Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Investing in rice research and innovation for Africa

Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) – Annual Report 2015.

AfricaRice remains committed to grow as a pan-African center of excellence for rice research, development and capacity-strengthening. 

The 2015 report features key achievements, especially in the areas of product development and delivery, and presents important emerging issues related to the rice sector, including climate change resilience, enhancing rice genetic resources and varietal development, delivery of value-for-money rice innovations, disaster response and rice self-sufficiency. These achievements clearly demonstrate to AfricaRice clients the importance of investing in rice research and innovation for Africa — the theme of this annual report

The report includes the following research and innovation highlights
  • Rice production becoming more resilient to climate change
  • A crop model to optimize resource use and farm income
  • Securing the future through genetic resources
  • Managing stresses on rice for the benefit of African farmers
  • Combating African rice diseases
  • Giving farmers the chance to win the fight against witchweed
  • Strengthening seed systems to contribute to boosting domestic rice production
  • GEM parboiling demonstrated as a cauldron for quality rice and revenue generation
  • Tackling postharvest losses on a wide scale
  • Kick-starting mechanization communities of practice
  • Strengthening the rice value chain through the Africa-wide rice task forces
  • Supporting Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda
  • A novel business model to engage youth to scale up technology adoption
  • Rehabilitating the rice sector in post-conflict countries
  • Improving rice production information in Africa

Going forward, the Center will continue to draw on worldwide expertise and knowledge to develop solutions to challenges across Africa. AfricaRice strategic priorities for effective research delivery will include the following: (i) strengthening partnerships; (ii) developing the capacity of rice value-chain actors including youth and women; (iii) improving access to markets for rice producers; (iv) raising the profile of rice science in national policy agendas; and (v) increasing investments in research for development for the rice sector in Africa.

We wish to thank our financial, scientific and development partners, both within and outside of Africa, for their untiring efforts in 2015. Working with us, they demonstrate the value of investing in rice research and innovation for Africa, and the value of our work to our clients, especially the poor rice farmers and consumers across Africa.

We hope you enjoy reading about our work as much as we enjoy doing it.

Monday, December 19, 2016

AfricaRice invigorates rice breeding programs in Africa with support from Republic of Korea

The Rural Development Administration (RDA) of the Republic of Korea and the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) have entered into a strategic partnership under the Korea-Africa Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI) to accelerate the development of a new generation of productive and stress-tolerant rice varieties to meet the pressing needs of rice farmers and consumers in Africa.

KAFACI aims to contribute to food security and enhanced economic growth in Africa through modernized agriculture by drawing on the experience, knowledge and resources of the Republic of Korea.

The partnership will broaden the African rice gene pool with high yield and quality traits from Korean rice germplasm. It will also enhance African rice breeding capacity by training national rice breeders, particularly in the application of anther culture, which has high potential to increase rice yields in Africa. For this, facilities for anther-culture work will be set up at the regional training center of AfricaRice located at its regional station in Saint Louis, Senegal.

The partnership will support seed multiplication and dissemination efforts for newly released improved rice varieties, which will contribute to strengthening national seed systems. It will also help establish a strong research network of African and RDA scientists working on rice breeding for Africa.

The project will be co-coordinated by a Korean rice breeding expert put at the disposal of AfricaRice by RDA and an AfricaRice breeder. It will cover the following 20 African countries: Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique. Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Partnership activities will be carried out in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in a letter of agreement under the framework of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) entitled “The Africa Rice Development Partnership,” which was signed on 19 October 2016 in Jeonju, Republic of Korea. 

Signatories to the MoU are Mr Hwang-keun Chung, RDA Administrator; Dr Harold Roy-Macauley, AfricaRice Director General; Dr Joseph De Vries, Head of Agricultural Transformation Program, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on behalf of Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA; Dr Craig L. Nessler, Texas A&M AgriLife Research Director and Dr Edwin C. Price, Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University (ConDev) Center Director.

“This is a momentous achievement, which will allow AfricaRice to invigorate its effort to reach the common objectives of improving food security and reducing poverty in Africa, through advances in rice research and training of rice breeders,” stated Dr Roy-Macauley.

