Thursday, October 17, 2019

AfricaRice Annual Report 2018 highlights work on sustainable rice production in the face of climate emergency

The sense of urgency regarding climate change issues is growing around the world and in Africa, in particular, which is most at risk to the negative effects of climate change. AfricaRice scientists and their colleagues have paid considerable attention to climate change and its effects on the rice sector in Africa.

The AfricaRice Annual Report 2018 focuses on the Center’s continued work on sustainable rice production in the face of climate emergency. The following major research thrusts are particularly highlighted:
  • development of climate-smart rice varieties
  • crop-establishment method for flash flood-prone areas in inland valleys – the future ‘rice basket’ of the continent
  • drought prediction models
  • identification of valuable heat-tolerance genes from African rice (Oryza glaberrima)
  • impact of smart-valleys lowland development approach, and
  • promotion of climate-smart, sustainable best practices among African rice farmers
Other topics covered in the report include the Center’s focus on issues that contribute significantly to upgrading the rice value chain across Africa: gender and small-scale mechanization; rice husk gasifier; youth entrepreneurship in rice value chain; and partnerships, especially with FAO, for capacity strengthening along the rice value chain.

The report also provides brief information on 2018 publications, training, finance, donors and the Board of Trustees.

To read the report online  or download a pdf copy, please click here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

AfricaRice commits to global effort towards healthy diets on World Food Day 2019

The theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Our actions are our future – healthy diets for a #ZeroHunger World.” Improving food and nutrition security in Africa, where rice has become a strategic commodity for food security, is an integral part of the mission and work of AfricaRice.

“Rice is West Africa’s single most important source of dietary energy and the third most important for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole,” stated AfricaRice Director General Dr Harold Roy-Macauley. “Thus, improvement of the nutritional quality of rice-based diets is crucial to improving the health of African populations.”

Over the years, food security efforts have, in general, aimed at enhancing the availability of food by increasing production. Equal attention has, however, not been given to improving the quality of food. The Zero Hunger goal, or SDG2, specifies not only the need to end hunger by 2030 but, also, the need to improve access to nutritious food while using sustainable agricultural methods.

With the rise in food insecurity and obesity due to unhealthy diets, not only in developed countries, but also in low-income countries, this year’s World Food Day theme draws attention to the need for addressing malnutrition in all its forms.

In this context, it is interesting to note that a new international study by Japanese researchers, presented at the 2019 European Congress on Obesity, reveals that obesity levels are “substantially lower” in countries where rice consumption is high (150 grams per day) compared to countries with lower average rice intake (14 g per day).

The authors suggest that eating rice seems to protect against obesity, because the fiber, nutrients and plant compounds found in whole grains may increase feelings of fullness and prevent overeating. Rice has less fat and is rich in resistant starch, which can have several health benefits, including improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, and various benefits for digestion.

The authors caution, however, that people who overeat rice are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome and diabetes. To prevent obesity, therefore, an appropriate amount of rice intake might be necessary.

As part of its mission, AfricaRice seeks to develop healthier and more nutritious rice. The Center has developed an improved rice parboiling technology called GEM in short for ‘Grain quality enhancer, Energy-efficient and durable Material,’ which produces rice of high physical and eating quality compared with the traditional technology. It is more economical, less time-consuming and safer to operate, particularly for female and younger processors.

Parboiling of rice or partially boiling rice in the husk, is done in general to reduce the breakage in milling. AfricaRice researchers have found that if it is properly carried out, rice parboiling significantly improves the physical, eating and nutritional quality of the milled rice compared to non-parboiled rice.  

The nutritive value of the milled rice is enhanced by parboiling, because the micronutrients present in the bran, which is usually removed in the whitening process in the rice mill, are carried into the endosperm.

This special processing renders parboiled rice a better source of fiber, protein, calcium, potassium, thiamine, niacin and vitamin B-6, with a lower glycemic index and higher resistant starch content than regular white rice. Parboiled rice is therefore more nutritious than white rice.

In addition, parboiled rice has been shown to possess some unique cooking, flavor, and textural characteristics, which are appealing to certain groups of consumers. It is less liable to insect damage than milled raw rice and has an improved storage life.

Slower-digesting rice is a healthy option to help people with diabetes. AfricaRice is exploring the development of rice-based products with slower digestibility through processing.

