Friday, December 17, 2010

BADEA and AfricaRice join forces to help build Africa’s capacity in rice R&D

For the 2nd year in a row, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and AfricaRice teamed up to strengthen Africa’s capacity in integrated rice management (IRM), to bridge yield gaps in farmers’ fields and raise rice production in the region.

As part of this, two training courses – one for English-speaking countries (15-26 November) and another for French-speaking countries (6-17 December) – were organized in Benin. The courses not only provided a foundation in IRM, but also gave young national researchers an opportunity to establish research partnerships among themselves and within the international research networks early in their careers.

More than 50 researchers and extension staff, including 20 women, from 20 countries across Africa took part in this year’s BADEA-AfricaRice Training course. The participating countries comprised Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.

Explaining the importance of this course, AfricaRice Deputy Director General Dr Marco Wopereis said, “Knowledge of IRM is crucial to bridge gaps that currently exist between actual farmers’ yields and attainable yields through better crop management and to fully exploit the potential of improved varieties.”

AfricaRice’s manuals on IRM based on the participatory learning and action research (PLAR) approach developed by the Center were used by the facilitators. Participants were also exposed to AfricaRice’s training videos and radio programs.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

AfricaRice receives the South-South Cooperation Excellence Award 2010

AfricaRice was presented the South-South Cooperation Excellence Award 2010 at the just-concluded Third Annual Global South-South Development Expo in Geneva, Switzerland, for its NERICA rice varieties for the upland ecology (18 varieties) and for the lowland ecology (60 varieties), which were recognized as an innovative development option from the South.

On behalf of AfricaRice, Dr Inussa Akintayo received the award presented by Mr Yiping Zhou, Director, Special Unit for South-South Cooperation in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Dr Josephine Ojiambo, President of the UN General Assembly High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Director General of AfricaRice. “NERICA varieties have shown how science-based options can improve food security, reduce foreign exchange costs and improve the lives of poor farmers in Africa.”

With nearly 40% of Africa’s total rice consumption coming from the international market, African national rice economies are more exposed to unpredictable external supply and price shocks than elsewhere. The continent is especially vulnerable because of its high prevalence of poverty and food insecurity.

Adapted to the agro-ecological conditions in Africa and uniquely suited to smallholder rice farmers, NERICA varieties for the upland and lowland ecologies have been developed by AfricaRice researchers in close collaboration with many partners, particularly the national programs.

“The NERICA varieties are now grown in more than 700,000 hectares across Africa and since they are self-pollinating, farmers can keep the seed from year to year,” explained Dr Akintayo, who is spearheading the promotion of improved rice varieties in the region through the Center’s African Rice Initiative, with support mainly from Japan, UNDP and the African Development Bank.

Organized by the United Nations each year since 2008, the Global South-South Development Expo provides a forum to enable developing countries and their development partners, including donor agencies, organizations of the United Nations system, and private-sector and civil society organizations, to showcase their evidence-based South-South development solutions.

The Third Annual Global South-South Development Expo was attended by more than 400 delegates from over 40 countries and over 100 innovative solutions that can help achieve the Millennium Development Goals were showcased.

AfricaRice was invited to take part in the Expo as well as in the High-Level Meeting on South-South and Triangular Cooperation, which was organized to facilitate knowledge sharing of best practices in South-South and triangular cooperation and discussion of common challenges and innovative methods of capacity development.

Friday, December 10, 2010

EC-funded project in West Africa shows successful multi-stakeholder involvement in inland valleys

The establishment of multi-platform players at the village level – in southwestern Benin and in the circle of Sikasso in Mali – and the strong involvement of stakeholders are already positive signs of the successful management of land development by the actors themselves.

This was the verdict of the participants who attended the final workshop of the first phase of the European Commission-funded 2-year project “Realizing the agricultural potential of inland valley lowlands in sub-Saharan Africa while maintaining their environmental services (RAP).” The workshop was held, 7-10 December 2010, in Cotonou, Benin.

The project seeks to improve the livelihood of the rural poor by enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of inland valleys through sustainable intensification and diversification of agricultural productivity and product value chain development, while conserving land and water resources.

Over 50 participants presented and discussed the results obtained in the first phase and made recommendations to identify methods and tools capable of ensuring the national and regional dissemination of technological innovations, institutional and socio-economic improvements to enhance the sustainable productivity of rice in the inland valleys and improve the lives and livelihoods of all the actors along the value chain.

The participants included partners involved in the project from France, Mali, Netherlands and Benin (AfricaRice, IITA, CIRAD, WUR, IER, INRAB, UAC-FSA ICRA); experts from Africa (Burkina Faso and Togo); development specialists; project managers (FAFA PAFIRIZ Benin) and institutions for agricultural development (CERP Department), NGOs, and government representatives.

This plurality of actors reflects the commitment of RAP to involve the entire range of stakeholders in the participatory learning and action research (PLAR) process.

At the workshop, 25 papers and 14 posters were presented, structured around three sessions:

• Success Factors of increased development of lowland
• Intensification and diversification in rice systems
• Development of value chains of agricultural systems based on rice

The meeting included a field trip to the inland valleys of Dogbo and Houinga in the Mono-Couffo area in Benin. It allowed participants to interact with the villagers and to evaluate in situ the relevance of the participatory process around the multi-platforms actors.

The participants were honored that Dr Lynn Haight, a member of the Board of Directors of the CGIAR Consortium to Benin, who was visiting AfricaRice during that period, joined the field trip.

The workshop concluded that a great deal of knowledge and experience has been gained and collaborations initiated with partners in development projects. The next step is to document this knowledge in scientific publications and produce tools that will facilitate decision-making (videos, agro-socio-economic geo-referenced databases on inland valleys, etc.) in partnership with the development actors. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Aligning with Global Rice Science Partnership

AfricaRice is an important partner in the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), which is a bold new rice research initiative that aims to lift 150 million people out of poverty by 2035 through partnership-based research and more ecoefficient production systems that are more resilient to climate change.

