Friday, September 17, 2010

Policy changes


Rice is now prominently on the agenda of many countries and they are serious about domestic production, explains AfricaRice economist, Dr. Ibrahima Bamba.

In the old days of structural adjustment, policy makers were led to believe that the market would take care of seed, fertilizer and everything else. But laissez faire failed Africa. While Asian governments worked to guarantee local production, Africa tried to rely on the global market, and began to import more and more to feed the cities. The reliance of imports exacerbated Africa’s  exposure to international market shocks. It is not surprising that most of the recent food riots were in Africa.

Before the crisis, global demand for rice was growing faster than world production. Global rice stocks were low, down to about two to three months of world consumption. AfricaRice noticed that rice prices had been increasing for some time, and warned the member states of the crisis before it happened, speaking directly to the decision makers at meetings such as the Council of Ministers. In 2007 the Director General Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck started touring the countries, saying there might be an imminent crisis in rice and urging decision-makers to invest in farming. The governments appreciated the advance warning. Yet they only made major investments in rice after the 2008 crisis.

The case for investing in domestic agriculture remains strong, as accumulated evidence shows that local rice is competitive. Now more countries are trying to be self-sufficient to avoid being hurt again by another rice crisis.

Policy communication. AfricaRice communicates the results of research for policy makers through several channels including the Council of Ministers’ meetings held every two years, the national expert committee meeting, briefs, workshops, the media etc. In 2009, the average annual contribution by member States increased by 30 times compared with the period 2001-2006., which is a clear indicator of the effectiveness of AfricaRice policy communication.

With the support of many donors, AfricaRice has assisted its member countries boost seed production significantly. For example, USAID has funded a major seed project in West Africa that facilitated access to certified seed to 40,000 smallholder farmers through a voucher system designed and implemented with the Catholic Relief Services, IFDC, and NARS, private seed companies and seed producers’ associations. Also, the Japanese Government has supported a project to provide access to quality seed to more than 58,000 vulnerable farmers in 20 countries across the continent.

AfricaRice is reinforcing collaboration with regional institutions like ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), ROPPA (Network of Farmers' and Agricultural Producers' Organizations of West Africa), and others for further opportunities for policy communication and outreach.

What the countries are doing. The policy landscape is changing. In addition to growing more rice, most countries are aware of the need to improve its quality. “Subsidy” used to be a taboo word. Now policy makers are starting to say that governments need to subsidize fertilizer, and seed production. And farmer groups are more vocal in expressing their needs.

During the 2008-09 cropping season in Mali, for instance, the government subsidized fertilizer, seed and helped finance farm machinery such as mini rice mills, rice threshers, and other equipment to improve rice processing. Greater support to local rice production paid dividends.

The Sahel harvested a bumper crop of rice in 2008-09: a 44% increase in one year. The increase was over 200% in Burkina Faso, although from a relatively low base. Many countries recorded double digit growth. The weather also helped, with good rainfall.

Many are now talking about irrigation, while before irrigation was regarded as a failure in Africa. But If you control for ecology (e.g. rainfall), rice yields are as high in Africa as they are anywhere in the world.

It is too soon to call victory, as of 2007 only eight countries had complied with the 2003 Africa Union Maputo decision to allocate at least 10% of their budget for agriculture. But national governments are now certainly more interested in investing in agriculture.

Changements stratégiques


Aujourd’hui, le riz  figure en bonne place dans le programme de développement de beaucoup de pays qui s’appliquent à améliorer leur production domestique, explique l’économiste d’AfricaRice, Dr. Ibrahima Bamba.

Dans le temps, à l’époque de l’ajustement structurel, on a fait croire aux décideurs politiques que le marché va s’occuper des semences, des engrais et  tout ce qu’il faut. Mais le ‘laissez-faire’ a échoué en Afrique. Pendant que les gouvernements asiatiques œuvraient à assurer la production locale, l’Afrique s’est reposée sur le marché mondial et s’est mise à importer de plus en plus pour nourrir les villes. La dépendance sur les importations a fragilisé l’Afrique face aux chocs du marché international. Dès lors, il n’est pas surprenant que la plupart des remous sociaux récents relatifs aux prix des denrées alimentaires aient eu lieu en Afrique.

Avant la crise, la demande mondiale du riz s’accroissait plus vite que la production mondiale. Les stocks mondiaux de riz étaient bas au point de ne représenter que deux à trois mois de la consommation mondiale. AfricaRice avait remarqué que les prix du riz augmentaient depuis un certain temps et a averti les pays membres de la crise avant son avènement, en parlant directement aux décideurs lors de réunions comme le Conseil des Ministres.

En 2007, le Directeur général, Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck a entrepris une tournée dans les pays pour avertir de l’imminence d’une crise rizicole et exhorter les décideurs à investir dans la production agricole. Les gouvernements ont bien perçu cet avertissement, mais les investissements majeurs dans la riziculture ne sont intervenus qu’après la crise de 2008.

La nécessité d’investir dans l’agriculture locale demeure forte car de multiples preuves montrent que le riz local est  compétitif. Maintenant, de plus en plus de pays s’efforcent d’être autosuffisants pour éviter les effets d’une autre crise.

Communication stratégique. AfricaRice communique les résultats de la recherche aux décideurs a travers plusieurs canaux notamment le Conseil des Ministres qui se réunit une fois tous les deux ans, les réunions du Comité des experts nationaux, les communiqués, les ateliers, les média, etc.  En 2009, la moyenne des cotisations des pays membres a augmenté d’environ 30 fois par rapport à la période 2001-2006, ce qui indique clairement l’efficacité de la communication stratégique d’AfricaRice.

