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Africa is the continent that has been the most severely affected by climate change, and it is already having difficulty feeding its population. But the Africa Rice Center has developed a hybrid species of rice known as NERICA – New Rice for Africa – by crossing African and Asian rice varieties. The African variety is a robust plant that adapts well to local conditions. As for the Asian variety, it has a much higher yield. A product of the crossing of these two varieties, NERICA rice combines the robustness of the African rice with the higher yield of the Asian rice.

NERICA varieties adapt well to the difficult production environments and low levels of farm inputs in Africa’s sub-Saharan rice-growing environments where small producers do not have the means to irrigate their fields and apply chemical fertilizers. Different varieties of NERICA grown on the plateaus and inland valleys of Benin where the rainfall is unpredictable and irregular have shown excellent results. It is the same for the varieties of rice grown at higher elevations. From inland valleys to plateaus and plains, African farmers have adopted the NERICA varieties in greater and greater numbers.

NERICA varieties are richer in protein than rice imported into Africa. In general, all varieties of NERICA taste good and have a very good aroma when cooked.

In some countries, some varieties of NERICA are still in the testing phase. However, other countries have reached the seed multiplication phase. Elsewhere, different varieties of NERICA are already produced on a large scale. This promotes the consumption of rice. As for the marketing of this rice, traders generally purchase the rice directly from producers to sell on the markets in major urban centres. In Togo, for example, you can find NERICA rice in supermarkets with very attractive packaging.

The following text is a dialogue with comments by NERICA rice producers which were recorded previously, combined with carefully chosen selections of traditional music. This program can help farmers who want to understand how they can adapt to climate change by producing different varieties of this rice and how to make a lot of profit from it.

Script

HOST:
Dear friends and listeners of local radio FM. Hello and welcome to your program on agriculture.

There is increasingly more talk about climate change throughout the world, and you have probably even noticed that the weather is getting warmer. As the climate warms, you need crop and vegetable varieties that can tolerate heat and drought. Some crops such as cassava, millet and sorghum have been used for many years by farmers in drylands. Other crops are being improved through plant breeding. These include, for example, New Rice for Africa. Also known as NERICA, growing this rice is one of the best solutions to the risks arising from unpredictable rainfall. Tolerant to drought, NERICA rice is seen as a solution to adapt to climate change. There are varieties of NERICA rice which are suitable for growing on plateaus, in low-lying areas, and for irrigated agriculture.

In our program, we will focus on NERICA grown in plateaus. You will hear testimonies from farmers who have already tested the variety of NERICA grown in plateaus. Following the testimonies, you will hear the advice of a specialist on how to grow the rice.

Musical interlude and progressive drop in the volume of the music as it slowly fades under the voice of female farmer 1

FEMALE FARMER 1:
My name is Doto Léontine. I am a farmer in Benin. Our traditional rice is a late-variety rice that takes 4 to 5 months to mature. When it doesn’t rain enough, growing this rice is a problem, and at harvest time we don’t get much rice. This isn’t the case with NERICA rice. It is drought-resistant and we can harvest it after 3 months. That helps us fight hunger. NERICA rice is valuable during the lean period because it is ready to be harvested when traditional rice hasn’t even matured.

Increase in the volume of the music and then it fades under the voice of male farmer 1

MALE FARMER 1:
My name is Lema Seylou. I am Togolese. NERICA rice has provided me with many things and a great deal of money. For example, this year I earned 400,000 CFA francs (about $1000 US dollars or 600 Euros). In other words, I sold sixty bags of rice for 400,000 francs. With this money I bought food, paid my children’s school fees and I had some pants and shirts made. I also used this money to add on to our house. I have seen that NERICA is very profitable and generates a lot of money for a farmer. Before, I used to grow cotton, but I gave that up when I saw that it wasn’t raining very much and that it is easier for me to cultivate NERICA, which grows well even if there isn’t much rain.

Increase in the volume of the music and then it fades under the voice of female farmer 2

FEMALE FARMER 2:
My name is Abeba Allasane. I’m from Togo. Since I started producing NERICA rice, I have earned a lot of money from its sale. I help my husband buy food for the children, pay for their schooling, cover their medical expenses and buy clothes for them with this money. Growing these varieties of rice is a very profitable activity that earns enough for my husband and me.

Increase in the volume of the music and then it fades under the voice of female farmer 3

FEMALE FARMER 3:
I’m from Uganda, and my name is Aya Solange. NERICA rice is very good rice. It cannot only be cultivated in low-lying areas, but on the plateau as well. When it doesn’t rain, I grow it in the low-lying areas, and after three months I harvest it. The seeds that fall on the ground during this harvest germinate and grow again. Thus, in addition to the first harvest, we have one other harvest the same year.

I am very satisfied with this rice – it provides me with lots of money. Since I started producing this rice, I have been able to buy myself a bed with a good mattress. That means that my husband only sleeps in my hut, much to the detriment of my co-wives. I am really very happy with the NERICA rice.

