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PART V - REGIONALSTRATEGIES ON RICE PRODUCTION


Challenges, innovation and change: towards rice-based food security in sub-Saharan Africa - T. Defoer, M.C.S. Wopereis, M.P. Jones, F. Lancon and O. Erenstein

WARDA, Bouake, Côte d’Ivoire

INTRODUCTION

Rice demand in sub-Saharan Africa has been growing rapidly since the mid 1970s. The average growth of rice consumption is now more than 6 percent per year and amounts to over 10 million tonnes (Mt) of milled rice per year (Figures 1 and 2). This increase is due to both population growth (2.6% per year) and the increasing proportion of rice in the African diet (1.1% per year, i.e. 30 kg per caput per year in 1998 [FAO, 1999]) - a result of the rapid urbanization process (Snrech, 1994). The devaluation of the CFA Franc in 1994 has not changed this trend. Diagana et al. (1999) showed that the magnitude of the changes in relative prices induced by the devaluation has not been great enough to counterbalance the low price elasticity of rice and of the traditional coarse grains, which remain relatively expensive compared to rice. Urban rice consumers facing a relative increase in rice prices nevertheless prefer to maintain their consumption level, rather than switching to other cereals. This is most probably due to the ease of preparation and the difference in perception of time that exists between urban and rural families.

FIGURE 1
Per caput rice consumption in West and sub-Saharan Africa

Source: FAO-Agrostat, 1999.

FIGURE 2
Milled rice production and imports in West Africa as compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)

The production of rice in sub-Saharan Africa has steadily increased since the 1970s, reaching almost 7 Mt of milled rice at the end of the last decade. The increase in rice production is about 70 percent due to expansion in area and 30 percent due to yield increase (Fagade, 2000; Falusi, 1997). The gap between rice demand and regional supply is increasing; in 1998 it was about 4 Mt of milled rice for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole (Figure 2). Nigeria was the major rice importer with almost 1 Mt in 1999/2000 (Mbabaali, 2000).

Only about 5 percent of world rice production is traded on the world market, coming mainly from six countries: Thailand, Viet Nam, United States of America, India, Pakistan and China. Increasing pressure on land and water resources in Asia raises doubts about the capacity of African countries to sustain rice imports in the long run. The continued reliance of African consumers on rice imports is, therefore, a potentially precarious and politically dangerous situation. Moreover, the cost of importing rice is a heavy burden on the trade balance of African countries (US$1 billion are spent on rice imports each year) in a context of unfavourable terms of trade for African agricultural export. A lot of this rice is of poor quality. Despite the trade liberalization and devaluation of the CFA Franc in West Africa, rice remains competitive for most African countries, especially in land-locked countries. There is a pressing need to develop production capacity for rice in the region and to improve rice quality to meet consumer needs and improve competitiveness vis-à-vis imported rice.

The social interest in developing regional rice production goes further than import substitution. As it is mainly resource-poor farmers who grow rice, integrating a large range of other agricultural activities, rice research and development is representative of the entire agricultural sector, acting as a catalyst, reducing production risks, averting natural resource degradation, enhancing food security and income and contributing to poverty alleviation.

The objective of this paper is to provide an overview of the challenges and opportunities in developing rice-based systems in sub-Saharan Africa and to discuss the innovations and changes needed to achieve food security based on local production and reduced reliance on imports. The data presented relate mainly to West and Central Africa.

RICE ECOLOGIES IN WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA

The potential for rice development in West and Central Africa is largely determined by the agro-ecological conditions in which rice can be produced. Rice is characterized by its plasticity which allows it to grow in almost any biophysical environment in West and Central Africa. Thus rice is grown in a whole range of agro-ecological zones from the humid forest to the Sahel (Figure 3). The total rice area in West and Central Africa amounts to more than 4 million ha (Mha) (FAO, 1999). Within these regional agro-ecological zones, five main rice-based systems can be distinguished with respect to water supply and topography in sub-Saharan Africa (Windmeijer et al., 1994):

FIGURE 3
Agro-ecological zones in West and Central Africa

The three main rice ecologies across West and Central Africa are the rainfed uplands, the rainfed lowlands and the irrigated systems (Table 1). These ecologies can be found across agro-ecological zones. A distinction is made between irrigated systems in the desert margins of the Sahel and those in the savannah or humid forest zones. The upland rainfed rice-based systems cover the largest area (44% of the total rice cultivated area), mainly in coastal areas in the humid and sub-humid agro-ecological zone. The rainfed lowland systems are the second most important in terms of surface area (31%) and the irrigated rice-based systems are third (12%). Deep-water and mangrove rice systems are relatively unimportant in terms of surface area.