Avec l’appui de nombreux donateurs, AfricaRice a aidé ses pays membres à accroître de beaucoup la production de semences. A titre d’exemple, l’USAID a financé un grand projet de semences en Afrique de l’Ouest, qui a facilité l’accès de 400 000 petits producteurs aux semences certifiées de qualité par un système de bon conçu et mis en oeuvre avec le Service de secours catholique, l’IFDC, les SNRA, les compagnies semencières privées et l’association des producteurs de semences. Le gouvernement du Japon a aussi supporté un projet en vue de permettre à plus de 58 000 paysans vulnérables d’accéder aux semences de qualité dans 20 pays à travers le continent.

AfricaRice est aussi en train de renforcer sa collaboration avec des institutions régionales comme la Communauté économique des états de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO), le Réseau des organisations paysannes et des producteurs agricoles d’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA) et bien d’autres pour de plus amples opportunités de communication stratégique et de sensibilisation.

Que font les pays. Le paysage stratégique est en train de changer. En plus du besoin de produire plus de riz, beaucoup de pays sont conscients de la nécessité d’en améliorer la qualité. “Subvention” était autrefois un mot tabou. Maintenant, les décideurs politiques commencent à suggérer que les gouvernements doivent subventionner les engrais et la production de semences. Et l’on entend beaucoup plus la voix des groupements paysans qui expriment leurs besoins.

Au Mali, par exemple, au cours de la saison culturale 2008-2009, le gouvernement a subventionné les engrais et les semences et aidé au financement de la machinerie agricole à travers les mini-rizeries, les batteuses et autres équipements pour l’amélioration de la transformation du riz. Ce meilleur appui à la production locale de riz a payé des dividendes.

Le Sahel a eu une récolte de riz abondante en 2008-2009: une augmentation de 44% en un an. L’augmentation a été de plus de 200% au Burkina Faso, même s’il faut reconnaitre que c’était à partir d’une base relativement faible. Beaucoup de pays ont enregistré une croissance à deux chiffres. La bonne pluviométrie a aussi contribué à ce succès.

En ce moment, beaucoup de gens parlent d’irrigation, alors qu’auparavant l’irrigation était perçue comme un échec en Afrique. Mais, lorsque vous avez une maîtrise sur l’écologie (l’eau, par exemple), les rendements du riz sont aussi élevés en Afrique qu’ailleurs dans le monde.

Il est trop tôt pour crier victoire, car jusqu’en 2007, seulement huit pays africains se sont conformés à la décision de Maputo prise par l’Union africaine en 2003 de consacrer au moins 10% des budgets nationaux à l’agriculture. Mais, il est désormais certain que les gouvernements s’intéressent de plus en plus à l’investissement dans l’agriculture.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Africa’s national experts urge strong advocacy for rice R&D to help achieve MDGs

In view of the growing importance of rice for Africa’s food security and the strategic role played by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) in advising policymakers on this critical issue, national experts from 24 AfricaRice member countries urged the Center to continue its strong advocacy efforts for increased investments in the domestic rice sector to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

This was one of the key recommendations made at the National Experts Committee (NEC), held in Cotonou, Benin, 13-15 September 2010. AfricaRice is a pan-African intergovernmental research association of African member countries. It is also a member of the Consortium of Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

The NEC felicitated the AfricaRice Director General Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck and the staff for their “Outstanding” rating from the World Bank based on scientific, administrative and financial indicators.

Underlining the scarcity of national rice scientists, technicians and extension workers in sub-Saharan Africa, the NEC endorsed several measures taken by AfricaRice and its partners to strengthen national rice R&D capacity:

Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP): The NEC reiterated its support to the new GRiSP initiative of the CGIAR-supported Centers and other key partners working on rice. GRiSP is expected to bring the best of international rice science to Africa in a coordinated manner.

Revival of the task force mechanism: The NEC approved the revival of AfricaRice’s successful task force mode of research partnership. In line with sub-regional and regional organizations, the new Africawide task force mechanism – with strong ownership by national systems – will help build critical mass around major thematic areas of the rice sector. As part of this, an African Rice Breeding Task Force has just been launched with support from the Government of Japan.

Regional harmonization: To ensure regional price stability of rice and harmonization of rice seed and fertilizer legislations and variety release catalogues, the NEC supported AfricaRice’s strategy to strengthen links with regional economic communities.

Harnessing Egypt’s rice expertise: The NEC encouraged AfricaRice to pursue its strategy of harnessing the expertise of Egypt – which became a member of AfricaRice in 2009 – in irrigated rice systems and hybrid rice technology for the benefit of other member countries.

Priority to post-harvest technologies: The NEC stressed the importance of looking beyond increasing rice production in Africa and addressing marketing issues of locally produced rice through a value chain approach – special emphasis will need to be paid to the introduction of suitable harvest and post-harvest technologies.

A major concern was raised by the NEC regarding possible risks to rice germplasm exchange for research purposes if the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) would be expanded to include material currently under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The current arrangement as regulated by the ITPGRFA allows easy access of African countries to rice germplasm from each other or from other regions.

AfricaRice member countries were recommended to initiate an advocacy addressed to their Ministries of Agriculture and Environment to make sure that the African representatives present during the CBD negotiations are well informed of the current benefits for African agriculture from ITPGRFA.