Priority Areas for Increasing Africa’s Rice Production

Half of the rice consumed in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is imported, and with Africa’s population continuing to grow; experts say rice production will need to dramatically increase if the continent is to keep up with the rapidly growing demand.

Since 2007, rice production in Africa has increased by almost 60 percent, with most of the gains attributed to the expansion of rice cultivation areas, while the growth of average yields has remained stagnant.

Takanori Satoyama coordinates the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), a consultative group of donors, research institutions, and other key stakeholders supporting African Governments to develop and implement National Rice Development Strategies (NRDS), a commodity specific strategy, aimed at strengthening domestic rice production.

He says all stakeholders need to make continual efforts to accelerate rice yield growth.

“Average rice yields in sub-Sahara Africa are approximately two tons per hectare (t/ha), while, in Asia and other parts of the world, they are more than 4t/ha.

“This leaves room for improving the efficiency of African rice farmers, and means we need to focus resources on increasing the adoption of good crop management practices and strengthening access to improved technologies like seeds and fertilizer, to help farmers increase crop yields,” Satoyama said.

In November, CARD held its sixth general meeting, where around 200 participants from across the world worked to identify the key elements needed for increasing rice production in Africa. These key elements included the identification and prioritization of suitable areas for rice production, setting realistic targets for production increases and ensuring approaches are tailored to the conditions of the respective areas.

There was also a call from the private sector for the implementation of policies to provide an enabling business environment to further enhance rice business and market-driven rice sector development in Africa.

“Experience shows, the active contribution of the private sector in the dissemination of improved technologies and good cropping practices helps lead to increased crop production,” Satoyama said.

“From CARD’s perspective, we will continue to assist member countries in the implementation of the right set of policies, through the provision of technical and coordination support,” Satoyama added.

While the challenge to increase rice production may seem daunting, there are examples of how the right market conditions and incentives have led to positive changes in production.

Between 2007 and 2013, Ethiopia achieved a 16-fold increase in rice production; with yields growing by 70 percent and a 1,000 percent increase in the area cultivated under rice.

Over the same period, rice yields in Senegal – the second largest importer of rice after Nigeria – increased by 66 percent from 2.4 t/ha to 4 t/h, with an additional 27,000ha planted under rice. Combined, the yield increases and the expanded rice cultivation areas helped Senegal produce 380,000 tons of rice in 2014, an increase of 249,000tons on the 2007 production level.

While impressive, Senegal still only grows 30 percent of the 1.4million tons it consumes each year, highlighting the gap between domestic production and self-sufficiency.

CARD was established in 2008 by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) with the goal of doubling rice production in Africa from 14 million tons/year to 28 million tons/year by 2018.

The wide-ranging coalition includes development partners, like the African Development Bank, Africa Rice, the International Rice Research Institute the UNFAO, and the World Bank; and 23 member countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, and Tanzania. CARD also has strong network with private sector partners, including the small and medium scale entrepreneurs such as Seed Trade Association of Ghana and large-scale multi-corporations such as Olam International Ltd.

CARD works to provide technical support and capacity building for member countries for them to develop and implement NRDS. CARD also functions as a platform to encourage the sharing of resources and knowledge between stakeholders.

This platform makes it easier for member countries to receive input from key organizations such as Africa Rice and the International Rice Research Institute when developing their NRDS, the roadmaps that outline how each respective country will enhance their domestic rice sectors.

Upon the development of NRDS, the governments of CARD countries inform development partners and investors to request matching funding and investment ideas at the country level. An example is a US$14 million World Bank funded project in Tanzania that is working to strengthen smallholder farmer access to new technologies, improve market access and build capacity for irrigation development. The Tanzanian NRDS and its related concept notes were used to identify industry needs during the design phase of the project.

In the seven years since CARD was established, Satoyama says these NRDS have resulted in the implementation of 100 projects across 13 countries.

“NRDS are developed, implemented and owned by the respective Governments.

“We are here to help build capacity and provide the links as governments work with their respective stakeholders to identify their own goals and needs,” he says.

“CARD is unique; we are a facilitator, building the links between governments, development partners, and donors, in a common goal to transform Africa’s rice sector,” Takanori Satoyama adds.

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