A product-oriented strategic plan presenting a clear vision of success to help Africa achieve almost 90 percent self-sufficiency in rice by year 2020 – with at least 10 countries projected to reach over 100 percent self-sufficiency – has just been unveiled by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice).
Despite significant increases in rice production in several African countries over the last few years, the continent imports nearly 40 percent of its rice requirements, which makes it highly exposed to international market shocks.
“Our new 10-year strategic plan shows clearly that rice sector development can become an engine for economic growth across the continent,” said AfricaRice Director General Dr. Papa Abdoulaye Seck.
The plan takes into account the rapid changes taking place in the global and African contexts and builds on the Center’s accumulated knowledge, experience and partnership.
Its vision of success, which is linked with the Millennium Development Goals, the vision and objectives of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the system-level outcomes of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, includes the following projections:
- With the productivity-enhancing research and development (R&D) activities presented in the strategy, rice production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) will increase from 18.4 million tons in 2010 to 46.8 million tons by 2020.
- As a result of income benefits from the increased rice supply, at least 11 million people (including rice farmers, consumers, processors and traders) in the continent will be lifted above the $1.25 poverty line by 2020 and about 5.6 million undernourished people will reach caloric sufficiency.
- New “future-ready” rice-based production systems will have been developed with farmers to respond to the challenge of climate change and increasing water scarcity.
- SSA will have improved R&D capacity by 2020, through at least 30 PhD and MSc fellowships per year and the training of about 100 technicians per year, with at least one third of fellowships and internships reserved for women.
The strategy articulates seven research-for-development (R4D) priority areas, identified through a systematic process involving extensive consultations with stakeholders and based on household surveys and national statistics in SSA:
- Conserving rice genetic resources and providing smallholder farmers with climate-resilient rice varieties that are better adapted to production environments and consumer preferences
- Improving rural livelihoods by closing yield gaps and through sustainable intensification and diversification of rice-based systems
- Achieving socially acceptable expansion of rice-producing areas, while addressing environmental concerns
- Creating market opportunities for smallholder farmers and processors by improving the quality and the competitiveness of locally produced rice and rice products
- Facilitating the development of the rice value chain through improved technology targeting and evidence-based policy-making
- Mobilizing co-investments and linking with development partners and the private sector to stimulate uptake of rice knowledge and technologies
- Strengthening the capacities of national rice research and extension agents and rice value-chain actors.
The R4D strategy will be implemented mainly under the umbrella of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), a CGIAR Research Program, in close collaboration with a broad range of partners, notably the national programs in Africa through the recently revamped Africa-wide Rice Task Forces.
In line with the major shift in focus of the Center’s strategy from supply-driven research to more demand- or market-driven research, research outputs will be integrated in ‘Rice Sector Development Hubs’ (‘good practice areas’) to achieve development outcomes and impact. Rice Sector Development Hubs involve large groups of farmers (1000–5000) and other value-chain actors, such as rice millers, input dealers and rice marketers.
Complementing the many ongoing national, regional and international efforts to boost Africa’s rice sector, the strategy is aligned with the CAADP Pillar 4 and envisages stronger collaboration with regional forums and economic communities in the continent.
The plan was endorsed by the Center’s Board of Trustees and approved by its Council of Ministers in September 2011 in Banjul, The Gambia, on recommendation by the National Experts Committee, comprising the Directors General of AfricaRice’s 24 member countries.
“As an association of African member countries and an international Center of the CGIAR Consortium, AfricaRice is ideally positioned to coordinate the implementation of the new strategy in close collaboration with its partners in order to boost Africa’s rice sector and to achieve the ‘rice revolution’ the continent so badly needs,” said Dr. Seck.
As a complement to this vision of African rice R4D, a development plan is being prepared that demonstrates the changes and resources that need to be put in place for the Center to fulfill its new strategic plan.