Japan’s Resilience is amazing:
Supporting Africa’s Rice Research at this time!

Ruth Oniang'o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND

Japan never gives up!!Despite the recent and still running challenges arising from the tsunami, earthquake and radiation spill, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has made a commitment to support Africa through IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) headquartered in the Philippines. Please read the story below. This story caught my eye, not just because it is a good story, but also because I served on the IRRI Board for 6 years (between 2003 and 2009). I enjoyed my time on this Board, of an extremely well managed CGIAR Centre. My time there also got me to appreciate the role rice plays in people’s lives across the world. I also became aware of the rising import bill on rice by African governments. Most of the rice was being imported from rice exporting Asian countries. Conditions for rice production in Africa are very different from those in Asia. Can Africa produce enough rice to meet its own demand? Not in the near future. Chances are it will continue to rely to some large measure on rice imports from Asia. Africa, however, provides a fertile ground for highland and rain-fed rice research. Also with climate change and likely increase in flooding events, who knows, there may arise in future conditions for irrigated rice! Further research needs to look into what nutrition challenges lie ahead for an Africa that consumes more rice than the traditional staples (maize, cassava, sorghum, sweet potatoes, plantain and others). Well, I wanted to send accolades to Japan for supporting young African scientists in rice production and primary processing, and to  acknowledge IRRI’s continued focus on Africa’s rice production potential, working with PhilRice, a Philippine Government Rice Research and Training institution.

18, May 2011 Rice Today Magazine  (www.irri.org)
““IRRI and Japan launch rice development training program for Africa”
Fast Facts

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, annual rice consumption is increasing by 6% a year, with nearly half of it imported at a cost of around $3.6 billion a year.
  • Rice production in Africa is critical to meet the region’s expected demand for rice in the future.
Sophie Clayton
(2) 580 5600 ext. 2204

Noel Magor
(2) 580 5600 ext. 2749

Japan has decided to provide US$4 million to train Africans in rice research and extension. The newly launched Season-Long Farming Training Program for Africa’ will help develop sustainable rice production systems and meet Africa’s growing demand for rice.
Not widely known as a rice region, Africa is in fact an important rice producer and consumer. Rice is the fastest growing food staple there and, in sub-Saharan Africa, annual rice consumption is increasing by 6% a year, with nearly half of it imported at a cost of around $3.6 billion a year.

About five years ago, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) worked extensively with several African countries and, as early as then, these countries identified a need for further rice development. IRRI and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) responded to this need with the recently launched program.
IRRI has received support from JICA to manage the training and will work with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to manage, host, and deliver the courses in the Philippines. This is part of the overall initiative of the Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD) to increase rice production in Africa.
“Improving rice production in Africa is critical to meet the region’s expected demand for rice in the future,” said Dr. Noel Magor, head of IRRI’s Training Center.

“Training young Africans in all aspects of rice production so they know the latest and most useful information and can build professional networks will empower them to play an active role in developing environmentally sustainable rice production in their countries,” he added.
The training targets extension officers, junior researchers, and research technicians, who all play a role in rice research and development.
Twenty-five participants from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique will arrive in June this year in the Philippines to undertake the first 4-month training program, which covers a full rice season from planting to harvest. However, a total of 23 CARD African countries will participate in the program.

“PhilRice with all its expertise and resources will ensure the successful implementation of the program with the African countries, and PhilRice also takes pride in taking part in this program to help rice development in Africa,” said Mr. Ruben B. Miranda, officer-in-charge of the executive director at PhilRice.
The full training support package from JICA is for 4 years, covering 2011 to 2014, and an expected total of 157 Africans are expected to be trained during this time thanks to their support.

“We expect IRRI to be able to develop a customized special training for African rice development and smoothly implement this program given the vast experience it has in coming up with and undertaking activities like this training program,” said Mr. Norio Matsuda, chief representative, JICA Philippine Office. “We also have confidence in the capacity of PhilRice to work with IRRI in implementing the season-long rice farming training in their Nueva Ecija main station.”

In wrapping up the benefits, Dr. Noel Magor, said, “We hope that the teams of extension officers, the young researchers, and research technicians for each country will walk away from the training with the skills for increasing rice production in their respective countries.”
Improving rice production in Africa will help deliver better incomes for rice farmers and keep rice prices affordable for consumers. This will help lift more Africans out of poverty and improve national economies.””””