The demand for rice in the country has followed an upward trend for over a decade, but local supply has been trailing far behind — often based on concerns about the quality of locally produced rice, with traders and consumers relying on imports to address the challenge.
To address this challenge, TechnoServe Ghana has launched a project dubbed the ‘Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI)’ in a bid to improve the livelihoods of smallholder rice farmers in the country by increasing the competitiveness of domestic rice supply to meet demand.
In an interview with the B&FT, Samuel Baba Adongo, commenting on the project, bemoaned the tribulations smallholder rice farmers go through and is hopeful that some of those challenges can be addressed with the CARI programme.
“CARI is pillared on four main objectives, namely: improving productivity and quality of paddy rice based on the sustainable and competitive rice production systems; increasing efficiency of local rice value chain; improving access to financial services for all value chain actors; and creating an enabling environment at national and regional levels through policy framework and strengthening rice sector initiatives,” he said.
He added that CARI Ghana, in showing committment to the programme, has already approved grants of over €1million to seven partners and will add an additional €500,000 by end of the year; adding that TechnoServe is fostering partnerships with other organisations and financial institutions to raise additional financing of GH¢10million for the project’s first phase.
Statistics show that the Ghanaian rice consumption is estimated at 770,000 metric tonnes per year, with an estimated whopping amount of US$500million spent on imports yearly. Anecdotal evidence suggests Ghanaian urban consumers are willing to pay 113 percent premium for imported rice.
This situation has put downward pressure on smallholder rice producer incomes, as rice yields are below two metric tonnes per hectare.
Nevertheless, Mr. Adongo remains upbeat that Ghana has the potential to meet the country’s demand for rice and compete on the international markets in terms of quality and taste, if efforts such as are being made by his outfit are rolled out-to build the capacities of smallholder rice farmers.
The CARI project was launched after TechnoServe, through the John Deere Foundation, created a small pilot programme that focused on business training and technical skills of rice farmers. After applying the new skills and techniques, farmers’ yields increased by an average 148 percent, and profits increased by a staggering 600 percent.
Encouraged by programme’s the success, TechnoServe enrolled 3,000 farmers in 2014 and enrolled another 20,000 farmers in June 2015. Overall, 30,000 farmers are expected to benefit from the programme.
The project is commissioned by Bundeministerium fur wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ), and co-founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the Walmart Foundation.
Implementing agencies include Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with Technoserve, Kilimo Trust, and the John Agyekum Kufour (JAK) Foundation.