GRiSP was launched as the first new Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Program in November 2010 in Vietnam at the International Rice Congress, which was attended by a delegation from AfricaRice led by the Director General Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck.

Describing the potential impact of this global partnership for Africa, where rice is the fastest growing food staple, Dr Seck said, “It will help reduce Africa’s current reliance on rice imports by developing its huge potential to grow more rice.”

The main architects of GRiSP are three CGIAR Centers (IRRI, AfricaRice and CIAT), CIRAD, IRD, and JIRCAS which will play a strategic role in GRiSP, with hundreds of other partners worldwide representing governments, the private sector and civil society.

IRRI will lead this initiative and also oversee the activities in Asia; AfricaRice will lead the work in Africa, and CIAT in the Latin America & Caribbean region.

GRiSP will work with quantitative impact targets and develop 26 product lines through six research for development themes:

(1) harnessing genetic diversity to chart new productivity, quality, and health horizons;
(2) accelerating the development, delivery, and adoption of improved rice varieties;
(3) ecological and sustainable management of rice-based production systems;
(4) extracting more value from rice harvests through improved quality, processing, market systems, and new products;
(5) technology evaluations, targeting, and policy options for enhanced impact; and
(6) supporting the growth of the global rice sector.

“Our research structure broadly corresponds to these themes, so it is relatively easy for us to align our research activities to the GRiSP mode,” commented AfricaRice Deputy Director General Dr Marco Wopereis at the AfricaRice Research Days, held in December 2010, in Benin.

AfricaRice lays the groundwork for setting new research priorities

AfricaRice scientists and their partners attending the Center’s Research Days, 29 November to 2 December 2010, began an important exercise to set new research priorities as part of the Strategic Plan that the Center is developing.

Based on household- and village-level datasets collected from more than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the participants were asked to give their best estimates on possible research options that would address some of the constraints identified in these surveys; associated costs and benefits; and the likelihood of success in developing such options.

“The priority setting exercise will be a consultative process that will involve not only rice experts from AfricaRice and its member States, but also our strategic partners and key stakeholders,” said Dr Aliou Diagne, who is leading this exercise.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Experimental auctions

Dr. Matty Demont says that experimental auctions are fun to do. Since 2007, AfricaRice in Saint Louis, Senegal has been doing them to find out how much consumers are willing to pay for high-quality rice. This is one of the first experimental auctions on rice in a developing country. Experimental auctions may be fun, but they are also an important research tool and a big improvement over traditional surveys, which simply ask people how much they would pay for a new product. But people tend to under- or overestimate such hypothetical prices. An experimental auction creates a market in a laboratory setting which is more accurate than a questionnaire.

 How it works. A female researcher invites participants (women on their way to or from a nearby market) to come into a youth center. The session takes two hours, and the women are compensated for their time with 3000 FCFA ($6.67). They are also given an “endowment” of a kilo of conventional local market rice.

Then the women bid on improved rice: imported rice, and rice from PINORD, a producers’ association, that produces high quality local rice, sold under the brand name Rival (Riz de la Vallée). Ten women are in each session. The researchers ask them how much they would pay to upgrade their ordinary rice, i.e. to exchange it for the imported and for the Rival rice. The women sit at tables, so they can see each other, but they whisper their bids to the auctioneer, so they bid in secret. The highest bidder wins, but she pays the price stated by the second highest bidder. This is called a “second price auction” and it ensures a more realistic, less conservative price than if the top bid pays the top price.

The results. Relative to conventional local rice, consumers in Saint-Louis and Dakar are willing to pay 32% more for local, high-quality rice, and even 38% if they see the label. In other words the women are willing to pay a price premium for high-quality local rice, even more so if they see the label identifying the rice as local.

In fact, the price premium that consumers will pay for quality local rice is almost twice the premium of 17% they are typically paying for imported rice. The research confirms that good, local rice is competitive with imports, especially if it is attractively packaged and labeled.

Adding value. Dr. Demont hopes that the research will help African farmers and processers learn more about their market, and help them to see that the negative image of local rice can be overcome by producing a high-quality product. The next step will be to strengthen the local rice value chains so that all involved produce the high quality local rice that consumers want.

The team for this research includes Dr. Matty Demont (AfricaRice agricultural economist), Maimouna Ndour (AfricaRice sociology assistant), Pieter Rutsaert (PhD student, Ghent University, Belgium) and Prof. Wim Verbeke (Professor, Ghent University, Belgium).

Ventes aux enchères expérimentales

D’après Dr. Matty Demont, les ventes aux enchères expérimentales sont très amusantes. Depuis 2007, AfricaRice à Saint Louis, Sénégal les organise pour connaître le prix que les consommateurs sont prêts à payer pour le riz de haute qualité. Il s’agit là d’une des premières ventes de riz aux enchères expérimentales dans un pays en développement. Les enchères expérimentales peuvent être drôles, mais elles sont aussi un important outil de recherche et une grande amélioration par rapport aux enquêtes traditionnelles qui demandent simplement aux populations combien elles sont prêtes à payer pour un nouveau produit. Mais les gens ont tendance à sous-estimer ou à surestimer ces prix hypothétiques. Une vente aux enchères expérimentale crée un marché dans un environnement particulier qui est plus précis qu’un questionnaire.

 Comment ça marche. Une chercheuse invite les participants (femmes allant ou revenant d’un marché voisin) dans un centre de jeunesse. La session dure deux heures, et les femmes reçoivent 3000 FCFA (6,67$) en récompense de leur temps. Elles reçoivent aussi une “dotation” d’un kilo de riz conventionnel du marché local.

