The 2010 Steering Committee Meeting of the African Rice Initiative (ARI), held in Cotonou, Benin, 19-21 Apr 2010, reviewed the progress made by the $35 million, five-year AfDB-funded NERICA dissemination project and planned the next steps.
The AfDB project supports the dissemination of NERICA and other improved rice varieties in seven West African countries – Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
The AfDB project is coordinated by the African Rice Initiative (ARI), which is hosted by AfricaRice. ARI has been supported by several partners and donors, including AfDB, Rockefeller Foundation, JICA and UNDP. Two JICA rice specialists who are working with the Initiative have been particularly involved in group training programs on important aspects of rice cultivation – ranging from quality seed production to agronomic packages.
The Steering Committee highlighted the progress made in the pilot countries as many promising new varieties – including new NERICA varieties – have been selected by farmers using farmer-participatory approaches. Thanks to these, rice farmers are able to make enough profit from their farms to send their children to school and provide them with better health care.
Since seed shortage is the biggest bottleneck in rice development in the region, the project has mounted a major effort on the production and diffusion of quality seed. Efforts are being made to put in place sustainable quality seed production and delivery strategies.
To increase the productivity of improved rice varieties, complementary technologies, such as agronomic packages, are currently evaluated in all pilot countries in collaboration with AfricaRice scientists and other resource persons. The Regional Coordination Unit has contributed to the dissemination of relevant information through the publication, NERICA Compendium, which was published jointly with FAO and Sasakawa Africa Association.
In view of the tangible impact made in the pilot countries and the keen interest of other sub-Saharan African countries to be included in the AfDB rice project, the ARI Steering Committee meeting focused on the strategy and the development of the next phase. The project was launched in 2005 but began its operations only from 2006.