Although Africa has a large untapped potential for rice production and a large and growing demand for its consumption, a substantial amount of its rice is imported from outside the continent.
In most West African countries, rice production has been unable to meet the increase in demand triggered by population growth, rapid urbanization, increasing incomes and urban consumer preferences in terms of cost and ease of cooking. As a result, most countries in the region depend significantly on imports to meet their demand for rice.
Rice has become an increasingly important part of the diet in West Africa, and a major source of calories. However, rice production is still low.
Experts from the African Rice Center argue that even if pockets of production show substantial increases in yields, the average yields for the region do not appear to have significantly changed over the past decade. This is primarily due to the small-scale farmers’ limited access to skills and inputs to improve productivity, reduce post-harvest losses, add value and market their produce.
As a result, they struggle to respond to demands for larger volumes, consistency of supply and higher quality, being at a disadvantage due to weak storage and processing facilities, high transaction costs caused by a fragmented production system and low bargaining power. Improving efficiency and sustainably intensifying rice production, therefore, offers a solution to improving food and nutrition security, particularly for millions of rural poor.
So far, many Asian countries have made great progress in addressing similar challenges and have developed effective and proven technologies and expertise over the years ― such as in rice production, processing and post-harvest management. This represents an excellent opportunity to share experiences and lessons learned among the African and Asian countries and to generate south-south cooperation partnerships.
SSC is widely recognized as a cost-effective means of sharing knowledge and resources among developing capacities. It is demand-driven and ensures the strong principles of national ownership and leadership, which plays a key role in project sustainability.
In this context, both South Korea and the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization realize the significant potential that SSC can offer to achieve the goals of ensuring food security and reducing poverty, especially in the area of rice value-chain development in Africa and Asia. The FAO recognizes South Korea’s knowledge, experience and commitment toward food security. Likewise, South Korea recognizes the FAO’s renewed emphasis on addressing global development challenges.
South Korea and the FAO have agreed to work together in implementing the project on “Capacity Development and Experience Sharing for Sustainable Value Chain Development in Africa through South-South Cooperation” to support several West African countries in their national rice development programs.
The project will build on and scale up the positive achievements and lessons learned from ongoing projects and programs, which target the commercialization of the agricultural sector in the beneficiary countries. The ongoing initiatives generally adopt a value chain approach, focusing on increased production and productivity, added value, quality improvement and enhanced market access.
South Korea is providing a budget of about $2 million to support the project in three countries in West Africa, while the FAO is facilitating the implementation of the project through its Regional Office for Africa. The project will contribute to a more modern and profitable agricultural sector through the design and implementation of evidence-based agriculture and rural development approaches, policies and programs for rice in these countries.