‘Rice farmers not getting full value’

  • CHAMA district commissioner Leonard Ngoma says there is need for more investments in rice processing and packaging if rice farmers in Muchinga Province are to get maximum benefits of growing the crop. Mr Ngoma said in an interview yesterday that rice farmers in Chama at the moment are not getting the full value of growing the crop because they are exploited by briefcase businessmen who get their crop at uncompetitive prices. “As a district, we grow a lot of rice and we would like to see more investments in the processing and packaging of rice because at the moment, we only have one processing plant for rice. If we have more, this can help our farmers to get value for their rice,” he said. Mr Ngoma said apart from rice, the district also has potential in producing other crops such as cotton, groundnuts and maize. “We have a defunct cotton ginnery that needs to be revamped. If done, this can encourage our farmers to grow more cotton,” he said. Mr Ngoma said Chama, as an upcoming town has a lot of investment opportunities in sectors such as tourism and livestock that investors should take advantage of. He said the district administration in the area is trying to market the kalimulilo and kapisha hot springs located in Chama north and south respectively for tourism purposes. He said Chama also has potential in cultural tourism because the traditional way of life of the people as well as their unique dances is something that can be showcased to the world. Mr Ngoma said investors should also consider investing in game ranching because the entire district is a game management area ( GMA). He said Government has already led the way in promoting investments in the area by working on the township roads. However, Mr Ngoma said there is still a challenge with trunk roads as most of them have not yet been done, thereby making connectivity between Chama and other districts difficult. He hoped the ongoing road works on the Chama-Miyombe, Chama- Chikwa and Chama-Matumbo will be done speedily so as to connect Chama to other districts.
  • Erratic Weather Threatens Livelihood Of Rice Farmers In Madagascar

  • All his life, 56-year-old Jeanpier Marolahy has been growing rice in eastern Madagascar, on the steep hills that slope down from the central highlands toward the Indian Ocean. The thin, weather-beaten Marolahy knows that rice production is all about water and timing. The grain needs a lot of water at first, but if torrential rains fall at harvest time, they can destroy the crop. Rice is a hugely important part of life on the island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa. At times, it shows up for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In much of the country, it dominates the landscape, planted in small plots across millions of acres of land. But erratic rains and powerful storms are threatening rice production in parts Madagascar and putting the livelihoods of subsistence farmers like Marolahy at risk. For years, Marolahy says, the wet and dry seasons arrived in his fields in a relatively predictable pattern. But that is no longer the case. The weather has clearly changed, Marolahy says, from when he was a boy. Ankle-deep in the mud of a rice paddy, Marolahy notes that when he was a kid, this part of eastern Madagascar might get hit by a cyclone once every five years. Now, he says, he can get five big storms in a single year.
     