TABLE 1
Share of rice ecologies in rice planted areas by country

Country

Total area (‘000 ha)

Share of national rice area (%)

Year
of
reference

Mangrove swamp

Deep-water floating

Irrigated

Rainfed lowland

Rainfed
upland

Mauritania

23

0

0

100

0

0

1995

Senegal

75

8

0

45

47

0

1991/93

Mali

252

0

64

21

12

3

1994

Burkina Faso

25

0

0

27

65

8

1993

Niger

28

0

50

50

0

0

1992

Chad

31

0

92

2

6

0

1998

Cameroon

15

0

0

98

2

0

1993

Gambia

19

14

0

7

64

16

1988

Guinea-Bissau

65

49

0

0

22

29

1994

Guinea

650

13

10

5

25

47

1991

Sierra Leone

356

3

0

0

29

69

1991/94

Liberia

135

0

0

0

6

94

1990/91

Côte d’Ivoire

575

0

3

6

12

79

1991/92/94

Ghana

81

0

0

15

15

70

1994

Togo

30

0

0

2

18

80

1994

Benin

9

0

0

4

4

91

1994

Nigeria

1 642

1

5

16

48

30

1996

West Africa (total)

4 011

4

9

12

31

44


Source: FAO, 1996; WARDA, 1997 (Taskforce estimate).

Using average rice yields of 1 t/ha in uplands, 2 t/ha in lowlands, 3 t/ha in irrigated areas of the savannah/humid zone and 4.5 t/ha in irrigated areas in the Sahel, it is possible to estimate production figures (Table 2). Rainfed rice production systems are still predominant, providing more than half the total production: rainfed lowland systems account for 36 percent, followed by rainfed uplands (25%). Irrigated systems account for 28 percent of production, and the Sahelian zone 22 percent. Irrigated systems in the savannah and humid forest zone are minimal in terms of rice production.

TABLE 2
Estimated share (%) of rice production by ecologies and by country

Country

Mangrove swamp

Deep-water floating

Irrigated

Rainfed lowland

Rainfed upland

Sahel zone

Savanna/
humid zone

Mauritania

0

0

100

0

0

0

Senegal

5

0

65

0

30

0

Mali

0

35

50

0

13

2

Burkina Faso

0

0

47

0

50

3

Niger

0

18

82

0

0

0

Chad

0

82

8

0

10

0

Cameroon

0

0

99

0

1

0

Gambia

14

0

0

11

66

8

Guinea-Bissau

58

0

0

0

26

17

Guinea

17

7

0

10

34

32

Sierra Leone

4

0

0

0

44

52

Liberia

0

0

0

0

11

89

Côte d’Ivoire

0

2

0

14

19

64

Ghana

0

0

0

31

21

48

Togo

0

0

0

4

30

66

Benin

0

0

0

12

8

81

Nigeria

1

3

0

27

53

17

Total

4

5

22

6

36

25

Note: Average rice yields used for % calculation: upland, 1 t/ha; lowland, 2 t/ha; irrigated (savannah/humid zone), 3 t/ha; irrigated (Sahel zone), 4.5 t/ha.

Source: FAO, 1996; WARDA, 1997 (Taskforce estimate).

The major rice ecologies present various communalities, such as weed and pest pressure and soil fertility decline. In addition, interlinkages exist between ecologies, e.g. water or nutrient flow from upland to lowland, influencing the ecological sustainability of farmland. In response to this challenge, WARDA(West Africa Rice Development Association) developed the concept of the upland-lowland continuum along a toposequence, based on watertable depth (WARDA, 1989). Furthermore, interlinkages can blur the borderline between ecologies, like the hydromorphic fringe between the upland and lowland along the continuum. Another fuzzy transition exists between rainfed and irrigated lowland. A water-management continuum, ranging from strict rainfed to fully irrigated lowland can be distinguished and may evolve depending on investments in water control measures (Figure 4).

