Japan has decided to provide US$4 million to train Africans in rice research and extension. The newly launched Season-Long Farming Training Program for Africa’ will help develop sustainable rice production systems and meet Africa’s growing demand for rice.
Not widely known as a rice region, Africa is in fact an important rice producer and consumer. Rice is the fastest growing food staple there and, in sub-Saharan Africa, annual rice consumption is increasing by 6% a year, with nearly half of it imported at a cost of around $3.6 billion a year.
About five years ago, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) worked extensively with several African countries and, as early as then, these countries identified a need for further rice development. IRRI and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) responded to this need with the recently launched program.
IRRI has received support from JICA to manage the training and will work with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to manage, host, and deliver the courses in the Philippines. This is part of the overall initiative of the Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD) to increase rice production in Africa.
"Improving rice production in Africa is critical to meet the region’s expected demand for rice in the future,” said Dr. Noel Magor, head of IRRI’s Training Center.
"Training young Africans in all aspects of rice production so they know the latest and most useful information and can build professional networks will empower them to play an active role in developing environmentally sustainable rice production in their countries,” he added.
The training targets extension officers, junior researchers, and research technicians, who all play a role in rice research and development.
Twenty-five participants from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique will arrive in June this year in the Philippines to undertake the first 4-month training program, which covers a full rice season from planting to harvest. However, a total of 23 CARD African countries will participate in the program.
"PhilRice with all its expertise and resources will ensure the successful implementation of the program with the African countries, and PhilRice also takes pride in taking part in this program to help rice development in Africa,” said Mr. Ruben B. Miranda, officer-in-charge of the executive director at PhilRice.
The full training support package from JICA is for 4 years, covering 2011 to 2014, and an expected total of 157 Africans are expected to be trained during this time thanks to their support.
"We expect IRRI to be able to develop a customized special training for African rice development and smoothly implement this program given the vast experience it has in coming up with and undertaking activities like this training program,” said Mr. Norio Matsuda, chief representative, JICA Philippine Office. “We also have confidence in the capacity of PhilRice to work with IRRI in implementing the season-long rice farming training in their Nueva Ecija main station.”
In wrapping up the benefits, Dr. Noel Magor, said, “We hope that the teams of extension officers, the young researchers, and research technicians for each country will walk away from the training with the skills for increasing rice production in their respective countries.”
Improving rice production in Africa will help deliver better incomes for rice farmers and keep rice prices affordable for consumers. This will help lift more Africans out of poverty and improve national economies.
This training program is an important milestone in the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) and is part of the joint effort by Africa Rice and IRRI to support rice sector devlopment in Africa.