CARI at the AGRF 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda – Collaboration and partnership for working towards rice self-sufficiency in Africa

In recent years, Africa and the continent’s economies have shown signs of progress, which has led to improvements of livelihoods of millions of people. Nevertheless, Africa’s agricultural sector is required to not only keep pace with the economic development, but more rapidly and sustainably grow, produce higher yields, contribute to food security, deliver increased incomes, create employment and contribute to wider economic opportunities while natural resources are sustainably being managed. To overcome food shortages and transition to self-sufficiency and surpluses, the sector needs new impulses. Lead. Measure. Grow. This year’s theme of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda aimed at enabling new pathways to turn smallholder famers into sustainable agribusinesses. One of the success stories shared and discussed at the forum, during a morning session on 7th September 2018, was the example of the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI), introducing its Multi-Actor Partnership platform.

By applying a value chain approach, CARI and its public and private partners have been able to reach more than 750,000 beneficiaries since 2014, who increased their income and improved their food security. More than 143,900 low-income farmers were actively engaged into the rice value chain in four African countries: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania. More than 173,600 smallholder farmers received training in Good Agricultural Practices, and more than 137,200 in Farmers Business School. By following these practices, a remarkable increase in yield per hectare was recorded (up to 136% in irrigated and 185% in rain-fed production systems). Therefore, the first implementation phase of CARI was a fundamental success. Building on these successes, the Competitive African Rice Initiative has been commissioned for a second phase, during which knowledge exchange and cooperation will play a crucial and more important role. The exchange of experiences related to productivity, business models, use of production inputs, financial services and policy-making allows upscaling of proven approaches and fosters the rice value chain across African countries. In the Multi-Actor Partnership MAP4Rice, other rice stakeholders are actively engaged in order to collectively increase impacts for and improve livelihoods of smallholder rice farmers and their families.

High-level panel (left to right): Ernest Aubee (ECOWAS), Dr. Stefan Schmitz (BMZ), Hon. Christophe Bazivamo (EAC), Peter Keller (Facilitator), Njack Kane (Genève Intervalle SA), Dr. Nick Austin (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and Jacqueline Mbuya (Agricultural Ministry of Tanzania)

A multi-actor approach with the involvement of various different stakeholder groups brings together different expertise and resources. At the joint breakfast session with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) a high-level panel composed of representatives from various organisations discussed the important role rice plays in Africa, the transformation and leader-ship needed in order to sustainably develop the sector and the opportunities held in partner-ships. Low yields, weak processing and poor value chain linkages characterize the rice value chain in Africa. These are obstacles for overcoming the import dependency of many African countries and becoming self-sufficient. Real transformation is needed that requires shifts and rethinking. “We have no other choice”, a statement that was brought up multiple times during the discussions. It became apparent that it is insufficient to only link farmers to markets, work towards food security by continuing to implement single and delimited projects. Instead, holistic value chain approaches are required while considering multidimensional perspectives and thinking in food systems (improving nutrition and livelihoods while sustainably managing natural resources) which are to be scaled up collectively to allow a broader population to benefit. While national investments in infrastructure are needed, a regional approach for coordination and collaboration as well as good governance at all levels is key to elevating poverty. The importance of the topic for the continent is underlined by the high-ranking audience of the session. The Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire , the Head of Unit and Acting Director for Rural Development, Food Security, Nutrition of the European Commission, the Lead Specialist on food security and sustainable developments at the Islamic Development Bank amongst others were highly  engaged in the discussions. All speakers emphasised their support for the rice sector and the multi-actor partnership approach.

“Nigeria imports rice worth 5 million US$ per day .” In his closing words, the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (FMARD) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Hon. Chief Audu Ogbeh encouraged all attending stakeholder groups in their efforts and assured his commitment for supporting the rice sector in Nigeria.