AfricaRice recognizes, however, that rice cannot meet all nutritional needs and is therefore actively supporting dietary diversification in rice-based systems.

“We are immensely pleased to join the rest of the world in celebrating the World Food Day and contribute to its goal of healthy diets for a #ZeroHunger World,” Dr Roy-Macauley stated.

AfricaRice rejoint l’effort mondial pour une alimentation saine à l’occasion de la Journée mondiale de l'alimentation 2019

Le thème de la Journée mondiale de l'alimentation de cette année est « Agir pour l’avenir – une alimentation saine pour un monde #Faim Zéro ». L'amélioration de la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle en Afrique, où le riz est devenu une denrée stratégique pour la sécurité alimentaire, fait partie intégrante de la mission et des travaux d'AfricaRice.

« Le riz est la principale source d'énergie alimentaire en Afrique de l'Ouest et la troisième plus importante pour l'Afrique subsaharienne dans son ensemble », a déclaré Dr Harold Roy-Macauley, Directeur général d’AfricaRice. « De ce fait, l'amélioration de la qualité nutritionnelle de l’alimentation à base de riz est cruciale pour améliorer la santé des populations en Afrique ».

Au fil des ans, les efforts en matière de sécurité alimentaire en général ont visé à améliorer la disponibilité des aliments en augmentant la production, mais sans accorder la même attention à l'amélioration de la qualité. L'objectif Faim Zéro, ou ODD2, précise non seulement la nécessité d'éradiquer la faim d'ici 2030, mais aussi la nécessité d'améliorer l'accès à des aliments nutritifs tout en utilisant des méthodes agricoles durables.

Avec l'augmentation de l'insécurité alimentaire et de l'obésité due à une mauvaise alimentation, non seulement dans les pays développés, mais aussi dans les pays à faibles revenus, le thème de la Journée mondiale de l'alimentation de cette année attire l'attention sur la nécessité d’aborder la malnutrition sous toutes ses formes.

Dans ce contexte, il est intéressant de noter que selon une nouvelle étude internationale effectuée par des chercheurs japonais, présentée au Congrès européen contre l'obésité en 2019, les niveaux d'obésité sont « nettement inférieurs » dans les pays où la consommation de riz est élevée (150 grammes par jour) par rapport aux pays où la consommation moyenne de riz est plus faible (14 grammes par jour).

Les auteurs de ladite étude suggèrent que la consommation de riz semble protéger contre l'obésité, car les fibres, les nutriments et les composés végétaux présents dans les grains entiers peuvent augmenter la sensation de satiété et prévenir la suralimentation. Le riz contient moins de matières grasses et est riche en amidon résistant, ce qui peut avoir plusieurs avantages pour la santé, y compris une meilleure sensibilité à l'insuline, une baisse du taux de glycémie et divers avantages pour la digestion.

Les auteurs préviennent toutefois que les personnes qui mangent trop de riz sont plus susceptibles de développer un syndrome métabolique et le diabète. Par conséquent, pour prévenir l'obésité, une quantité appropriée de riz pourrait être nécessaire.

Dans le cadre de sa mission, AfricaRice cherche à mettre au point du riz plus sain et plus nutritif. Le Centre a mis au point une technologie améliorée d’étuvage du riz appelée GEM, qui produit du riz dont la qualité physique et gustative est supérieure à celui issu des méthodes traditionnelles. Il est plus économique, moins long et plus sûr à utiliser, en particulier pour les femmes et les jeunes transformateurs.

L'étuvage du riz ou l'ébullition partielle du riz dans sa balle, est généralement effectué pour réduire le taux de brisures pendant l’usinage. Les chercheurs d'AfricaRice ont constaté que si correctement réalisé, l'étuvage du riz améliore considérablement la qualité physique, gustative et nutritionnelle du riz usiné par rapport au riz non étuvé.

La valeur nutritive du riz blanchi est augmentée par l’étuvage, car les micronutriments présents dans le son, qui sont généralement éliminés lors du processus de blanchiment dans la rizerie, sont transportés dans l'endosperme. Le riz étuvé est donc plus nutritif que le riz blanc.

En raison de cette transformation spéciale, le riz étuvé est une meilleure source de fibres, de protéines, de calcium, de potassium, de thiamine, de niacine et de vitamine B-6 que le riz blanc ordinaire et a un indice glycémique plus faible et une teneur en amidon résistant plus élevée.

