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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs