Monday, March 27, 2017

Japan-funded ‘RiceAdvice’ project benefits over 16,000 African farmers


Thanks to a 1-year project supported by the Government of Japan, 200 trained service providers have helped more than 16,000 rice farmers in Mali and Nigeria benefit from ‘RiceAdvice’, a customized crop management decision support tool, leading to increased productivity, efficiency and profits.

Developed by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), the RiceAdvice app, which can be freely downloaded through Google Play on Android smartphone or tablet device, generates tailor-made recommendations that help farmers in irrigated and relatively favorable rainfed lowland areas in Africa apply mineral fertilizer more efficiently in order to optimize production and profits and reduce waste.

Farmers’ efficient use of mineral fertilizer coupled with good agricultural practices is one of the keys to enhancing rice production in sub-Saharan Africa, where the average yield is around 2.1 t/ha. AfricaRice studies have shown that the adoption of RiceAdvice recommendations can increase rice yield by 0.6 to 1.8 t/ha in farmers’ fields.

According to Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)-Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI), which is one of the important project partners in Nigeria, a specific innovative element of RiceAdvice is that it is not only based on the agronomic conditions, but also on the financial capacity of the farmer.

CARI is helping deploy the RiceAdvice technology to over 9000 farmers in Nigeria through 97 trained service providers. “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.”

Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, another key project partner, recounted a similar success story from Kouroumari area in Office du Niger, Mali, where 99% of the 600 farmers, who benefited from RiceAdvice, wish to reuse the service in 2017 and 44% of them are ready to pay between 250 F CFA (about 50 cents) and 10,000 F CFA (about US$16) for RiceAdvice recommendations.

These were some of the highlights that were presented at the project closing meeting held at AfricaRice-Cotonou research station on 22 February 2017. The meeting was organized to review progress and achievements, share experiences, and develop a follow-up plan after the project ends in March 2017.

About 20 participants representing the Japanese Embassy in Benin, GIZ-CARI, Institut d’economie rurale (IER), Syngenta Foundation, National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Ahmadu Bello University and AfricaRice attended the meeting.

“We are pleased that nearly all the project targets have been achieved or even surpassed in some cases,” said Dr Kazuki Saito, AfricaRice agronomist and project coordinator. The project’s aim was to boost rice productivity, maximize rice farmers’ investment potential and catalyze youth employment, contributing to food security and social stability in the two countries.

Thanking the Government of Japan and the various partners for their strong support, Dr Saito reported on the progress made in the use of media tools for promoting RiceAdvice, which includes the production of a promotional video, the creation of a Facebook Page and the development of a dedicated website.

The participants discussed opportunities and constraints for outscaling and upscaling RiceAdvice in a sustainable manner. The issues covered related to the need for appropriate business models, coordination mechanisms and identification of new partners.

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 closure of the project.

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Le projet « RiceAdvice » financé par le Japon profite à plus 16 000 riziculteurs africains


Deux cent (200) prestataires de services formés ont aidé plus de 16 000 producteurs de riz au Mali et au Nigeria à bénéficier de « RiceAdvice » grâce à un projet d’un an appuyé par le gouvernement du Japon. Il s’agit là d’un outil d’aide à la décision pour la gestion des cultures, entraînant une productivité accrue, une meilleure efficacité et des profits élevés.
 
L’application RiceAdvice, qui peut être téléchargée gratuitement sur un smartphone ou une tablette à partir de Google Play, a été mise au point par le Centre du riz pour l’Afrique (AfricaRice). Elle génère des recommandations sur mesure qui aident les riziculteurs dans les zones irriguées et de bas-fonds pluviaux relativement favorables en Afrique à appliquer les engrais minéraux plus efficacement afin d’optimiser la production et les profits, et de réduire les pertes.
 
L’utilisation efficace des engrais minéraux par les producteurs, couplée à de bonnes pratiques agricoles, est l’une des clés pour améliorer la production rizicole en Afrique subsaharienne, où le rendement moyen est d’environ 2,1 t/ha. Les études d’AfricaRice ont montré que l’adoption des recommandations de RiceAdvice peut augmenter le rendement du riz de 0,6 à 1,8 t/ha dans les champs des paysans.
 
Selon Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)- Initiative pour un riz africain compétitif (CARI), qui est l’un des partenaires clés du projet au Nigeria, un élément spécifique innovateur de RiceAdvice est que cet outil n’est pas uniquement basé sur les conditions agronomiques, mais aussi sur la capacité financière du producteur.
 
CARI aide à déployer la technologie RiceAdvice auprès de plus de 9 000 producteurs au Nigeria à travers 97 prestataires de service formés. « Les producteurs sont satisfaits de l’amélioration significative du rendement et du revenu que RiceAdvice leur a apportée, et désirent vivement continuer avec ce service. »
 
La Fondation Syngenta pour une agriculture durable, un autre partenaire clé du projet, a raconté une expérience similaire réussie dans la zone de Kouroumari dans l’Office du Niger au Mali, où 99 % des 600 producteurs, qui ont bénéficié de RiceAdvice, souhaitent réutiliser ce service en 2017 et 44 % d’entre eux sont prêts à payer entre 250 F CFA (environ 50 centimes) et 10 000 F CFA (environ 16 US$) pour les recommandations de RiceAdvice.
 
C’était là certains des points saillants présentés à la réunion de clôture du projet tenue le 22 février 2017 à la station de recherche d’AfricaRice-Cotonou. La réunion a été organisée pour examiner les progrès et les réalisations, partager les expériences, et élaborer un plan de suivi après la fin du projet en mars 2017.
 
Environ 20 participants représentant l’Ambassade du Japon au Bénin, GIZ-CARI, l’Institut d’économie rurale (IER), la Fondation Syngenta, l’Institut national de recherche sur les céréales (NCRI), l’Université Ahmadu Bello et AfricaRice ont pris part à la réunion.
 
« Nous sommes heureux que presque tous les objectifs du projet ont été atteints ou même dépassés dans certains cas, » a déclaré Dr Kazuki Saito, agronome à AfricaRice et coordonnateur du projet. Le projet visait à accroître la productivité rizicole, à maximiser le potentiel des investissements des producteurs et à catalyser l’emploi des jeunes, en contribuant à la sécurité alimentaire et à la stabilité sociale dans les deux pays.
 
Remerciant le gouvernement du Japon et les différents partenaires pour leur soutien fort, Dr Saito a présenté les progrès faits dans l’utilisation des médias pour promouvoir RiceAdvice, ce qui inclut la production d’une vidéo promotionnelle, la création d’une page Facebook et la création d’un site Internet dédié.
 
Les participants ont discuté des opportunités et des contraintes pour la diffusion à grande échelle de RiceAdvice de manière durable. Les questions abordées ont porté sur la nécessité de modèles d’affaires appropriés, de mécanismes de coordination et l’identification de nouveaux partenaires.
 
AfricaRice et ses partenaires analysent les données du projet et font des visites de suivi sur le terrain pour évaluer l’impact initial et identifier les mécanismes en vue du lancement effectif de RiceAdvice en Afrique subsaharienne après la clôture du projet.
 
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Thursday, March 2, 2017

UEMOA-funded AfricaRice project plans activities to boost West Africa’s rice sector

As part of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA)-funded project on rice sector development in West Africa, a review and planning meeting was organized, 27-28 February 2017, at the AfricaRice Training Center in Saint Louis, Senegal. 

The 3-year UEMOA project covering Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo is being implemented by AfricaRice within the framework of UEMOA’s agricultural policy (PAU).