De plus, il a été démontré que le riz étuvé possède des caractéristiques liées à la cuisson, au parfum et à la texture particulières qui plaisent à certains groupes de consommateurs. Il est moins susceptible d'être infesté par les insectes que le riz cru blanc et a une durée de conservation plus longue.

Le riz à digestion lente est une option saine pour aider les personnes atteintes de diabète. AfricaRice envisage la mise au point de produits à base de riz à digestibilité plus lente grâce à une transformation appropriée.

AfricaRice toutefois reconnaît que le riz ne peut répondre à tous les besoins nutritionnels et de ce fait soutient activement la diversification alimentaire dans les systèmes à base riz.

« Nous sommes extrêmement heureux de nous joindre au reste du monde pour célébrer la Journée mondiale de l'alimentation et de contribuer à son objectif d’alimentation saine pour un monde # Faim Zéro », a déclaré Dr Roy-Macauley.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Malagasy women farmers lead the way in closing the rice yield gap through Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)

(Blog post courtesy of AfricaRice-Madagascar team based on discussions on the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women 2019 with three lead women rice farmers in Vakinankaratra region, empowered with GAP training thanks to the TAAT Rice Compact.)

The Rice Compact of the Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT) program is being implemented in Madagascar in the region of Vakinankaratra. During the 2018-2019 cropping season, its objective was the dissemination of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to rice farmers by establishing 45 demonstration plots managed by lead farmers who were trained in GAP at the beginning of the season.

AfricaRice collaborated with two organizations namely VFTV-FIFATA[1], an umbrella organization of farmers' associations and the GTDR-D[2] responsible for rural development in the region. More than 2,400 producers participated and learned about GAP through the organized field days and regular exchanges within their groups and communities. Among the 45 lead farmers who allocated a plot of their farms for GAP application and demonstration were 14 female farmers, three women from VFTV-FIFATA and 11 women associated with GTDR-D. On the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women 2019, we discussed with three of these lead women farmers, living in the district of Antsirabe 2, Vakinankaratra.

Mme RATISBONNE Nasolonjanahary Hortense, who is simply known as Mme Nasolo, is the president of Manovosoa Association of women in the rural community of Ambano, which currently includes 13 members. Mme Nasolo got the best yield of all the demonstration plots supervised by GTDR-D: in the rainfed ecology, the rice yield in her plot was close to 4 t/ha. According to her, the quantity could have been doubled if the crop calendar was respected.

Mme RAVONIHERIMANANTSOA Haja Claire or Mme Avotra as named after the rural women association “Avotra” for which she is the president in the rural community of Fandrendrano Andranomanelatra, estimated her yield to be about 2.4 t/ha, the biggest challenge being the intense hailstorms that occurred in March 2019 and destroyed her crop. She said that however, in comparison with other rice crops around her field, hers was the best, most probably due to the variety used (FOFIFA 174) which resulted in a high number of tillers.

The same story was echoed by Mme RAHARIMALA Céléstine of the rural community of Soanindrariny and a member of VFTV-FIFATA at Ambano, who, on her 1.5 are[3] demonstration plot in the lowland irrigated ecology, doubled her rice yield from 90 kg with own practice to 180 kg with GAP application.

The three women credit their achievements to GAP. According to Mme Nasolo, , farmers just used a “tracer” earlier for sowing, which makes straight lines on the soil and they would just follow it to manually drill the rice seeds. But they did not know the seed rate.  The same practice was followed in the application of organic and chemical fertilizers as they would just broadcast fertilizers without knowing the appropriate quantity. 

But thanks to the TAAT Rice Compact and equipped with GAP knowledge, they used the 20x20 cm space between holes, noting that “there is a big difference, now we know exactly the number of grains per hole, which should be from four to seven grains and the fertilizer quantity is also calculated – one hand per hole for organic fertilizer – and we do not broadcast any more. For chemical fertilizer it is 2.5 kg NPK/are and 1.5 kg Urea/are now, while previously each application of NPK could for instance be as high as 3 to 4 kg/are”. 

Also, while she was weeding only two times earlier, she did it four times after GAP training, surprisingly with a lower number of laborers and consequently at a lower cost; for example, before she needed 20 man-days labor for the two times of weeding, but now the total is only about 12 man-days labor for the four times of weeding.