Ensuite les femmes font des enchères pour le riz amélioré : le riz importé et le riz de PINORD, une association de producteurs qui produit du riz local de haute qualité, vendu sous la marque Rival (Riz de la Vallée). Chaque session est composée de dix femmes. Les chercheurs leur demande combien elles sont prêtes à payer pour augmenter la valeur de leur riz ordinaire, c’est-à-dire l’échanger contre le riz importé et contre le riz Rival. Les femmes s’asseyent à table, de manière à pouvoir se voir, mais chuchotent leurs offres au commissaire-priseur ; elles le font donc secrètement. Le plus offrant gagne mais paie le second prix le plus élevé. Cela s’appelle “second prix d’enchère” et permet d’avoir un prix plus réaliste, moins risqué que si le plus offrant payait le prix le plus élevé.

Les résultats. Par rapport au riz local conventionnel, les consommateurs à Saint-Louis et Dakar sont prêts à payer 32% de plus pour le riz local de haute qualité, et même 38% s’ils voient l’étiquette. En d’autres termes, les femmes sont prêtes à payer un prix de prestige pour le riz local de haute qualité, et même plus si elles voient l’étiquette identifiant le riz comme étant local.

En fait, le prix de prestige que les consommateurs vont payer pour le riz local de qualité est d’environ deux fois plus élevé que le prix de prestige de 17% qu’ils paient d’habitude pour le riz importé. La recherche confirme que le bon riz local est compétitif par rapport aux importations, surtout lorsqu’il est emballé et étiqueté de façon attrayante.

Valorisation. Dr. Demont espère que la recherche va aider les paysans et les transformateurs africains à mieux apprendre sur leur marché et les aider à comprendre que l’image négative du riz local peut être effacée en produisant un produit de haute qualité. La prochaine étape sera de renforcer les chaînes de valeur du riz local de sorte que tous les acteurs impliqués produisent le riz local de haute qualité que les consommateurs veulent.

L’équipe de cette recherche inclut Dr. Matty Demont (Economiste agricole à AfricaRice), Maimouna Ndour (Assistante sociologue à AfricaRice), Pieter Rutsaert (Etudiant doctorant, Université de Gand, Belgique) et Prof. Wim Verbeke (Professeur, Université de Gand, Belgique).

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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Project launched to tap rice potential of Africa’s lowlands

A project to help African rice farmers maximize the vast potential of inland valleys through ecological management was launched in Cotonou, Benin, 16-17 Aug 2010, by the Benin-based Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) with technical and financial support from Japan.

The new project will focus on the testing and adaptation of a proven rice production technology used in Asia – known as Sawah – which helps to boost rice production through improved water and soil management. The Sawah system includes the use of small machinery for land preparation and good crop management practices.
“With increased risk of droughts in large parts of Africa because of climate change, well-managed inland valleys can contribute to food security through enhanced productivity of rice-based systems,” explained Dr Paul Kiepe, speaking on behalf of the AfricaRice Director General at the project launching meeting. Dr Kiepe is heading the Center’s Sustainable Productivity Enhancement Program.

It is estimated that the annual potential production of 20 million hectares of Sawah systems in sub-Saharan Africa would be at least 30 to 40 million tons of milled rice. The increased production would help African countries to sharply curtail their risky over-dependence on rice imports and stave off future food crises.
The new project will initially cover Benin and Togo and is expected to expand to other countries that are members of the Inland Valley Consortium (IVC). The Consortium is convened by AfricaRice.

The project partners include the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the national programs of the IVC member countries, Hitotsubashi, Tsukuba and Kinki Universities in Japan and the Universities of Hohenheim and Munich in Germany.

In addition to the representatives of all project partners and other organizations with related expertise, the meeting brought together high-level dignitaries of the Government of Japan, notably the Ambassador of Japan in Benin and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).

Japan has prioritized agriculture in its support to African development at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development-IV in 2008. As Japan has a long tradition and expertise in rice production, it has forged strong collaboration with AfricaRice since more than three decades. Currently seven Japanese scientists are working in several joint projects at AfricaRice.  

Friday, August 6, 2010

Training course on rice seed production technology for Africa held in Egypt

A training course, Seed Production Technology for Africa, jointly organized by AfricaRice, IRRI, and the Agricultural Research Center of Egypt, was held in Kafr-el Sheikh, Egypt, 1-6 August 2010, under the Green Super Rice (GSR) project with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through CAAS.

The course was attended by more than 30 researchers from 10 African countries (Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda). It covered the areas relating to quality seed production technology for both hybrids and inbreds, as well as the use of CropStat software for statistical analysis.

The main objective of the course was to train researchers to become trainers themselves and promote a similar course in their respective countries with support from their local GSR coordinator and the regional coordinator based at AfricaRice. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Madagascar delighted to join AfricaRice as member State

The Government of Madagascar has conveyed its deep appreciation to AfricaRice Council of Ministers for accepting its application to join the Center.

“Rice is critical to our country’s economy. We have joined AfricaRice because we realize that the future of rice production in the continent depends on this partnership,” stated His Excellency Mr Mamitiana Jaonina, Minister of Agriculture of Madagascar in a letter to the AfricaRice Director General Dr. Papa Abdoulaye Seck.

Madagascar is one of the biggest per capita consumers of rice in the world. Rice provides over 50% of calories consumed in the country and rice production involves about 80% of rural households. However, the country is desperate to boost production as it is importing about 200,000 tonnes of rice every year to meet its growing demand.

Warmly welcoming the new member State, Dr Seck said that the Center has already been working closely with the country. “We have several joint projects, such as the Japan-funded Emergency Rice Initiative.” The Minister of Agriculture has invited Dr Seck to attend a seed donation ceremony as part of this Initiative.

Madagascar has also greatly benefited from an innovative farmer learning tool developed by AfricaRice – known as Participatory Learning and Action Research for Integrated Crop Management (PLAR-ICM) – which has helped double average rice yields in farmers’ fields in northern Madagascar through a project supported by the Aga Khan Foundation.

With the joining of Madagascar, the number of AfricaRice member States has gone up to 24. The Center was created in 1971 by 11 African states as an autonomous intergovernmental research organization. Today its membership comprises 24 countries, covering West, Central, East and North African regions. It is also one of the 15 international Centers supported by the CGIAR. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

AfricaRice student wins 2009-2010 Africa-wide science competitions

Ms Esperance Benedicte Zossou of Benin, who is pursuing her postgraduate studies at AfricaRice, won the Third Prize in the 2009-2010 Africa-Wide Women & Young Professional in Science Competitions for her work on the “Technological and institutional innovations triggered by farmer-to-farmer rice parboiling video in Central Benin.”

The Science Competitions were organized jointly by CTA, FARA, RUFORUM, ANAFE, AGRA, NEPAD in Burkina Faso, 19-20 Jul 2010, as a side event during the 5th African Agricultural Science Week and FARA General Assembly.

The Africa-wide science competitions sought to identify, recognize and reward the hard work and excellence of young professionals (aged 25 – 40 years) and women scientists who are engaged in innovative and pioneering research and communicating their outputs (knowledge, technologies and approaches) to improve agricultural productivity and the livelihoods of rural communities.

One hundred submissions were received for both competitions from which 41 top entrants were selected to develop their abstracts into full papers.

In Mar 2010, Ms Zossou had won the Outstanding Young Scientist Award at the Africa Rice Congress 2010, organized by AfricaRice in Bamako, Mali.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

IFAD-funded rice project makes steady progress in DR Congo, Guinea and Sierra Leone

The IFAD project to boost rice production in West and Central Africa (WCA) held its second and critical implementers’ meeting, 12-15 Jul 2010 in Cotonou, Benin.  The key themes of this meeting were to share results, to review progress and to strengthen existing strategies to sustain activities even as the project concludes.

The overall goal of this Project is to improve the contribution of rice production and post-harvest technologies for poverty reduction and food security in WCA.  Its specific objectives are to:
  • Develop comprehensive packages of NERICA seed and grain production practices and make them available to project beneficiaries
  • Build capacities of rice scientists and technicians in order to strengthen national rice research and production”
Three key studies were designed to support the on-going processes and activities, i.e. i) seed; production, distribution, capacity among local producers ii) PVS; rice varietal selection, field learning processes and iii) information; packaging, review and dissemination.  The respective studies are i) indigenous seed institutions ii) evaluation of PVS and iii) gendered access to rice information through media.

AfricaRice is implementing the IFAD WCA Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Sierra Leone through core partnerships with INERA, IRAG and SLARI respectively. Other institutions involved include NGOs, extension organizations, ministries, farmer organisations, IFAD investment projects, universities, FAO and other projects e.g. EUcord and PARSAR, and the BTC.

Key themes of the project and the main outcomes from 2009 were highlighted in the meeting by the overall coordinator based in AfricaRice. Emphasis was placed on i) access to rice seed and ii) knowledge among smallholders iii) partnerships, especially for the sustainability of the project achievements iv) activities aimed to build capacities and iv) field researches.  Details for these themes were then presented by country teams.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Project launched to develop the next generation of new rice varieties for sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia

IRRI and AfricaRice jointly launched the Japan-funded project on “Developing the next generation of new rice varieties for Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.” The eastern and southern African launch of this project took place on 24 Apr 2010, in Kirundo Province of Burundi.

The launch was attended by scientists from IRRI, AfricaRice and 38 national research and extension partners from nine east and southern Africa countries (Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda.)

The overall aim of the project is to accelerate the development and deployment of the next generation of elite rice varieties for major production systems in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where poverty is prevalent and the risk of food shortage is high.

The project has the following three objectives:
  • Accelerate the development of high-impact varieties in SSA and Southeast Asia
  • Accelerate rice variety testing, approval, and dissemination in SSA and Southeast Asia
  • Contribute to building a new generation of rice breeders
To ensure delivery of products well-accepted by farmers and consumers, this project aims to establish a network of NARS breeders in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia that would constitute an Africawide Breeding Task Forces to develop the next generation of rice varieties in both regions of the world.

This project will allow IRRI and AfricaRice to rebuild rice breeding capacity at the national level in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia and pursue a systematic collaborative approach to rice breeding that will greatly shorten the time needed to develop new varieties. Delivery of varieties will also be accelerated through streamlining and harmonizing of varietal release procedures across the regions.

The regional launch of this project in West Africa took place in Segou, Mali, 23-26 Jun 2010.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Project to mitigate climate change impact on rice disease resistance in East Africa launched

East Africa and mainly the Great Lakes region are among the most vulnerable regions to climate change in Africa. Studies indicate that climatic change will induce increasing temperature and declining rainfall in East Africa with frequent periods of drought which may intensify crop disease occurrence and severity. Also by impacting on both pests and host plants, climate change may enable some pests and diseases to expand beyond their current locations.

A project on “Mitigating climate change impact on rice disease resistance in East Africa,” was launched in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, 1-2 Jun 2010 to help address the urgent demand for climate-proof disease-resistant rice varieties and help adapt crop management practices to climate change, thus greatly reducing farmer risk.
Research results are expected to lead to the development of rice varieties resistant to strains of blast and bacterial leaf blight in the region and of rice management practices adapted to climate change. Breeders will directly benefit because of greatly improved knowledge of pathogen strains and related rice resistance genes and alleles.