    Jeanpier Marolahy has farmed rice all of his life in eastern Madagascar. The 56-year-old says the weather has definitely changed from when he was a boy. Rains are more erratic and cyclones more frequent.
    Samantha Reinders for NPR
    Complicating matters even more, this area was plagued by a four-month drought last year that Marolahy says was the worst he has ever seen. Marolahy has two small rice paddies in a narrow valley just outside the Ranomafana National Park. He also has two smaller plots of rice and vegetables terraced into an adjacent hillside. These four fields are the only source of income for his family. This year, the rains have been steady, but he says it has been abnormally cold and the seedlings are growing very slowly. "Look," he says, pointing to a 10-foot-by-10-foot plot of bright green rice shoots. "They are like this." He holds open his thumb and forefinger. "But they should be like this," he says, holding his hands about 6 inches apart. At night, he covers the seedlings with banana leaves to try to keep them warm. Marolahy isn't just another farmer complaining about uncooperative weather. Climate scientists say weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable. Researchers tracking the temperature in the adjacent national park say the highs and lows in this part of Madagascar have become far more extreme over the past two decades.
    Marolahy says he plans to slash and burn a nearby hillside to expand his small farm, in part because rice production is less reliable than it used to be.
    Samantha Reinders for NPR
    In 2014, Celia Harvey, a scientist with Conservation International, helped conduct a study looking at how changing climatic conditions are affecting 600 small-scale farmers on the island nation. "We found that farmers are experiencing very variable rainfall and very variable crop production," Harvey says. The study also found that small-scale farmers in Madagascar are ill-prepared to deal with climatic fluctuations. "They have large families. They have very small areas of land. They're very poor. They lack access to basic services. They're really living on the edge in many ways," she says. "So they depend almost entirely on rice production for both their food security and for income generation. So anything that affects their rice production ultimately very quickly undermines their livelihood." According to the World Bank, three-quarters of the population of Madagascar lives in poverty. Most of those people survive by growing their own food. In Madagascar, these small, subsistence farms are particularly vulnerable to tropical storms. Madagascar is as long from tip to toe as Texas. Its 1,000-mile-long east coast stands as a long, straight bulwark protecting southern Africa from storms that barrel west across the open Indian Ocean. As ocean temperatures rise, climate scientists expect that more powerful and more frequent tropical storms will buffet Madagascar.
    Rice production in Madagascar depends heavily on predictable rains during the planting season. Most of the rice in the country is grown in small plots by subsistence farmers who depend on the crop for their primary source of income and food.
    Samantha Reinders for NPR
    "Madagascar is one of those countries that are very exposed to cyclones, and when cyclones come through, farmers typically lose most of their rice crop," Harvey says. Marolahy, the rice farmer, says he has few options on how to deal with the erratic weather. His land is the most valuable thing he owns. He can't just move somewhere else or find another job. His strategy to deal with the fluctuations in his rice yields is to expand. Later this year, he plans to burn the bushes off a hillside above his rice paddies and try planting cassava and beans. Not far from Marolahy's fields, another family of rice farmers is also diversifying. Perline Ramaniandaibe and her two daughters are panning for gold in a small stream that serves as both the sewer and the spring for the village of Kelilalina in eastern Madagascar. Ramaniandaibe says some days they don't find any gold, but other days, they find a few flecks of the precious metal. They use the gold to support their rice farm. "We don't have any other way to make money, only this, this gold," she says.
     
    Rice farmers in Madagascar have started panning for gold to supplement their income. But there are days, these women say, when they don't find any gold at all.
    Samantha Reinders for NPR
    One of the benefits of panning for gold, Ramaniandaibe says, is that when flooding makes it impossible to work in their fields, the rising water cuts in to the hillsides, exposing soil that potentially could yield more gold. She concedes that ripping up agricultural land to search for gold is a problem over the long term, but at least it can bring in some cash when crops fail. And there may be another silver lining to climate change for some parts of the island. While researchers say storms and erratic rainfall will make it harder to grow rice in eastern Madagascar, rising temperatures might boost rice production in the central highlands of the country, where lower temperatures currently limit the growing season.
    Farmers use what gold they find to support their rice fields, which have been battered by inconsistent weather patterns.
    Samantha Reinders for NPR
  • Why we banned imported rice in Ebonyi —Gov Umahi

  • Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, in this interview with COLLINS NNABUIFE who recently visited the state, explained why he banned the sale of imported rice in the state. He also advised the government on how to stop rice importation in the country.
     
