We?re continuing our series on the importance of agriculture to Africa?s economy, and the subject this evening is rice. The Africa Rice Center, originally the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA), is a center for research and development. Its mission is to adapt and develop strains of rice suitable for Africa and to improve food security and help alleviate poverty.
There?s a new variety of rice developed specifically for Africa, known as ?Nerica.? Shellemiah Keya is with the Africa Rice Center in Benin. VOA English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard reached him in Cotonou to get more details on the role of rice in reducing poverty.
Keya says the center?s efforts to reduce poverty in Africa are evident. He says that Africa spends over two billion dollars importing rice from Asia, with an increased consumption rate of almost six percent, and that rice is no longer a luxury crop since poor people as well as the wealthy eat rice: ?Now we have evidence to show that farmers who grow rice ? we?ve had studies done in Benin which show that child involvement in school rose by three percent, school retention rates increased by three percent, school expenditure per child increased by almost $8, and the frequency of child sickness declined. We have also some evidence that people are able to build better houses in Uganda and also meet other expenses, so it is helping poor farmers to have an income.?
Keya says Egypt is the leading rice producing country, followed by Nigeria and Madagascar. Other countries include Ivory Coast and Guinea. But he says of all the 17 rice-producing countries in Africa, very few are self sufficient in rice production.
But Keya says he thinks the continent is on the verge of a green revolution, meaning increased agricultural growth. He also says that the new variety of rice, NERICA, ?is very promising and is going to be making most rice producing countries self sufficient in the near future.? (English to Africa 10/24)
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