African Farmers To Become Net Rice Exporters
By Abdallah el-Kurebe
The Executive Director of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr. Denis Kyetere has disclosed that his Foundation and its partners would soon develop and disseminate a Nitrogen-Use Efficient, Water-Use Efficient and Salt Tolerant Rice (NEWEST) for food sufficiency in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Kyetere who made this known at the NEWEST Rice Project Annual Review and Planning Meeting held at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan also said that the goal of the project was to develop, disseminate farmer preferred, locally adapted rice varieties with enhanced nitrogen, water use efficiency and salt tolerance.
Noting that the move would lead to food sufficiency, he added that food self-sufficiency in rice would redirect limited foreign exchange used to import rice. “There will be improved rice yields resulting in enhanced household food security and production of marketable crop surplus. Also abandoned croplands will be reclaimed reducing land shortages; an additional 1.3million tons of rice will be produced in Africa each year as well as reduce the current deficit by 10 per cent,” Kyetere said.
The Executive Director of National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI), Dr. Samuel Agboire, represented by the Director of Information and Documentation Department of NCRI, Dr. Mohammed Ishaiq emphasized that rice demand exceeded production in most Sub-Saharan Africa, adding that insufficient rice production affected well-being of over 20 million smallholder farmers who depended on rice as a staple.
“The sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries are spending more than US$5billion annually on rice imports; rice production deficit along with large outflow of foreign exchange presents great development challenge to governments in SSA. Low yields experienced by farmers are responsible for rice imports in SSA where over 40 per cent of the rice consumed is imported. Also nitrogen deficiency has been cited as a major constraint to rice production; nitrogen is difficult to maintain when applied in lowland areas due to floods,” he said.
The project manager, Dr Kayode Sanni said that the project started in 2008 and that the essence was to have excess rice production and reduce its importation by or before 2020.
“Improving the nitrogen use efficiency of rice is one means of achieving this goal. With the utilization and application of water use efficient component, the rice will require less water and this will offer an appreciable coping mechanism against drought,” he said noting that the project was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The team of scientists working on the development of this variety are from AATF; National Cereal Research Institute, NCRI, Badegi, Nigeria; Crop Research Institute, CRI, Kumasi, Ghana; National Research Organisation, NARO, Uganda; Arcadia Biosciences, USA and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, CIAT, Colombia.