Results will be used to determine the likely impact of climate change on rice disease occurrence and severity, develop recommendations for farmers to adapt crop management practices reducing the risk of disease related yield loss, and guide breeders in development of climate proof, disease resistant rice varieties for different rice production situations. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

AfricaRice rated as Outstanding by World Bank

As part of its annual evaluation of 15 international Centers belonging to CGIAR) based on performance-linked measurements, the World Bank announced in Jun 2010 that it has rated AfricaRice as 'Outstanding,' in the 2009 Performance Measurement exercise. This is the highest of three performance categories.

The assessment was based on a number of criteria that included results, impacts, quality and relevance of the Center’s research and publications, financial and institutional health, and stakeholder perceptions.
The Performance Measurement System (PMS) is a regular annual feature in the CGIAR monitoring and evaluation system, which provides Centers with a barometer to better gauge their own performance and demonstrate accountability and transparency to their stakeholders. The World Bank uses the performance measurement data as a guideline for allocating part of its funding to the Centers.

Earlier this year, the Director General, Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, and the staff of AfricaRice were congratulated by the Board of Trustees for placing the Center on a path of continuous growth as a result of the following achievements:
  • Doubling of the Center’s budget in 2010 compared to 2007, with a significant rise in fund reserves;
  • Increase in recovery of contributions from African member States, which now collectively rank as the number one core donor of the Center;
  • High rate of accession to membership of the Center by African countries in the period 2006-2010 than ever before;
  • Large number of exciting research projects addressing major challenges of rice in Africa, including climate change;
  • Close partnership with national programs, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and advanced research institutions;
  • International recognition such as the Agricultural Merit Order of France and the Merit Order of Senegal presented to the Director General, the CGIAR’s Outstanding Communication and Young Scientist Awards to AfricaRice researchers.
Warmly congratulating the AfricaRice staff for their dedication and performance, Director General Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck said, “This is a great achievement, but we consider this as just the beginning of our journey towards our goal. So we cannot rest on our laurels.”

Dr Seck also expressed his deep appreciation to all the donors and R&D partners of AfricaRice, particularly the national programs, which work hand in hand with the Center to boost rice production and rural development in Africa.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Good quality rice pays off: Highlighting importance of rice postharvest

AfricaRice was invited to participate in a special side event on “Rice post-harvest systems: Saving rice harvest and moving towards better livelihoods,” at the 2nd West & Central Africa Agricultural Science Week and the General Assembly of CORAF/WECARD, 24-28 May 2010, Cotonou, Benin.

AfricaRice experts presented a strategic overview of the Center’s rice research for development activities ranging from rice genetic diversity, seed systems, new breeding direction to the postharvest practices and the quality of rice in West Africa and rice policy and impact research.

It was highlighted that although rice is known to be a hardy crop in terms of withstanding grain deterioration, locally produced rice has not been competitive qualitatively and quantitatively.

Quantitative losses come from bird attacks, lodging, shattering, spillages, incomplete and threshing. Qualitative losses come from the presence of stones, delayed harvest, poor handling after harvest, including stacking, drying, parboiling, milling, packaging, and the presence of mycotoxins.  Improper parboiling can result in more breakages. The processing of rice mixed with stones can damage milling equipment. Additionally, the technical capacity of millers is too low to enable them do a good job. 

Experts emphasized the need for training of farmers and processors in improved processing technology to encourage marketers to properly package their products. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Japan Emergency Rice Project benefits over 58,000 vulnerable rice farmers

The Emergency Rice Project launched by AfricaRice with support from Japan in the wake of the food crisis has been able to help a total of 58,226 vulnerable farmers get access to quality seed and at the same time, to reinforce or rebuild seed systems.

More than 60% of the project countries have now a good starting seed capital for the production of newly released varieties, including upland and lowland NERICAs. On average the number of hectares to be covered ranges from 350 (Sudan) to 1000 hectares (Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar) and the majority of countries (more than 75%) will cover at least 600 hectares.

The seed component of the Japan Emergency Project was designed to provide access to quality rice seed to vulnerable farmers in 20 countries in Western, Eastern and Southern Africa, most of which belong to the group of 21 CARD candidate countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Liberia, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo in West Africa and Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and in East Africa.

A total of 73 institutions participated including 20 NARS, 11 seed companies, 19 input-dealers and 23 NGOs promoting rice production. The project led to a reinforcement of the seed system in most countries and in some cases, to start rebuilding them (Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire).

As part of the project, seed donations were made to farmers in the participating countries in the presence of partners and government officials. In Côte d’Ivoire, AfricaRice Director General attended the seed donation ceremony held in May 2010.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Interview with Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck on food crisis

Interview with Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Director General of the Africa Rice Center, on food crisis
(15 April 2010)

Dr Seck warns of the continent’s continuing vulnerability to food crises and describes vigorous measures being taken to strengthen domestic production.

Q: The food price crisis of 2008, while impacting people around the world, hit Africa’s rice consumers especially hard. Is the crisis now behind them?

Dr Seck: Even though major food riots have subsided, the food crisis is far from over in sub-Saharan Africa. In many countries, rice prices in local retail markets have stayed well above their pre-crisis levels, even as international prices have declined.

The basic ingredients exist for another episode like that in 2008. Global rice stocks are low, and El Niño threatens rice production in countries like Thailand and the Philippines. Moreover, despite significant increases in domestic cereal production in many countries during 2008 and 2009, Africa continues to depend heavily on food aid and global cereal markets for its leading food staples, rice and maize.

Until the continent’s production of these crops increases, and as long as a large share of its population remains food insecure and undernourished (30% compared to 16% in Asia), it will remain vulnerable to recurring food crises. In fact, humanitarian agencies already warn that a food crisis is unfolding in the Sahel, particularly in Niger and Chad.

