COTE D’ IVOIRE – Africa Rice Centre has unveiled a free mobile app, ‘RiceAdvice-WeedManager’ a tool to help African rice farmers manage and control weeds most effectively and at a lower cost.

The program aims to improve efficiency, productivity and in the long-run create value to farmers in rice environments ranging from rain-fed uplands to fully irrigated lowlands across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Africa Rice indicates weed infestation to be a factor in lower rice production in SSA with annual weed-inflicted yield losses in rice estimated at 2.2 million tons per year, resulting in at least US$ 1.5 billon losses per year.

Improved weed control, together with good soil fertility management can raise rice yields by 1 tonne per hectare, thus prevent losses and reduce production costs.

The app, developed through collaboration between Co-Capacity and the Netherlands with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Rice Agri-food Systems (RICE) provides information to farmers including affordable weed management strategies.

According to the organisation, the program is being tested in Nigeria and Tanzania with the help of the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) and this will be followed by trainings in the use of the mobile app.

Farmers will be able to access information on a range of adapted recommendations for weed management covering the whole cropping season, from planting to harvesting.

Then they can decide on which of the recommendations to adapt, and at this stage they are monitored and advised by service providers.

“The WeedManager app stimulates adoption of targeted and integrated weed management practices by smallholder rice farmers in SSA, helping to reduce their reliance on manual weeding.

This contributes to sustainable productivity enhancement leading to food security and income generation,” explains Dr Jonne Rodenburg, Senior Lecturer/Researcher Agroecology at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom.

Its use is not only limited to rice farmers but can also be used by extension workers, private companies involved in rice agribusiness, development agencies, other stakeholders as well as young professionals interested in weed management for rice production.

Africa produces an average of 14.6 million tonnes of rough rice per year, 56.5% of this coming from West Africa, according to FAO.

While rice constitutes a staple food in many African countries, demand is increasing engaging it in the strategic food security planning policies in these countries.