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Africa: Rice Congress
Oct 15, 2006 (061015)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Rice development will be one of the key testing grounds of whether
Africa's new "Green Revolution" can avoid some of the failures of
earlier Green Revolution efforts, and reduce African rice imports.
Enthusiasts point to the Participatory Varietal Selection methods
used by the Africa Rice Centre to disseminate new rice varieties,
and to growth in small-farmer income as well as yields.
Skeptics, however, fear that the primary emphasis on yields,
dependence on imported inputs such as fertilizer, and neglect of
environmental impacts will disadvantage small farmers and make the
"Revolution" unsustainable. .
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two articles from the Africa
Rice Centre, on the occasion of the Africa Rice Congress held in
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from July 31 - August 4. Another
AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today includes questions raised
following the September 12 announcement from the Gates Foundation
that it will add $100 million to the Rockefeller Foundation
initiative for a new "Green Revolution in Africa."
For additional background on African rice development, see
and additional links in articles below.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Experts Underline Four Prerequisites for Rice-Based Green
Revolution in Africa: Policy, Capacity Building, Technologies and
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
04 August 2006
Africa Rice Center
Leading policy analysts and researchers attending the Africa Rice
Congress - a groundbreaking meeting taking place in Tanzania to
chart the way forward for rice research and development in
sub-Saharan Africa - have emphasized that to bring about a
rice-based Green Revolution in the region, equal attention should
be urgently given to four areas: policy; capacity building;
technology development and transfer; and infrastructure.
Explaining the important lessons that Africa can draw from the
Asian Green Revolution, World Food Prize Laureate Dr G S Khush gave
the example of India and said that the development of high-yielding
varieties could not have alone boosted India's rice production in
the 1960s that led to its Green Revolution.
"It was a combination of success factors that included the
Government's decision to support its rice farmers by providing
fertilizer subsidy, price support, a ready market, in addition to
facilities such as irrigation, roads, and machinery."
The Congress participants urged African governments to support
their rice farmers, instead of becoming increasingly dependant on
external supply for rice. Sub-Saharan Africa's rice imports cover
about 40-45% of its total rice supply and represent a third of
Prof. E Tollens, an expert in agricultural policy research,
highlighted that the world rice stocks were at present at their
lowest level (about 100 million tonnes) of which China accounts for
58%. He said that one positive sign was that locally produced rice
was becoming more competitive as the international rice prices have
been rising since 2002.
The need to strengthen the capacity of human resources along the
rice research and development continuum was underscored throughout
the Congress meetings. The capacity of the whole range of rice
stakeholders - from rice researchers to extension workers, farmers
and processors - need to be strengthened to improve the rice sector
in African countries.
Participants thanked the Rockefeller Foundation for funding the
capacity building project for breeding and biotechnology being
conducted in Eastern Africa. They strongly recommended that such
projects be also made available in West Africa. Dr S McCouch from
Cornell University who has been one of the foremost champions of
capacity building of African researchers suggested that a
coordinated proposal for capacity building for rice breeding and
biotechnology could be submitted for financial support.
Dr P Seck, Director General of ISRA, in Senegal and the Director
General Designate of WARDA, said, "Capacity building of Africans is
essential. But, all our efforts will fail if we cannot give to our
trained personnel the right working conditions and incentives in
order to prevent the brain drain."
Technology Development and Dissemination
The Congress offered a great opportunity to the national and
international rice researchers to plan for the development of
improved rice varieties for the future, especially the next
generation of New Rice for Africa (NERICAs). Both Upland and
Lowland NERICAs are making a big difference in many African
NERICA refers to the successful crossing by researchers from the
Africa Rice Center (WARDA) of the two species of cultivated rice to
produce plants (known as interspecifics) that outperform both
parents, with an emphasis on high yields from the Asian parent and
the ability to thrive in harsh environments from the African
The main focus on the next generation NERICAs will be to increase
their resistance to environmental stresses, particularly drought,
as well as diseases and pests, while increasing their yield
potential and nutrient and water use efficiency, using advanced
Dr McCouch pointed out that rice researchers are especially
fortunate, because rice is the first crop, whose genome has been
fully sequenced and since this achievement was made through
public-funded research, this priceless genomic information is in
the public domain, unlike that for wheat or maize.
"Today rice researchers have new opportunities using the tools of
modern genetics," Dr McCouch said. African rice research will also
benefit greatly from the new collaboration between WARDA and IRRI
as well as from the collaboration with African Agricultural
Technology Foundation (AATF).
A key success factor of the NERICAs was the unlocking of the genes
from the African cultivated rice species O. glaberrima, accessions
of which were collected and conserved in the WARDA genebank.
