4m 16sLenght

Joe Rickman, Representative for the East and Southern Africa Region, explains this program of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI; http://irri.org ) on East and southern Africa: rice for rural incomes and an affordable urban staple. It is part of IRRI's strategic plan, Bringing Hope, Improving Lives: http://www.irri.org/bringinghope/improvinglives.pdf More than 100 million people in East and southern Africa (ESA) live in extreme poverty and depend on agriculture. Many of these people are rice consumers and small rice producers who live in Burundi, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Demand for rice across these countries has been increasing at more than 6% per year. Much of this demand has come from urban consumers who preferred imported rice from Asia because it was cheaper and of better quality than locally grown rice. However, it is important to note that dramatic increases in the price of rice occurred in early 2008. With rice's rising importance in Africa, these price rises make it more important than ever for African farmers to boost their productivity. Rapid urbanization, the growing participation of women in the formal labor force, and population growth have resulted in a shift in consumer preference away from cassava, sorghum, millet, and maize. Rice is now either the second or third most important food crop in the ESA countries. At present, 36% of the rice consumed in ESA is imported at a cost of more than US$450 million. There are more than half a million very poor rice farmers in this region whose poverty could be reduced by growing and selling rice to local urban markets. Increased local production would also reduce reliance on imported rice. Potential for increasing crop yields is substantial. Although rice production has grown at more than 2.5% per year since 1990, this is mostly due to expansion of the ricegrowing area. Rice yields have remained low and stagnant at 1--2 tons per hectare because of unfavorable rice environments and poor management. More than 90% of the rice is grown in rainfed ecosystems that rely on hand labor and very few inputs.