Thursday, October 26, 2017

Innovation platform (IP) in rice value chain creates jobs, generates income, and secures food in Bantè, Benin

Article contributed by SARD-SC ‘Rice component’ team members
(Abiba Omar, Josey Kamanda and Sidi Sanyang)

After graduating in accountancy and management, 29-year old Loki Charles Cocou worked as a part-time teacher and gave private lessons at home in Cotonou, Benin. However, his income was insufficient for the needs of his wife and three children. Consequently, he returned to Bantè, his home village, located in the center of Benin, about 292 km from Cotonou.

Most farmers in Bantè produce yam and maize for sale and subsistence, as well as cotton and cashew as cash crops. Until recently, rice was produced on a small scale and rice farmers were not organized into farmer cooperatives.

After returning to his village, Loki grew rice and, with support from the non­governmental organization ‘Enterprise territoire et développement’ (ETD), he joined the rice entrepreneurs network ‘Réseau des entreprises de services et organisations de producteurs’ (RESOP) and started to process rice under contractual arrangements with rice farmers.

However, yields were low (average of 2 tons per hectare), the quality of paddy supplied by farmers was poor, and the quality of his milled rice was not good enough for the market. Consequently, as his profit was insufficient to repay his loans on time, pay his children’s school fees, and cover the cost of living of his family, he was obliged to leave RESOP.

In 2014, Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) and the national agricultural research institute ‘Institut national de recherche agricole du Bénin’ (INRAB) established a rice value chain innovation platform (IP) in Bantè with members comprising rice seed producers, input dealers, rice farmers, extension agents, NGOs, rice millers, policy makers, microfinance institutions, traders, transporters, research and media operatives.

IP members were sensitized on the need to work together to address their challenges. AfricaRice trained rice farmers on quality seed production and good agricultural practices (GAPs) and provided quality seed of improved rice varieties, farming and processing equipment (power tillers, threshers and milling machines).

Loki Charles using the milling machine
Encouraged by the local extension agent, IP facilitator and local NGOs, many farmers joined the IP and adopted new cropping techniques. The results were immediate and amazing: rice yields increased to 4-5 tons per hectare. This boosted Loki’s confidence and he created his own rice processing enterprise called ‘Entreprise de transformation du riz du Bénin’ (ETRARIZ).

The ETRARIZ enterprise purchases paddy from farmers and engages women to clean it to get rid of the impurities. The paddy is then milled to remove husks, polished and sorted into long grain, medium-sized grain and broken rice.

At the end of this process, the women remove diseased grains from the milled rice and pack the finished products into bags of 1, 5, 10 and 25 kg. The rice is sold under the brand name “IBILE” in local and regional markets.

Loki’s enterprise employs five permanent staff and four temporary staff. With the use of the milling machine provided to the IP by AfricaRice, the quality of his milled rice significantly improved and his rice can now compete favorably with imported rice. AfricaRice has also supported his participation in fairs to promote his products.

In 2016, he processed about 300 tons of paddy and made a net profit of more than 1,600,000 FCFA (about US$ 2,880). His business is now profitable and has brought in wealth and opportunities to his family. Based on this success, Loki is planning to expand the capacity of his rice processing unit to 500 tons by 2018.

According to Loki, the implementation of the IP approach is an excellent thing. “We received training in good agricultural practices, leadership, and contractual arrangements and received good equipment. Now we work together and improve our outputs. It has brought a big change in the living conditions of my family and education for my children".

Loki is one of the thousands of IP stakeholders who have benefited from the African Development Bank (AfDB)-funded project ‘Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa’ (SARD-SC), for which the rice component is implemented by AfricaRice.

In addition to its support to farmers, seed producers and millers, the SARD-SC project also helped women rice processors to improve the quality of their parboiled rice using good parboiling practices and improved parboiling equipment.

Over 745 women parboilers from three villages in Benin (Ajante, Agoua, and Bantè) are members of the Bantè IP. As of July 2017, the Bantè IP had 1,822 members, 41% of which were women.

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