ASEAN Rice Science and Technology Ambassador Awards

2017 Winners

"As the main food for people in Asia, rice is of vital importance to national development and peoples’ livelihood. It’s fair to say that the work of all award winners here is a great undertaking which benefits the society, the nation and human being as a whole. This Award is a recognition of your work and contribution, and also a testament to the importance and expectations ASEAN holds for agricultural development."

H. E. Xu Bu, China's Ambassador to the ASEAN


DR. OUK MAKARA (Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Scientist – Cambodia)

Dr. Ouk Makara is the Director of Cambodia’s main agriculture research institution, the Cambodia Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). His expertise lies in the area of rice breeding, particularly in developing better rice varieties that provide higher yield and better grain quality, and increasing resilience to unfavorable farming conditions such as drought and floods. Throughout his career, he contributed to the development and release of 39 rice varieties that Cambodian farmers continue to use. Since 70% of the total agricultural production in the country is dedicated to rice, his role in developing better varieties has been one of the most tangible contributions of a scientist to national development. His exemplary work was recognized in 2017 by the country’s Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport, where he was awarded as an Outstanding Scientist.


DR. SATOTO (Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Scientist)

Dr. Satoto is a rice breeder who has been working at the Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR) since 1984. Over the years, he has pursued hybrid rice research and was appointed as the head of ICRR’s hybrid rice research program in 2003. He has succeeded in releasing 17 hybrid rice varieties. These varieties have the potential to yield up to 10 tons/ha, helping farmers to increase their incomes significantly. He is also a prolific researcher with 77 internationally and nationally published scientific papers under his belt. He continues to serve his country by participating actively in the formulation of policies for science and rice development and taking an active role in fostering the uplifting of farmers’ livelihoods in the country. His work and dedication have been awarded nationally by the Minister of Research and Technology and the President of the Republic of Indonesia.


DR. PHETMANYSENG XANGSAYASANE (ASEAN Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Scientist)

Dr. Phetmanyseng is the key rice breeder for the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) and deputy director of the Agriculture Research Center under NAFRI. A breeder and researcher with almost 20 years of experience, his contributions to Lao PDR include the development of more than 15 high-yielding rice varieties that have been adopted by rice farmers throughout the country and have made a positive difference in their livelihoods. With the adverse impacts of climate change, such as prolonged droughts and floods, he has worked on breeding rice varieties that are “climate-resilient” or able to withstand both drought and floods. Several climate-resilient varieties have been developed under his watch and multiplied and distributed to Lao farmers to ensure that they are able to mitigate the effects of climate change. Dr. Phetmanyseng also actively engages directly with farmers, the private sector, and local and international institutions to ensure that helpful rice farming technologies directly reach the farmers and communities.

MR. SIHONG KHOTTAVONG (ASEAN Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Farmer)

Mr. Sihong leads a farmer field school and a farmer seed production group in his village. The field school is an association of farmers who meet to learn and share innovations and new technologies. The seed production group involves farmers who produce rice seed to be sold for planting, which guarantees a higher income for them. He knows firsthand the importance of trying new technologies. In 2011, a big flood in Lao PDR destroyed 41,200 hectares of rice fields. His farm was also affected, but thanks to a new flood-resistant variety that he planted as a “trial demonstration, 90% of his crop survived and was harvested. Not only did this help establish his business as a commercial seed grower, it also enhanced his influence among fellow farmers to be receptive to new technologies and innovations.


DR. ASFALIZA RAMLI (ASEAN Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Scientist)

Dr. Asfaliza Ramli is a principal scientist and deputy director of the Rice Research Center at the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI). She was selected for her scientific contributions to developing new specialty rice varieties in Malaysia. Her leadership, intellect, and dedication have led to three new fragrant rice varieties, MRQ 74, MRQ 76, and MRQ 88. These varieties are being commercialized locally and introduced in Southeast Asia as well. Farmers favor these varieties for their pest and disease resistance, low input requirements, and higher yields. In addition to being an accomplished rice breeder, Dr. Asfaliza also shares her knowledge directly with rice farmers, teaching them best management practices that reduce their rice production costs and increase their yields and income.

