Featured Item: August 2012
WEST AFRICA REGIONAL WORKSHOP ON THE SYSTEM OF RICE INTENSIFICATION (SRI)
July 26-27, 2012
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Sub-Saharan Africa is facing major challenges related to climate change and assuring food security for its growing population, and they are predicted to intensify in the near future. Solutions are needed that can have a rapid impact, but are efficient and sustainable as well. In order to better define the role of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) as one of these solutions for the West African context, a workshop was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on July 26 and 27, 2012. The First Regional Workshop on System of Rice Intensification of (SRI) was organized by the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), the National Center of Specialization for Rice (NCOS-Mali) and SRI-Rice (Cornell University) within the framework of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP). Oxfam America sponsored participation for civil society representatives. The objective of the workshop was to define an approach for the integration of SRI in research and extension programs in the 15 Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) countries by 2015. (See video about the workshop by Gaossou Traore, Coordinator of the National Center of Specialization of Rice in Mali).
More than 60 participants representing research organizations, extension services and civil society from 13 West African countries came together to share their experiences with applying the SRI methodology and to discuss the potential of this method of growing rice to boost productivity with fewer inputs while preserving the environment, improving food security in the region and increasing the competitiveness of locally produced rice in the market. The conference was the first step in developing a regional platform for adapting SRI practices to the different African rice cropping systems and scaling up SRI in West Africa. The SRI-Rice program director, Erika Styger, is part of a new task force to respond to WECARD's invitation to develop a commissioned proposal for scaling up SRI across West Africa.
Background of the Workshop
Beginning in 2001, small-scale trials supported by technical and funding partners, including USAID, FAO and numerous NGOs (ECHO-Volunteer, Africare, World Vision, and others) have been conducted with SRI methods in West Africa by national teams (producers, extension workers and researchers). The primary countries that have experimented with SRI include Benin, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. The average yields obtained are between 7.5 t / ha to 11 t / ha compared to 2 to 5 t / ha for conventional practices.
Since 2007, several groups in Mali have carried out SRI evaluation and expansion through a more programmatic approach that generated average yields of 7.5 to 9 t/ha, equivalent to more than 50% increase with peaks of 12 t/ha (see photo from Bagadadji, Timbuktu, Mali, at left). The first seriously implemented and documented SRI evaluation was undertaken by Africare who obtained funding to work with farmers in the Timbuktu region from Jim Carrey's Better U Foundation. The success of this first SRI initiative in Mali sparked the interest of other projects and donors in the country. New projects started working on SRI since 2009: the USAID-funded Integrated Initiatives for Economic Growth project (IICEM - Initiatives Integree de la Croissance Economique au Mali) in Mali, the Syngenta Foundation and the World Bank.
World Bank/World Bank Institute expands knowledge-sharing through videoconference
On February 9, 2010, the World Bank/World Bank Institute organized a videoconference on SRI to share the experiences that are being conducted in India, Madagascar and Mali. This conference first focused on experience-sharing with farmers in Mali, field workers, researchers and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture. A second videoconference included discussions and exchanges between Indian technicians with significant SRI experience and producers from Madagascar that have a long history of using SRI methods. This conference served to inform a great number of Malian decision-makers on the results already obtained in Mali, to promote the Malian experience in an international framework and to discuss the added value of SRI for food security, water conservation and adaptation to climate change.
Expanding Agribusiness and Trade Promotion (E-ATP) Project promotes SRI through workshops and trainings
Based on the Mali success, the USAID-funded regional project Expanding Agribusiness and Trade Promotion (E-ATP) organized a sub-regional information sharing workshop in Mali during August 2010 to highlight the SRI achievements of the Malian SRI experience. Seven countries sent representatives to this workshop: Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. This was followed by a number of training workshops organized in 2011 and 2012 in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Senegal and Togo.
At the same time, an increasing number of organizations and interested individuals from West Africa have contacted SRI-Rice at Cornell Universitylooking for information and training opportunities.
Planning of the Regional workshop
In January 2012, initial discussions between SRI-Rice (funded by Jim Carrey's Better U Foundation), and NOSC-Mali (funded by the World Bank) - which has a regional mandate to disseminate and scale up promising practices and technologies for improving rice productivity - were held to identify possibilities for developing a SRI regional initiative. This was followed by a meeting in February 2012 between SRI-Rice, NCOS-Mali, WECARD and the World Bank where it was decided to organize this first West Africa Regional workshop in response to the increased number of initiatives and increased interest emerging in West Africa. The aim of this first regional consultation was to create a regional platform that supports the scaling up of SRI across West Africa.