Concrete action plans developed to urgently stimulate rice production in 11 African countries
as an immediate follow-up to the Rome World Food Summit
17 June 2008, Cotonou, Benin – In response to the current soaring rice prices, an Emergency Rice Initiative for Africa has just been launched to provide urgent assistance to rice-growing countries in the continent in four major areas: seed; fertilizer; best-bet technologies; and post-harvest and marketing.
Launched jointly by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IFDC, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Emergency Rice Initiative will operate under the framework of the FAO Soaring Food Prices Initiative.
“Our primary aim is to enhance the capacity of our member countries to significantly increase their rice production as of 2008 and 2009,” said Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Director General of the Africa Rice Center, an association of African member countries and one of the 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
Initially, 11 countries have been selected for the Emergency Rice Initiative: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. It is expected that more countries will be brought in, depending on the funding availability.
The immediate priority for the Initiative is to kick-start rice seed production during the current rainy season and the following off-season, so that sufficient quantities of seed of improved rice varieties for major ecologies are available for sowing in 2009 in the selected countries.
To draw up concrete national action plans, a workshop was held, 9-12 June, at the Africa Rice Center in Cotonou, Benin. Participants included representatives from the selected countries and from the Africa Rice Center, FAO, IFDC, CRS, IFAD, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), African Development Bank (AfDB), Sasakawa-Global 2000 (SG 2000), farmers’ organization (ROPPA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Banque ouest africaine pour le développement (BOAD) and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Participants analyzed the potential to produce additional rice per selected country, including the identification of targeted ecologies, number of farmers, and anticipated production gains per major region.
They also explored sustainable mechanisms for seed production and distribution as well as for mineral fertilizer procurement and distribution. The Initiative will build on the successful experiences of CRS and IFDC in the use of voucher system to distribute seed and fertilizer to farmers.
The Africa Rice Center – in collaboration with IRRI, FAO and other development partners, such as CRS and SG 2000 – was asked to play a key role in enhancing Africa’s rice research for development capacity and in facilitating access to rice information and knowledge so as to ensure that all the investments and efforts put into the Initiative can lead to sustainable rice sectors in the selected countries.
The workshop highlighted that in order to achieve sustainable increases in rice production, greater importance should be given to the value chain approach to develop the competitiveness and the market desirability of rice production in Africa.
The Emergency Rice Initiative has been designed to be country-driven and the national action plans will be finalized in the countries. “We are very happy that representatives of the donor community who are present expressed their willingness to support the implementation of the action plans,” said Mr Jean Prosper Koyo, FAO representative in Benin.
Participants welcomed the strong commitment of all international, regional and national partners to the Initiative and appealed for sustained support to African agriculture.