The joint initiative comes at an opportune moment as demand for rice is growing at more than 6% per year in Africa – faster than for any other food staple, because of changing consumer preferences and growing urban populations. Rice harvest in Africa is predicted to reach an all-time high of about 29.7 million tons in 2016, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

However, African farmers mainly grow rice under rainfed conditions, obtaining yields of around 2 tons per hectare. This is much lower than average rice yields world-wide at around 4 tons per hectare, with the result that much of the rice consumed in Africa is imported from Asia. Rice self-sufficiency objectives are being pursued by many African countries as a means to achieve food security and reduce the rice import bill. 

The Republic of Korea has rich resources of germplasm known as Tongil-type rice that has a yield potential of 6 to 8 tons per hectare of milled rice. The high-yielding Tongil variety, derived from indica-japonica cross, sparked the Green Revolution in the Republic of Korea, transforming the country from a rice importer to a self-sufficient producer in the 1970s. “The Tongil-type rice could be used to develop a new generation of rice varieties for Africa,” stated Dr Roy-Macauley.

The new RDA-AfricaRice initiative will build on the success of a joint pilot project that evaluated Korean rice breeding lines at the AfricaRice regional research station in Saint Louis in Senegal in 2015/2016. Some of the lines have been nominated for multi-environment trials through the Africa-wide Rice Breeding Task Force. Several improved varieties obtained from crosses between elite Korean and African varieties are currently being tested.

The pilot project conducted two training courses for national rice breeders over the period of 2015 and 2016, with support from Korean and AfricaRice scientists. The courses resulted in a total of 34 scientists from 22 African countries trained in modern rice breeding methods and techniques. 

The countries that benefitted from this training are as follows: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Over the past two years, several exchange visits by high-level Korean and AfricaRice delegations have taken place to prepare the groundwork for the long-term partnership. 

“We strongly believe that this landmark initiative will contribute to boosting the rice sector in Africa and will emerge as an exemplary model of technical development cooperation for improving the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers and consumers,” said Dr Roy-Macauley.

AfricaRice redynamise les programmes de sélection rizicole en Afrique avec l’appui de la République de Corée

L’Administration du développement rural (RDA) de la République de Corée et le Centre du riz pour l’Afrique (AfricaRice) ont conclu un partenariat stratégique dans le cadre de l’Initiative afro-coréenne de coopération sur l’alimentation et l’agriculture en Afrique (KAFACI) pour accélérer la mise au point d’une nouvelle génération de variétés de riz productives et tolérantes aux stress en vue de satisfaire les besoins urgents des producteurs et des consommateurs de riz en Afrique.

KAFACI vise à contribuer à la sécurité alimentaire et à une croissance économique renforcées en Afrique par une agriculture modernisée en capitalisant sur l’expérience, la connaissance et les ressources de la République de Corée.

Le partenariat va élargir le patrimoine génétique du riz africain avec des caractères liés au rendement élevé et à la qualité provenant du matériel génétique du riz coréen. Il compte également renforcer la capacité de sélection rizicole africaine par la formation de sélectionneurs riz nationaux, notamment par l’application de la culture d’anthère qui a un potentiel élevé d’accroissement des rendements rizicoles en Afrique. Pour ce faire, des infrastructures pour la culture d’anthère seront mises en place au centre de formation régional situé à la station d’AfricaRice à Saint-Louis au Sénégal.

Le partenariat appuiera des efforts de multiplication et de dissémination des semences de variétés de riz récemment homologuées, ce qui va contribuer au renforcement des systèmes semenciers nationaux. Il contribuera également à établir un fort réseau de recherche de chercheurs de la RDA et africains travaillant sur la sélection rizicole pour l’Afrique.

Le projet sera coordonné conjointement par un expert en sélection rizicole coréen mis à la disposition d’AfricaRice par le RDA et par un chercheur d’AfricaRice. Le projet couvrira les 20 pays africains suivants : Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Côte d’Ivoire, Éthiopie, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ouganda, République démocratique du Congo, Rwanda, Sénégal, Soudan, Tanzanie, Zambie et Zimbabwe.