FIGURE 4
The upland-lowland continuum

CONSTRAINTS, OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

Lançon and Erenstein (2002) calculated that with an annual per caput rice consumption growth of 1 percent and population growth of 2.5 percent, total rice consumption in West Africa would reach 10 Mt in 2010 and 15 Mt in 2020. There are three major options for increasing rice production: area expansion; increase in cropping intensity (number of crops per year from the same area); and yield increase (produce per unit area). The opportunities for rice production development depend to a large extent on the biophysical and socioeconomic environment. The challenges for area expansion, increase in cropping intensity and yield increase vary widely depending on the ecology. The following sections highlight the major biotic and abiotic constraints faced by farmers at plot level, and the institutional and organizational constraints at farm, community and regional levels with particular attention to the divergences between the major rice ecologies (Table 3). Combined with specific ecological opportunities, these constraints determine the major challenges for rice research and development.

TABLE 3
Actual and potential yield levels under farmer conditions, major constraints and characteristics in the three main rice ecologies in West and Central Africa

Ecology

Yield (t/ha)

Plot-level constraints

Fragility of the resource base

Input use

System characteristics

Actual

Potentiala

Limiting conditions

Reducing conditionsb

Rainfed upland

1

2-4

P and N deficiency, acidity, drought, erosion, declining soil fertility

Blast

High

Very low

Limited capital; high population pressure; remoteness; poor access to market, inputs and services (credit, extension); wide diversity in conditions and practices; poor farmer organization.

Irrigated:








- Sahel/ savannah

4-5

6-9

N deficiency, salinity and alkalinity, extreme temperatures

RYMV, AfRGM

Medium

High

Good water control; labour constraint; high production costs; water competition; good access to market, inputs and services (credit, extension etc); farmer organization.

- Humid/ sub-humid zone

3

5-8

N deficiency, Fe toxicity

RYMV, AfRGM

Low

Medium

Compared to Sahel/savannah: less access to markets, inputs and services; less farmer organization; poorer crop management and mechanization.

Rainfed lowland

2

3-6

Water control, N and P deficiency, Fe toxicity

RYMV, AfRGM, Blast

Low

Low

Poor water control; limited capital and investment; limited access to market, inputs and services; wide diversity in conditions and practices; poor farmer organization; land tenure issues.

Across ecosystems




Weeds, birds



Unstable policy environment, rice quality, marketing and processing.

a Low end of the range refers to potential yield at current input levels; high end refers to potential yields at increased input levels.

b RYMV = rice yellow mottle virus; AfRGM = African rice gall midge.

Upland ecology

Upland rice is to a large extent produced by subsistence-oriented farm households that represent only part of the total cropped area and do not use external inputs, mainly due to high production risk and poverty. Rice yields in upland systems average about 1 t/ha, but these figures do not reveal the large differences between farms. Within a given region or village, differences in cropped area and yields between farms may vary tenfold. These differences may be partly due to differences in the quality of the land, but are also a result of differences in management practices, such as time of sowing, weed control etc.

Weed competition is indeed one of the most important yield-reducing factors (Johnson, 1997), followed by drought, blast, soil acidity and low soil fertility. Farmers traditionally manage these stresses through long fallow periods. Population growth and resulting pressure on the land has led to increasing reduction of fallow periods and extension of cropped areas, often towards the more fragile upper parts of the slopes. In the rainfed uplands, slash-and-burn agriculture and reduced fallow periods have aggravated weed pressure and led to a general decline in land quality through soil erosion (Oldeman and Hakkeling, 1990) and soil nutrient depletion - known as soil mining (van der Pol, 1992). The increase in population pressure aggravates the situation, resulting in low and unstable rice yields. Lack of capital limits the use of external resources and intensification of the system. Weed competition further reduces labour productivity and increases the risk of crop failure. Farmers traditionally use long-duration rice cultivars which further undermine the fragility of the system and limit cropping intensity. Declining productivity and incomes feed the cycle of poverty and environmental destruction (Cleaver, 1993; Cleaver and Schreiber, 1994).

The upland rice systems in West and Central Africa are characterized by poor access to markets, inputs and services. Due to the remoteness and dispersed nature of the upland rice environment, credit and extension services often do not reach farmers. Moreover, farmers are generally not well organized and farmer associations are mostly village-based. Organized demand for services and inputs is almost non-existent. Only a small part of a crop may be marketed, generally on an individual basis. This poor organizational capacity does not motivate rice traders to invest in upland environments.

