Africa has become a major consumer of rice with an estimated annual import cost of over US$5B. Between 2010 and 2035, the continent will need an additional 30 million tons to meet this demand. According to Kilimo Trust, “over 1.5 million farming households in the East African Community depend on rice for food and income security with an average of US$550 per household every year from rice production enterprises.”
Against this backdrop, players from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia among them government officials, development partners, members of the research and academic community, donors and investors, the private sector, and farmer and civil society groups are set to explore key areas surrounding the rice value chain in East Africa in an upcoming conference in a bid to increase domestic rice production to fulfill the increasing demand.
“Changing consumer preferences, urbanization, diminishing productivity of regional staples such as maize, and population growth have been driving increased demand for rice in East Africa,” said Hannigton Odame, the East Africa Rice Conference (EARC) 2021 Co-Chair and Regional Coordinator for East Africa, Agricultural Policy Research in Africa programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium. “Rice can be a strategic commodity for poverty reduction, economic self-sufficiency, and food security in the region,” he added.
In the conference slated for 18-20 May, the players will lead critical discussions on the region’s agri-food systems transformation and development. The discussions will focus on accelerating progress in rice research & development, inclusive markets & value chains, rice-based livelihoods – gender and youth integration, integrated rice sector development in a changing climate, inclusive finance & investment, and agricultural policy processes & reforms.
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“Considering the potential of rice production in improving food and income security in East Africa, it is imperative that we create avenues to facilitate knowledge exchange and take stock of ongoing efforts in the rice-based agri-food systems. EARC 2021 aims to initiate precisely these critical conversations to accelerate transformative actions for more sustainable and inclusive rice system development,” said Abdelbagi Ismail, EARC 2021 Chair and International Rice Research Institute Regional Representative for Africa.
The conference will provide impetus to agricultural growth, food and nutrition security, and rural development as outlined in the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).
Additionally, it will discuss the governments’ efforts on the implementation of national rice development strategies (NRDS) and its results to date. At the same time, the conference will put a spotlight on the gains from collaborations and initiatives among organizations including the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium, the Center for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE), the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The conference also provides an opportunity to revisit progress towards the 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods commitments adopted by African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government. Ultimately, the conference outcomes and recommendations will provide useful multi-stakeholder information and perspectives to current Africa-wide and worldwide food and nutrition security initiatives such as the upcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021.