New Rices for Africa

Monday, October 15, 2007

A decade after their introduction in Africa, strains of rice that are resistant to drought, pests and disease have still spread to only a tiny fraction of the land in West Africa, where they could help millions of farming families escape poverty. Scientists call these wonder seeds New Rices for Africa, or Nericas. One place where the seeds are being used is in Guinea’s Faranah province. Last year, a member of a women’s collective there carried Nerica rice to be threshed.

Nericas are cross breeds of hardy, drought-resistant African rices and high-yielding Asian varieties. The first new rice was produced by an African scientist, with support from wealthy countries and private foundations, in the 1990s.

While there have been problems making the seeds available to farmers, in the parts of Guinea where the seeds have been introduced, yields increased even without fertilizer, and more than doubled with it. Last year, Nerica rice was harvested in the province of Faranah.

The first year that the women’s collective in Faranah was given some of the Nerica rice to grow by the Guinean government, their village had its richest rice harvest ever — triple the usual amount.

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Source: NY Times (link opens in a new window)