This week, from June 26 to 29, 2019, international experts have been meeting at the International Rice Development Conference on China-Africa Rice Development, being held in Changsha, China. Held under the auspices of the International Forum on Rice Development (IFRD), the congress aims to boost the development of international rice crop research and
industry revitalization as part of China-Africa cooperation. At the core of the conference is to capture the latest advances in hybrid rice cultivation in the world and its relevance and applicability to Africa. The chairman of this conference is Academician Yuan Longping, the world-renown “Father of Hybrid Rice” and World Food Prize Laureate. The Congress was also addressed by Amb. Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation. The theme of this conference is Academic Discussion on Rice and Application of Hybrid Rice Technology in Africa. The Congress is attended by scientists, researchers and other experts on rice drawn from all corners of the world.
Prof. Bancy Mati, was among the keynote speakers who addressed the congress in Plenary on the opening day. Prof. Mati’s presentation was entitled “Improving Productivity of Rice under Water Scarcity in Africa: The case for the System of Rice Intensification”. This paper was designed to address the water scarcity challenges that affect africa and the impacts on rice production and productivity. Noting that some 38 countries in Africa grow rice and all of them are net importers of rice, Prof. Mati suggested that there is need to address this disconnect. The paper further highlighted the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) as a technology for growing rice given water scarcity, which also increases crop productivity. There are over 21 countries in Africa that have adopted SRI and they report improved yields and other benefits. SRI fits well with smallholder rice producers of Africa. However, there is a disconnect in the seed types and varieties used by farmers, most of which are low yielding. If hybrid rice were combined with SRI, higher yields will result as well as multiple benefits of the SRI to farmers. Therefore, herein lies an opportunity for China-Africa collaboration. JKUAT through WARREC already hosts the SRI-Africa knowledge portal for information, research and promotion of SRI. The SRI-Africa offers opportunity for a continental platform to transform rice production through knowledge and action in Africa.
Article by Prof. Bancy Mati, Changsha, China, 28 June 2019