The 3rd Africa Rice Congress, held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, 21 to 24 October 2013, issued a clarion call to increase investments in Africa’s rice sector as well as in rice-related research, extension and capacity building so that the continent can realize its rice promise.
The Congress declaration emphasized among others the need to invest in the modernization and mechanization of Africa's rice industry and aggregation of farm output, while safeguarding land rights of smallholders and improving livelihoods. It also called for the establishment of a world-class research infrastructure in Africa for rice genetic evaluation and the strengthening of the rice hub network to achieve greater and faster impact across the rice value chain.
More than 650 participants attended the Congress from 60 countries –including 35 African countries. They comprised rice farmers, seed producers, rice processors, input dealers, agricultural machinery manufacturers and representatives from agricultural ministries, national and international rice research and extension communities, non-governmental organizations, donors and other development partners.
Rice has become more critical to achieving food security and political stability in the continent. Despite rapid growth in rice production in sub-Saharan Africa (8.4% per year) during the period 2007-2012, the African continent continues to rely heavily on the world market to satisfy increasing consumption demand for rice, with imports reaching 12 million tonnes of milled rice in 2012, costing more than US$ 5 billion.
Themed ‘Rice Science for Food Security through Smallholder and Agri-business Development in Africa,’ the 3rd Africa Rice Congress was organized by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Institute of Agricultural Research for Development of Cameroon (IRAD) under the aegis of the Cameroonian Government.
“We recognize the need to scale up our investments for modernizing the rice sector and also increase our support to research and extension,” stated Cameroon Prime Minister Philemon Yang, in his opening message that was delivered by Cameroon Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation Dr Madeleine Tchuinte.
The Congress took stock of advances in rice science and technology and provided opportunities to discuss institutional innovations, policies, partnerships and investments needed to ensure that rice sector development becomes a veritable engine for smallholder and agri-business development and economic growth in Africa.
“This will not only contribute to food security, but will also help reduce rice imports and create attractive employment across the rice value chain. Let’s not forget that over the next 15 years, an estimated 330 million young Africans will be looking for a job,” said AfricaRice Deputy Director General Dr Marco Wopereis.
These issues were debated in a Ministerial Policy Dialogue – organized with support from FAO – involving ministers from Chad, Cameroon, The Gambia, Mali and Senegal as well as in the plenary sessions, mini-symposia and ‘world café’.
Private sector and research and development partners showcased their work in the Congress Exhibition, which featured a special section on small-scale rice mechanization. A ‘Cameroon Rice Day’ allowed participants to visit the IRAD research facilities in Yaoundé.
As part of the special events of the Congress, a new book, ‘Realizing Africa’s Rice Promise’ jointly published by AfricaRice-CABI, was released. The book provides a comprehensive overview of Africa’s rice sector and ongoing rice research and development activities, indicating priorities for action on how to realize the rice promise in a sustainable and equitable manner.
A side event focused on a training course in science journalism relating to rice R&D activities in Africa was organized with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Rice, known as the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP).
A plaque of appreciation was presented for the President of the Republic of Cameroon for the support of the Cameroon Government to the rice sector. A distinguished service award was presented to Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, former AfricaRice Director General and current Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment of Senegal.
During the closing ceremony, awards were presented for best papers, posters, most promising young scientist and outstanding local entrepreneurs from Africa in seed production and local manufacturing of small-scale machinery.
Immediately after the closure of the Africa Rice Congress, the 2013 Global Forum of GRiSP was held, where updates on global and African rice initiatives were presented, followed by sessions on ‘Bilateral support for the African rice ‘Coordinating investments in rice development in Africa’ involving a broad range of investors interested in Africa’s rice sector.
“Such exchanges will help us find ways to leverage opportunities and make the most of our resources and knowledge to boost Africa’s rice sector,” said GRiSP Director Bas Bouman.
The Congress formulated the following recommendations for governments, farmer organizations, civil society, private sector, R&D partners, regional economic communities and donors:
Investments in Africa’s rice sector
Investments in rice R&D and capacity-building