The major challenges for rice research and development in the upland ecology relate to sustainable stabilization and intensification of upland rice production. Because of the fragility of the system, production increase through area expansion should be discouraged and the degradation of the resource base reduced while stabilizing the system. As upland rice-based systems cover almost 50 percent of the rice area in West and Central Africa but represent only a quarter of total production, there is ample opportunity for increasing yields and possibly cropping intensity. Improved varieties that have high yield capacity under low resource input conditions are an under-exploited potential. However, low-cost complementary soil fertility management practices will have to be introduced, such as crop rotation with legumes to maintain or improve soil quality, avoid soil nutrient mining and enhance sustainability. With short-duration varieties it might be possible to introduce rice-legume cropping systems within the same cropping season if rainfall is adequate. Given the complexity and diversity of the upland rice systems, technologies will have to be adapted and fine-tuned in situ. This will require new approaches for farmers to play more important roles in technology development and for effective interaction between researchers and farmers to develop appropriate technologies.

Irrigated ecology

Irrigation systems include dam-based irrigation, water diversion from rivers and pump irrigation from surface water or tubewells. Major differences in constraints, opportunities and challenges exist between irrigated rice ecologies in the Sahel and in the humid forest and savannah zones.

Average farmers’ yields in the Sahel are around 4 to 5 t/ha per season, with potential yields varying from 6 to 11 t/ha per season, limited by solar radiation and temperature only. The potential yield gains from improved crop and resource management are, therefore, enormous. In the Office du Niger in Mali, average yields have increased over the last 15 years from 2 t/ha to almost 6 t/ha. Only 10 percent of the area under irrigation is double-cropped, because of extreme temperatures in both hot and wet seasons. The relatively demanding cropping calendar allows little room for delay in activities and mechanization is relatively widespread. However, labour remains a limiting factor and about half of the rice grown in the Sahel is direct-seeded. African rice gall midge (AfRGM), rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV) and blast are the major pests found in the irrigated rice ecosystems.

Moving south into the savannah and humid forest zones, schemes become smaller, are mainly transplanted, and are located along major roads and near urban centres. Compared to the Sahel, rice productivity in the savannah and humid forest systems is less constrained by temperature extremes, but potential yields are lower, ranging from 5 to 8 t/ha per season, as a result of lower solar radiation levels. Actual yields are around 3 t/ha per season, indicating considerable scope for yield gains.

Total irrigable lands are estimated to cover about 2 Mha in Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger. This is more than ten times the current irrigated surface in the four countries. The development of irrigated rice production schemes in West and Central Africa has, however, not been an overall success. Development costs for total water control irrigation are high (up to US$10 000 per ha), and many irrigation schemes established in the 1970s broke down in the 1980s and 1990s when governments were confronted with trade liberalization and an adverse macro-economic environment. The history of the Société de Développement de la Riziculture (SODERIZ), an Ivorian state-owned company established in the early 1970s, shows that support for irrigated rice production and low consumer prices, combined with limited financial resources was not sustainable (Le Roy, 1998). Apart from their poor economic viability, the development and management of these schemes was also characterized by the poor involvement of rice farmers. With a top-down approach, farmers were considered “employees” rather than partners endowed with autonomous decision-making authority (Jamin and Coulibaly, 1998).

Nevertheless, substantial investments have already been made in irrigation infrastructure, especially in the Sahel. Given the decrease in costs, the development, maintenance and rehabilitation of the existing infrastructure provide concrete opportunities to capitalize on these earlier investments. This is adequately illustrated by the development of rice production in Mali over the last few years and the substantial yield increases achieved in the Sahel (Mali, Senegal), demonstrating that irrigated rice is a feasible option in the subregion.

Irrigation systems in West Africa are still often “open”, i.e. usable water flows out of the water basin to sinks and rarely drains back to the river. With population growth and urbanization accelerating in West Africa it can be predicted that water will become increasingly scarce. The largest share of irrigation development in the future will probably be from peri-urban agriculture where market opportunities exist and investments in water control measures pay off. At the same time, competition with urban water use will become more and more intense.

In the Sahel, soil alkalinization followed by sodication may affect soil quality, particularly if groundwater tables rise too close to the surface, as a result of lack of drainage combined with irrigation water rich in dissolved inorganic ions. Soil alkalinization and sodication problems are found in the Office du Niger, Mali, in Foum Gleita, Mauritania, and in irrigated systems in Niger.

