Rice plants heavy with mature grain spread out across a paddy and smiling farmers begin harvesting them. This is Uganda, a country in the middle of the African continent.
For more than 10 years, JICA has been providing assistance to strengthen the structure for disseminating appropriate technology to rice farmers and expand the production of rice in Uganda. As this assistance has been carried out, the amount of rice harvested roughly tripled from 2014 to 2017, and there has been a big increase in the income of farmers as well.
Though the demand for rice in Uganda has increased, the country has a low rate of rice self-sufficiency and must rely on imports. For this reason, the government has listed expanded rice production as a national goal.
Farmers harvest rice in a training field in Butaleja District, southeast Uganda
Ugandan farmers and JICA expert Kisho MIYAMOTO (second from right)
In Uganda, JICA carried out the NERICA Rice Promotion Project Uganda from 2008 to 2010, as well as the Study on Poverty Eradication through Sustainable Irrigation Project in Eastern Uganda. NERICA is dryland rice suited to the climate of Africa.
In 2011, JICA began the Promotion of Rice Development (PRiDe) Project in Uganda, which is intended to expand the area under rice cultivation. Aiming to disseminate rice cultivation techniques, JICA experts have trained a total of 849 agricultural extension officers who give rice-growing guidance to farmers.
The extension officers have provided training in rice cultivation techniques in 57 districts, which amounts to half the districts in Uganda, and as of September 2017, 49,244 farmers had undergone the training.
"By practicing what I was taught last year during the training, I nearly doubled my harvest," said one farmer who participated.
“As farmers increase their incomes by increasing their harvests, they are improving their lives by spending money on their children's educations and improving their homes," said one expert on the results of the projects.
*The yield of 38,767 tons is as of March 2016, and the number of farmers trained, 37,508, is as of February 2016
JICA expert Nobuki KOJIMA, center, conducts wide-area training in Uganda to train Zambian agricultural extension agents
To further promote rice, beginning this year, farmers who have already learnt and practiced rice cultivation will themselves take on the role of evangelists and aim to expand rice cultivation to farmers in their surrounding areas. To increase not only crop acreage, but also farmer productivity and incomes, JICA will also put resources into the dissemination of disease-resistant varieties.
One feature of the PRiDe Project in Uganda is that it holds wide-area training that allows agricultural extension agents, researchers and Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) in various African countries to learn rice cultivation. Through the project's activities to broadly expand rice cultivation to various African countries from Uganda, more than 500 people have completed the training so far.
Given its security and political stability, Uganda accepts many refugees from surrounding countries and regions. JICA and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are collaborating to provide training in rice cultivation techniques at permanent refugee settlements and improve the livelihoods of refugees.