News / Africa

Cameroon Rice Farmers Depend on Science, Banks

Women rice sellers chat in a busy market in Kindia, Guinea in this Aug. 21, 2002 photo.
Women rice sellers chat in a busy market in Kindia, Guinea in this Aug. 21, 2002 photo.
Ntaryike Divine Jr.
Following the deadly food riots that swept across West Africa five years ago in response to the high price of rice, Cameroon and other neighboring governments have taken responsibility for rehabilitating structures and resources for rice farmers.

The grain is now one of the most consumed staples south of the Sahara. Experts across the region say consumers and national economies will be better for it. 

One export says this national strategy will gradually bear fruit. “You know, we’re coming a long way after the economic crises of the 80s,” said Marc Samatana, the director of the Yagoua Rice Expansion and Modernization Corporation in north Cameroon.

Those were bleak times. “All our production equipment collapsed. The state pulled out of production, milling and commercialization. But following the 2008 food crisis, the state assumed its responsibilities and decided to completely rehabilitate production structures. 
 
Listen to report on rice production in Cameroon (by Divine Ntaryike)
Listen to report on rice production in Cameroon (by Divine Ntaryike)i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“Within two years, all our problems will be resolved,” Samatama said. Cameroon harvested only 64,000 tons of rice last year and had to import 365,000 tons. The government launched the National Rice Development Strategy in 2009 to revitalize rice research and cultivation. The target is to grow 630,000 tons by 2018.
 
Search for rice that survives drought
 
Elsewhere across the continent, governments and farmers are banking on science to increase production with high-yield, drought-resistant and environmentally-adapted seeds.
 
Nigerian bio-technologist Adekoya Modinat of the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences says researchers are looking for rice that can thrive in upland, lowland, irrigated as well as deep-water ecologies.
 
“In the traditional way, rice is planted in flooded plains and this is threatening to the environment,” he said. “We’re trying to see exactly how much water is needed for rice production and to develop drought-resistant varieties that can be planted with minimal water and which still have very good yields.”
 
Such research, funded by governments and donors, has revolutionized rice harvests in parts of the continent.

Mali, whose production hardly surpassed 170,000 tons in 2008, is a success story, said Boubakar Mane, a researcher at the Africa Rice Center, a leading research organization based in Cotonou, Benin.
 
“Now, it is producing close to two million tons, a ten-fold increase in less than five years. This just shows to what extent the right policies can make dramatic changes in rice and food production in our countries.”
 
So what’s the problem with rice?
 
Nonetheless, the number of such laudable strides remains few.  Among lingering challenges is the snail pace with which research results get from the laboratories to the farms.
 
“We have difficulties cultivating rice,” said Philomena Foutchio, a small-scale rice grower in the northwest of Cameroon. “We don’t know the problem, and so we’re begging the government to help us because that is the only cash crop in northwest Cameroon. For this year, we don’t think we’ll come out with anything because the water is too much.”
 
Lack of rain is certainly one factor.
 
B.A. Awodite, a researcher at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, says another source of the problem is the failure of the government to distribute the innovations to a wider public. Awodite decries the absence of government policies facilitating farmers’ access to improved planting material.
 
“We have developed varieties and they are there on the shelves and cannot get to the farmers. So what do we do? We have to support small companies and farmers organizations. Governments must come up with policies whereby these companies are subsidized to deliver: help them to have access to credit and bank loans so they can do business and produce these varieties and then distribute to farmers.”
 
Researchers, growers, governments and other stakeholders are now counting on recommendations made at the 3rd Africa Rice Congress held in the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé in October to surmount the hurdles.
 
They include increased investment to modernize and mechanize rice farming, increased farmers’ access to improved varieties and other research results, protection of the land rights of the mostly small-scale farmers growing the bulk of the continent’s rice, the strengthening of farmer organizations and public-private partnerships.
 
Building stronger farm organizations
 
A crucial element is funding for rice research, seed production and strengthened farm organizations.
 
Gambia’s minister of agriculture, Dr. Solomon Owens, says prospects for increasing Africa's rice yields are enormous. “We’re already doing well with the Maputo Declaration, allocating 10 percent of our national budgets to agriculture and a significant proportion of that is going to rice production.
 
“The opportunities are there because the land is there, the water is there; the farmers are prepared to increase their production. So, it’s for research to give us the technologies, give us the varieties and for the policymakers to come up with strong and bold policies.”
 
West Africa and Egypt are expected to mainly drive growth with a robust production recovery, and a target of 30 million tons by 2020.
 
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Rice Market Monitor predicts rice harvests across the continent will exceed 27 million tons this year, a two-percent jump from last year and an indicator of gradual strides towards rice independence.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid