3 May 2007, COTONOU, Benin — According to the latest figures from the FAO Rice Market Monitor, the paddy production in Africa has gone up for the 6th consecutive year, reaching 21.6 million tonnes in 2006 — 6% above 2005 — and NERICA has been identified as a major factor in this growth.
Attributing the record harvest to favorable weather conditions and “the positive effects of the adoption of NERICA rice varieties,” the FAO Monitor adds that substantial production increases were reported in Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.
It goes on to state that “gains were spectacular in Burkina Faso, where production rose by 102% to 189,175 tonnes. Production also rose extensively in Mali, which harvested over 1 million tonnes in 2006, up from 946, 000 tonnes in 2005, as excellent growing conditions boosted yields.”
“We do not think that it is just a coincidence that Burkina Faso and Mali have had these spectacular successes. They were the first countries to evaluate and release the lowland NERICA varieties developed recently by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) in close association with national programs,” said Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, WARDA Director General.
Describing the recent surge in demand for NERICA seed in Nigeria, Dr Seck said that WARDA has been informed that the country was able to reduce its rice imports in 2005 by over 800,000 tonnes, thanks to the strong measures taken by the Nigerian Government to increase domestic rice production and decrease rice imports. Nigeria is the largest importer of rice in the world.
West Africa is not the only region where NERICA is performing spectacularly. The varieties have leapfrogged from Guinea to Uganda in Eastern Africa, where they are blazing a new trail of success.
WARDA has just been informed by the Uganda Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Program (APEP), supported by the USAID that more than 16,000 refugee families from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi residing in Uganda are set to grow NERICA. This initiative is being supported by APEP-USAID and the Ugandan government to address the food security problem and raise incomes from their produce.
In addition, 750 Ugandan farmers, who were displaced by the civil conflicts, have been trained in NERICA production as part of a training-of-trainers program with support from APEP-USAID. Also in Uganda, Japan and FAO have launched a US$ 1 million project to promote NERICA for which WARDA is providing the technical support.
“NERICA is also being increasingly used in agricultural rehabilitation efforts in post-conflict countries, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda,” said Dr Seck, explaining that the African Rice Initiative (ARI), managed by WARDA, is frequently approached for NERICA seeds to assist in such efforts.
“We are, therefore, exploring with all our partners a sustainable strategy to address the ever-increasing demand for NERICA seeds across sub-Saharan Africa,” Dr Seck added.