    What inspired you to embark on this rice revolution in your state? We are known for agriculture and solid mineral, since we don’t have other means of raising our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) other than agriculture and solid mineral and of course export of human resources, so these are the reasons why we decided to focus on some of these areas that we have comparative advantage. What have you achieved in the last two years on rice production? I must commend the minister of agriculture and rural development very highly for  his programmes of course initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari. He has done very well in terms of agricultural programmes for the state and for the nation at large. Let me point out that the programme in agriculture have brought down the forex, before now we imported a lot of food items into the country, and you won’t forget that the dollar was rising to a dollar for N560 to N600, but when the programme in agriculture started, the dollar started falling. I also commend the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Minister of Finance and the Chief of Staff, they have put their programmes together and the states are very well positioned to do better in agriculture. I can say that in the area of rice production with the assistance of the Federal Government, their encouragement and their initiative, we have done quite well, we have been able to encourage farmers. We have been able to demonstrate that having one hectare of land for rice is better than being a local government councilor, so we launched One Man One Hectare in Ebonyi State, and that has really encouraged our people, we also borrowed N2 billion, N5 billion and another N3 billion from the federal government. We want to domesticate rice production in the state, we are going beyond individual production, we are now beginning to see how we can institute rice mega cities in each local government, whereby we have 5000 hectares of land dedicated for rice production in each of our local government areas. Already we have four mega rice mills in operation and of course you also see the private people milling with their traditional machines, we have imported another three sets of rice mills which we will install in the next three months. The idea is that before the middle of next year, we will be able to have one rice mill in each local government in the state, we have also introduced the system of standardization in terms of pricing and quality, so that when you have paddy to sell, you have to come to our buying center at the local government, so we will be able to weigh the rice and know how much you will be paid. We have prices for the different types of rice, for a particular quality of milled rice, we have a uniform price, we should also be able to monitor the quality of our rice, we are known all over the world for Abakaliki rice, we are very proud of that and we want to ensure that we maintain that standard and that rating. What structure are you putting in place to ensure sustainability of some of these programmes that you have introduced on rice? Like the rice mega cities, it is not going to be run by the government, it could be powered by the government, we are trying to establish a law now, if you want to take the 5000 hectares of land to farm as an investor, the law permits the owners of the land to come up with cooperative societies, then each farm owner will become a shareholder by reason of the percentage of farmland he contributed to make up the 5000 hectares. So, we want to see if we can mechanize agriculture, so the traditional means of rice farming and harvesting, we want to see if we can improve on that, and then the law will be such that the owners will have for example 10 per cent equity of the investment, they have nothing else to invest other than being the owner of the land and the state will also have about 10 per cent. Then these cooperative societies will also work in the farm, so you will not see the place of government, it will not be controlled by the government, they will pay taxes to government, so it is not dependent on who comes in as governor. What is your target for rice production in the state? We are targeting 100,000 hectares of rice within the next two years, using an average of four tons per hectares, we will be talking about 400,000 metric tons of paddy. But when we are mechanized, we could get as much as five to 7 tons per hectare. Are you thinking of going into the international market? We are already out of our market, some people eat Abakaliki rice and call us on phone  and say it is special, somehow Ebonyi rice is salted, it has a different taste, if you take it you will not wish to eat any other rice. But the local consumption in other neighboring West African countries is an issue, because they come here in there number to buy this rice. How has the ban on selling of foreign rice impacted on the economy of the state? We banned the foreign rice here, and if you want to import, we will have to see your import license, evidence of payment of duties, the source and ensure it is not plastic rice, these are the issues and every state has the right to ask those questions. So, since there is no chaff they bring in as foreign rice, our people are encouraged of course through the programmes of the federal government, the farmers get more money, the farmers have confidence in the system, they produce the rice and it is bought, so they are more engaged in doing that, this is important for us. What is your suggestion to the federal government in tackling rice smuggling into the country? I don’t believe that this is a problem, sometimes the federal government doesn’t want to act. What is the problem of sitting in one place and have CCTV cameras at some of the border locations, you can even install a CCTV that people will hardly know, it can be a wireless one and then it is fixed on a tree. Also, get the Customs officials that have retired and form them into a committee to man these borders, they will do very well, so it is question of interest, that is why we still have smuggled rice, but the Customs can also go into the market and verify the duties paid on rice by the importers. Unless we are not able to feed our people, when this argument came up because am a member of the Zero Hunger, I am also a member of the Presidential Task Force on Food, so the issue came up and we were being lobbied to allow importation of rice of a certain percentage and we said no, they said there is no rice in the state. I told them to send the security people to the rice mills, let us find out whether there is any particular day that we have more customers than supply and nobody have been able to prove that which means that what we produce is able to sustain the nation. So, there shouldn’t be smuggling, and then you begin to find out that Nigeria is one of the few countries that have parboiled rice and when you have your rice that is not parboiled the highest it will stay is about six months it will now become chaff and become equally dangerous, and you can see the increase in cancer, kidney failure, liver problems and other diseases as a result of all these importation, we have proven that some rice are plastic rice, so these are dangerous things that are impacting negatively on our health.
  • Our $1 billion investment in rice cultivation to boost self-sufficiency

