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Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)
Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)

MTP Overview

The world rice situation in 2008 was rocky and remains uncertain for 2009. Rice consumers in Africa are very vulnerable to price hikes because the continent consumes far more rice than it produces. Rice consumption in sub-Saharan Africa is growing at about 4-5% per year due to rapid urbanization and demographic trends, strong preferences for rice across revenue groups, increased participation of women in the labor force, and lifestyle changes. Paddy rice production is currently catching up with average annual growth rates over the last 5 years of approximately 5% in West Africa, 3% in Central Africa, 7% in East Africa and 16% in Southern Africa. However these growth rates are not sufficient to cope with the demand for rice. In West and Central Africa where rice is a staple food, rice import volumes average between 40% and 50% of consumption needs. The rice self-sufficiency ratio in sub-Saharan Africa declined steadily from a high 112% in 1961 to 61% in 2006. Close to 10 million tons of milled rice are being imported into sub-Saharan Africa every year. With rice prices predicted to remain high, major rice producing countries closing borders to export, and global stocks at their lowest levels ever, relying on the world market for rice is clearly a risky and unsustainable strategy. It may lead to severe food insecurity and civil unrest.

High rice prices will adversely affect poor and low-income households who spend a larger proportion of their revenue on staple food relative to high-income households. Their welfare will be reduced since the soaring rice prices correspond to a reduction in their purchasing power. In a region where more than 40% of the population lives below the extreme poverty line of $1 a day, coping with high rice prices will mean poorer households taking measures which could include the reduction of essential nutrients intake, especially in urban areas, and long episodes of food depravation and malnutrition. Moreover, in fragile countries such as Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, where annual per capita rice consumption is above 100 kg, the incidence of higher rice prices has the potential to trigger political disturbances.

The current upward trend and elevated variability in the international market indicates that relying on imports is now a very risky, costly and unsustainable strategy for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa depends on Asia’s surplus rice production for its rice. However, yield growth in Asia has been slowing for the last decade, and land area for rice has been flat or even declining in a number of areas across the region.  Tight rice supplies and therefore higher prices, will likely continue for years to come. Most African countries will be unable or unwilling to compete with Asian countries in bidding for rice that comes on the international market.  Thus it is imperative that African countries act immediately to develop the means to become self sufficient.

It is now clear that rice in Africa can compete comfortably against imported rice as a recent study by AfricaRice and IITA has shown. However, data from farm-level surveys of irrigated rice production in the Sahel reveal that it is still three times more expensive to produce rice in Niger than in Thailand while Malian rice producers incurred a unit cost of production which was double that of Thailand. These high production costs are often due to low intensification, smaller size of rice farmers’ plots which reduces economies of scale, and the appreciation of the CFA currency (which is pegged to the euro) against the US dollar.

To increase rice production, land and labor productivity need to be enhanced. However, critical inputs such as quality seed and mineral fertilizer are often not available or farmers are unable to buy these inputs on time. Farm size also often limits the possibility to invest in cost-reducing and factor productivity-enhancing opportunities offered by mechanization. Farmers are increasingly working in cooperatives wherever possible to access such critical machinery.

The only viable strategy for Africa is to substantially boost rice production and turn around the dependence on imports. Rice production in Africa can be increased through increasing the harvested area, either by increasing the area or increasing cropping intensity and by increasing the yield from existing land.

The three main rice ecologies in sub-Saharan Africa are the rainfed uplands, the rainfed lowlands and the irrigated systems. The constraints in these rice ecologies have various communalities such as weed and pest pressure. In addition, inter-linkages exist between the ecologies. This is true for water or nutrient flow from upland to lowland. Another fuzzy transition exists between rainfed and irrigated lowland. From the about 8 mln ha of land under rice cultivation in sub-Saharan Africa, about 40% is located in the upland ecology, 37% in the rainfed lowland ecology and 14% in the irrigated ecology.

In the upland ecology farmer yields usually range between 1 to 1.5 t ha-1. This is caused by a host of abiotic and biotic stresses, such as low soil fertility, drought, weed pressure and blast disease. The Nerica varieties have made important headway in this ecology because of their better adaptation to the local stresses leading to higher and more stable yield and shorter growth duration. However, drought and soil fertility will limit attainable yields and potential yield gains from improved technology in the upland ecology will remain relatively small.

In the rainfed lowland ecology, farmers can expect yields between 1.5 to 3 t ha-1. This is largely due to better soil fertility and when combined with good water control and appropriate management yields can be as high as 3 to 6 t ha-1. AfricaRice and partners from national research institutions in West Africa have developed a range of Nerica varieties suited for rainfed lowland conditions. There are also often opportunities for diversification such as growing vegetables in the dry season.

