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Why rice matters to Africa

Why rice matters for Africa

Heritage: Rice has been cultivated for more than 3000 years in parts of Africa. The African rice, whose scientific name is Oryza glaberrima, is unique to Africa and is an integral part of the culture of some communities.


Strategic commodity for food security: Rice is the predominant dietary energy source in West Africa and Madagascar and is the second most important source of calories in Africa.


Fastest growing food staple: Demand for rice is growing at more than 6% per year – faster than for any other food staple in sub-Saharan Africa, because of population growth, urbanization and changes in consumer preferences.


Source of livelihood: Rice is grown in about 40 out of 54 countries in Africa and rice cultivation is the principal activity and source of income for more than 35 million smallholder rice farmers in Africa.


Entry point for poverty reduction: The rice sector represents a pathway out of poverty in Africa, as rice availability and prices have become major determinants of the welfare of the poorest sections of African consumers.


Major political crop: The increasing role of rice in the food basket of African consumers has made it a political crop – capable of impacting on the political, social or economic stability of African nations.


Impact on economies: Local rice production covers only about 60% of current demand in sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in imports of 14-15 million tonnes per year (costing more than US$ 6 billion), which is a huge loss of the continent’s foreign exchange reserves.


Trade: With only 13% of world population, Africa accounts for 32% of world rice imports, which makes it a big player in the international rice trade.


Important for women: Rice is primarily a women's crop in the rainfed ecologies in Africa, as they provide the bulk of the labor from sowing to weeding, harvesting, processing and marketing.


Viable career path for youth: The rice sector has the potential to employ many of the 17 million young people who enter the job market in sub-Saharan Africa each year.


Huge potential: Africa has the human, physical and economic resources to produce enough quality rice in a sustainable manner to feed itself and in the long run to export to other regions.


AfricaRice and its partners strongly believe that the generation of science-based innovations adapted to Africa along the rice value chain and their fast access and adoption at scale by farmers are key to transforming the rice sector in Africa.

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