K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
Besides producing rice, most rice landscapes in Asia all provide other less known services. A new project, called LEGATO which stands for stands for Land-use intensity and Ecological EnGineering – Assessment Tools for risks and Opportunities in Irrigated rice based production systems was recently launched in Malaysia. LEGATO is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s (BMBF) measure for “Sustainable land management” program and led by Prof Josef Settele of the Helmholt Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ, with collaboration with IRRI, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Vietnam, Visayas State University, Philippines, CABI SE Asia, Center for Policy Studies and Analysis (CEPSTA), Hanoi, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST), the Malaysia Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). Other collaborating agencies include BIOSS Biomathematics and Statistics, Scotland, PENSOFT Publishers and University of Barcelona, Spain. This 7.5 million euro project is the first attempt by a consortium of scientists from Europe and Asia to assess and valuate a range of ecosystem services besides provisioning (rice production). These are regulatory services, such as biological control and pollination and cultural services, such as cultural identity and aesthetics.
Ecological engineering is to provide guidance and methodologies for systematic, intelligent design of ecological systems for the benefit of humans and nature and is the central theme of LEGATO. There are now several attempts to apply and popularize ecological engineering in rice to restore biodiversity and biological control ecosystem services and reduce vulnerability of rice fields to pest outbreaks, like what is happening in Thailand and Indonesia. Early this year multi media campaigns to popularize ecological engineering were launched in An Giang province, Vietnam and Chainat province, Thailand.
Further information about LEGATO may be obtained from the project website and from “links’ in Hainanproject.org.