By Paul Ndiho
February 14, 2012
A new rice variety is transforming agriculture in Ivory Coast, benefiting hundreds of farmers – mostly women. Its harvest time in Ivory Coast, but this rice is not destined for the dinner table. It’s a new, more hardy breed of rice, and this woman’s cooperative is producing high quality seeds for sale to a seed bank. In a country reeling from civil war, these farmers are helping to reduce poverty, according to Gnandia Fofana, president of Boundiali’s Women’s Cooperative.
“Before it was only suffering, suffering, suffering we couldn’t find any food to eat. But now selling these rice seeds we can buy food and we are doing well.”
Some 800 farmers in Ivory Coast have been trained to grow a more productive and pest resilient breed of rice, and with it have almost doubled their yield and profits. Gnandia is a widow with three children, and her group is growing Wita 9 rice. She says the new rice has meant more earnings and independence in a country where women grow over half the food but rely on men for access to land.
“Thanks to this rice I can build a house, rent a tractor and can do what men can do. Now we are the same as men.”
To ensure the seeds are of high quality, Gnandia needs a government certificate and must adhere to strict regulations, from the choice of terrain to the correct way of drying the seeds.
At least 30 rice producers attended an intensive training course and had the opportunity to share experiences with fellow rice growers. All seeds are sent to a government warehouse. Here, machines separate the good grains from the bad.
After a final quality check they are stored until next planting season, when they will be distributed to thousands of farmers.
“For almost 10 years now bad quality seeds have been used. This training has enabled farmers to get good quality seeds and has meant that their yield has increased greatly.”
It is not only rice; maize, yams and cassava cultivations are all being improved through this project financed by the European Union and managed by the UN’s agency dedicated to rural development.
Analysts say that for Ivorian rice farmers to reach their full potential political stability must continue in the country and the government should continue to invest in agriculture research.