Product line 6.4. Effective systems for large-scale adoption of rice technologies in Africa

Rationale

Recent years have been characterized by a sharp decline in global rice stocks and widely fluctuating rice prices. Africa’s dependence on imports is clearly not sustainable. Commitment at the national and regional level and from the donors’ side is mounting to boost Africa’s rice sector and invest in production, processing, storage, and distribution, and in marketing infrastructure. 
Research can play an essential catalyzing role in the development of the rice sector in Africa but, in the past, links between research and development efforts have been suboptimal at best. Moreover, with few exceptions (most notably Egypt), the research and extension capacity in Africa is extremely weak. Much better coordination between research and development efforts and commitment at national and regional levels to hire, train, and retain new staff in rice reseach and extension will be needed. Research and extension efforts also need to acknowledge the importance of women in rice farming and rice value chain development.
There is therefore a strong need for a pro-active role by GRiSP partners to ensure that research products reach many more prospective users in Africa than through research networks alone. It will also be crucial to ensure that products reduce the burden of rice farming on women and make it an attractive occupation for young people. 
        The Africa Rice Center as an association of 24 member countries has had since its inception as the West Africa Rice Development Association a mandate to actively support the growth of the rice sector in Africa. The Center has vast experience in this domain and it created a special unit of extension agronomists in 2008 (RiceTIME, where TIME stands for training, information management, and extension linkages) to more effectively respond to the rice crisis, focusing entirely on this product line. This unit will be strengthened to include value chain development and training expertise via a partnership with ICRA (International Center for development-oriented Research in Agriculture). Small-scale mechanization of rice production will be among the key focus areas in PL 6.4.
 

Box 18. Transforming rice production across sub-Saharan Africa through mechanization

The annual consumption of rice in sub-Saharan Africa is increasing by 6% each year and nearly half of it is being imported to satisfy this rising demand, costing about $3.6 billion annually. The lack of labor and efficient farm implements results in late planting on poorly prepared lands that need more water and yield low harvests because of poor fertilizer efficiency, uneven ripening, weeds, and pest damage. Delays during harvesting, threshing, and drying combined with poor postharvest treatment and storage can reduce the value of milled rice by 20–50% on the market. 

AfricaRice, IRRI together with CARD, national governments, NGOs, and commercial companies, will spearhead the local adaptation and development of sustainable business models for small-scale mechanization in Africa. Crop management systems will be improved and small equipment introduced to reduce labor requirements, improve timeliness, close yield gaps, reduce the risk of crop failure, and provide a power source for pumping water, crop threshing, and rice milling. These efforts will also create new business opportunities for local entrepreneurs, cooperatives, small companies, and others along the whole value chain. Training programs for specialists and farmers will be an integral part of the work.

Activities

Through this product line, GRiSP partners in Africa will link up with development partners and investment projects to ensure large-scale adoption of rice technologies and principles in Africa. A key partner will be the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), regrouping major rice research and extension institutions and donors (African Development Bank, AfricaRice, AGRA, FARA, FAO, International Fund for Agricultural Development, IRRI, JICA, JIRCAS, NEPAD, World Bank), which aims to double rice production between 2008 and 2018 in sub-Saharan Africa. Links will also be sought with major NGOs active in Africa, such as Africa Harvest Foundation, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA).
Activities to support the delivery of technologies and principles of rice value-chain development will include the following: 
  • Establishment of rice knowledge centers to stimulate farmer-to-farmer learning in investment projects of AfDB, IFAD, and other partners in both West and Central Africa and East and Southern Africa to stimulate participatory learning of rice principles and technologies and their out-scaling.
  • Development of learning tools, such as training modules, rural radio scripts, video, etc., in local languages.
  • Active development of rice knowledge banks and their access through innovative means, such as mobile-phone text messaging.
  • Seed-sector support, building linkages between private- and public-sector partners from breeder to certified seed and seed of acceptable quality.
  • Support for small-scale mechanization through developing local businesses
  • Capacity development of extension agents, from both governmental and nongovernmental agencies, actively targeting women leaders to play a pro-active role in their communities.
All these activities will be implemented with partners, fully exploiting knowledge available at the NARES level in Africa to ensure easy out-scaling in all of AfricaRice’s 24 member states and beyond. 