Mme Nasolo explained that for the first weeding (15 days after seeding), they practiced manual weeding, for the second and third weeding (always 15 days after the previous weeding) they combined manual and mechanical weeding, and for the last weeding, it was manual weeding. “My neighbor farmers asked me about this, and they did not believe when I said that I did not use chemical herbicide as there are fewer weeds”; said Mr Nasolo, and adding, “I think I would have got around 6 t/ha if the beginning of the crop season was earlier”.

Mme Avotra who followed the same practices agreed that by putting many grains per hole and using a lot of seeds, she believed earlier that she would get more yield because of the small distance between holes, but with GAP, she reduced the seed quantity. The application of fertilizer used to be random, as “I used only what I had without any calculation of appropriate quantity, putting seed, chemical and organic fertilizers together in the holes”. She learnt to spread organic fertilizer before plowing and to put only NPK when sowing.  Ms Avotra also noted the advantage of regular weeding, compared to the earlier case of weeding when she was free, implying that there were a lot of weeds. She declared that with GAP she spent less time in weeding and there were fewer weeds.

Rice farming in the irrigated lowland involves transplanting. Mme Celestine says that with GAP, she learnt how to make the seeds germinate quickly by soaking in water for 36 hours and then covering them in a bag for 48 hours for uniform sprouting. Consequently, “within 15 days after sowing, we can transplant young seedlings with two leaves whereas in our previous practices, we were transplanting 3-week old seedlings”, she said.

Moreover, she was planting four or five seedlings per hill producing only about 10 tillers, whereas with GAP, the number of tillers increased to 30 per hill, hence the increase in yield. Mme Celestine said: “it seems like I really played when I transplanted; it was the same case for weeding as there were fewer weeds and the spacing really facilitated the mechanical weeding. Other farmers and I did not believe until we saw the yield”.

Like other women above, Mme Celestine was earlier using a small quantity of organic manure and did not use chemical fertilizer at all. With GAP, she spread 3 carts of organic manure three days before harrowing, added 3 kg/are of NPK just after transplanting and 2kg/are of Urea after the first mechanical weeding and then another application of 1.5 kg/are of NPK after the second weeding. Besides, she placed small irrigation canals on all the edges of her plot to ease the water circulation thereby also preventing insects from entering the rice field.

The three lead women farmers are fully convinced about the advantages of GAP: in terms of the reduced seed rate, reduced labor and increased yield. Mme Celestine has even started to make plans for transplanting for this coming season, noting that previously she used 50 kg for 30 ares, but now she needs only 10 kg of seeds for 30 ares with these new techniques, transplanting at 20x25 cm spacing.

While the women are ready to continue the GAP practices and lead the labor and fellow farmers, they anticipate challenges in acquiring the appropriate quantity of inorganic fertilizer for all their plots due to lack of funds. Despite these challenges, having noticed the big difference between their usual practices and the results following good practices, they will certainly continue and extend GAP on other plots. As true leaders, they indicated to do so especially on the first set of demonstration plots, because “farmers don’t believe until they see for themselves the results,” as Mme Nasolo said.

Mme Celestine is anticipating a special training to be provided by VFTV-FIFATA, as there are many farmers (around 40 farmers) who showed real interest in GAP. She already has plans to start the rice farming activities for this season, guiding the other members of her association and neighborhood farmers, who are interested with GAP and teaching them the practices.

The three women indicated that they have chosen to keep the harvested produce as seed for the coming season for them and for the other members of their associations, who were very involved and followed each activity on their demonstration plots and other farmers in the neighborhood.

Mme Celestine however added that they also need to learn improved techniques since the yield is not only due to the choice of variety and seeds but also because of following all the GAP.  She concluded by saying “I really see the difference with these new techniques, my dream is that after one or two years, with my plots of 30 area, my family can be self-sufficient, and we can even get a surplus of 1 ton so that we can buy enough inorganic fertilizers”. 

The TAAT program, initiated by the African Development Bank (AfDB) as part of its Feed Africa Initiative, seeks to improve the business of agriculture across Africa by raising agricultural productivity, mitigating risks and promoting diversification and processing in 18 agricultural value chains within eight Priority Intervention Areas (PIA). The TAAT Rice Compact, led by AfricaRice is currently being implemented in seven focus countries, including Madagascar.

[1] FIkambanana FAmpivoarana ny TAntsaha ou association pour le progrès des paysans (
[2] Groupe de Travail pour le Développement Regional Durable
[3] 1 are=100 square meters