MANILA, PHILIPINES — The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) signed a four-year partnership agreement aimed at helping African smallholder farmers increase rice productivity, income, and resilience through access to good quality seeds and sustainable agronomic practices. 

“The partnership with AATF supports IRRI’s strategy to accelerate the dissemination of elite rice varieties, good agronomic practices, and knowledge, to improve food security and the economic sustainability of rice-based agri-food systems,” said Remy Bitoun, head of IRRI Tech Transfer. “This agreement is an evidence of our long-term commitment to the rice value chain in Africa. AATF’s expertise in technology transfer and extensive network across 23 countries in Africa is essential for delivering innovations to farmers and accelerating the benefits of these technologies to help ensure food and nutrition security in the region.”

According to IRRI, demand for rice in Africa is increasing at over 6% per year, faster than any other staple food.

“Local rice farmers are not yet able to capitalize on this demand, as African smallholder farms yield on average 2 tonnes per hectare, as compared to the global average of 3.4 tonnes,” the IRRI said. “This is due to a variety of factors, including the use of low-yielding outdated local varieties, traditional cultivation practices, low involvement of private seed companies in rice seed production and business, and prevailing biotic and abiotic stresses, together with climate change adversities.”

The partnership between AATF and IRRI will include testing of IRRI and AATF varieties, and dissemination of high-yielding and nutritious varieties; testing and promoting suitable agronomic practices and digital technologies for water management, crop care, mechanization, and postharvest; and regular exchange of information.

AATF and IRRI will meet regularly to develop joint projects for African rice sector development, including the seed industry and market needs and opportunities.

“AATF is pleased to be working with IRRI on delivering these potentially life-changing technologies for our smallholder farmers,” said Kayode Sanni, Rice Project manager at AATF. “Rice is increasingly becoming an important staple food for more and more Africans and upgrading our technologies and rice value chain will be key factors in meeting that need. IRRI has made significant strides in uplifting the productivity and livelihoods of farmers in Asia, and through this collaboration we hope to use this knowledge to benefit our African farmers.”

To further the partnership and expand the networks of both parties, AATF will become a member of the IRRI-convened Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC) and Direct Seeded Rice Consortium (DSRC), while IRRI will become a member of the AATF-led Alliance for Hybrid Rice in Africa (AHyRA).