The initiative targeted at male and female smallholder rice farmers is to significantly improve the livelihood of rice farmers in selected countries in the sub-region by increasing the competitiveness of domestic rice supply to meet increasing regional demand.
Mr Emmanuel Toureille, Country Director, TechnoServe Ghana said the project is being implemented Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Tanzania with the aim of reaching 120,000 African rice producers.
He said rice is the fastest growing food source in Africa in recent years and as such has far outstrip the sub-regions population growth, hence the initiative.
Mr Toureille said the project would see to the increment of productivity and quality of paddy rice, increase the efficiency of local rice sourcing, processing and marketing and improve the enabling environment at the national and regional levels.
He said the ambitious adventure TechnoServe is embarking on would go along with the Gates Foundation, the German Government, German Development Cooperation (GIZ) and the Kufuor Foundation to develop a competitive rice industry in Ghana.
Mr Thomas Wimmer, Deputy Head of Missions, German Embassy, said growth in the agricultural sector has been proven to be the most effective sector in reducing poverty.
He said it is mainly lack of favourable policies and regulatory environment coupled with inadequate investment in the agricultural sector that has motivated Germany to support agricultural activities in nations such as Ghana.
Mr Wimmer said Germany strongly believes that Africa could feed itself and provide food for other regions of the world.
He said that is why Germany is eager to assist African nations to tap their full agricultural potential.
He said this is to help eradicate hunger, improve nutritional well-being and reduce poverty.
It will also spur economic growth and improve the income of the rural population by supporting value chain approaches and strengthening small-scale commercial farming.
He said the launch of the CARI comes at an auspicious time as African governments have come to the realisation that the safeguarding of the rice subsector is essential for food security on the continent to eradicate rural poverty.
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor and the Patron of Kufuor Foundation, called on government to develop right policy framework for Ghanas rice industry.
Mr Kufuor said if the policy is made possible it would see to the success of the rice industry in Ghana.
He said from statistics, Ghana currently produces about 350,000 tons a year and it constitute about 30 to 40 per cent of the rice consumption of about 800,000 tons annually.
Mr Kufuor said the startling projection is that consumption would escalate to about 1.68 million metric tons within the next five years, considering that average per capita consumption of currently 38kg would leap to 63kg as early as 2015.
He said the challenges that needs to be dealt with is the weak political will for policy reform, poor articulation, coordination and implementation of the public-private-partnership concept in the rice sector development and lack of best marketing practices both domestically and internationally.
Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, said government established a food security buffer stock company, in order to protect farmers investment from severe depressed farm prices, and to act as buyer of last resort.
He said this would guarantee an assured income by providing a minimum guaranteed price and ready market for farmers, to expand the demand for food grown locally.
He said it is within this context that Ghana has shifted agricultural development paradigm to Inclusive Accelerated Modernisation and commercialisation of Ghanaian agriculture without leaving out the small- scale farmers to span the medium-term 2011/2015, under the food and agricultural sector development policy.
The initiative collaborated by Bill and Gates Foundation, TechnoServe, GIZ, The John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation and Kilimo Trust.
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