Thursday, October 16, 2014

World Food Day: Enriching lives of small rice farmers and processors in Africa

Rice is the most rapidly growing food source across Africa and has become critical for food security in many countries. With increasing urbanization, the demand for convenience foods like rice is rising in the continent.

“There is strong evidence that to keep poor farmers and processors in business, they need to produce better quality rice,” said Dr John Manful, grain quality scientist at the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice).

However, African rice farmers are confronted with great difficulty in selling their rice due to prevailing perceptions about the poor quality of locally produced rice. In many African countries, locally milled rice is of variable quality with a high percentage of broken grains.

Sometimes unhusked grains as well as bran and husk fractions are found in the milled rice. The poorer quality local rice is therefore not competitive against imported rice on the market.

AfricaRice Interim Director General Dr Adama Traoré explained that AfricaRice is helping small farmers and processors across Africa to add economic, nutritional and environmental value to rice by reducing postharvest losses, improving grain quality and exploring alternative uses of rice ‘waste’ products (rice bran, husk and straw).

“Such efforts to enrich the lives of small rice farmers and processors are well aligned with this year’s World Food Day theme “Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth,” said Dr Traoré.

The Center and its partners are promoting the diversification of the use of rice to stimulate commercialization and consumption of local rice. They are testing the use of low-value broken rice – which would otherwise be sold at a discounted price on the local market – as the basis of a breakfast porridge fortified with protein-rich groundnut or soybean for undernourished babies and children.

As part of a collaborative Canada-funded AfricaRice project, Ms Lynda Hagan, scientist at the Food Research Institute (FRI) in Ghana, has developed a recipe for noodles using flour from low grade rice and wheat. This rice noodle preparation, as shown in a video recently produced by AfricaRice, is a good example of diversification from the traditional wheat-flour noodles.

According to Lynda, tasty and innovative uses of rice can catalyze rural enterprises and raise income, especially for women farmers and processors in the continent.

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