-aimed at realizing more efficient, sustainable and productive rice systems in Africa to increase food security and enhance sustainable development of the rice food chain among the smallholder farmers especially youth.
In Africa, the three-year project was executed in Tanzania, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda.
With the use of technologies adopted in the project, Pascal harvests an average of 52 sacks of rice per acre while before introduction of the project he was harvesting between 8 and 20 sacks.
“To me, this is a miracle. I commend everyone who made this project possible to us as smallholder farmers,” Pascal says with a broad smile.
After selling rice, he says: “I got 5.2m/-, the money I used to build a modern house (village standard). This is a very good step and I encourage youth to venture into agriculture.”
He describes the project and System of Rice Intensification (SRI) as a game changer due to the fact that it triples rice production per acre, which in turn addresses food security and poverty.
Project coordinator for FAO, Diomedes Kalisa also admits that life has changed to better for rice growers in areas where the project was implemented said the project has supported 2600 rice farmers who are now practicing modern rice farming.
“The project also provided training to 150 youth,” Kalisa said when speaking on Monday at the function to wrap up the project.
He said that in Tanzania the project was managed by the ministry and FAO whereas each of the participating countries was provided with US$500,000 from the funding country, Venezuela.
In Tanzania it was implemented in Mvomero, Kilosa and Kilombero districts.
Representative of FAO to Tanzania, Fred Kafeero says: “The importance of rice in ensuring food security cannot be overstated. Rice is a staple crop in many countries including Tanzania. Many people, especially in growing cities on rice is a food security crop and also a source of income. In fact in this part of Africa, Tanzania is the second main rice producer after Madagascar.”
“Here in Tanzania Rice production has increased its value to the country’s economy where it remains as a main source of food, employment and income to many smallholder farmers’ households,” he says, adding that in Tanzania the project contributed to the implementation of the National Strategy for Involvement of Youth in Agriculture of 2016.
He says: “FAO provided technical support to the Government of Tanzania for its development. The project addressed challenges causing low rice productivity in Tanzania through the adoption and upscaling of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) using proven approaches that FAO has tested in many countries.
According to him, the implementation witnessed major positive developments among farmers especially youth from production to market levels. Out of a small group of 150 youth who were trained on SRI in 2017, now more than 600 youth and 2000 adult farmers are scaling up the rice production method in project areas and beyond. The young farmers are now paid by willing farmers (beyond project area) to train them in these new production skills.
“Production and productivity in project areas has improved whereby the farmers in the project areas have more than doubled their rice production from an average of 20 bags of paddy to more than 40 per acre.
“Young farmers, through entrepreneurship skills training, have started different income generating activities besides rice farming including building houses for rent, hair dressing salons, motorcycle taxi business famously known as boda boda and livestock keeping, among many others.”
“This has in turn improved the incomes and livelihoods of the youth farmers and their families through construction of better houses, paying school fees for children and affording health insurance covers.”
The project recently procured various gender responsive, time and labour-saving farm inputs to help reduce post-harvest losses and improve grain quality. This included installation of 4 complete sets of rice processing machines with ability to remove husks and stones; carry out grading and packing;
“I have no doubt we will hear more testimonies from some of the project’s beneficiaries who are with us here today,” he said.
Kafeero said the project has strengthened collaboration and coordination among youth and government institutions and supporting learning, knowledge management and sharing among rice value chains actors.
“We commend the team work and commitment of the highest level by all partners; the Ministry of Agriculture; Morogoro Regional office; the Local government authorities and the farmers.
We recognize the excellent partnership that FAO has with the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who provided the funding support all through.”
“FAO remains committed to working with Tanzania and other partners in coordinating south-south cooperation to strengthen partnership and learning between countries on effective technologies and approaches to increase food security and nutrition to all.”