  • Our $1 billion investment in rice cultivation to boost self-sufficiency, says Dangote To aid the realisation of the nation’s self-sufficiency plan in rice production, Dangote Group has unveiled plans to invest $1 billion in rice cultivation in five states of the country. According to the group, the fertilizer plant being developed at the Lekki Free Trade zone will boost the realization of the goal. Speaking at the just concluded 2017 Gateway Trade fair, in Abeokuta, a Director of Dangote Group, Tunde Mabogunje who represented the Group at the special day said that the Group is at the forefront of job creation and is the largest employer of labour outside federal government having contributing its quota to the growth and development of the Nigerian economy for more three decades.
     He said: “We have been contributing our quota to the growth and development of the Nigerian economy. Towards aiding agriculture, we are building a fertilizer plant in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos State. When completed, farmers will have regular access to fertilizer for their farming activities. The delays and disruptions experienced in waiting for imported fertilizer will cease. “We are investing about $1 billion in rice cultivation. We have an outgrowers scheme where thousands of farmers are empowered with improved seeds and items needed to cultivate rice. “Towards aiding agriculture, we are building a fertilizer plant in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos State. When completed, farmers will have regular access to fertilizer for their farming activities. The delays and disruptions experienced in waiting for imported fertilizer will cease. We are investing about $1 billion in rice cultivation in some states of the federation. We have an outgrowers scheme where thousands of farmers are empowered with improved seeds and items needed to cultivate rice.” He described the theme for this year’s Trade Fair. ‘Promoting Agricultural Value Chain through SMEs for Nigeria Economic Recovery’ as being apt given the nation is now paying attention to agriculture, which has the potential of becoming the major driver of the economy. To mark its day at the Fair, a subsidiary of the Group, Dangote Cement, gave out several tools and equipment to block makers in Ogun State in recognition of their patronage. Commending Dangote Group for its sponsorship and participation at the Fair, President of Ogun State Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (OGUNCCIMA) Mrs. Adesola Adebutu said the support given by the Group went a long way in making the staging of the Fair a success. She commended the group for its giant strides in economic development of the country through massive investments in several sectors of the economy describing the feat as worthy of emulation by other Nigerians.
     
  • Uganda: Grow Rice, Bananas Together to Fight Climate Change

  • They say desperate times call for desperate measures and for farmers in northern Uganda grappling with climate change, intercropping rice with bananas has helped a great deal, writes Tobbias Jolly Owiny.

    Growing banana in rice fields and vice versa would probably have been dismissed as "unthinkable" by traditional farmers, but farmers who have dared to experiment with it only sing praises.

    The government through ministry of agriculture has rallied farmers to embrace conservation farming that is already widely being practiced in some neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. They are growing banana, rice and coffee plants on the same soil to prepare for the new climate in the long term, and to grow the economy in the short term.

    Experience

    Michael Opiyo, a resident of Aputi cell, Kochgoma Sub County, Nwoya District is one of the farmers experimenting with growing rice alongside bananas.

    "I have 10 acres of bananas that I have intercropped with both rice and coffee. I do not regret this decision I am just grateful for the training I got from AVSI initiative," Opiyo says.