Les activités de partenariat seront exécutées conformément aux termes et aux conditions énoncés dans une lettre d'accord établie dans le cadre d'un protocole d'accord (PA) intitulé «Partenariat de développement de la riziculture africaine » qui a été signé le 19 octobre 2016 à Jeonju, en République de Corée.

Les signataires du PA sont les suivants : M. Hwang-keun Chung, Administrateur de la RDA ; Dr 
Harold Roy-Macauley, Directeur général d’AfricaRice ; Dr Joseph DeVries, Responsable du Programme de transformation agricole à l’Alliance pour une révolution verte en Afrique (AGRA au nom de Dr Agnes Kalibata, président de l’AGRA ; Dr Craig L. Nessler, Directeur de recherche AgriLife de l’Université A&M du Texas, et Dr Edwin C. Price, Directeur du Centre sur les conflits et le développement à l’Université A&M du Texas (ConDev).

« Il s’agit là d’un partenariat d’une grande importance qui permettra à AfricaRice de redoubler d'efforts pour atteindre les objectifs communs d’amélioration de la sécurité alimentaire et de réduction de la pauvreté en Afrique à travers des avancées dans la recherche rizicole et la formation de sélectionneurs riz, » a déclaré Dr Roy-Macauley.

Cette initiative conjointe arrive à un moment opportun alors que la demande de riz croît de plus de 6 % par an en Afrique – bien plus vite que n’importe quelle autre denrée de base, du fait du changement des préférences des consommateurs et de l’augmentation des populations urbaines. Selon les prévisions de l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture (
FAO), les récoltes de riz en Afrique devraient atteindre un niveau des plus élevés avec près de 29,7 millions de tonnes en 2016.

Cependant, les agriculteurs africains cultivent principalement du riz pluvial, obtenant des rendements d'environ 2 tonnes par hectare. C'est beaucoup moins que les rendements rizicoles moyens dans le monde, qui s’élèvent à environ 4 tonnes par hectare, par conséquent une grande partie du riz consommé en Afrique est importé de l'Asie. Les objectifs d’autosuffisance rizicole sont poursuivis par de nombreux pays africains comme moyen d’atteindre la sécurité alimentaire et de réduire la facture des importations de riz.

La République de Corée possède des ressources génétiques, connues sous l’appellation riz de type Tongil, doté d’un potentiel de rendement élevé (près de 6-8 tonnes par ha de riz usiné). La variété Tongil à haut rendement, issue du croisement indica-japonica a lancé la Révolution verte en République de Corée, transformant le pays importateur de riz en un producteur autosuffisant dans les années 1970. « Le riz de type Tongil pourrait être utilisé pour mettre au point une nouvelle génération de variétés de riz pour l'Afrique, » a déclaré Dr Roy-Macauley.

La nouvelle initiative RDA-AfricaRice reposera sur le succès d’un projet pilote conjoint qui a évalué les lignées de sélection de riz coréen à la station de recherche régionale d’AfricaRice à Saint-Louis au Sénégal entre 2015 et 2016. Certaines des lignées ont été nommées pour les essais multi-environnementaux à travers le Groupe d’action Sélection rizicole à l’échelle de l’Afrique. Plusieurs variétés améliorées issues de ces croisements entre les variétés élite coréennes et les variétés africaines sont en train d’être testées.

Le projet pilote a organisé deux formations à l’intention des sélectionneurs riz nationaux africains sur la période 2015 et 2016 avec l’aide des chercheurs coréens et d’AfricaRice. Au total, 34 chercheurs provenant de 22 pays africains ont été formés aux méthodes et aux techniques modernes d'amélioration du riz.

Les pays bénéficiant de cette formation sont les suivants : Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Côte d'Ivoire, Éthiopie, Gabon, Gambie, Guinée, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Maroc, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ouganda, Rwanda, Sénégal, Soudan, Tanzanie, Zambie et Zimbabwe.

Au cours des deux dernières années, plusieurs visites d’échange de délégations de haut niveau coréennes et d’AfricaRice ont eu lieu en vue de poser les fondements de ce partenariat à long terme.