Until now, rice-rice or other double-cropping schemes are found only in a few zones (e.g. in the Kou Valley in Burkina Faso or in Niger). Clear potential exists for the introduction of short-duration cultivars that could allow two rice crops to be grown in one year on the same land, or an additional non-rice crop following rice, profiting from residual moisture in the soil or supplementary irrigation.

Compared to upland rice environments, the accessibility to markets, inputs, credit and other relevant services is much better in irrigated schemes. Farmers are also much better organized and farmer associations facilitate the processing and marketing of rice, purchase of inputs and access to credit. As irrigation schemes are more concentrated than in upland rice environments, contacts between farmers and extension services tend to be more frequent. Irrigated rice cropping is complex in terms of farmer decision-making as input use is relatively important. This complexity requires an integrated approach to rice management from land preparation to harvest and postharvest interventions, rather than a single component approach.

Lowland ecology

Inland valleys are the upper reaches of river systems, in which alluvial sedimentation processes are absent or of little importance. Inland valleys constitute a topo-sequence or continuum, including valley bottoms (which may be submerged for part of the year), their hydromorphic fringes, and the contiguous upland slopes and crests extending over the area that contribute runoff and seepage to the valley bottom.

The inland valley ecosystem in sub-Saharan Africa may provide an opportunity for sustainable agricultural development. Soils in lowland ecosystems are the least fragile and best able to support continuous cultivation. The soils in many valley bottoms retain residual moisture well after an initial flooded rice crop, permitting two crops per year, or aquaculture when base flow lasts long enough. The hydromorphic fringes and upland slopes and crests offer potential for other food and cash crops, and for trees and livestock. Thus, inland valleys constitute an important agricultural and hydrological asset at local and national level, and may provide an opportunity for sustainable agricultural development, thereby making a substantial contribution to future food security and poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rainfed lowlands in inland valley bottoms are occasionally used by resource-poor farmers to produce rice. These systems are robust and may be seen as a welcome relief to the pressure on the fragile uplands. Rainfed lowlands have indeed the potential for intensification and expansion. The potential to expand rice production in this ecology is tremendous. In West and Central Africa alone, an estimated 20 to 40 Mha of inland valley swamps are found, of which only 10 to 25 percent are currently used (Windmeijer et al., 1994). Although WARDA research has shown that no causal linkages exist between water-borne diseases, such as malaria, and the expansion of irrigation in West and Central Africa (WARDA, 1999), farmers still perceive human health problems as a major constraint for the development of lowland areas.

The rice yields in rainfed lowlands are substantially higher than those in rainfed uplands, but still low, averaging 2 t/ha. The potential yield is 3 t/ha at current input levels and 5 to 6 t/ha at increased input levels with improved water control (i.e. yield levels that are comparable to irrigated systems with full water control in the savannah and humid forest zones). These yield gaps indicate considerable potential for improvement. Poor water control is a major system constraint, prohibiting more intensive use of these systems. Indeed, with improved water control, use of external inputs may become attractive, potentially resulting in higher yields. Although water management is a key factor for intensification, complementary technologies will be needed to provide sufficient opportunities for increased productivity and profitability. Indeed, major biological constraints for rice production in inland valleys, such as iron toxicity, pests and weeds, require major attention so that the potential may be realized.

As for irrigated rice systems, technological improvement will extensively depend on integrated crop management, combining a wide range of techniques and practices, from land preparation to harvest and post-harvest technologies. However, compared to the irrigated systems with more reliable control over water, external inputs will receive less attention in lowland systems. Emphasis is to be placed on optimal exploitation of the locally available resources. In addition to intensification, diversification of rice-based inland valley systems offers great promise. Besides their agricultural potential, inland valleys have other important social and ecological service functions, such as water storage and drainage, and maintenance of biodiversity.

Rice-based inland valley systems are further characterized by complex, dynamic and diverse human, social, natural and physical dimensions and interconnections, resulting in wide variability of management practices and farming organization. What is practical and profitable for farmers depends on a variety of production circumstances, including socioeconomic conditions, differences in access to resources and the prevailing organizational and institutional context. This will have important implications for how research and development should approach inland valley issues.