Products

    6.4.1 New models for seed multiplication and targeted delivery systems
    6.4.2 New platforms for delivering agronomic, postharvest, and processing innovations
    6.4.3 New models for jointly building extension capacity 

Partnerships

Key partners involved in this product line will include grass-roots-level partners from national extension systems and NGOs, such as CRS, to stimulate farmer adoption and adaptation of agronomic, postharvest, and processing innovations and public-private partnerships for delivery of rice technologies and business models for, for example, seed or agricultural machinery suited to farmer conditions. Large investment projects will catalyze enhanced diffusion of rice knowledge and technologies through a variety of means, including capacity development and the use of ICT tools from product line 6.1. 

Uptake and impact pathway

Ex ante impact analyses and technology targeting will guide out-scaling of rice knowledge and technologies from GRiSP research hubs to a much larger number of beneficiaries. Prototype technologies and rice knowledge (derived from GRiSP research or other sources) will be further tested and fine-tuned to local settings by applied research partners as needed in innovation hubs (“rice knowledge centers”) covering the entire rice value chain. Ready-to-go technologies and knowledge will be out-scaled through development partners, such as investment projects (e.g., of the African Development Bank, and IFAD) and major NGOs such as CRS or BRAC, promoting large-scale adoption of agronomic, postharvest, and processing innovations. The latter will provide valuable feedback to research on the performance of the research products and local adaptations made. A special effort will be made to support the development of seed multiplication and delivery systems, linking public- and private-sector partners and civil society partners. This theme will maintain strong linkages to product development under themes 2, 3, and 4 and with research networks such as the Inland Valley Consortium and the task force mechanism, most notably the Africa Rice Breeding Task Force. Impact pathway monitoring and evaluation will be through theme 5. 

Financing strategy

Financial support will come from major development partners, such as the African Development Bank through a second phase of the African Rice Initiative (ARI), from IFAD through grants to develop links with investment projects in both West and Central Africa and East and Southern Africa, and from regional economic communities, such as ECOWAS. Support to rebuild Liberia’s rice research and extension capacity is expected from the World Bank and USAID. Project funds are sought to develop rice extension capacity across the continent through collaboration with strong NARES partners, such as Egypt, Ghana, and Mali. Support from the Syngenta Foundation will be targeted at postharvest and processing innovations to boost the competitiveness of locally produced rice.

Box 19. Impact example for product 6.4.1: Outscaling of new rice varieties in Africa

Rice genetic improvement efforts by AfricaRice and its NARES partners during the past two decades has led to the development and diffusion of high-yielding and short-duration rice varieties for irrigated, upland, and lowland ecologies. Three improved varieties (Sahel 108, 201, and 202) were developed in 1994 for the Sahelian irrigated environments. The Sahel varieties have rapidly gained producers’ acceptance and are currently cultivated on about 70% of the rice area of the Senegal River Valley. Five new irrigated rice varieties (Sahel 134, 159, 208, 209, and 210) were released in 2007. A range of new interspecific rice varieties named NERICA (New Rice For Africa) were also developed by AfricaRice and its NARES partners in the mid-1990s for upland and lowland growing conditions. Now, 18 varieties are suited for upland growing conditions (NERICA1 to NERICA18) and 60 varieties are suited for lowland growing conditions (NERICA-L1 to NERICA-L60). AfricaRice and its partners joined forces to create a mechanism to scale up the dissemination of NERICA and other improved rice varieties throughout sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), namely, the African Rice Initiative (ARI) in March 2002. ARI uses participatory varietal selection (PVS) and community-based seed systems (CBSS) to expose farmers to improved varieties and help them access quality seed. Through PVS, 17 upland NERICA varieties are adopted/released in 19 SSA countries and 20 lowland NERICA varieties are adopted/released in 12 countries. ARI has also facilitated the production of large quantities of breeder, foundation, and certified seed of NERICA and other improved varieties. Between 2005 and 2009, 275 tons of breeder and foundation seeds were distributed. During the same period, 30 technicians were trained as trainers in seed production. These trainers have themselves trained 300 farmers in the seven ARI pilot countries. ARI has also helped open new market opportunities for women by developing a range of NERICA-based processed products such as cookies, cakes, pancakes, and bread.

 NERICA varieties have affected the livelihoods of rural populations across Africa. To date, about 1,000,000 ha are under improved varieties. Partnership with NARES, NGOs, and farmers’ organizations with donor support (Japan, The Rockefeller Foundation, AfDB, IFAD, UNDP, CFC, World Bank, IDRC, USAID) is the key word for ARI success. ARI has also become involved in emergency and postconflict situations to restore old varieties and expose rice farmers to new material.