Q: Great hardship caused by the crisis unleashed a wave of renewed concern about agriculture and promises of stronger support for agricultural research. What evidence have you seen that the international community is making good on its promises?

Dr Seck: First, African countries must be commended for the bold steps they have taken. In line with the Maputo resolution, several have increased their budget allocations to agriculture since 2003, and there is evidence of further increases since the 2008 food crisis.

There are also positive signs of increased support for agriculture from the international community. Recent figures published by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) indicate that total net ODA (official development assistance) from donors belonging to OECD’s Development Assistance Committee rose in real terms by 0.7% in 2009.

The OCDE report also indicates that in 2009, net bilateral ODA to Africa reached US$28 billion, representing an increase of 3% in real terms over 2008. Denmark, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden all exceeded the United Nations ODA target of 0.7% of gross national income.

Since the food crisis, AfricaRice has received substantial support from member states and donors to implement several emergency rice research and development projects. The US government provided our Center with a $5.1 million grant for a 2-year emergency program to boost rice production in Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. Japan subsequently provided $4.8 million for emergency seed production projects in 21 countries. Other donors reallocated some of their project funds to support an emergency rice initiative. Under this same initiative, the Spanish government is channeling funds through FAO for emergency rice projects in five countries.

Q: How are new resources being put to use and with what results so far?

Dr Seck: In response to the 2008 rice crisis, many member states implemented policies and projects to facilitate smallholder farmers’ access to subsidized certified seed and productivity-enhancing inputs, like fertilizer and farm machinery. In Mali, for instance, pubic investments in the rice sector reached $85 million in 2008 and $106 million in 2009.

Such measures have resulted in substantial increases in Africa’s rice production. According to the FAO Rice Monitor, production grew by 18% between 2007 and 2008. Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda all recorded double-digit increases in national rice production. Especially notable was the 241% increase achieved in Burkina Faso. In West Africa’s Sahel region as a whole, production rose by 44% in 2008. For the 2009-2010 crop season, FAO is projecting double-digit growth in rice production for several countries.

Q: What measures are needed to better shield the region’s rice sector against future price volatility?

Dr Seck: Price volatility is inherent to the agriculture sector because of its strong dependence on weather. But sub-Saharan African can reduce its exposure to global rice market shocks by increasing regional production and by reducing dependence on rice imports. Improving access to improved rice varieties and to other productivity-enhancing inputs, expanding the area under sustainable water control and enhancing post-harvest and marketing systems are some of the key measures needed to stimulate domestic rice production.

Q: To what degree has the 2008 crisis made policy makers in the region more aware of the rice sector’s needs and potential? What are they doing, or should they do, to strengthen rice production?

Dr Seck: The 2008 rice crisis reminded African policy makers that reliable and affordable supplies of staple foods are critical for maintaining political and social stability. Many African countries have pledged to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of food, particularly rice. At the regional level, this crop has been singled out as a priority for investment. Many countries have taken bold policy measures, such as widening access to credit; accelerating the rehabilitation of irrigated rice areas; and providing subsidies on seeds, fertilizers and farm machinery. Countries are also strengthening the institutional capacity of their agricultural extension and research systems.

Interview du Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck sur la crise alimentaire

Interview du Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck,
Directeur Général du Centre du riz pour l’Afrique,
sur la crise alimentaire
(15 Avril 2010)

Dr Seck prévient que le continent est toujours vulnérable aux crises alimentaires et décrit toute la batterie de mesures vigoureuses en cours pour renforcer la production locale.

Q: La crise des prix des produits alimentaires de 2008, tout en ayant un impact sur les populations a travers le monde, a plus particulièrement frappé les consommateurs de riz en Afrique. Est-ce qu’on peut dire que cette crise est aujourd’hui révolue?

Dr Seck: Même si les grandes manifestations liées à la flambée des produits alimentaires se sont estompées, la crise alimentaire est loin d’être révolue en Afrique subsaharienne. Dans beaucoup de pays, les prix du riz au détail sont restés bien au-dessus des niveaux d’avant-crise même après la baisse des prix internationaux.

Les ingrédients de base d’un autre épisode semblable à celui de 2008 existent toujours. Les stocks mondiaux de riz sont au plus bas et le phénomène El Niño menace la production de riz dans des pays comme la Thaïlande et les Philippines. En plus, malgré les augmentations significatives de la production locale de céréales dans plusieurs pays en 2008 et 2009, l’Afrique continue de dépendre fortement de l’aide alimentaire et des marchés céréaliers mondiaux pour ses principaux produits vivriers, le riz et le maïs.

Tant que la production continentale de ses cultures n’augmente pas substantiellement et tant qu’une grande partie des populations du continent végètent dans l’insécurité alimentaire et la malnutrition (30% comparativement à 16% en Asie), l’Afrique restera vulnérable à des crises alimentaires récurrentes. En fait, les agences humanitaires préviennent déjà qu’une crise alimentaire est en train de se profiler au Sahel, particulièrement au Niger et au Tchad.

Q: Les épreuves difficiles occasionnées par la crise ont suscité un intérêt renouvelé pour l’agriculture et des promesses d’un appui plus important à la recherche agricole. A partir de quels signes percevez-vous que la communauté internationale tient ses promesses?

Dr Seck: Tout d’abord, on doit saluer les pays africains pour les initiatives courageuses qu’ils ont eu à prendre. Conformément à la résolution de Maputo, plusieurs d’entre eux ont augmenté les budgets alloués à l’agriculture depuis 2003 et il y a des signes pour une plus grande augmentation depuis la crise alimentaire de 2008.