Increase in the volume of the music and then it fades under the voice of male farmer 2

MALE FARMER 2:
I am Kabinet Traoré, a producer of NERICA in Guinea. Since 1997, I have been growing this new rice that earns me lots of money and allows me to better support my family. It has allowed me to send two of my children to school. This rice is easier to grow than our local varieties because it only needs a little bit of water, and you earn a lot of money. Unlike the traditional varieties of rice, NERICA has a shorter growth cycle, and already after three months, it can be harvested.

Increase in the volume of the music and then it fades under the voice of male farmer 3

MALE FARMER 3:
I’m from Guinea and my name is Famoro Camara. NERICA is a variety of rice that allows me to fill the void between two local crops because it can be grown after one crop and before another. I have two wives and 17 children who are almost all going to school. NERICA is a great help to me in looking after all of these people. The grains are small and white and they swell up better than other varieties when they are cooked. Other varieties of NERICA have grains that are big and long. With NERICA, the whole family is satisfied with the meal because it’s delicious and has a wonderful aroma.

Increase in the volume of the music and then it fades under the voice of the host

HOST:
To all of these testimonials, I would like to add the fact that the varieties of NERICA rice – in addition to their early maturity, their ability to adapt to drought, their robustness and their high yield – are serious candidates for adapting to the problems that can be created by climate change. For example, in 2006, the region in the centre of Benin had a drought that lasted more than three weeks. Only the varieties of NERICA rice were able to continue growing after the rains started again, as confirmed by a test conducted by the Institut National de Recherche Agronomique du Bénin. All of the other varieties of rice died.

Dear friends and listeners, these farmers that you have listened to are certainly giving you the urge to produce NERICA as well, aren’t they? It’s a positive desire that deserves to be encouraged. For that, I would like you now to listen to Mr. Cissé Boubakary. He is a program assistant at the Africa Rice Center. He will give you a few hints on how to grow NERICA in plateaus.

CISSE BOUBAKARY:
When growing rice, good ground preparation is one of the biggest factors in its success. First and most importantly, I recommend that you always begin by cleaning your field to remove stumps and crop residues. Then you should plough the field, because good preparation of the ground is one of the most important ways to improve yield when you cultivate rice. Ploughing lets you spread and blend in organic matter, level the field to make water management easier, reduce weeds and increase the effectiveness of organic or inorganic fertilizers. NERICA varieties grow well in a wide range of soils with the exception of sandy soils. You can grow them everywhere you would grow maize and cotton.

To grow them efficiently, please follow good growing practices. Perform farming activities at the right time – namely seeding, weeding, applying fertilizer, harvesting and post-harvest activities.

For seeding, I recommend that you sow seed in lines from 20 to 30 centimetres wide after ploughing. This will make it easier to weed, apply fertilizer and harvest.

As for the seeds themselves, please apply to the rural development or extension officer in your area. Insist on very high-quality seeds or seeds that have been certified as pure with a high germination rate.

Increase in the volume of the music and then it fades out under the host’s conclusion before it stops

HOST:
You have just heard from Mr. Cissé Boubakary. He is a program assistant at The Africa Rice Center, and has offered advice on growing NERICA rice in plateaus. That’s it for today’s program. But, before concluding, we invite you to do as these farmers have done and test the different varieties of NERICA rice. Do not hesitate to call on your area’s rural development officer to help you set up your rice-growing plots and to supply you with your NERICA seed. Goodbye!

Signature to end broadcast

Acknowledgements

Contributed by Savitri Mohapatra, Communications Officer/WARDA. E-mail: s.mohapatra@cgiar.org

Reviewed by: John FitzSimons, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, Canada; Moussa Sié, researcher and rice breeder in low-lying areas/ WARDA; Inoussa Akintayo, Program coordinator for the African Initiative on Rice /WARDA.

Information Sources

Houinsou Félix Sèdègnon: host of LA GRAINE, a radio program about agriculture on Radio Immaculée Conception.

Paul Van Mele: Researcher and Program Leader for Rural Learning and Innovation Systems/Africa Rice Center (WARDA)

Boubakary Cissé: Program Assistant, African Rice Initiative Program/WARDA

Resources

WARDA website

Additional notes

There are many NERICA varieties. There are 60 lowland varieties, and 18 upland varieties. In different WARDA countries, researchers made a participatory varietal selection in collaboration with farmers before identifying the varieties that respond best to the agro-ecological conditions of each zone. Thus, in regard to upland rice growing, NERICA 10 is the variety that was adopted in Uganda. On the other hand, in Mali, it’s NERICA 4, in Cote d’Ivoire it’s NERICA 1 and in Benin it’s NERICA varieties 1, 2 and 4. The attached tables list the different varieties adopted and released in different countries.