Elmina, (Ghana), August 10, GNA – African farmers require high-yielding rice technologies to produce rice in higher commercial volumes to create more jobs, improve livelihoods and ensure continuous food security in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The demand for rice is growing at more than six percent per year – faster than for any other major food staple in sub-Saharan Africa – but the local production has been unable to keep pace with the demand, and the continent continues to rely on imports to meet its increasing demand for rice”, said Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa.
Opening a five-day workshop in Elmina on Knowledge exchange for the promotion of efficient rice farming practices and value chains in sub-Saharan Africa through South-South Cooperation,
Mr. Tijani highlighted the rice value chain as a major example of agriculture’s potential for income and employment generation and a critical entry point for poverty reduction.
“There has been a sharp rise in rice production in Africa in recent years, but producers in the region continue to contend with the lack of adequate and sufficient planting materials, tools, machinery for land preparation, harvesting, processing and prevention of post-harvest losses,” he added.
Attending the meeting are representatives of the Government of Ghana, AfricaRice, Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD), Rural Development Administration (RDA) of the Republic of Korea and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), as well as FAO.
Josey Kamanda, Programs Leader, Rice Sector Development (AfricaRice), noted that rice is a strategic and priority food security crop in Africa, the single most important source of dietary energy in West Africa and Madagascar, and the third most important for Africa as a whole.
“As the demand-supply gap continues to widen, there is an increasing need for investments that will significantly increase local rice production to reduce the import bill. Over the past several decades, development partners have made investments in rice production. Yield gaps, however, remain high,” he stated.
Growth rates went up to a high eight percent between 2007 and 2012, but there were significant post-harvest losses of between 15 to 25 percent, AfricaRice estimates.
Top rice producing countries in Africa, namely, Nigeria, Madagascar, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Tanzania, have boosted their rice production through the introduction of high-yield technologies and the application of modern rice cultivation techniques, including mechanization.
FAO supports smallholder farmers for sustainable rice production
FAO is actively supporting AfricaRice in the establishment of rice centres of excellence such as the Africa Korea Rice breeding laboratory launched this month in Saint-Louis, Senegal.
Under a USD 5 million regional project on Partnership for Sustainable Rice Systems Development in sub-Saharan Africa, FAO will support the sharing of technologies and innovations among beneficiary countries, and strengthen capacity-building while facilitating access by smallholders, especially women and young people, to inputs and small-scale agricultural equipment.
It is envisaged that all targeted project beneficiaries located in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda will benefit from the impact of planned actions.
In line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this cooperation between FAO and AfricaRice offers a pathway out of poverty and employment opportunities for young men and women entering job markets.
In 2015, rice production in sub-Saharan Africa was approximately 14.4 million tonnes and consumption around 26 million tonnes, reflecting a self-sufficiency ratio of 55 percent This increase in demand is caused both by accelerating growth of per capita incomes in most of the countries and high population growth rates. Sub-Saharan Africa currently spends about USD 5 billion on rice import annually.
FAO responded to requests received from African Heads of State and ministers of agriculture for increased rice productivity and production by initiating a partnership for sustainable rice systems development in Africa (PARDA).
The initiative sought to mobilize resources and key partners at the global, regional, subregional and national levels to jointly develop and implement a holistic and comprehensive programme for sustainable rice systems development in the region. PARDA’s expected outputs include increased access to and utilization of quality seeds and appropriate rice varieties.
Within the framework of PARDA, AfricaRice and FAO have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that builds on their long-standing collaboration, spanning over a period of over 40 years.
It will provide an effective platform to share knowledge, experiences and best practices for sustainable rice intensification and provide guidance on the documentation of innovative models to enhance rice production systems and accelerate rice value chain development.
South-South Cooperation contributes to SDGs
FAO works closely with knowledge and research institutions to scale up the application of technologies that can enhance agriculture and rural development.
South-South Cooperation approach places emphasis on the mutual sharing and exchange of development solutions as a pathway towards the achievement of regional and national agriculture development goals.
South-South Cooperation among the Global South is a fundamental tool achieve the SDGs set for 2030. In the context of the big agenda set out by the SDGs, South-South Cooperation is facilitating enhancing in particular, rice production in Africa.
It focuses on facilitating the exchange of agriculture development innovations through a range of methods such as the deployment of experts, policy dialogues, technology exchanges, study tours and learning programmes.