Compared to irrigated systems, farmers are less organized and access to markets, inputs and services occurs more on an individual basis. However, improved water management requires attention to the functioning of water user groups and farmer organizations. Such organizations have the potential to become involved in marketing and input services.

INNOVATION AND CHANGE

The potential for the development of rice production in West and Central Africa must be viewed within the international and national macro-economic environment. For example, a relatively low world price rice market can make rice imports more profitable than local rice production. With the structural adjustment programme and the trade liberalization since the beginning of the 1990s, decision-makers feared poor profitability of the West and Central rice-based systems. By the end of the decade, non-tariff barriers against rice importation were abolished and mechanisms through which governments were supporting domestic rice production were dismantled. Rice economies were further perturbed through the withdrawal of fertilizer subsidies and reforms of rural credit banks. Lançon and Erenstein (2002) showed that despite these factors, rice profitability in West and Central Africa has improved in recent decades. Using the Domestic Resource Cost (DRC)[42] ratio as an indicator, rice competitiveness for most West and Central African countries shows an upward trend. The comparative advantage of rice production can be improved through yield increase or production cost decrease, for example by increasing the productivity of the production factors or by lowering the price of inputs. Beyond the general positive trend, large differences in productivity exist between the various rice ecologies. The impact of technological innovations and change on the performance of rice production will, therefore, largely differ between rice ecologies. Moreover, the efficiency of technological change will also be influenced by the methods used to introduce an innovation. Methodological aspects of technology development, including the institutional setting and policy environment, are therefore of major importance (Defoer, 2000).

Options for innovation and change to improve rice productivity are discussed below for the three major rice ecologies in West and Central Africa: upland, irrigated and rainfed lowland, with attention to the major technological, methodological and institutional aspects.

Upland ecology

Given the fragility of the upland rice system, technologies are urgently needed to reduce degradation of the fragile resource base and ensure sustainable stabilization of the system.

WARDA’s breakthrough in developing New Rices for Africa (NERICAs) based on crosses between African rice (O. glaberrima) and Asian rice (O. sativa) provides an exciting opportunity for farmers to stabilize and intensify low-input upland systems. Most modern O. sativa varieties are highly stress-sensitive and generally yield less than local varieties in upland ecologies in West and Central Africa. NERICAs tend to have improved resistance to most African stresses, including weeds and drought. They have high yield potential and generally outyield local varieties under both low and high input conditions (Jones and Wopereis-Pura, 2001). Moreover, compared to local varieties, NERICAs generally have a much shorter growing cycle (90-110 days approx.), which means that it is possible to produce food during the hungry season. Moreover, short-duration NERICAs allow rice farmers to adjust their agricultural calendar to climatic variation (Jones and Wopereis-Pura, 2001). The early-maturing NERICAs have a comparative advantage over local varieties with respect to demand for labour. Labour-saving technologies can motivate farmers to concentrate agricultural activities in a more limited area, allowing the most fragile areas to revert back to natural vegetation. Resource degradation will be reduced, yields and income stabilized and labour productivity and income increased. NERICAs may also help to stop expansion of cultivated land areas, as double-cropping of NERICAs is possible under sufficient rainfall.

The idea is, however, not to promote the replacement of local varieties by NERICAs. Rather, WARDA’s strategy is to integrate NERICAs into the existing varietal portfolio of farmers. Indeed, in 1997 WARDA set up a Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) approach with farmers selecting varieties from rice gardens with large numbers of local and modern O. sativa and NERICA varieties. The PVS approach is a 3-year programme that allows farmers to test and evaluate their own selected varieties under site-specific conditions and according to their own needs. The most promising varieties are proposed to the national release committee at a later date. This approach is an example of how farmers can be effectively involved early on in the research and development of new technologies. A study conducted by Diagne et al. (2001) shows that the PVS approach leads to increased biodiversity, as the number of varieties grown per farmer can be enhanced.

NERICAs must thus be seen as a catalyzing element to:

Higher productivity (per unit surface area) will reduce clearing of new land. Reduced risk will also give farmers an incentive to use more inputs, intensify land use and gradually abandon the practice of shifting cultivation, thereby improving the sustainability of the system.

Interventions

NERICAs alone are not sufficient for the sustainable development of rainfed upland rice systems. WARDA’s research and development strategy for this ecology therefore focuses on the development of complementary technologies, fine-tuning of intervention methodologies and creation of an enabling environment.

