Monday, March 27, 2017

Japan-funded ‘RiceAdvice’ project benefits over 16,000 African farmers


Thanks to a 1-year project supported by the Government of Japan, 200 trained service providers have helped more than 16,000 rice farmers in Mali and Nigeria benefit from ‘RiceAdvice’, a customized crop management decision support tool, leading to increased productivity, efficiency and profits.

Developed by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), the RiceAdvice app, which can be freely downloaded through Google Play on Android smartphone or tablet device, generates tailor-made recommendations that help farmers in irrigated and relatively favorable rainfed lowland areas in Africa apply mineral fertilizer more efficiently in order to optimize production and profits and reduce waste.

Farmers’ efficient use of mineral fertilizer coupled with good agricultural practices is one of the keys to enhancing rice production in sub-Saharan Africa, where the average yield is around 2.1 t/ha. AfricaRice studies have shown that the adoption of RiceAdvice recommendations can increase rice yield by 0.6 to 1.8 t/ha in farmers’ fields.

According to Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)-Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI), which is one of the important project partners in Nigeria, a specific innovative element of RiceAdvice is that it is not only based on the agronomic conditions, but also on the financial capacity of the farmer.

CARI is helping deploy the RiceAdvice technology to over 9000 farmers in Nigeria through 97 trained service providers. “Farmers are happy with the significant improvement in yield and income that RiceAdvice has brought to them and are eager to continue with the service.”

Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, another key project partner, recounted a similar success story from Kouroumari area in Office du Niger, Mali, where 99% of the 600 farmers, who benefited from RiceAdvice, wish to reuse the service in 2017 and 44% of them are ready to pay between 250 F CFA (about 50 cents) and 10,000 F CFA (about US$16) for RiceAdvice recommendations.

These were some of the highlights that were presented at the project closing meeting held at AfricaRice-Cotonou research station on 22 February 2017. The meeting was organized to review progress and achievements, share experiences, and develop a follow-up plan after the project ends in March 2017.

About 20 participants representing the Japanese Embassy in Benin, GIZ-CARI, Institut d’economie rurale (IER), Syngenta Foundation, National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Ahmadu Bello University and AfricaRice attended the meeting.

“We are pleased that nearly all the project targets have been achieved or even surpassed in some cases,” said Dr Kazuki Saito, AfricaRice agronomist and project coordinator. The project’s aim was to boost rice productivity, maximize rice farmers’ investment potential and catalyze youth employment, contributing to food security and social stability in the two countries.

Thanking the Government of Japan and the various partners for their strong support, Dr Saito reported on the progress made in the use of media tools for promoting RiceAdvice, which includes the production of a promotional video, the creation of a Facebook Page and the development of a dedicated website.

The participants discussed opportunities and constraints for outscaling and upscaling RiceAdvice in a sustainable manner. The issues covered related to the need for appropriate business models, coordination mechanisms and identification of new partners.

AfricaRice and its partners are analyzing the data from the project and are making follow-up field visits to assess the initial impact and identify mechanisms for the effective rollout of RiceAdvice in sub-Saharan Africa after the closure of the project.

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