Il y a aussi des signes positifs d’un appui plus important à l’agriculture par la communauté internationale. Des chiffres récents publiés par l’OCDE (l’Organisation pour la coopération et le développement économique) indiquent que l’aide nette au développement provenant des donateurs du Comité d’aide au développement de l’OCDE a augmenté en termes réels de 0,7% en 2009.

Le rapport de l’OCDE indique aussi qu’en 2009, l’aide bilatérale nette au développement à l’Afrique a atteint 28 milliards de dollars US, ce qui représente une augmentation en termes réels de 3% par rapport à 2008. Le Danemark, le Luxembourg, les Pays-Bas, la Norvège et la Suède ont, tous, dépassé le seuil d’aide au développement de 0,7% du produit intérieur brut prôné par les Nations-Unies.

Depuis la crise alimentaire, AfricaRice a reçu un appui substantiel des pays membres et des donateurs pour mettre en œuvre des projets de recherche-développement rizicoles d’urgence. Le gouvernement américain a fourni à notre centre une subvention de 5,1 millions de dollars US pour un programme d’urgence de 2 ans visant à intensifier la production de riz au Ghana, au Mali, au Nigeria et au Sénégal. Le Japon a mis à notre disposition une enveloppe de 4,8 millions de dollars pour des projets de production de semences d’urgence dans 21 pays. D’autres donateurs ont réorienté certains fonds de leurs projets pour soutenir une initiative d’urgence riz. Dans le cadre de cette même initiative, le gouvernement espagnol canalise des fonds à travers la FAO pour des projets d’urgence riz dans cinq pays.

Q: Comment est-ce que les nouvelles ressources sont utilisées et quels en sont les résultats jusque là?

Dr Seck: En réponse à la crise rizicole de 2008, beaucoup de pays membres ont mis en œuvre des politiques et des projets pour faciliter à travers des subventions l’accès des petits producteurs aux semences certifiées et aux intrants d’amélioration de la productivité comme les engrais et la machinerie agricole. Au Mali, par exemple, les investissements publics dans le secteur rizicole ont atteint 85 millions de dollars US en 2008 et 106 millions en 2009.

Toutes ces mesures ont permis d’avoir des augmentations substantielles dans la production de riz en Afrique. Selon l’Observatoire du riz de la FAO, la production a augmenté de 18% entre 2007 et 2008. Le Bénin, la Côte d’Ivoire, le Ghana, la Guinée, le Mali, le Nigeria et l’Ouganda ont, tous, enregistré des croissances à deux chiffres dans leur production nationale de riz. L’augmentation de 241% au Burkina Faso est particulièrement remarquable. Dans la région sahélienne, d’Afrique de l’Ouest, la production a augmenté de 44% en 2008. Pour la saison culturale 2009-2010, la FAO projette une croissance à deux chiffres de la production de riz dans plusieurs pays.

Q: Quelles sont les mesures nécessaires pour mieux armer le secteur rizicole de la région contre une future volatilité des prix?

Dr Seck: La volatilité des prix est inhérente au secteur agricole fortement dépendant des conditions climatiques. Mais, l’Afrique subsaharienne peut réduire son degré d’exposition aux chocs du marché rizicole mondial en augmentant sa production et en réduisant sa dépendance sur les importations. L’amélioration de l’accès aux variétés améliorées de riz et aux autres intrants d’amélioration de la productivité, l’extension des surfaces sous maîtrise appropriée de l’eau et l’amélioration des systèmes post-récoltes et de commercialisation sont certaines des mesures-clés nécessaires pour stimuler la production de riz local.

Q: A quel seuil la crise de 2008 a-t-elle sensibilisé les décideurs politiques de la région sur les besoins et le potentiel du secteur rizicole? Qu’est ce qu’ils sont en train de faire ou doivent-ils faire pour renforcer la production de riz ?

Dr Seck: La crise rizicole de 2008 a rappelé aux décideurs politiques africains que des approvisionnements sûrs et abordables en produits vivriers sont cruciaux pour le maintien de la stabilité politique et sociale. Beaucoup de pays africains se sont engagés à rechercher l’autosuffisance alimentaire, particulièrement en riz. Au niveau régional, cette denrée a été ciblée comme domaine prioritaire d’investissement. Beaucoup de pays ont pris des initiatives politiques courageuses comme la facilitation de l’accès au crédit, l’accélération de la réhabilitation des périmètres irrigués ainsi que la subvention des semences, des engrais et de la machinerie agricole. Les pays sont aussi en train de renforcer la capacité institutionnelle de leurs systèmes de recherche et de vulgarisation agricoles.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Birds and weeds

Hungry birds destroy ripening grain all over the world, yet few researchers study on them. Farmers in Senegal told AfricaRice researchers that their two major rice pests were birds and weeds.

 Farmers have insights about birds. In a farmer survey by AfricaRice near Saint Louis, Senegal farmers said that birds did lower yields, especially when the fields were weedy. The weeds mature before the rice does, and birds like to eat weed seeds, the farmers said. The birds only eat rice once the weeds are gone. Farmers said that “if I manage my weeds I have less bird attack”.

The farmers were right. In 2008 AfricaRice weed scientist Dr. Jonne Rodenburg joined the team and validated what the farmers said in experiments on-station with four treatments:

  1. No control of either weeds or birds
  2. Only bird control (plots were covered with nets)
  3. Only weed control (hand weeded every ten days) and
  4. Full control of birds and weeds.

They did the experiment with early and late maturing rice varieties. The weed-free fields discouraged birds. Weedy fields, on the other hand, attracted birds. The birds fed on weed seeds, found shelter in the weeds, and perched on the weeds to eat the rice. Weed-free, early maturing varieties suffered little from bird attacks. If the rice matures late, it is ripe when the weeds seeds are all gone, and the birds then turn to the rice grains.