    He says the training gave him the confidence to try out what no one else in his village had done, setting a rice field in a banana garden. Drip irrigation and fertilisation techniques helped him conserve water up to 50 per cent and get a four-fold increase in income.

    In the past, Opiyo grew food crops to feed his family. But after intercropping it with coffee and rice, his income trippled and in the past two years he has been able to manage the water retention in his soil even during the dry season.

    Benefits

    Last year, he made Shs11m from his rice harvest. His household expenditure also decreased since he had rice to supplement on the family diet. He is looking forward to harvest his coffee by 2018. "I started planting rice and coffee under the bananas in 2015 after an agriculture expert's advice and a subsequent training on conservation farming, now I am not worried about climate change," he said.

    Expert take

    Agricultural experts say new agricultural techniques in the country like this are not just about poverty alleviation - they are a critical component of combating climate change. According to John Bosco Oryema, an agronomist and agribusiness consultant in Nwoya District, intercropping bananas with rice improves the water retention capacity of the soil and it holds the soil base tight not to be washed away by wind or running water.

    "Rice will cover the soil surface as mulches even after they are harvested against agents of erosion and retain water in the soil since bananas need much water and at the end the yields are good," Oryema said.

    Hiccups

    Richard Ogenrwot, a trained farmer on the outskirts of Gulu Town who has intercropped his bananas with coffee and rice together said farmers whom he sold the idea to were not willing to try it saying it did not make sense since there is yet a lot of open and virgin land.

     

    However, Oryema says rigidity in farmers is setting a low pace for campaign for climate-smart farming.

    Recently, Prof Moris Ogenga Latigo, an agricultural scientist, said many farmers did not know that bananas and rice can perform so well combined and it is one practice that farmers should adopt.

    "It is climate smart to do them together, rice does not sink its roots so deep to survive so it gives bananas time to pull enough nutrients and it keeps the soil texture and composition in its original form," Prof Ogenga said.

    Intercropping or mixed cropping farms is a cropping practice where total production from a unit area of land in a farming year is achieved through growing two or more crops simultaneously in the same land area.

  • Rice farmers eyeing good prices

  • Small scale rice farmers in Nkhotakota district are optimistic that this year prices of rice will be good despite high production of the cash crop. The farmers are expected to harvest more rice this year due to good rains during the last growing season. Malawi24 caught up with small scale farmers in the district and they revealed that demand for the crop on the market is high leading to good prices.

    Malawi rice farmers hoping for a change. (Image credit- The Scotsman)

    One of the famers, Stambuli Chisunzi said this year prices of rice are promising to be good because currently a 50Kg bag of rice is being sold at a minimum of K12,000. According to Chisuzi, the farmers expected the prices to be lower than K240/Kg bag due to high supply of rice on the market but this has not been the case so far. “There is high demand of the crop on the market, this is what is making the prices better. We are sure that when the selling season of rice will be at peak, we will be selling at higher price and realise more profits from our crop,” Chisuzi said. He further told Malawi24 that farmers are hoping that they will eventually sell their rice at as high as K400/Kg. In a separate interview, one of the buyers Goodwin Chisisili said that the high demand of the crop is really a driving factor for the better minimum price of the crop. “There are many people who are demanding for rice this year and this is making small scale famers to sell their crop at higher prices. “For instance, so far we are competing with mega rice buyers like Muli Brothers company and Nzeru Za Abambo that are making bargaining process too stiff and making farmers winners at the end,” he told Malawi24. According to Chisisili, this is just the beginning of selling season and more buyers are expected to come in the market hence prices of rice are expected to rise.
  • CSOs appeal to gov’t on imported rice

  • Exempting taxes on rice should be a short term measure
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    Civil Society organizations have called on government not to completely remove taxes on imported rice. This follows a proposal by government through the Ministry of Finance to remove taxes on imported rice so as to cater for the food insecurity situation in the country.
     
