Better Rice for a Food-Secure Senegal

Coumbayel Coulibaly displays a calabash full of the high-yielding New Rice for Africa varietal.
Coumbayel Coulibaly displays a calabash full of the high-yielding New Rice for Africa varietal.
Rose Kane
Improved seed varieties are bringing farmers back to the staple crop
"Since USAID brought us the new rice, we have much more to feed our children. The income from the sale of the new seeds also helps us to buy other food and to pay for medicine and schoolbooks.”

“I stopped cultivating rice several years ago because it just didn’t grow well,” said farmer Mamadou Coulibaly. “When I learned about NERICA from USAID, I took up rice production again.”

New Rice for Africa, or NERICA, is a hardy, high-yielding rice varietal that USAID is helping bring to farmers, including Coulibaly. Through the United States' flagship food security initiative, Feed the Future, USAID works with grassroots organizations and producer cooperatives to make NERICA available on a large scale in Senegal to increase rice production, and in turn, improve families’ food security and incomes.

After acquiring NERICA, Coulibaly said, “Last year I sold my rice seeds for more than 1 million francs ($2,000) and used my earnings to finish building my house and to buy a motorized plough and some cattle.”

Rice is a staple food in Senegal. Yet, in the south, irrigation for lowland rice is available in just a few areas. Historically, traditional rain-fed rice varieties and poor seed stock have led to meager yields of about one ton per hectare, which means farmers can’t grow enough to meet their family’s needs. In response to this challenge, USAID introduced NERICA, developed by Africa Rice.

Coulibaly said he is happy to be growing rice again, both seed for resale and paddy rice to feed his family. In 2010, he planted 2.5 hectares and harvested almost six tons. This also makes his wife Coumbayel very happy.

“We love rice and we eat it three times a day, but previously we could not produce enough ourselves and often had to buy it,” she said. “Since USAID brought us the new rice, we have much more to feed our children. The income from the sale of the new seeds also helps us to buy other food and to pay for medicine and schoolbooks.” She added that NERICA rice also tastes good and is easy to cook.

The NERICA project began in 2010 with 112 farmers who produced 104 tons and sold 29 tons to earn more than 6 million francs, about ($12,000). The success of the pilot year set the stage to expand the effort to many more groups and farmers in 2011.

Developing a network of certified seed growers is USAID’s key goal for scaling up the program. NERICA also provides farmers an entry point for accessing credit so that they can increase their productivity. As a result, last season USAID introduced NERICA varieties and seeds to almost 4,000 producers and trained them on best cultivation practices. As many as 200 demonstration sites ensured the production of certified seeds for future seasons.

“With the loan I got this year, I expect to harvest 20 tons of NERICA seeds, Coulibaly said. “That’s worth 8 million francs ($16,000)!”

USAID/Senegal Mission Director Henderson Patrick calls the program a central element of the mission’s Feed the Future strategy.

“Our greatest satisfaction comes from seeing up close the difference we’re making for farming households across the south of Senegal,” Patrick said. “We are looking forward to seeing the program grow and to position those farmers to sell a surplus rice crop to nearby towns and cities.”

Last updated: December 12, 2013

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