New type of rice boost to women in Africa
14 June 2012
Over the last decade, a new type of rice has spread across the African continent. With Asia's green revolution in mind, a high-yield rice strain was developed which increased farmers' incomes and improved gender equality in the family. This was at least the case in Uganda, where Johanna Bergman Lodin, a researcher in human geography, has studied the importance of the rice to the farmers' wellbeing.
In many places in Africa there is a long tradition of rice cultivation. However, productivity has always been low. In order to address this problem, the research institute the Africa Rice Center took a high-yield Asian rice variety that can be grown on normal farmland, and crossed it with a resistant African strain.
Initially, the researchers struggled because the new rice strains became sterile and therefore could not be used to provide new seed. Sterile crops are no good in developing countries because the farmers cannot afford to buy new seed each season. The problem was solved and the high-yield dry rice NERICA, which can be grown without irrigation or fertiliser, was introduced on the market.
Ugandan farmers have been using the rice since 2004 and the good yield has made the country a world leader in NERICA production and has reduced imports by a third. Moreover, the farmers have seen their incomes rise significantly and gender equality has increased.
"The work of the women is absolutely vital to rice cultivation, as opposed to the production of traditional commercial crops such as tobacco. They are therefore in a better position to negotiate when it comes to the revenue from the rice", says Johanna Bergman Lodin, who has interviewed 800 farmers in the Ugandan district of Hoima.
The disadvantage is that a lot more work is required to produce a good rice harvest. Women and children work hard to keep weeds and birds out of the fields.
The women have a greater say and earn more money, but they pay a high price. How can we then judge the introduction of the new crop?
"It is only the women themselves who can judge, but since many continue to grow rice, one can presume that they think it is worth the effort", says Johanna Bergman Lodin.
Text: ULRIKA OREDSSON
Afrint Research group
Johanna Bergman Lodin is part of the international research group Afrint (an acronym of "Africa" and "intensification") which studies success factors for African agriculture.
The research team, which is made up of seven Swedish and 25 African researchers, carried out extensive interview studies in 2002 and 2008 with some 4 000 small farmers in nine African countries: Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania.
The research group is currently trying to obtain funding for a third data collection round in order to build on their large, unique data set and to see any structural changes.
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