    The same idea is being hatched in South Sudan too. The Office of the Prime Minister is already distributing food items including rice, maize flour and beans in different parts of the country. But CSOs led by the food Rights Alliance (FRA) said whereas the idea is good for now, it is not good in the long term. FRA executive director, Agnes Kirabo, said the exemption will be for one year and yet Ugandan rice matures in a space of 90 days. "What will happen to farmers' rice that will have been produced the hard way taking into consideration the changing weather patterns?" wondered Kirabo. She added that exempting taxes on rice should be a short term measure so that farmers can sell their produce within the country. According to Kirabo, such a move doesn't even support government's ‘Buy Uganda Build Uganda’ policy which wants all Ugandans to buy local products, as step towards achieving Vision 2040. By Vision 2040, government wants the country to be transformed into a middle income economy with increased incomes at household level. "Agriculture is one of the key sectors that will drive the country in that direction so why should we impose such taxes on food which is both commercial and domestically consumed?" quizzed Kirabo. This was during a meeting organized by SEATINI Uganda, calling on government to increase funding for the Ministry of Trade from 1% to 4% of the national budget in the next financial year. Africa Kiiza, a trade analyst from SEATINI Uganda, believes the idea of removing taxes to respond to the hunger situation is good in the short term because the country needs food aid to feed districts faced with starvation and hunger. However government should come up with long term measures of ensuring that there is adequate production of rice taking into account quality, volumes, water for production and packaging among others. "The Ministry of Trade has created a desk to specifically handle rice. The desk will also work with farmers along the value chains. This shows that rice is a strategic crop so why should they allow rice to continue coming in without taxes after all these efforts?" wondered Kiiza. He added that such interventions will lead to increased production of rice by local farmers who will now start competing for the market with imported rice. This will further lead to importation of plastic rice which has already been manifested in Nigeria and Ghana, exposing people to health hazards. "Depending on other countries for food in form of imports will further compromise the security situation of the country and that is why EU countries after the World War II resolved never to depend on another country for food aid and went ahead to put measures of increasing production which has worked for them," he added. The vice chair of the committee of Trade Tourism and Industry in Parliament, Alex Ruhunda, believes continuous importation of food items will further weaken the Uganda Shilling. He proposed that efforts should be concentrated on promoting Uganda rice like what was started with upland rice and other rice schemes that are already receiving donor support. "I think we just have to get our economics right instead of depending on ideas of few smart people who may be into the rice business to think for us and at the same time benefit themselves," said Ruhunda.
    - See more at: http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1453705/csos-appeal-gov-imported-rice#sthash.P1D5qhcF.dpuf
  • RiceAdvice: An app tailor-made for African farmers

  • A smart mobile crop management tool is helping farmers in Africa optimize their production and profits and reduce waste.
    (Photo: AfricaRice)

    (Photo: AfricaRice)

