Big steps towards innovation-driven food security in Africa

KAFACI and AfricaRice jointly developed the Africa Rice Development Partnership project to increase rice productivity in Africa. Using modern breeding technology that shortens the breeding period from 10-15 years to 3-5 years, and by crossing Korean Japonica rice with African varieties, five high-yielding varieties were developed and registered in three countries. The newly released varieties directly benefited farmers, consumers, retailers and policy-makers due to their high yield and quality.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Despite the increase in the annual production of rice in many African countries over the last decade, rice consumption in Africa continues to rise faster than local production due to urbanization, changes in consumer preferences, and rapid population growth. This led to a massive increase in rice importation every year. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), African rice imports have increased from 9.62 to 17 million tons from 2010 to 2019, and are predicted to increase to 29 million tons by 2028. Thus, transformational changes are needed to bolster local production to levels that will significantly reduce importation.

Considering this situation, the Korea-Africa Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI) of the Korean Rural Development Administration (RDA) and Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) jointly initiated the Rice Development Partnership Project with ambitious objectives of raising rice production and taste by crossing among African and Korean varieties; These will contribute innovatively to achieving the UN's SDG 2 of zero Hunger.

The objectives of the Rice Development Partnership Project were as follows:
1. Broaden the African rice gene pool with high-yield and quality traits from Korean rice germplasm;
2. Enhance the rice breeding capacity of National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) in African countries; and
3. Develop and disseminate 55 improved rice varieties in Africa by 2025

To coordinate and carry out the project, the KAFACI dispatched a breeding expert in the AfricaRice Center in Senegal. He set up a modern breeding laboratory and developed 52,355 lines using Korean rice varieties with high-yielding and early-maturing and African germplasms. Anther culture techniques for rapid breeding line generation were applied to dramatically shorten the breeding period and process from 10-15 to 3-5 years. Of the 52,355 lines developed and tested in the field, experts from 19 African countries, who were trained through several breeding workshops, selected 1,347 promising ones.
Enhancing the rice breeding capacity of the National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) is an integral part of the project’s success. The breeding capacity greatly differs among the NARIs and a cooperative breeding network among African countries is urgently required to enable the public rice breeding sectors to activate their programs by exchanging germplasm, expertise on breeding, personnel, and information, etc.
To overcome these weaknesses, the KAFACI and AfricaRice intensively trained and transferred modern skills to breeders and technicians of the NARIs through a four-month-long training workshop. Technologies and capacities transferred include breeding theory, seed preparation, selection of promising lines, harvest, etc. These skills should be also valuable in assessing the qualities and adaptation of new rice varieties to local environmental conditions of each participating country. After evaluation, Senegal, Mali, and Malawi registered five new varieties with a high average yield of 7.0 t/ha compared to the 2.2 t/ha in Africa and 4.5 t/ha in the world. The dramatic high-yielding rice production is paramount for the innovation to affect many sectors in African countries. For example, Senegalese farmers are fully satisfied with new varieties that have higher yield than their local varieties as this translates to higher income. Consumers prefer new varieties to local ones because they taste good, digest well, and are easy to cook. Two varieties registered in Senegal—ISRIZ 6 and ISRIZ 7, were included in the National Rice Self-Sufficiency Plan. Selected due to their high quantity and quality, the varieties will cover 16 % of the plan.
To expand the innovation rapidly, it is important to consider establishing a public multiplication and supply system of seeds that disseminates new varieties to farmers in a manageable way. Once registered in each country, new varieties have to be multiplied in large quantities and be supplied to farmers. Public sector will have to identify quality and yield to strive for their standardization and quality improvement. With this in mind, KAFACI, in 2020, started a small pilot research study that aims to prepare the system for mass-producing and supply seeds of consistent quality and yields. Initially implemented with the cooperation of 13 African countries, the study, upon success later, will be expanded to other African countries. The first model study was launched in Senegal in 2021.
The production of high quality rice requires improved farmland and irrigation facilities. This aspect will be negotiated with policy makers of respective countries and Korea Rural Community Cooperation. As a way forward to solving chronic food shortage in Africa, new rice varieties that are resistant to drought, salinity, and pests will be also developed.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

Supporting Videos

  1. KAFACI project has done tremendous transformation in breeding programs in my country. As we speak there are series of promising lines in AYT and NPT, through this project Tanzania is expecting to release number of varieties which will contribute to ensuring food security.

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Year: 2020
Level of government: National/Federal government


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