Managing birds. Pest management scientists tend to ignore birds, and ornithologists tend not to think of birds as pests. Therefore, far too little research is done on birds as pests. This research, although in an early stage, suggests that farmers have several options to manage birds.

  • Keep fields weed free
  • Plant early maturing rice
  • Experiment with different planting times.

The AfricaRice team measured bird damage in the Senegal River Valley, based on their annual farmer surveys. They estimated average bird damage at 11.2% of the potential rice yield in 2003-2007, which translates into an average annual economic loss of 4 billion FCFA (about $9 million).

Some governments and farmers use large quantities of non-selective poisons to kill birds. This needlessly kills non birds that do not eat grain, besides damaging the environment and human health. Alternatives to these harmful pesticides are urgently needed. Research like this is a step in the right direction.

The team conducting this research includes Dr. Jonne Rodenburg (AfricaRice Weed Scientist), Dr. Matty Demont (AfricaRice Agricultural Economist), Yann de Mey (K.U. Leuven MSc Student) and Abdoulaye Sow (AfricaRice Research Assistant).

Oiseaux et adventices

Partout dans le monde, les oiseaux affamés s’attaquent aux grains mûrs et occasionnent des dégâts; cependant, ils font l’objet de peu d’études de la part des chercheurs. Les paysans sénégalais ont dit aux chercheurs d’AfricaRice que les oiseaux et les adventices étaient leurs deux principaux ennemis du riz.

Les paysans ont une connaissance approfondie des oiseaux. Dans une étude paysanne menée par AfricaRice près de Saint Louis, Sénégal, les paysans ont déclaré que les oiseaux réduisent effectivement les récoltes, surtout lorsque les champs sont enherbés. Selon les paysans, les adventices mûrissent avant le riz, et les oiseaux aiment manger les graines d’adventices. Les oiseaux ne mangent le riz que lorsqu’il n’y a plus d’adventices. Les paysans ont déclaré que “si je gère mes adventices, j’ai moins d’attaques d’oiseaux”.

Les paysans avaient raison. En 2008, le malherbologiste d’AfricaRice, Dr. Jonne Rodenburg s’est joint à l’équipe et a validé les déclarations des paysans dans des expérimentations en station avec quatre traitements :
  1. Pas de contrôle d’adventices ou d’oiseaux
  2. Contrôle d’oiseaux seulement (parcelles couvertes avec des filets)
  3. Contrôle des adventices seulement (désherbage manuel tous les dix jours) et
  4. Contrôle total des oiseaux et des adventices.

L’expérimentation a été faite avec des variétés de riz précoces et des variétés tardives. Les parcelles désherbées ont découragé les oiseaux. Par contre, les parcelles enherbées attiraient les oiseaux. Les oiseaux se nourrissaient d’adventices, ont trouvé des abris dans les adventices et s’y perchaient pour manger le riz. Les variétés précoces débarrassées d’adventices ont peu souffert des attaques des oiseaux. Si le riz est tardif, il mûrit au moment où il n’y a plus de grains d’adventices, et les oiseaux se tournent vers les grains de riz.

Gestion des oiseaux. Les spécialistes des ravageurs ont tendance à ignorer les oiseaux, et les ornithologues ont tendance à ne pas considérer les oiseaux comme des ravageurs. En conséquence, très peu de recherches se font sur les oiseaux en tant que ravageurs. La présente recherche, bien qu’étant à ses débuts, propose que les paysans aient plusieurs options de gestion des oiseaux.
  • Débarrasser les champs des adventices
  • Cultiver des variétés de riz précoces
  • Expérimenter différentes périodes de semis.

L’équipe d’AfricaRice a mesuré les dégâts causés par les oiseaux dans la vallée du fleuve Sénégal, en se basant sur leurs enquêtes annuelles auprès des paysans. Ils ont estimé la moyenne des dégâts annuels causés par les oiseaux à 11,2% du potentiel du rendement du riz en 2003-2007, ce qui se traduit en moyenne par une perte économique annuelle de 4 milliards de FCFA (environ 9 millions de dollars américains).

Certains gouvernements et paysans utilisent de grandes quantités de poisons non sélectifs pour tuer les oiseaux. Cela tue inutilement les oiseaux non granivores, en plus du fait d’endommager l’environnement et la santé humaine. Il urge d’avoir des alternatives à ces pesticides néfastes. Toute activité de recherche comme celle-ci est un pas dans la bonne direction.

L’équipe chargée de réaliser cette étude est composée de Dr. Jonne Rodenburg (malherbologiste à AfricaRice), Dr. Matty Demont (économiste agricole à AfricaRice), Yann de Mey (étudiant en MSc, K.U. Leuven) et Abdoulaye Sow (Assistant de recherche à AfricaRice).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Developing the next generation of rice varieties

IRRI and AfricaRice jointly launched the Japan-funded project on ‘Developing the next generation of new rice varieties for sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia’. The eastern and southern African launch of this project took place on 24 April, in Kirundo Province of Burundi.

The launch was attended by scientists from IRRI, AfricaRice and 38 national research and extension partners from nine eastern and southern Africa countries (Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda).

The overall aim of the project is to accelerate the development and deployment of the next generation of elite rice varieties for major production systems in SSA and Southeast Asia. To ensure the development and delivery of products (rice varieties) well-accepted by farmers and consumers, this project aims to establish a network of NARS breeders.

The project will allow IRRI and AfricaRice to rebuild rice breeding capacity at the national level in SSA and Southeast Asia, and pursue a systematic collaborative approach to rice breeding that will greatly shorten the time needed to develop new varieties. Delivery of varieties will also be accelerated through streamlining and harmonizing varietal release procedures across the regions.