Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mechanization: essential for rice production and processing

Mechanization is now essential for rice production and processing. If farmers want to intensify their cropping, they need to speed up the operations that are labor-intensive when conducted manually. For example, when NERICA production was doubled in The Gambia between 2007 and 2010, farmers found it difficult to harvest and thresh the extra rice, which resulted in reduced quality because of the delays. In Senegal, high rice prices in 2009 prompted many farmers to grow a second crop, but they then discovered that the harvesting of that crop overran into the period when they should have been preparing the land for the main-season crop.

A recent ex-ante impact assessment conducted by the AfricaRice policy team gave a conservative estimate of 0.9 million t of milled rice saved by halving on-farm post-harvest losses through the use of appropriate technologies. This would save almost 17% of current rice imports, with a value of US$ 410 million in 2011 prices! This in turn could raise about 2.8 million people in rice farming households out of poverty.

Rice stakeholders from sub-Saharan Africa have recently emphasized the value of small-scale, locally adapted machinery specifically targeting labor-intensive activities, such as land preparation, weeding, harvesting and processing. They have also recommended that governments consult research when importing machinery to ensure its efficacy and durability under African farming conditions, and that capacity be built to provide after-sales support for farm machinery (e.g. servicing and repair).

AfricaRice has a long history of adapting and promoting appropriate-scale machinery in West Africa. The best-known example is the ‘ASI’ thresher–cleaner, which is now used by the majority of farmers on the Senegal side of the Senegal River valley. The Center’s latest import-and-adapt machine is a mini combine-harvester from the Philippines. This machine seeks to address the issues of inadequate local rice supply, slow harvest and poor quality that hamper production and marketing. The adapted prototype harvester being tested not only harvests small farm plots more quickly (taking about a quarter of the time of manual harvesting), but also provides threshed grain of a high quality, making it more attractive to local traders.

Related links

News release : Africa’s rice stakeholders root for mechanization
Video : Video collage of the GRiSP mechanization workshop

Photos : Scenes from the GRiSP mechanization workshop

PowerPoint : Presentations from the GRiSP mechanization workshop