« Nous sommes convaincus que cette initiative historique va contribuer à redynamiser le secteur rizicole en Afrique, et deviendra un modèle de coopération de développement technique pour améliorer les vies et les moyens d’existence de petits producteurs et des consommateurs, » a déclaré Dr Roy-Macauley.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Can Africa feed itself?

In 2050, when the population of Africa is two and a half times larger than now, the continent will scarcely be able to grow enough food for its own population. Even if much higher yields are achieved on all current cropland, further expansion into uncultivated areas is likely and very risky due to biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Based on local data and model calculations, this was the conclusion of a study conducted by a team of researchers from Wageningen University & Research, several African institutes, and the University of Nebraska. Their findings were published in the journal PNAS of this week.

Agricultural yields per hectare in sub-Saharan Africa are currently low. For example, the maize yield is only 20% of the potential yield with good management. In comparison, the yield in the Netherlands or USA is 80% of the potential yield. Although extensive farming now satisfies most of the African population's demand for grain, in the next few decades the African population will grow by a factor of 2.6 and grain demands even 3.4 times. Therefore in 2050  self-sufficiency on existing farm land is only feasible if the yield per hectare will rise to 80% of the potential, just as in the Netherlands or the United States.

Sharp increase in yield required

During the past decade, the maize yield per hectare was less than 2 tonnes, with a very small annual increase (approximately 30 kg per hectare). In 2050, the yield must be approximately 7 tonnes per hectare. As a result, an annual increase in yield per hectare of 130 kg must be achieved starting now. “In addition, there are still possibilities to grow multiple crops per year and to expand the irrigated area, but these are options with many uncertainties,” emphasises principal investigator Martin van Ittersum of Wageningen University & Research.

If that fails, then major expansions of farmland are required, which will be at the cost of natural habitats and increased greenhouse gas emissions, or enormous grain imports that must be paid with scarce foreign exchange. In some countries, the required area is simply not available, and expansion of farmland is not sustainable, explains one of the researchers, Professor Abdullahi Bala from Nigeria. Van Ittersum: “You still hear people say that Africa can become a major grain basket of the world, but it may be very challenging for Africa to remain even self-sufficient in the future.”

Modernisation of agriculture in Africa

Consequently, according to the international research team including Kindie Tesfaye from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Ethiopia, a rapid intensification of African farming is required. He sees options that will lead to improved yields, such as grain varieties that are adapted to local conditions, and improved fertilisation and control of diseases and pests, including parasitic plants. Tesfaye also stresses the importance of improved farming with multiple crops per year and the expansion of sustainable irrigation. Van Ittersum adds: “As a result, large investments are required in research and development, in the private and public sectors, to increase production while limiting environmental impact.”

Although the researchers restricted their study to biophysical limits and possibilities, they also call for attention to market access, especially for smallholder farmers, and to transport, infrastructure, farm loans and insurance. As a successful example, co-researcher Professor Bala of the Federal University of Technology, Minna refers to a policy that is linked to the private sector, which has been used successfully to improve rice yields and cropping intensity in Nigeria.

The researchers from Wageningen University & Research, and their colleagues from African research institutes and the University of Nebraska, collected data from 10 African countries which accommodate 54% of the total population of sub-Saharan Africa and which contain 58% of the total cropland on this part of the continent.

They mapped out the production and demand for five major grains maize, millet, rice, sorghum and wheat in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. They consider it unlikely that the situation is more favourable in other African countries because there the availability of arable land per capita is slightly lower.

The research was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of the Global Yield Gap Atlas, a project that is jointly led by Wageningen University & Research and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in the United States.

PNAS Publication

Can sub-Saharan Africa feed itself? M.K. van Ittersum, L.G.J. van Bussel, J. Wolf et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) Online Early Edition the week of 12 December 2016.

For more information, please contact Professor of Plant Production Systems, Martin van Ittersum, Wageningen University & Research, tel. +31 (0)317 482 382,, or science information officer Jac Niessen, tel. +31 (0)317 485003, email

SourcePress release Wageningen UR, no. 111, 12 December 2016 

Note : All the rice yield gap analyses considered in this study have been carried out by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) scientists Dr P A J van Oort and Dr K Saito, who are co-authors of the paper.