Helping West African countries strengthen rice seed systems
We work with governments, research institutions, and enterprises in China and West Africa to strengthen rice seed systems in West African countries and ensure that smallholder farmers there have greater food security and ability to adapt to climate change.
Rice is the main crop grown in many African countries, but the lack of well-established seed systems means that most domestically grown rice comes from seeds that farmers reproduce themselves. These seeds are neither purified nor screened, and as a result harvests are often of such low yield and quality that some countries, especially those in West Africa, have to import rice to meet domestic needs. Unfortunately, global climate change has further exacerbated this challenge.
Helping West African countries strengthen their rice seed systems is a major pillar of our efforts to improve agricultural research and extension capacity in the region. Working with the Institute of Crop Science at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), we launched a project in 2021 to help West African countries breed rice and screen for high-yield varieties that are resistant to drought, salt, pests, and disease and are suited to local conditions. The project also aims to build a local rice seed breeding, production, and extension systems, allowing local rice farmers to make more money by growing higher-yield, better-quality rice. These initiatives will gradually enhance food self-sufficiency and lay the foundation for more food security in African countries.
We emphasize the integration of breeding, production, and extension to help more smallholder farmers meet the challenges posed by climate change. In addition to providing financial and technical support for the project, we facilitate collaboration among our partners. For example, to build seed systems in West Africa by drawing on China’s rice farming experience, CAAS has worked with two Chinese companies, using their bases in Nigeria and Mali to carry out related projects.
The project team works with Chinese and African breeding experts to breed new rice varieties, including customizing the Green Super Rice (GSR) varieties that can produce high yields even under extreme climate conditions to suit local environments. (The GSR effort was a large project led by CAAS, with funding from our foundation for promoting resource-saving and environmentally friendly rice production while still achieving higher yields and better quality.)
In Nigeria, the project grew two rice varieties at four demonstration sites during 2022’s dry season, registering on average 30% and 50% higher yields, respectively, than the popular local varieties despite the huge challenges posed by COVID-19 and political volatility. Subsequent local production trials of both new varieties were also successful.
In Mali, two new rice varieties delivered to local farmers for trial planting in three regions also produced good harvests, with yields 30% to 50% higher, respectively, than local varieties. Meanwhile, the first hybrid rice seed production trial conducted by the project team also proved successful, giving shape to a seed production model adapted to the local environment.
Learn more about the foundation’s global efforts in agricultural development