Accra, May 12, GNA - The Multinational Nerica Rice Dissemination Project currently taking place in seven African countries was launched in Accra with a call on participating countries to raise the awareness to promote rice farmers' interest in the cultivation of the new cereal. Nerica - (New Rice for Africa) is claimed to be a symbol of hope for rice farmers in Africa and promising to millions of upland or dry land rice farmers in the Sub-Sahara Africa.
The project involved some scientists and researchers from Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Benin whose task was to find an alternative high yielding rice seed to increase production, reduce poverty and ensure food security.
The African Development Bank (ADB) is funding the project in the seven countries with a loan of about 37 million dollars, of which, Ghana has received about 3.7 million dollars while the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) provides scientific and technical backstopping for the institutions involved.
Ghana imported between 350,000 and 400,000 metric tons of rice for the past 10 years, to supplement the 150,000 metric tons produced locally.
A similar launch would take place in Guinea Conakry for the French-Speaking countries of West Africa. Mr Ernest A. Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture, in a speech read for him, said the recognition of the importance of rice was a unique opportunity for the engagement of governments and civil society in strengthening their commitment to sustainable rice production. "Rice is not only a staple commodity and a primary food source for more than half the world population, but also a focus within a complex rice-based ecosystem that influences issues of global concern," he said. Mr Debrah said the most important of such concerns bordered on food security, poverty reduction, and preservation of cultural heritage and sustainable development.
He said rice had become an important staple cereal due to rising populations, rapid urbanization and increasing per capita consumption. Dr Dosso Harouna, Nerica Project Desk Task Manager at ADB, Tunis, said the Bank believed in supporting development action geared towards poverty alleviation through food security programmes on the Continent. He said regional dissemination of high yielding Nerica rice varieties and complementary technology transfer would contribute to poverty reduction and food security in Ghana.
Dr Harouna said the successful implementation of the project would lead to increased household incomes, food security and well being of Ghanaian rice farmers and, therefore urged the coordinators to hold up to the objectives to ensure farmers' confidence and hope. Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, Director General, Africa Rice Centre, (WARDA) in a speech read for him, said the project estimated that about 33,000 farm families would be involved in participatory variety selection strategy to accelerate the Nerica dissemination.
"About 400,000 hectares of additional land is expected to be under the Nerica cultivation by the fifth year of the Project," he said. 12 May 05