Experts at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research have stressed the need for sustainable rice production in order to help rice farmers adapt to the challenges of climate change.
CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future; and it is dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources and ecosystem services.
Speaking at the just-concluded three-day workshop entitled, ‘Humidtropics Systems Research Marketplace,’ AfricaRice agronomist, Dr. Saito Kazuki, noted that rice is the staple food for more than three billion people worldwide, including around 600 million living in extreme poverty.
“Rice will remain the most important crop in Asia and is increasingly important in Latin America and Africa,” Kazuki said; warning that the demand for rice will outstrip supply, but that rice price increases will wreak havoc on the poor.
He disclosed that the overall efforts are geared towards making rice more accessible and affordable by 2035.
“There is an urgent need to keep rice affordable by reducing expenditure spent on rice by those who live on less than $1.25 per day,” he said.
He argued that the global intervention through which $11bn is invested on research annually, will slash poverty and lift 150 million people above the poverty line, because they will be spending less on rice, thus effectively reducing the global number of poor by 11 per cent.
Other experts who spoke in the same vein noted that increased availability and affordable rice price will not only reduce malnutrition, it will also alleviate malnourishment for at least 70 million people.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Director-General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, which hosted the science conference, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, has said that IITA must increase its funding support to about $200m per annum over the next five years to deliver targeted impacts on African agriculture.
“This funding strategy recognises both the urgency of immediate action and the importance of longer term investment for lasting solutions.
“It both maintains a critical mass and diversity of scientists in Africa and improves the laboratory facilities to cutting edge levels and increases the efficiency of our operations,” Sanginga said.
He disclosed that IITA’s major tasks are to launch an aggressive resource mobilisation effort and restructure the organisation to have impact in this new and changing environment, especially in Africa.
“Applying country and donor priorities therefore provides the most viable basis on which to make decisions, engaging the private sector and young entrepreneurs, demonstrated capacity development, and transparent technical and financial reporting — all reflective of IITA’s four strategic pillars of impact, quality of research, partnerships, and internal organisation,” he said.
In his own submission, the Director for the CGIAR Research Programme, Integrated Agricultural Systems for the Humid Tropics, Dr. Kwesi Atta-Krah, lamented that Africa has experienced low capacity, institutional bottlenecks and biological challenges in its agriculture practice, all of which need the convergence of various systems and components in order to reposition the continent in the area of food sufficiency.
“We have to wed research to policies, based on societal needs and aspirations. To achieve this, we must take into cognisance an integrated and multi-stakeholders’ approach, so that we can tackle our peculiar challenges with scientific research,” Atta-Krah said.