When women take the lead in improving income and nutrition
Successful introduction of parboiled rice in Madagascar
The importance of rice in the culture and diet of the Malagasy people is well known. However, the ordinary rice that they consume is poor in nutrients, while the country’s malnutritional level is among the highest in the world. This is one of the main reasons why AfricaRice is introducing parboiled rice to Madagascar, using the new energy-efficient and women-friendly parboiling system called "GEM".
In the first stage of the project, a training of a dozen of agricultural equipment manufacturers was conducted in the fabrication and installation of GEM equipment; the first unit was installed in the Highlands of Madagascar and was given to nine women's associations, including 95 women. These associations are members of the Volivary Platform in Ankazomiriotra.
These associations are members of the Federation of Rural Women in Madagascar or FVTM which has as the main objective the defense of the rights of rural women who often spend more time on all the reproductive and household tasks, do not receive education and are not considered as legal heirs in some regions. Through FVTM, these women are working together to better address these inequities and promote sustainable sources of income for rural women.
The women who were part of the first GEM rice parboiling scheme assert the benefits they perceive from parboiling. Mrs. Monique Rabodomalala, said, "When I cooked parboiled rice myself at home, I really appreciated its fantastic taste, moreover the grain remains whole, there is almost no breakage and it swells well. With that, I decreased the amount of rice that I usually cook for our family meal because parboiled rice swells a lot, and it is so filling."
The women of the associations also added that they were taught that parboiled rice contains many more nutrients than regular rice, that it is very suitable for people with diabetes because the glycemic index is quite low, and that this type of rice can be stored for several months without altering the taste.
The women were quick to point out that in less than a month after installing their GEM parboiling equipment, they had already been able to participate with AfricaRice in the national agriculture fair in the capital Antananarivo, where they were able to sell parboiled rice. Consumers were very interested – those who already know about parboiled rice, but also a number of people who heard about it for the first time at the fair – and were attracted by the quality and physical appearance of this rice in its packaging. Given that its price is higher, almost double the price of ordinary rice, and that the milling yield is also higher, parboiled rice processing can really be a viable source of income for associations and even for individual households.
Ms. Ranjasolo Herimalala, one of the women leaders of the associations, added that with the capacity of the GEM parboiler, they can process up to one tonne of parboiled rice per week if there is a high demand. However, a major challenge they face is the availability of pure and unmixed long-grain rice, which is preferred by consumers who eat parboiled rice. They have decided to start producing this kind of pure and long-grain rice, whether red or white, for the next cropping season.
The Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), in partnership with the Madagascar National Center for Applied Research on Rural Development (FOFIFA) and partners, is introducing improved parboiled rice in Madagascar, through a project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).