The irrigated systems have the highest yield potential because of better water control and reliability. Irrigated systems in Senegal and Mali have produced tremendous yield increases over the last 20 years from approximately 2 t ha-1 to nearly 6 t ha-1 in 2006. However attainable yields in these systems can be as high as 8 t ha-1. AfricaRice has developed a suite of integrated crop management options to enhance productivity in lowland sites based on farm surveys and farmer participatory on- and off-station research. Rice double cropping is often feasible in the irrigated systems but its development in Africa has been restricted by a lack of adequate machinery to prepare the land and harvest the crop on time. AfricaRice has developed high yielding short-duration varieties that are suitable for double cropping in rice irrigation schemes.

The greatest potential to enhance rice production is by closing the yield gap between actual and attainable yields in the lowland systems and expanding the rice harvested areas in both the rainfed and irrigated lowland systems. Extending the use of the valley floors may also help conserve the less stable sloping uplands.

AfricaRice’s research, in close collaboration with IRRI is conducted in partnership with African agricultural research and extension organizations, NGOs, farmer organizations, the private sector, advanced research institutions and other rice development stakeholders and involving a large range of donors. AfricaRice has become a truly pan-African organization with currently 22 member states across the continent. Its temporary headquarters is located in Cotonou, Benin, with outstations in Senegal, Nigeria and Tanzania. IRRI and AfricaRice have jointly established a presence in Tanzania and are developing a joint research program for East and Southern Africa countries.

AfricaRice is convening the ROCARIZ rice research network involving 17 countries in West and Central Africa. The ECARRN network involving 10 countries in East and Central Africa is no longer operational. These networks are expected to merge into one large pan African research workshop in 2010. AfricaRice is also the convenor of a System-Wide Ecoregional Program focusing on enhanced and sustainable use of inland valley systems in West Africa (The inland Valley Consortium, involving 12 countries in West Africa and 8 international institutions). IRRI and AfricaRice are actively collaborating in the INGER network to facilitate the exchange of rice germplasm across and between continents. IRRI and AfricaRice are in the process of aligning their research activities in sub-Saharan Africa and have developed a joined rice R for D strategy for East, Central and Southern Africa.

AfricaRice is also coordinating two more development and policy-oriented networks. The Africa Rice Initiative promotes the diffusion of Nericas and other improved varieties (covering 7 countries). The Africa Policy Research and Advocacy Group (APRAG) conducts rice policy research and advocacy in support of national and regional common agricultural policies and promotes the utilization of policy research results for competitive rice production and commercialization in the region.

Rice research and development is gaining increasing importance at national level as well. African governments are already demonstrating the political will to raise to the challenges the global rice crisis is going to pose to the food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, in 2008 several West African countries have launched ambitious rice development initiatives with the stated objective of becoming self-sufficient in rice within 8 to 10 years time. For example, in its newly developed rice initiative, Senegal has set the goal to become self-sufficient in rice by 2015 with a planned investment budget of about 160 millions dollars for the next 3 years. Similarly, the government of Mali has set the objective of increasing total paddy production from irrigated systems in the Office du Niger region to 1 million tonnes by 2012. Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have launched similar initiatives and other West African countries are expected to follow and launch their own rice development plans. These new and ambitious initiatives follow the one launched by President Obasanjo for Nigeria in 2003 and which, according to FAO reports has contributed significantly to the 23% and 13% increase in Nigeria’s domestic rice production in 2005 and 2006 respectively. As a consequence of these initiatives, excellent results were obtained in 2008 in terms of rice production in West Africa, most notably in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mali.

The Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) launched by JICA and AGRA in 2008 aims at doubling rice production over the next 10 years and 21 CARD candidate countries have been selected most of which are also AfricaRice member countries. AfricaRice and IRRI are among the steering committee members of CARD.

These demonstrations of political will and commitment to invest in domestic rice production capacity by so many African countries is to be saluted. However, there is clearly a need to coordinate these country initiatives at the regional and continental levels to avoid duplication of effort and wasteful competition among countries and build synergies, encourage coordinated and complementary investments based on comparative advantage, foster regional trade, harmonize domestic production support and trade policies and develop a pool of common regional infrastructures, institutions and services to reach economies of scale. 

AfricaRice and partners are ready to rise to this rice challenge.  This MTP will be a guide in conducting rice science and building capacity for impact in the continent.