Irrigated ecology

Compared to the upland rice ecosystems, the irrigated rice systems are quite robust and homogeneous, in terms of both biophysical and socio-economic characteristics. Innovation and change should concentrate on improving resource-use efficiency and factor productivity.

WARDA and partners have developed improved integrated rice management (IRM) options for irrigated rice cropping in the Sahel that are within farmers’ means, based on farm surveys and farmer participatory on- and off-station research (Wopereis et al., 2001; WARDA-SAED, 2000). IRM focuses on land preparation, crop establishment techniques, the date and rates for sowing and cultivar choice, and provides a farming calendar for best-bet management for a given combination of site, sowing date, cultivar choice and crop establishment technique. Relevant information can be adapted to a specific site and farmers can adapt according to their means. IRM options further include fertilizer rates for specific target yields and farmers’ financial means, weed and water management practices and harvest and post-harvest techniques.

These IRM options were evaluated with farmers in Senegal and Mauritania (Häfele et al., 2000). IRM resulted in a mean yield increase of 1.7 t/ha; from 3.8 to 5.5 t/ha. Partial budgeting showed that average net benefit increased from US$215 to US$525 per ha, i.e. a 85 percent increase in net benefits. IRM production costs were slightly higher than farmer production costs, mainly due to basal fertilizer application. Partial budgeting revealed value/cost ratios for IRM of 2.8 to 3.9. Variability indices were lower for the IRM plots at all sites, an indication that adoption of the improved practices did not increase the risk incurred. Minimum net revenues can be used as a proxy for performance in a worse case scenario. Even with this assumption, IRM was economically superior to farmer practices across sites. IRM options most attractive to farmers included: improved fertilizer and weed management; use of improved varieties; and adoption of improved harvesting and post-harvest technologies. WARDA, together with NARES (National Agricultural Research and Extension Services) and NGOs from Mauritania and Senegal, is now exploring ways to scale up the results from these studies to apply to a much greater number of farmers.

Interventions

Experience in the irrigated rice systems of the Sahel has shown that rapid and direct impact on resource-use efficiency, factor productivity, rice productivity and profitability is possible through adaptive research, using existing rice technologies as a starting point. However, the importance of strategic research should not be underestimated. Such research may prevent the error of directly testing poorly adapted technologies with farmers. Strategic research also provides the scientific basis for new technology development. The development of the RIDEV (RIce DEVelopment) decision tool was based on 3 years of detailed physiological research (Dingkuhn, 1997). Resistance of rice cultivars to local pests and diseases needs to be established under controlled conditions, before testing in farmers’ fields takes place. Research on soil salinization under irrigation requires expensive technology and laboratory facilities that national organizations may not be able to afford. This highlights the importance of an integrated and regionally coordinated research effort through analysis of where and under what kind of conditions what type of technology would have an impact, and what adaptations are needed to make a technology “fit” in a new environment. With the experiences of “Sahel” cultivars and IRM, WARDA implements its research strategy for this ecology along the following lines:

Rainfed lowland ecology

Rainfed lowland systems are more robust than the upland systems and have good potential for intensification, but they are largely unexploited. A first important step is improved water control to improve the productivity of the lowlands and control iron toxicity. With improved water control the use of external inputs may become attractive and rice yields may be increased rapidly. As full water control in large schemes is a too costly option, improvement of water control must be limited to smaller schemes.

Important spill-over from technologies developed for irrigated and upland systems are expected. The NERICAs currently available have been developed for upland systems, but are now being screened under lowland conditions. Interspecific progenies of O. glaberrima and O. sativa subsp. indica that were bred for irrigated conditions are also evaluated under lowland rainfed conditions. However, as water control is not destined to reach the level of the irrigated systems in the near future, breeding for lowland conditions will have to take into account multiple stresses, such as drought, low N and P conditions and major pests (e.g. RYMV, AfRGM and blast).

Apart from varietal improvement, sustainable development of rainfed lowlands will require complementary technologies, covering all aspects of lowland rice management from land preparation to harvest and post-harvest technologies. IRM practices developed for the irrigated rice systems will form the basis, but fine-tuning and adaptation according to the site-specific conditions will definitely be required. Besides intensification, the potential for diversification will be explored. Particular emphasis will be given to the integration of vegetables in rice production systems, and possibilities to integrate aquaculture and livestock in inland valley lowlands.