Similarly wild and weedy rice species harbor many genes capable of
enhancing the performance of the Asian rice. The value of
collecting and conserving genetic resources of all these rice
species was emphasized by the Congress.
The participants stressed that varieties should be considered as
part of an integrated crop management system and that biotechnology
and ecotechnology should be given equal priority.
Innovative and appropriate water management systems, including the
"Sawah" system, should be explored to maximize the high potential
of Africa's lowlands. "However, priority should be given to
improve existing crop and water management systems, before
introducing new systems from outside," said Dr O Niangado, Delegate
from Syngenta Foundation.
It was acknowledged that Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and
Natural Resource Management (NRM) technologies are more difficult
and expensive to disseminate to farmers. Given that the
Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) approach had been highly
successful for NERICA dissemination, participants recommended that
it would be worthwhile to extrapolate this approach for IPM and NRM
"There cannot be large-scale rice production without the use of
agricultural machinery," said Dr Khush. The participants endorsed
the view that appropriate, low-cost small machinery for rice
cultivation has to be developed or introduced and adapted to
African conditions, such as the ASI rice thresher, developed
through partnership between international (WARDA, IRRI), national
(ISRA and SAED) and NGOs and the private sector in Senegal.
Referring to the policy studies carried out by the Africa Rice
Center (WARDA) on the Nigeria rice sector, where it was found that
the relatively poor quality of Nigerian rice is the primary
constraint to further development of the sector, Prof. Tollens
said, "It is important to recognize that milling, cleaning, and
branding are important for the marketing of the local rice.
Otherwise, consumers will continue to view local rice as an
inferior product, and it will be of no use if we continue to
increase rice production."
Go All the Way
The essence of the Congress deliberations was well captured by Dr
T Berhe from Sasakawa Global 2000. "Go all the way from rice
research to dissemination, production and consumption, following
the value chain, and put equal importance on all the stages," he
Africa Rice Center (WARDA) is an autonomous inter-governmental
research association of African member states. WARDA is also one of
the 15 international agricultural research Centers supported by the
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
The 'New Rice for Africa' (NERICA), which is bringing hope to
millions of poor people in Africa, was developed by WARDA and its
partners. The success of the NERICAs has helped shape the Center's
future direction, extending its horizon beyond West and Central
Africa into Eastern and Southern Africa.
Since January 2005, the Center has been working from Cotonou,
Benin, having relocated from its headquarters in Bouak‚, C“te
d'Ivoire, because of the civil conflicts in the country. It has
regional research stations near St Louis, Senegal and at the
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan,
Transforming Sub-Saharan Africa's Rice Production through Rice
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
Africa Rice Center (WARDA)
Following the Africa Rice Congress hosted by the Africa Rice Center
(WARDA) on July 31- August 4, 2006 in Dar es Salaam Tanzania, we
invited WARDA to contribute a story highlighting the importance of
rice research to improve the livelihoods of poor people in
Although most of the world's rice is produced and consumed in Asia,
demand for it is soaring in Africa. Rice has become a major source
of calories not only for the affluent, but also for the urban and
rural poor in many parts of the continent. Its availability and
price have become major determinants of the welfare of the poorest
Rice production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), though rising from 8.6
million tonnes of paddy (unhulled) rice in 1980 to 12.6 million
tonnes in 2005, has not kept pace with demand. As a result, the
quantity imported yearly by the region increased from 2.5 million
tonnes in 1980 to 7.2 million tonnes in 2005. SSA spends more than
US$1.5 billion in foreign exchange every year for its rice imports.
In the short term, rice imports may serve to bridge the gap in rice
supply. But their increasing market share (40-45 percent of the
total rice supply) reveals the region's high dependency on external
supplies for one of its staple foods. More than 30 percent of the
internationally traded rice goes to Africa.
There is growing concern about the foreign currency drain resulting
from massive rice imports, the marginalization of the local rice
sector, and the food security implications of dependency on
fluctuating world market prices and supply chains for this staple
food. The situation is particularly worrying because the
international rice market is relatively small, accounting for only
4-6 percent of the total rice produced globally.
Can SSA Substantially Reduce its Rice Imports?
Rice production in SSA is dominated by subsistence, smallholder
farmers who have limited access to markets, no equipment other than
hand-held tools and limited use of inputs. The average rice yield
in the sub-continent is the lowest in the world - 1.4 tonnes per
hectare compared to Asia's average of 4 tonnes (more than 6 tonnes
However, rice is successfully and economically produced in a wide
range of agroecologies in SSA. In Mali, for example, rice yields
have increased steadily in the Office du Niger Project. In
Madagascar, where per capita rice consumption is among the highest
in the world, most of the rice consumed is homegrown. Nigeria,
which has all the agro-ecological zones suitable for rice
cultivation, has the potential to become a major rice granary.
