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Rice self-sufficiency can boost the region’s efforts in attaining development goals

FAO and partners assure African countries of continuous support

Photo: ©FAO

12 December 2018, Ada, Ghana—The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), AfricaRice and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) re-affirmed their commitment to support African countries in their efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.  

Speaking at the opening of a workshop on rice production in Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, emphasized the need for partners to work on measures to mainstream good practices into national rice investments to achieve rice sustainability.

“Together with the Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD), AfricaRice and IRRI, we are actively consolidating best practices or lessons learned from project implementation. Our goal is to eventually disseminate this knowledge to countries to promote sustainable rice production,” Haile-Gabriel added.

He further noted the partnership was already yielding some significant results, stressing: “It already has contributed to improvements in seed, post-harvest activities, irrigation and technology adoption in a number of African countries. FAO is optimistic that upscaling and adopting best practices in the rice sector would help sustain the momentum towards the attainment of rice self-sufficiency and the creation of gainful employment for the youth and women along the entire rice value chain.”

The two-day workshop held in Ada, Ghana, on the theme, Upscaling the Partnership for Sustainable Rice Systems Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons for National Projects and Programmes on Rice Value Chain, provided a platform for brainstorming and technical contributions on how to mainstream the best practices into national rice investment projects.

Effective leadership and political will essential for achieving rice self-sufficiency in Africa

Achieving rice self-sufficiency for Africa is strategic and consequential, not just in terms of meeting consumption requirements locally. It has multiplier effects, which means reallocating the much needed foreign exchange for investments in rice value chain development initiatives. Such diversification will eventually create and expand employment opportunities for youth and women. A number of countries are already exhibiting a significant increase in rice production over the last few years

According to Peter Anaadumba, South-South Cooperation Officer in the FAO Regional Office for Africa, Tanzania is one of the few countries that have become self-sufficient in rice production and no longer import the commodity, saying, “This is a significant progress which is definitely a milestone achievement.’’

“Additionally, through South-South Cooperation, the project has promoted new technologies and innovation along the rice value chain in sub-Saharan Africa, and such innovations ought to be mainstreamed into future interventions in the rice sector,” he added.

“The encouraging success achieved in increased rice production is also proof and demonstration that, with effective leadership and political will as well as concerted efforts from all stakeholders, nothing can stop us from achieving not only rice self-sufficiency, but also the goal of ending hunger,” Anaadumba further said. “Despite the success, the fact remains that there are still significant challenges in the quest for attaining sustainable rice production,” he furthers conceded.

Rising import bills a burden for the region

Rice is the world’s most important staple food, with the demand expected to double, putting stress on the production to meet the needs of the growing global population. This requires  increase in rice production by 25 percent in the next 25 years.

More than half of the 43 rice-producing countries in Africa are also net rice importers, with varying degrees ranging between 10 and 93 percent. Available evidence indicates that in 2015 alone, African countries imported about 36 percent of their rice requirements, claiming over USD 4 billion.

The projections for 2020 show that the trend will continue, but the worrying issue lies on the increasing drain on foreign exchange to pay for the rice import bill. Forecasts peg the rise to USD 7 billion annually.

The workshop provided further guidance on upscaling best practices related to technology adoption, best farming practices, water control management and post-harvest activities into national projects, as well as private sector investment in the rice sector. All these will contribute toward realizing the rice transformation agenda in Africa.

About the project

The Partnership for Sustainable Rice Systems Development in Sub-Saharan Africa is an ongoing FAO project. Approved in May 2014, the project initially ran for a period of 23 months, from February 2016 to December 2017.

An additional one-year extension brings the project to the current expected completion date of December 2018. The project target countries are Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.

Since the launch of the project, 10 beneficiary countries carried out a needs identification exercise. This ensured alignment of priorities during the project formulation and implementation phases. Additionally, the exercise led to some modification to the project implementation. 

The project has been under implementation since September 2016 in all the 10 selected countries in order to support the scaling-up of the innovative practices such as System of Rice Intensification, processing of rice, and post-harvest management.

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