MR. JAAFAR BIN ZAKARIA (ASEAN Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Farmer)

Mr. Zakaria is an inspiration to his fellow farmers in the community. He has been farming for more than 30 years and has gained a reputation as a “high-yield achiever” for his rice crops that have average yields of from 8 to 10 tons/ha. The normal or average yield in his community is about 6 tons/ha per season. Mr. Zakaria is an eager tester of new technologies and farming programs introduced by the Malaysian government. He shares his successes and lessons learned from these programs with farmers in his community and beyond. Riding on this generation’s penchant for social media, Mr. Jaafar shares his knowledge and insights with farmers as far as Indonesia through a Facebook page, “Kelab Jelapang Padi” that he and his friends maintain. The title of Rice Science and Technology Ambassador fits him perfectly.


MR. U THAN MYINT (ASEAN Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Farmer)

Mr. U Than Myint began farming when he was still in the 9th grade in order to help his mother. Now he runs a 25.9-hectare rice farm that neighboring farmers and community members consider to be a model because of its high yields. He is a leader in using new technologies and innovations in rice farming. He has employed techniques such as the System of Rice Intensification and best management practice. A community leader and an ambassador of farming innovations, he shares with his fellow farmers the knowledge that he has gained from his very long experience as a rice farmer and the current innovations he is trying out. He is the founder and patron of the Agricultural and Livestock Association of Kaytumati, which serves as his platform for educating his fellow rice farmers.

MS. MYINT YI (ASEAN Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Scientist)

Ms. Myint Yi is a rice breeder in Myanmar’s Department of Agricultural Research. She is a dedicated civil servant who exemplifies the value of hard work and continuous improvement in her more than 30 years of government service. Her leadership in the rice breeding program has resulted in the development and release of new rice varieties for different ecosystems including irrigated lowland, rainfed lowland, submergence-prone, and salinity-prone environments. Her hard work, dedication, and remarkable contributions to the rice sector were recognized earlier this year by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation of Myanmar, which conferred on her the Outstanding Award for Development of New Rice Cultivars.


MR. NEMENCIO J. CONCEPCION (ASEAN Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Farmer)

Mr. Nemencio Concepcion is a trailblazing smallholder farmer. Using a rice-based integrated farming systems approach, Ka Nimeng, as he is known, makes the most of his 2-hectare farm in Bulacan province through a combination of rice and vegetable farming and raising livestock and fish. He employs best management practices and innovations in the 1.5-ha area that he devotes to rice. One of his record achievements was when his rice crop yielded 8.4 tons/ha in a country where the annual national average is around 4-5 tons/ha. Nimeng also gives back to his community by unselfishly sharing with his fellow farmers the innovations and know-how that guides his own successful farming. He is a “Magsasaka-Siyentista” (farmer-scientist) and a Local Farmer Technician, titles bestowed on him by the Philippine Department of Agriculture for his ability to innovate and adopt new technologies and then share them with his fellow farmers.

DR. SAILILA E. ABDULA (ASEAN Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Scientist)

“Doc Sai”, as he is known to colleagues, is the acting executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the country’s premier rice research institution. As a rice scientist, Doc Sai specializes in plant breeding and molecular biology/biotechnology. One of his most significant contributions in the field of rice science is the development of tungro-tolerant rice varieties. These varieties were used as “stop-gap” measures to halt the spread of the disease in parts of Mindanao, thus saving the livelihoods of farmers in the region. Not just an exemplary rice scientist and administrator, he is also a visionary who has worked to uplift the livelihoods of farmers in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), one of the poorest regions of the country. He pioneered the tapping of religious leaders to help train farmers in local Moslem communities to use and adopt modern rice-farming technologies to improve their productivity and livelihoods.