    Farming is often a risky venture and involves a lot of uncertainty. It is no wonder, therefore, that the 17th-century writer Jonathan Swift spoke so highly of farmers: Whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together. Traditionally, farmers have made decisions on the farm based on their own experience and knowledge. To enable them to be more efficient and reduce risks in farming, the recent revolution in information and communication technology has made it possible to develop decision-support tools that can guide them to make informed decisions to improve their production and increase their productivity. One such smart mobile app is RiceAdvice, a science-backed crop management decision-support tool developed by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), which can be freely downloaded to a tablet device from the Google Play Store. This app generates tailor-made recommendations—based on site-specific information—that help African farmers in irrigated and relatively favorable rainfed lowland areas apply mineral fertilizer more efficiently so that they can optimize production and profits and reduce waste. Customized prescriptions In Africa, rice production has not been able to keep up with the continent’s rapidly growing appetite for rice. More and more people are shifting from traditional staples, such as sorghum and millet, to rice because rice is easy to prepare. And, Africa is now spending about USD 7.5 billion for rice imports, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rice cultivation on the continent must significantly increase its efficiency to cope with changing diets and rapid population growth. The average rice yield in sub-Saharan Africa is around 2 tons per hectare, which is about half the global average. Farmers’ efficient use of mineral fertilizer coupled with good agricultural practices is one of the keys to enhancing rice production in the region. Mineral fertilizers, combined with organic inputs where possible, will play an important role in boosting rice productivity in view of the very low level of fertilizer use in Africa. However, fertilizer is costly for smallholder farmers in the continent and many rice farmers are not aware of the right combination, dosage, and timing of fertilizer application. Insufficient fertilizer can result in loss of yield, while too much can reduce profit and can be harmful to the environment. Therefore, tools that can eliminate guesswork and increase yields and profits through optimal fertilizer applications are very valuable for farmers. The RiceAdvice decision support tool helps farmers identify the best option for fertilizers to buy based on nutrient requirement and fertilizer prices. Moreover, RiceAdvice helps farmers make better-informed decisions based on return-on-investment calculations. They can select their own target yield based on their budget. In fact, this feature of RiceAdvice has been commended by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)-Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI), which is helping in the deployment of RiceAdvice in sub- Saharan Africa.
    KOKOU AHOUANTON, AfricaRice research assistant (third from right), demonstrates how to use the RiceAdvice in Nigeria. (Photo by Phillip Onimisi Obosi, GIZ-CARI.)

    KOKOU AHOUANTON, AfricaRice research assistant (third from right), demonstrates how to use the RiceAdvice in Nigeria. (Photo by Phillip Onimisi Obosi, GIZ-CARI.)

    GIZ-CARI noted that a specific innovative element of RiceAdvice is “not only based on the agronomic conditions, but also on the financial capacity of the farmer. How much money does he have to invest and what are the optimal scenarios: reducing cost on inputs or optimizing yield?” RiceAdvice users have to feed in the requisite information, such as the variety used, last season’s yield, and target yield, among other things. These kinds of information enable the tool to provide farmers with a plot-based fertilizer application plan (type, dosage, and timing) along with a cropping calendar and an estimate of expected income from fertilizer use. RiceAdvice does not require an internet connection to generate the guidelines in villages or fields, except for updating the app. Expected users are farmers, extension workers, traders, agricultural entrepreneurs, and development agencies in Africa interested in receiving expert advice for rice production. AfricaRice studies have shown that the adoption of RiceAdvice recommendations can increase rice yield by 0.6 to 1.8 tons per hectare in farmers’ fields. “However, it is important to remember that RiceAdvice should be disseminated along with other good agricultural practices,” emphasized Dr. Kazuki Saito, AfricaRice agronomist, who has spearheaded the development and dissemination of the tool.
    IN NIGERIA, a RiceAdvice service provider (right) collects information to generate customized recommendations on fertilizer options. (Photo by Kokou Ahouanton, AfricaRice.)

    IN NIGERIA, a RiceAdvice service provider (right) collects information to generate customized recommendations on fertilizer options. (Photo by Kokou Ahouanton, AfricaRice.)

