low, lower than almost any other major rice producing nation in the region. Only about 0.25% of agricultural GDP is spent on supporting R&D in agriculture as a whole. Clearly, the agriculture sector, in general, and the rice sector, in particular, deserved better. However,
it is still relevant to ask: why BRF was considered necessary to be established while there are already a number of public institutions such as Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, agricultural universities, and the Department of Agricultural Extension to address the various R&D issues concerning rice? The answer rests in the fact that, with its unique mission and programmatic emphasis on improving policies related to rice, the BRIF fills a critically important gap that existed in the research and development milieu in Bangladesh. BRF's programs complement those of other R&D organizations. The Foundation maintains links with institutions and professionals of relevant international and regional organizations that share its mission, and with similar organizations in several major rice producing countries (e.g., rice foundations of Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand). A close working relationship with the Asia Rice Foundation that is based in Bangkok facilitates these linkages and enables the local professionals to learn more about the priorities and programs of other countries.
In the pursuit of its objectives, BRF un ertakes specific research and development programs and activities for one to two years within the framework of a perspective plan that covers a longer period, say five years. This process started in January 2003 when BRF organized a workshop on the theme "Next Step in Rice" in which the various challenges facing the rice sector in Bangladesh were deliberated on by eminent professionals.
Presently, BRF is engaged in conducting two research projects one o ' n the potential of exporting aromatic and fine rice from Bangladesh, and the other on the impact of trade liberalization on the rice sector of Bangladesh. Both of these projects would be completed by the end of 2004. A high priority project that is expected to be initiated in late 2004 concerns formulation of a comprehensive national rice policy. Another proposal that is being developed concerns the establishment of a rice database at the
Foundation, which will serve as a depository of rice related information for use by interested individuals or groups such as researchers, educationists, students, development partners, and entrepreneurs.
Mission, objectives and work culture
The mission of Bangladesh Rice Foundation is to enhance and sustain the wellbeing of all people concerned with rice producers, processors, traders, workers, and consumers , with a special emphasis on the poor.
The Foundation pursues its mission through appropriate policy oriented research and development, information exchange, promotion, communication and advocacy roles so that
* rice production systems become ecologically and economically sustainable, and the nation enjoys an enhanced food security status;
* greater benefits accrue to all groups of people involved in the rice production processing marketing consumption chain, especially the poor; and
* more awareness and appreciation of the rich rice centric traditions, art and culture are created in the society and the priceless heritage is promoted and better preserved.
The Board of Trustees, which is elected by the Members of the Foundation, is empowered to direct and guide the Foundation in all of its programs and activities. The 15 member Board is composed of professionals from various disciplines and backgrounds. The Chairman, Vice Chairman and Treasurer are elected by the Trustees. The Board calls on outside specialists as and when needed for specific issues to be discussed. It functions in a consultative mode such that Board meetings, which are held once in about every two months, provide a forum for constructive discussion and deliberations on issues that require a decision. The Articles of Association of the Foundation provides for an effective mechanism for enlisting new Members as Trustees on a regular basis.
The Program Committee, which was appointed by the Board, is headed by the Vice Chairman and it has eight other Trustees as members. This body has been entrusted with the responsibility of planning programs and activities and recommending them to the Board. The Program Committee also utilizes outside specialists' support on specific tasks when needed.
In developing its programs and activities, the Foundation is guided by the following principles:
* Identify and engage in addressing those problems of the rice sector that are of critical importance to the nation.
* Avoid committing resources to issues that are being adequately addressed by other organizations.
* Build partnership with concerned others in order to strengthen the intellectual and
Operative resource base of the Foundation.
The Members and Trustees contribute their time and energy for the Foundation on honorary basis. They do this because they believe in the mission that the Foundation stands for. Bangladesh Rice Foundation is a very young organization. It needs the support of dedicated professionals and the patronage of concerned individuals, institutions and the Government for its proper growth and success in its mission.