October 19, 2018
It is now certain that a bold goal for rice production in Sub-Saharan Africa will be met: Doubling the amount produced between 2008 and 2018.
The effort has been led by the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), which JICA jointly launched with the international NGO Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) at the fourth Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD IV) in 2008. Rice production in Sub-Saharan Africa, which stood at 14 million metric tons in 2008, is projected to reach 28 million metric tons this year.
Farmers in Madagascar harvest rice.
The key to achieving this goal is not just "on-farm" assistance, such as introducing rice varieties that fit the diverse African agro-ecologies, improving irrigation facilities, and disseminating rice growing techniques to the farmers. It is also essential to formulate and implement strategic national plans to stimulate rice production in each country. These plans bring efficiency to the flow from production to processing, distribution and sales, thereby increasing the value added to rice that eventually sells well in the market. The Coalition joined forces with the governments of the 23 member countries and 11 international development partners, and took the lead in ehnancing the rice value-chain in each country to achieve the goal of doubling the rice production.
(left) An agricultural extension officer advises Tanzanian farmers.
(right) A Japanese expert, second from right, and government officials visit a market in Madagascar to see the rice on sale.
The 23 CARD member countries
Hiroshi Hiraoka, former coordinator of the CARD Secretariat, shortly after the opening of the office in October 2008. The Secretariat, housed in the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), is another founding father of the initiative.
Hiroshi Hiraoka, a JICA senior advisor, pushed the initiative forward as the coordinator at the CARD Secretariat in Nairobi, Kenya, for four years after its inauguration in 2008. He found that the weak progress in increasing rice production in Africa was because the taste and quality of domestically grown rice failed to meet consumers' preferences. Consequently farmers, facing weak demand for local rice, were not incentivized to boost their production.
The 23 CARD member countries have vast amounts of land that is suitable for growing rice but remain untapped, meaning that there is huge potential for them to be self-sufficient in rice. On the other hand, a lack of initiatives aimed at disseminating varieties that suit consumer tastes as well as low processing quality (broken grains and impurities) due to the poor post-harvest processing techniques result in weak demand for domestic rice in many countries, and it sells at low prices even if it finds its way to the market.
As such, the prevailing cost-benefit structure of rice production, coupled with numerous unpredictable factors on and off the farm, is not convincing enough for most rice growers to justify the incremental cost for fertilizers and farm equipment, or for the operation and maintenance of irrigation facilities, Mr. Hiraoka says. As a result, the rapid increase in the demand for rice in Africa, based on economic growth and urbanization, has not been well captured by the domestic supply, but by imported rice.
The second Coalition for African Rice Development General Meeting was held in June 2009 in Tokyo with Kofi Annan, the late former secretary-general of the United Nations, and Sadako Ogata, the former president of JICA, presiding. This year the CARD General Meeting returned to Japan after nine years.
"The governments of the CARD member countries tended to focus only on increasing production and productivity. Therefore, I put much effort into sensitizing them to the importance of taking more measures to improve the quality of rice with a view to strengthening the competitiveness of domestic rice over its counterpart from Asia and stimulating local consumers' demand for local rice," Mr. Hiraoka says.
With many meetings and training opportunities over the past ten years and growing confidence of the member countries in the initiative, Mr. Hiraoka feels that such a paradigm shift has occured to some extent and started to bear fruit on the ground.
A Japanese expert, left, gives technical instructions in a rice field in Senegal.
For example, the rice self-sufficiency rate in Senegal stood at only about 20 percent in the early 2000s, and the country depended on large amounts of imported rice. As the government of Senegal set its target to improve its rice self-sufficiency, JICA provided support for improving the techniques of rice-production and processing, and building a value-chain network to increase the amount of rice distribution in urban areas. These efforts have led to the rice self-sufficiency ratio rising to 39 percent (as of 2014). JICA will continue its support with a goal of achieving full self-sufficiency.
With the demand for rice in Sub-Saharan Africa expected to continue increasing, discussions are underway for the CARD second phase, which would aim to double the annual rice production from an estimated 28 million metric tons in 2018 to 56 million metric tons by 2030. In addition to the current 23 CARD member countries, nine other countries including Angola and Sudan have expressed their intentions to participate.
Takanori Satoyama, general coordinator of the CARD Secretariat, second from right, visits Senegalese administrative officials and rice merchants.
"It's essential to have further improvement in the quality of rice and the distribution system and to enhance marketing. So, we would like to support the implementation of each country's strategy to stimulate rice growing and to proactively increase private sector investment," says JICA Project Formulation Advisor Takanori Satoyama, the general coordinator of the CARD Secretariat, speaking about the second phase of CARD.
Along with collaborators including the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Agency, which supports sustainable development in Africa, JICA will continue supporting Africa-led initiatives to encourage rice growing. The 7th CARD General Meeting, a gathering of representatives of the 32 existing and prospective CARD member countries and international development partners, was held Oct. 2-4 at the JICA Research Institute in Ichigaya, Tokyo. As CARD results were confirmed and negotiations took place on the framework of the CARD second phase, attendees decided it will begin in 2019, the year of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7).