Food Security: Foundation to develop, disseminate nitrogen, water-efficient rice
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and its partners would soon begin the distribution of what it called Nitrogen, Water Efficient Salt Tolerant (NEWEST) rice to improve food sufficiency in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
The AATF`s Executive Director, Dr Denis Kyetere, said this on Thursday at the NEWEST Rice Project Annual Review and Planning Meeting held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.
Kyetere said the goal of the project was to develop and disseminate farmer-preferred-locally-adapted-rice varieties with enhanced nitrogen, water-use efficiency and salt tolerance.
He expressed the hope that the project could lead to food sufficiency which would redirect limited foreign exchange used to import rice to other sectors of the economy.
“There will be improved crop yields resulting in enhanced household-food security and production of marketable crop-surplus.
“Also abandoned croplands will be reclaimed reducing land shortages; an additional 1.3 million tonnes of rice will be produced in Africa each year, reducing the current deficit by 10 per cent,” Kyetere said.
Also, Dr Samuel Agboire, the Executive Director, National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI), said that rice demands had exceeded its production in most SSA.
Agboire, represented by Dr Mohammed Ishiaq, Director, Information and Documentation Department, said insufficient rice production was affecting the well-being of over 20 million smallholder farmers who depended on it as their staple food.
“SSA countries are spending more than $5billion annually on rice imports.
“Rice production deficit along with a large outflow of foreign exchange presents a great developmental challenge to governments in SSA.
“Low yields experienced by farmers are responsible for rice imports in SSA where over 40 per cent of the rice consumed is imported.
“Also nitrogen deficiency has been cited as a major constraint to rice production; nitrogen is difficult to maintain when applied in lowland areas due to floods,” he said.
Similarly, the Project’s Coordinator, Dr Kayode Sanni, said the project which was started in 2008 had the aim of producing rice in excess and reducing its importation on or before 2020.
“Improving the nitrogen-use efficiency of rice is one means of achieving this goal.
“With the utilisation and application of water-use -efficient component, the rice will require less water and this will offer an appreciable coping mechanism against drought,” he said.
Sanni noted that the project was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Scientists from AATF, NCRI, CIAT, Crop Research Institute of Ghana are all parts of the project workers,” the coordinator said.