The project aims at delivering eight outputs:
  1. Identification, production and distribution of rice varieties adapted to climate change and varieties with good grain quality
  2. Best rice crop management practices to increase productivity
  3. Good post-harvest practices to reduce losses and improve quality
  4. Introduction and adaptation of equipment (for land preparation, weeding, harvesting and transport of rice) and training of small and medium-scale enterprises in the manufacture of equipment
  5. Promote functional and sustainable contractual arrangements between the different rice value chain actors
  6. Capacity building and large-scale dissemination
  7. Development of regional instruments for improving information for food security, knowledge management and decision support tools for all stakeholders in the rice sector.
  8. Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation and Impact Assessment

The participants included eight country coordinators of the project and coordinators of the Africa-wide Rice Task Forces on Policy, Processing and Value Addition, and Mechanization. Discussions focused on the project’s second year results and work plans for the third year. AfricaRice and its partners are implementing the project activities through the Task Force and the Rice Sector Development Hub mechanisms. 

The meeting was chaired by the AfricaRice regional coordinator of the project Dr Karim Traoré. The UEMOA resident representative at Dakar, Mr Dossolo Diarra took an active part in the meeting and expressed his satisfaction and support for the pursuit of the project activities.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

AfricaRice and SLARI organize training in fabrication of ASI rice thresher in Sierra Leone

AfricaRice, in partnership with the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI), organized a training workshop, 1-10 Feb 2017, in Lunsar, Port Loko District, Sierra Leone, to strengthen the capacity of the local manufacturers to fabricate the ‘ASI’ rice thresher, which is one of the important improved post-harvest technologies for rice in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Manual rice threshing is common in SSA, where it is mainly carried out by women farmers. It is not only labor-intensive and back-breaking, but it also leads to heavy post-harvest crop losses. The ASI thresher was developed by AfricaRice and its partners to speed up post-harvest processes, produce a higher quality product, increase the marketability of local rice and lessen the burden of women.

At the Sierra Leone training workshop, two senior artisans, who were trained by AfricaRice in 2013 in Nigeria, coached five local fabricators, with technical support from the Africa Rice Mechanization Task Force focal point in SLARI, Mr Kemoh Bangura.

During the hands-on training, an ASI thresher was successfully constructed and tested at the workshop and all necessary technical adjustments were made. The thresher was subsequently tested at the Rokupr Agricultural Research Centre (RARC) in the presence of scientists, who were satisfied with the overall performance and output of the thresher.

The scientists found that the rice was well threshed with little or no grains remaining on the straw. They made several comments and recommendations which will be followed by the trained fabricators. The national media and SLARI communication unit were also invited to the ASI thresher testing session.

The training workshop was jointly supported by the Global Affairs Canada-funded project on “Support to Rice Research in Africa” and by the African Development Bank-funded project onSupport to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC).”  

Future activities will include a field trip to demonstrate the use of the ASI thresher to different stakeholders involved in the rice sector in Sierra Leone including extension agents, farmers’ organizations, rice processors’ organization, local fabricators, and rice traders.

Training of end-users, especially the youth, will be organized, on the use and maintenance of the thresher in the Rice Hubs and as service providers for farmers. The ASI thresher will also be evaluated for its gender-friendliness. The national media and SLARI communication unit will be invited to popularize the ASI thresher in Sierra Leone.

“It is expected that the training of local equipment manufacturers in the fabrication and out-scaling of this technology to the Rice Sector Development Hubs in Sierra Leone will enhance the timely execution of the threshing operation and substantially reduce post-harvest losses,” said Dr Olupomi Ajayi, AfricaRice Country Representative, Sierra Leone/ Rice Research Coordinator for Sierra Leone.

“The wide dissemination of the equipment will facilitate the involvement of private business in rice value chain activities and contribute to the creation of employment for the youth and women,” he added. “The use of the ASI thresher will also improve grain quality. This is very important as higher grain quality is a prerequisite for competitiveness against imports that cost Sierra Leone much valuable foreign exchange.”