- Title: BENIN: Farmers in Benin use new breed of rice to increase yields
- Date: 1st January 2009
- Summary: HANDS WASHING RICE WOMAN'S FACE RICE BEING PLACED IN POT HANDS PLANTING RICE MAN PLANTING RICE FARMERS LOOKING ON FARMERS WATCHING MAN TALKING WOMEN PLANTING RICE FACE OF WOMAN (SOUNDBITE) (French) DIEUDONNE MESSAN, BENIN CO-ORDINATOR, INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT (IFAD), SAYING: "What we noticed immediately was that people were better nourished and they had more money to satisfy their needs." MAN WALKING IN RICE FIELD VARIOUS OF MAN IN RICE FIELD FOOT IN MUD VARIOUS OF MAN IN RICE FIELD (SOUNDBITE) (French) MICHEL MAMA, RICE FARMER, SAYING: "One hectare of Nerica gave me six tonnes of rice. That's six tons of rice! One kilo is worth 350 francs. It has really changed my life, it has changed my life incredibly." WOMAN PUTTING BASIN ON HEAD
- Embargoed: 16th January 2009 12:00
- Location: Benin
- Country: Benin
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA2AYPAXN6I8VGR9OSX3PY80FS3
- Story Text: Rising prices for imported rice prompted Benin's government to declare a food emergency earlier this year. But targeted support to increase local rice production has since helped impoverished rice farmers improve and increase yields.
Rice is a staple in West and Central Africa and these farmers in Benin are growing a new breed called Nerica, specially adapted for African conditions.
After a year of skyrocketing food prices, many governments here are promoting Nerica in an attempt to take control over their country's food supply.
"The global food crisis isn't necessarily a death sentence. It could actually be a great economic opportunity," said Dieudonne Messan, Benin Coordinator for the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
That's certainly been the case in Benin. Earlier this year, after the price of imported rice nearly quadrupled, the government declared a food emergency, calling on development partners to help farmers increase Nerica production quickly.
A decision that generated a boom in local rice production.
"What we noticed immediately was that people were better nourished and they had more money to satisfy their needs," said Messan.
Nerica is a cross between drought-tolerant African rice and high-yielding Asian varieties that matures fast. It is more pest resistant and does not require as much water. But for farmers like Michel Mama, it is the yield that counts most.
After replanting his only hectare of land with Nerica, he harvested four times more rice than he ever had.
"One hectare of Nerica gave me six tons of rice. That's six tons of rice! One kilo is worth 350 francs. It has really changed my life; it has changed my life incredibly," said Mama.
Eighty percent of rice farmers in Benin are women. Brigitte Adassin is a 30-year-old mother of six. Her experience is an example of how the government's support for local production is changing the lives of poor farmers.
With just one hectare of Nerica, Adassin says she's earned about 2,000 U.S. dollars profit in just one season.
She has invested some of that money in expanding her farm, acquiring more land to grow peanuts, soy and corn which she stores and then resells at an even bigger profit when prices are higher.
"People are impressed. They see all the money I am making and that I am re-investing in other businesses and they want to do the same, so it's becoming quite competitive," said Adassin.
Adassin's biggest business venture so far has been to invest some of her profit into the construction of a four-unit apartment building.
"I'm happy and if I had a drum I would dance. Before I earned just a little money farming but now with Nerica I earn a lot more and I'm investing in my future," added Adassin.
All this because rice became too expensive to import; a scenario that the developers of Nerica don't imagine will change soon.
"Over the next 10 years the rice price will be much higher than it was in the past that I can guarantee you. That means that we have to work on African rice production to make sure that we can grow enough food for African consumers," said Marco Wopereis, Deputy Director General, Africa Rice Centre (WARDA).
With continued support, Nerica developers believe that in the next 10 years, African farmers could be producing as much as 60 million tonnes of rice a year, enough to satisfy local consumption and export to international markets.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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