Sustainable intensification and diversification of lowlands require important investments. Therefore, particular attention will be given to the identification of bottlenecks preventing access to capital and other necessary resources and their adequate management. Market forces drive both diversification and intensification; therefore, a particular focus on peri-urban environments and the efficiency of market linkages is warranted. The capacity of locally produced rice to compete with imported rice should be explored, with respect to the efficiency (cost effectiveness and rice quality) of small-scale processing units.

Inland valleys have very complex, dynamic and diverse human, social, natural and physical dimensions and interconnections that need to be understood in order to determine options for improved and integrated crop and natural resources management. There is a need to:

It will be clear that with such a high degree of complexity and diversity, research and extension will never arrive at tailor-made recommendations that would individually suit the numerous rice growers in the inland valleys. Agricultural research and extension have to provide more specific information and move beyond the simple delivery of general messages, recipes or blanket recommendations to be passed on to farmers. Sustainable management of inland valleys requires a fundamental change in innovation, development and learning processes. Indeed, what is needed are approaches that strengthen farmers’ capacity for making optimal use of the available resources and for making the best choices in resources management. This has important implications in terms of intervention methodology and institutions that support change and development, including farmer organizations. Indeed, given the inherent complexity, diversity and dynamics of inland valley ecosystems, the call for a bottom-up, social learning process is critical. Only by doing so, can a sustainable and lasting impact on food security in the region be achieved. A participatory learning and action research approach among inland valley development stakeholders (farmers, change agents, extension, research) at grassroots level is required. This will help build bridges between local indigenous knowledge and scientific expertise, ultimately leading to a network of farmer associations in contact with a wide variety of external stakeholders, forming an inland valley platform at regional and national level. It is important to develop an integrated natural resources management (INRM) framework and curriculum for farmer learning in the inland valleys in West Africa.

Interventions

Given the need to intensify and diversify the rainfed lowland environment, WARDA’s research and development strategy for this ecology comprises the follow areas:

CONCLUSIONS

The development of NERICAs succeeded in breaking the yield barrier in upland rice ecologies. NERICAs are stress resistant, have short growth duration and respond well to both low and high input conditions. Participatory varietal selection, both research-led and extension-led, and community-based seed supply systems are currently being used to get seeds to farmers. This development will ensure that the contribution of the upland ecology to regional rice production will increase in the years to come. NERICAs are currently being developed for rainfed and irrigated lowland systems as well.

Considerable scope for yield improvement also exists in irrigated ecologies. The introduction of integrated rice management (IRM) in irrigated systems in the Sahel has resulted in considerable yield increases (2 t/ha) without major changes in input use, thereby reducing the very large yield gap between actual and potential yields in these systems. IRM is developed with farmers and provides them with options from land preparation to harvest and post-harvest interventions. Existing farmer organizations can often be used as dissemination channels for IRM.

In the long run, the rainfed lowlands show great promise as well. Large areas of rainfed lowland are not yet developed. Considerable scope exists to increase cropping intensity and yields in these systems because of suboptimal crop management and poor water control. This again calls for an IRM approach. However, these systems are characterized by a much larger complexity and diversity than the irrigated systems. The message that needs conveying is, therefore, much more complex and requires more time and effort. It is proposed to introduce IRM through a participatory learning and action research approach and the creation of rural knowledge centres. Pilot farmers in rural knowledge centres should ultimately become agents of innovation and change, stimulating the dissemination of knowledge. Research and extension staff should assume a much more facilitating role, building bridges between local knowledge and expertise from outside.

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[42] DRC ratio: this ratio measures at social price (i.e. the price that would prevail on the factor, inputs and outputs markets without any distortion induced by economic policies or market failure) the amount of domestic resources (labour and capital) mobilized to produce one unit of output relative to generated added value. If the value is greater than 1, it indicates that the production of a given output mobilizes more resources than the added value created, therefore wasting scarce resources that would be better allocated to the production of other commodities. Conversely, if the ratio is less than 1, it indicates that this activity generates more added value than it mobilizes scarce domestic resources and therefore has a comparative advantage.
[43] On average, about 50 farmers (from 2-5 villages) directly participate in one research-led PVS site and about 500 (from 20-50 villages) in one extension-led PVS-site.

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