School of Science Leading a Project to Secure ASEAN's Food Security

7 August 2019

“Ah boy, finish your rice! The malnourished children in Africa don’t even have food to eat.” – A typical conversation we hear over and over again from Asian parents. Well, they’re not completely wrong but there’s one fact that we’ve got to get right. Famine doesn’t happen in Africa, it can happen to any country when crops aren’t able to grow.

Think somewhere closer to home, think Asia – the land of rice. You may have not noticed since we can easily get rice from the supermarket but farmers have long battled with cultivation problems like having too many weedy rice. Otherwise known as red rice, it is a kind of weed that produces far fewer or no grains than cultivated rice, hence, it is considered as a “pest” in paddy field.

In a proposal led by Dr Song Beng Kah, Prof Sadequr Rahman, Dr Patrick Tan Hock Siew, Mr Dilipkumar Masilamany, Dr Tonapha Pusadee, Dr Mon San Thein, Dr Amy Thein and Dr Mark Ng Kok Yew, they plan to study the agronomic traits (such as heat tolerance) in weedy rice. The proposal made a cut above the other 17 applicants in the MUM-ASEAN Sustainable Development Research Grant Scheme 2019. Mainly because the project has the potential to facilitate the improvement of rice as an efficient climate resilient crop in the future. Specifically, this project has been proposed to work towards strengthening productivity of paddy farming, establishment of ASEAN region’s long-term food security and increase the income of paddy farmers.

All these objectives are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations which is “to end hunger by 2030 through advancing sustainable agriculture and achieving food security”. Other than that, this project is also guided by the SDGs Goal 15: Life on Land, in which among the main aims are to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, and halt biodiversity loss”.