In SSA , the lowland rice ecology consists of 20 50 million
hectares. If only 2 million hectares of this area were used to grow
rice, producing an average yield of 3 tonnes per hectare, W est
Africa could easily stop its costly rice imports. Technologies to
achieve this potential are now reaching African farmers.
Impact of Rice Research in SSA
According to recent impact assessment studies, rice research by
national and international organizations is making a big difference
in Africa, where rice is mostly grown by women.
A study conducted in 2003 by T. J. Dalton and R. G. Guei in seven
West African rice-producing countries showed that about 100
improved rice varieties were released from 1980 to 2000, generating
sizable gains in rice productivity. A bout 40 percent of the total
rice area in SSA is planted with improved varieties, which are
concentrated particularly in the irrigated and mangrove rice areas.
Rice variety improvement contributed, on average, US$375 million
per year to the region's economy and possibly as much as $850
million. Overall, improved varieties have increased net revenues by
$93 per hectare, with the highest gains in irrigated and rainfed
lowland ecologies. The returns to investment in rice research now
exceed 20 percent annually.
The study also revealed that, without variety improvement, the
regional balance-of-payment deficit for rice imports would have
been 40 percent higher. And it would have been necessary to bring
an additional 658,000 hectares of land under rice cultivation to
maintain current levels of consumption.
The International Network for the Genetic Evaluation of Rice
(INGER)-Africa, based at the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), has
contributed importantly to this success. INGER-Africa promotes
genetic diversity for different ecosystems through the exchange,
evaluation and utilization of improved breeding materials
originating from worldwide sources.
The New Rice for Africa (NERICA), developed by WARDA and its
partners, is a well-known breakthrough. It is considered one of the
major recent advances in rice variety improvement.
There are many reports of NERICA's positive impact on farmers'
livelihood across SSA, from Guinea to Uganda. According to s
ocio-economic impact studies carried out in Benin by WARDA and its
national partner, NERICA adoption contributed to the following
- Child school enrollment rose by 3 percent in farm families
- School retention rate increased by 3 percent
- School expenditure per child increased by about 5,000 CFA ($8)
- Frequency of child sickness declined by 2 percent
- Frequency of hospital attendance when sick rose by 5 percent
- Health expenditures per sick child increased by about 7,000 CFA
When these modest impacts are extrapolated across the region's
entire rice sector, then the value of the agricultural research
that led to the development of NERICAs becomes very significant.
Impact studies also reveal that rice research contributes
effectively to the realization of almost all the Millennium
Development Goals, including halving poverty and hunger, promoting
education, improving health, reducing child mortality, empowering
women and ensuring environmental sustainability.
Pre-requisites for a Rice Revolution in SSA
Improved agricultural technologies, however effective, will not by
themselves bring about a rice revolution in SSA. The Africa Rice
Congress held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from July 31 to August 4,
2006, underlined that to transform the region's rice sector,
governments must institute policies that guarantee prices; create
access to credit, inputs and markets; and put in place safety nets
and subsidies to support vulnerable groups, particularly women
farmers. Such policies will give farmers incentives to adopt
improved technologies that can raise their incomes and lift them
out of poverty.
Rice in Africa - Fast Facts
- Rice is a staple food for SSA's rapidly growing population, whose
rice consumption increased annually by 4.4 percent from 1961 to
- Rice is the region's fourth most important cereal in terms of
production (after sorghum, maize and millet).
- Rice occupies 10 percent of the total land under cereals and
contributes 15 percent of total cereal production in SSA.
- About 20 million farmers in SSA grow rice, and about 100 million
people depend on it for their livelihoods.
- From 1985 to 2003, the region's rice production increased at an
annual rate of 4 percent, compared to only 2.4 and 2.5 percent for
maize and sorghum, respectively.
- Rice is grown on 8.5 million hectares in SSA, equal to 5.5
percent of the global rice area. Almost all of the region's 38
countries grow rice, but two, Nigeria and Madagascar, account for
60 percent of the rice land. Nine other countries grow rice on more
than 100,000 hectares, including Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire.
- Africa is the only continent where the two species of cultivated
rice - Oryza glaberrima (African rice) and Oryza sativa (Asian
rice) - are grown.
- The most widely grown rice species, Oryza sativa, is originally
from Asia and was introduced in Africa only about 450 years ago. It
is high-yielding and responds well to inputs but is not well
adapted to African conditions.
- The less well-known rice species, Oryza glaberrima, was
domesticated in the Niger River Delta over 3,500 years ago. It is
well adapted to African farming conditions but generally has lower
Rice Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa, WARDA Publication
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) website
FAO Rice Market Monitor, June 2006
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