DR. YIN ZHONGCHAO (Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Scientist)

Dr. Yin reflects the excellence and culture of openness that define Singapore. He is currently a senior principal investigator at the Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) and an adjunct associate professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS). In a country that consumes rice but does not grow it, Dr. Yin has been conducting rice research for over 20 years focusing mainly on rice disease resistance and molecular breeding. He is a well-published researcher whose work has been featured in the prestigious journal, Nature. His work has contributed to further the understanding of resistance to different biotic and abiotic stresses of rice, especially bacterial leaf blight, one of the most significant rice diseases that affects rice in Southeast Asia. Neighboring Southeast Asian nations, such as Indonesia and Lao PDR, have benefited from his research and expertise through collaborative engagements, knowledge exchange, and training in rice research.


MR. BUNMEE SURAKHOT (Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Farmer)

For his innovativeness and leadership in rice farming and the community, the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Thailand has selected Mr. Bunmee Surakhot for this honor. After experiencing ups and downs in different professions, Uncle Bunmee, as he is known, found his calling in agriculture. He first tried, without success, to grow popular crops, such as shallots, chili peppers, corn, and cucumbers and raising chickens. He then tried organic rice farming. After three years, he felt that ordinary farming was not sustainable. Realizing that there is strength in numbers, the ambitious Uncle Bunmee, a natural-born leader, teamed up with other farmers in his district to increase their competitiveness and bargaining power. This ultimately led to commercial success and the preservation of his community’s popular product of pride, “Loong Bunmee” rice. Mr Bunmee is currently president of the Ban Um-Sang Rice Community Enterprise. He was a recipient of the National Farmers award in 2011.

DR. JIRAPONG JAIRIN (Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Scientist)

Dr. Jirapong Jairin is an outstanding and multi-awarded rice researcher who works for the Thai government. He specializes in entomology and molecular breeding. He has devoted more than 20 years of service as a researcher to discover resistance genes against the brown planthopper, a major insect pest of rice; conferring resistance to commercially important Thai rice varieties; developing new varieties that allow farmers in lowland rainfed rice areas to produce more with fewer inputs; and training and educating farmers on innovations in rice crop establishment and nutrient management. Hundreds of farmers in Thailand’s northeastern area learned how to reduce their expenses in growing rice, while increasing their yields and profits thanks to the interventions developed and shared by Dr. Jairin and his colleagues at the Ubon Ratchathani Rice Research Center in Thailand.


DR. TRAN THI CUC HOA (Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Scientist – Vietnam)

Dr. Hoa is a highly regarded and multi awarded rice breeder in Vietnam. She also teaches graduate students at Can Tho University. Working in Vietnam’s “rice bowl” at the Mekong River Delta, where more than 50% of the total rice output of the country is produced, Dr. Hoa has developed 19 new rice varieties, of which 9 were approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as national varieties. Among these are 2 rice varieties she developed that earned her the National Prize of Science and Technology of Vietnam. These 2 varieties are now widely used by farmers and grown in a combined 3 million hectares across the Mekong River Delta and some Southern provinces. Dr. Hoa also trains the next generation of rice scientists in the university. Her achievements demonstrate the direct and manifest contributions a scientist can make to the lives of rice farmers in the country

MR. PHAN THIEN KHANH (Rice Science and Technology Ambassador: Outstanding Rice Farmer – Vietnam)

Mr. Khanh attributes his success in rice farming to hard work, diligence, the drive to live a better life, and the courage to utilize technological innovations. Born to a family of farmers with no land to till, Mr. Khanh worked as a farm laborer and diligently saved his earnings to accumulate enough capital to purchase a 1.5 hectare plot. Despite the small farm size, Mr. Khanh is able to increase his farm’s profitability through adoption of high yielding, high quality varieties. He also applied principles in farm management learned from experts such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), the “3 Reductions – 3 Gains,” “1 Must do – 5 Reductions” and Climate-Smart Agriculture. These principles allowed him to significantly reduce farming expenses yet maintain very high yields. His farm currently yields 7-8 tons/ha in the Winter-Spring cropping season, and around 5-5.5 tons/ha during the Summer-Autumn season.