Declaring that “food independence is the most crucial of all the independences and is even more important than political independence,” Dr Papa Seck, Director General of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) stated, “There is absolutely no reason why Africa cannot feed itself.”
Concerning rice, which is now the most rapidly growing food source across Africa, Dr Seck expressed his conviction that Africa has the potential to not only become self-sufficient in rice, but also to become a net exporter onto the world market.
Africa has the land, the water and the ecologies and climates to grow millions of tons of rice. Research has provided technologies in the form of new varieties and crop management options to make intensive and extensive rice production and processing truly profitable on a wide scale if the mechanization challenge is solved.
The rate of urbanization in Africa is greater than in any other region of the world, and this means a shift toward convenience foods like rice. Both urbanization and rice-consumption rates are continuing to increase, while Africa as a whole depends on imports for 40% of its rice.
With high food and fuel prices predicted to last well into the coming decade, relying on imports is no longer a sustainable strategy.
“We believe that rice sector development can become an engine for economic growth across the continent and that this will contribute to eliminating extreme poverty and food insecurity within Africa and raise the social well-being of millions of poor people,” Dr Seck remarked.
To achieve this vision, AfricaRice has developed its new strategic plan to realize Africa’s tremendous rice potential.
Its strategy has been carefully designed to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa — notably MDG1 (halving poverty and hunger), MDG3 (promoting gender equality and empowering women) and MDG7 (greater environmental sustainability).
It is also aligned with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), in particular pillar IV which aims to improve agricultural research and systems to ensure successful uptake of appropriate new technologies.
“We must do research so that the rural world of tomorrow is much brighter and more promising with better living conditions than that of today,” concluded Dr Seck.