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Rice-based production systems for food security and poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa

Published by:
Online Location
Publication date
Number of Pages
Type of Publication:
Event Reports
Focus Region:
Sub-Saharan Africa
Focus Topic:
Nutrition / Food Systems
Agricultural Value Chains / Agri-Businesses
Type of Risk:
Biological & environmental
Type of Risk Managment Option:
Risk reduction/mitigation
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Part 3, on page 85 of this workshop proceeding presents the research on “Rice-based production systems for food security and poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa”.

The lack of food security for a large proportion of the African population continues to exacerbate poverty and malnutrition. High population growth, the effects of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) on the productive labour force, the degradation of the environment, poor agricultural development support services and lack of enabling economic policy environment have all aggravated the situation. Rice has great potential and can play a critical role in contributing to food and nutritional security, income generation, poverty alleviation and socio-economic growth in Africa. It is an important food crop in many African countries and is increasingly preferred over many traditional foods, such as sorghum, millet and most root and tuber crops. It is the staple food crop in Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone. In most countries, rice supply cannot keep up with demand. Consumption demand has grown rapidly over the last two decades and is now more than 6 percent per annum, amounting to over 10 million tonnes of milled rice per year (Figures 1 and 2).

In West Africa alone, FAO projected that rice imports would rise to 4 million tonnes per year by 2000, drawing approximately US$1 billion from foreign exchange earnings. This increase is due to both population growth (2.6 percent per year) and the increasing share of rice in the diet of African populations (1.1 percent per year); rice consumption in 1998 was 30 kg per caput per year (FAO, 1999),mainly as aresultof rapid urbanization (Snrech, 1994). Urban rice consumers, faced with a relative increase in the rice price, prefer to maintain their consumption level (at the expense of other categories of goods), rather than shifting to other cereals. This is most probably due to the ease of preparation and the difference in time perception between urban and rural families. The vast majority of rice in Africa is rainfed and grown by smallholder farmers, a disproportionate number of whom are women. Growth in demand is creating opportunities for small-scale producers.

The production of rice in sub-Saharan Africa has steadily increased since the 1970s, reaching almost 7 million tonnes of milled rice by the end of the last decade. The increase in rice production is due to: expansion in area (70 percent) and yield increase (30 percent) (Fagade, 2000; Falusi, 1997). The gap between rice demand and regional supply is increasing and was about 4 million tonnes of milled rice for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole in 1998 (Figure 2). Nigeria was the major rice importer with almost 1 million tonnes in 1999/2000 (Mbabaali, 2000).

The social interest in developing regional rice production goes further than import substitution. As mainly resource-poor farmers grow rice integrating a wide range of other agricultural activities, rice research and development can be considered an entry point for the development of the agricultural sector as a whole. Thus, rice research and development can be seen as a catalyst, reducing production risks, averting natural resource degradation, enhancing food security and income and contributing to poverty alleviation.

The objective of this paper is to provide an overview of the challenges and technical opportunities in developing rice-based systems for food security and poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa. The data presented relate mainly to West and Central Africa.