The current Medium Term Plan (MTP) of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) for the period 2010-2011 builds on the previous MTP that introduced a new research structure at the Center. Output targets for 2010 and 2011 have been updated, and output targets for 2012 have not been added as suggested by the Science Council because of the ongoing changes in the CGIAR System. Just like the previous MTP, this MTP contains four MTP projects and one SWEP:

·         Project 1: Genetic Diversity and Improvement

·         Project 2: Sustainable Productivity Enhancement

·         Project 3: Learning and Innovation Systems

·         Project 4: Policy and Impact Assessment

·         Project 5: The Consortium for the Sustainable Development of Inland Valley Agro-ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa (IVC)

Program 1 (Genetic Diversity and Improvement) covers the area from gene to plant, and aims to enhance genetic diversity and develop improved rice lines adapted to abiotic and biotic stresses and consumer preferences, using conventional breeding, marker-assisted selection and profiting from farmer knowledge. The program has four main outputs: (i) enhanced genetic diversity generated; (ii) improved and stable rice lines and varieties with good grain quality available; (iii) enhanced knowledge of G x E interactions for abiotic and biotic stresses available; and (iv) enhanced involvement of farmers in rice genetic resources development established.

Program 2 (Sustainable Productivity Enhancement) covers crop and NRM research related to intensification and diversification and protection of environmental services, and aims to move research from plot to systems level and to introduce more systems thinking in general. The program will specifically focus on the rainfed and irrigated lowlands as greatest opportunities to boost rice production in sub-Saharan Africa are expected within these ecologies.

Program 3 (Learning and Innovation Systems) covers partnerships, learning and innovation systems and works on improving the link between farmers and input and output markets and value chain development. The program has four outputs: (i) partnerships and networks to promote rice sector development; (ii) mechanisms for pro-poor seed system development; (iii) agricultural education tools and learning pathways; and (iv) strategies and tools to strengthen the rice value chain.

Program 4 (Policy and Impact Assessment) covers the policy and impact work and includes three programs: (i) tools, methods and enhanced capacity for impact assessment, policy analysis; (ii) rice policy options and institutions for competitive domestic rice production; (iii) improved post-harvest systems for competitive domestic rice production.

The SWEP Inland Valley Consortium targets an extremely promising agro-ecology to produce rice in sub-Saharan Africa. IVC is a platform for large collaborative projects on inland valley development in sub-Saharan Africa between 12 countries in West Africa and regional and international partners convened by the Africa Rice Center. Inland valley systems offer great prospects to stem the current food crisis in Africa through enhanced use and intensification and diversification (e.g. high value crops, fish, livestock). Sustainable development of IV systems requires collective action within and beyond the CGIAR focusing on better technologies, improved water management and market access, multiple uses of water, sustainable wetland management, and land and water rights. Inland valleys returned into the donor spotlight since the outbreak of the food crisis in 2008. In 2007, IVC was judged a CGIAR Flagship by AfricaRice’s EPMR.

In 2008, AfricaRice created a special unit focusing on Training, Information Management and Extension linkages (RiceTIME) to lead WARA’s contribution to the Emergency Rice Initiative (see www.africaricecenter.org) and facilitate rice information management and capacity building. RiceTIME hosts the African Rice Initiative (ARI), ROCARIZ and incorporates all freestanding capacity building and development activities of the institution. All these activities, formerly housed in Program 3 have been moved to the RiceTIME unit.

This MTP is still linked to AfricaRice’s Strategic Plan for 2003-2012. Revision of AfricaRice’s Strategic Plan is needed to take account of the changing situation in Africa both due to the influence of global external factors such as rising food prices, declining global rice stocks, and climate change and continental changes such as those in demographics and the rising sophistication of urban consumer demands. The need to develop a new Strategic Plan is also a direct response to the 2007 EPMR and the enlargement of AfricaRice’s geographic mandate. The total number of AfricaRice member states as of June 2009 is 22, covering West, Central, East and North African regions, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda. The development of the new Strategic Plan has been put on hold because of the ongoing CGIAR change management process and is expected to be finalized in 2010.

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Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)



AfricaRice is a CGIAR Research Center –
part of a global research partnership
for a food-secure future.
It is also an intergovernmental association of
African member countries.


AfricaRice Headquarters
01 BP 4029, Abidjan 01, Côte d'Ivoire
T: +225 22 48 09 10; F: +225 22 44 26 29

M’bé Research Station
01 B.P. 2551, Bouaké 01, Côte d'Ivoire
T: +225 22 48 09 20; F: +225 31 63 25 78

E: AfricaRice@cgiar.org


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