News / Africa

Cameroon Researchers Develop New Rice Variety

Nerica rice on display at the Yaounde Science Innovation Expo in June 2013 (VOA / E. Nforngwa)
Nerica rice on display at the Yaounde Science Innovation Expo in June 2013 (VOA / E. Nforngwa)
Eugene Nforngwa
Its 7am at the Yaounde city hall. The 2013 edition of the National Science and Innovation Expo has just opened. A man is making an announcement over the public address system. Government officials, scientists, and a curious public are all here to discover the work of the country’s top researchers. There is much to see: pest resistant cocoa, a beverage made from oil palm sap, solar panels, energy-saving stoves. There is even medicine made from roots and barks; and a locally manufactured brickmaking machine.
But it’s Stand-17 that has caught most people’s attention. It belongs to the state-run Institute of Agricultural Research and Development (IRAD). Over the past years, the institute has been working on a new and improved rice variety that can grow on dry land and produce much more than other varieties. Today, it is on exhibition and has been named nerica. The researchers say it is going to completely change rice production in Cameroon and Africa.
Nerica takes only three months from when it is planted to when it is harvested. Because its roots do not sink deep, it can grow on dry ground. There is no need for irrigation because Cameroon’s abundant rainfall is enough. Standing only 60 to 70 centimeters tall, nerica is also easier to harvest compared to other varieties that can be more than one meter tall.
Madeleine Akoa works at the rice unit of IRAD and has been explaining the breakthrough to visitors ever since the Expo opened. She says the rice variety can adapt to any ecological condition and easily integrates existing planting seasons and practices.
"Its advantages," she says, "are that it requires little work and there is no need for irrigation in the rainy season. It can be cultivated in the same way that corn is cultivated. If you plant in August, you can begin harvesting in November and December."
IRAD did not invent nerica, which is a cross-breeding of African and Asian species.  Initial research was conducted by the Africa Rice Center, formerly the West African Rice Development Association, based in Benin Republic. The first seeds were planted in 1996. Since then, governments and research institutions across the continent have been pushing for its adoption by African farmers.
What the developers consider exciting is the fact that it can yield up to four tons of high quality rice per hectare. This is significant for Cameroon, which is a net importer of rice.
Local production accounts for less than 40% of the national need. In 2011, it imported more than 550,000 metric tons of rice at CFA145 billion or US$90 million. By mid-2012, it had already purchased from abroad an estimated 366,000 tons. Authorities expect that even more rice would be imported this year due to the growing demand, estimated at 650,000 metric tons annually. 
Many attempts have been made to raise local production. In June, Japan pledged to fund the mechanization of small-scale rice production for roughly CFA100 million, about US$200,000. The World Bank has also announced a US$108 million project, which includes reopening rice farms in northern Cameroon. Meantime, a Chinese company is growing rice in Cameroon for both the local market and for its own markets.

But at the food section of the Yaounde central market, just a stone’s throw from the city hall, it is hard to find locally grown rice. At a wholesale shop, there are more than 100 sacks piled at the far end. There is Thai rice, Chinese rice, Indonesian rice, Brazilian rice but not a single sack of Cameroonians rice. 
Akoa says the challenge for IRAD is to encourage Cameroonian growers to adopt nerica
"IRAD wants to popularize this rice variety so that any Cameroonian, including the average peasant, can grow their own rice, even if it’s only for home consumption," she says.
"Imported rice contains a lot of additives and lacks many essential nutrients," she says. "But rice produced in Cameroon is more nutritious, firstly because its oil and fiber are not extracted and it has not been significantly modified."
But increasing local production could take a long time.  Only 63,000 metric tons of rice was domestically milled in 2012, down from 85,000 in 2011. This year, the forecast is a dismal 70,000 metric tons.​
Listen to report on new rice varieties for Cameroon
Listen to report on new rice varieties for Cameroon i
|| 0:00:00

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs