EAST AFRICA – Africa Rice Centre has partnered with Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International in a project that seeks to boost rice production in East Africa.

With the support of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the two premier institutes for agricultural development in Africa will launch the project in Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar.

The project titled ‘Strengthening Rice Sector in East Africa for improved productivity and competitiveness of domestic rice’ (EARiSS) seeks to enable the country’s achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.

The 3-year project will adapt appropriate rice technologies and innovations to address emerging rice value chain constraints and strengthen functional linkages among key rice stakeholders using multi-stakeholder innovation platforms (IPs).

It will also improve capacity of farmers and other rice value chain actors, including input dealers, millers and marketers.

“This important IFAD-funded project comes at an opportune moment, as we have announced this year that our aim is to achieve self-sufficiency in rice by boosting output to 400,000 tonnes by 2022,” stated Mwangi Kiunjuri, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya.

“We count on the expertise of AfricaRice, Africa Harvest and our scientists to assist in capacity strengthening and reduction of post-harvest losses.”

About 18,000 stakeholders, including rice farmers, seed producers, extension service providers, processors and national research staff in Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar are expected to benefit directly from this project.

“We are fortunate to work with Africa Harvest and our national partners in Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar on this project, which will help harness our combined knowledge and experience to address challenges along the rice value chain of these three countries,” said Dr Harold Roy-Macauley, AfricaRice Director General.

Rice is one of the key strategic crops for food security and a source of income for rice value chain actors in the project countries.

Despite increases in rice production, the local supply however, has not been able to meet the growing demand, driven by changing consumer preferences and rapid urbanization.

The rice import bill has therefore risen sharply and is estimated at US$500 million per year, in East Africa.

“It is unacceptable that 80% of Kenya’s rice is imported, when we have all the potential to produce it here,” stated Dr Florence Wambugu, Chief Executive Officer of Africa Harvest.

“That is why, it is so important that AfricaRice, which is known for its climate-smart technologies, adapted to African conditions, can bring to bear its expertise in boosting the rice sector in the project countries.”

It will be implemented in close association with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the National Irrigation Board (NIB).

It will also involve the National Center for Applied Research on Rural Development (FOFIFA) in Madagascar; and the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) in Uganda.