    Backed by science Explaining the importance of data from basic research that underpin RiceAdvice, Dr. Saito said that the decision-support system was built on decades of work by AfricaRice scientists and their partners since the late 1990s developing improved crop management options in irrigated and rainfed ecosystems. Farmers were closely involved in the development of such crop management options. Care was taken to propose prototype technologies and good agronomic principles and decision tools rather than fixed technologies or blanket fertilizer recommendations, as the nutrient requirements of the crop can change, even across short distances in fields. Thus, RiceAdvice is essentially based on databases from research repackaged into a format that is useful and accessible. The tool has been extensively fine-tuned and validated on the ground in consultation with farmers. More than 90% of the farmers who used the tool in Senegal and Nigeria during its validation phase are willing to continue using it. RiceAdvice deployment In April 2016, a one-year project was launched by AfricaRice, with support from the government of Japan, to disseminate RiceAdvice in Nigeria and Mali to improve rice productivity, maximize rice farmers’ investment potential, and catalyze youth employment. The project’s overarching goal is to contribute to food security and social stability in the two countries. The project’s strategy is to train 200 people, including youth and women, in these countries in the use of RiceAdvice and good agricultural practices in rice farming. The trained people, in turn, would serve as advisory service providers and give recommendations generated by RiceAdvice to 12,000 farming households. The project aims to increase rice yield in the target areas in Mali and Nigeria by 20% (an increase of about 23,460 tons). The expected increase in income of 12,000 farmers by using RiceAdvice recommendations is estimated at about USD 4.5 million. For the rollout in the two countries, the project is benefiting from the help of key development partners GIZ-CARI and Syngenta Foundation as well as national agricultural research and extension systems such as the Institut d’economie rurale in Mali, the National Cereals Research Institute, and Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria.
    A FARMER in Nigeria has greatly benefited from RiceAdvice. (Photo by Phillip Onimisi Obosi, GIZ-CARI)

    A FARMER in Nigeria has greatly benefited from RiceAdvice. (Photo by Phillip Onimisi Obosi, GIZ-CARI)

    At the project closing meeting held at the AfricaRice-Cotonou research station in February 2017, it was reported that, thanks to the Japan-funded project, 200 trained service providers have helped more than 16,000 rice farmers in Mali and Nigeria benefit from RiceAdvice, leading to increased productivity, efficiency, and profits. Farmers are happy with the significant improvement in yield and income that RiceAdvice has brought to them and are eager to continue with the service, observed GIZCARI, which is helping deploy the RiceAdvice technology to more than 9,000 farmers in the Nigerian states of Kogi, Niger, Jigawa, and Kebbi through 97 trained service providers. Mr. Murtala Aliyu, a farmer from Kebbi with 0.2 hectares of land, said, “Before, I used to apply four bags of fertilizer and harvest only six bags of paddy. But now, with RiceAdvice, I applied just two bags of fertilizer and I harvested 18 bags of paddy on the same farm.” After seeing the increase in yield on his farm because of RiceAdvice, Mr. Abdullahi Mahari from Jigawa expressed his willingness to pay NGN 20,000 (USD 65) for RiceAdvice service because it was so profitable to him. Syngenta Foundation recounted a similar experience from Kouroumari area in Office du Niger, Mali. Of the 600 farmers who benefited from RiceAdvice, 99% wish to reuse the service in 2017 and 44% of them are ready to pay between 250 F CFA (about USD 0.50) and 10,000 F CFA (about USD 16) for RiceAdvice recommendations. “We are pleased that nearly all the project targets have been achieved or even surpassed in some cases,” said Dr. Saito, RiceAdvice project coordinator, at a meeting to review the progress and achievements, share experiences, and develop a follow-up plan for after the project ends in March 2017. Thanking the government of Japan and the various partners for their strong support, he reported that various media tools such as a promotional video, social media, and a dedicated website have been developed for promoting RiceAdvice. The way forward The participants discussed opportunities for and constraints to outscaling and upscaling RiceAdvice in a sustainable manner so that the tool could serve more people and achieve broad impact. “AfricaRice and its partners agree that we need appropriate business models, coordination mechanisms, and new partners, particularly from the private sector,” said Dr. Saito. “We are quite lucky as a wide range of partners is interested in this tool.” AfricaRice and its partners are analyzing the data from the project and are making follow-up field visits to assess the initial impact and identify mechanisms for the effective rollout of RiceAdvice in sub-Saharan Africa after the end of the project so that many more farmers can make two rice plants grow where only one grew before. ____________________________________ Ms. Mohapatra is the head of Marketing and Communications at AfricaRice.
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  • Rice Today | April - June, 2017 Vol. 16 No. 2