Rice farmers in East Africa are set to benefit from a US$3.1 million dollar grant to a rice sector promotion project which will be implemented over a period of three years.
The Competitive African Rice Initiative in East Africa (CARI-EA), which is being implemented jointly by the East African Community (EAC) and Kilimo Trust (KT) seeks to improve the rice sub-sector in the region.
The project was approved for funding by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in April 2019 and is now at the initial stage of implementation.
The project targets to reach 660,000 farming households (220,000 directly and 440,000 indirectly impacted).
It aims to contribute to inclusive transformation of the rice sector in East Africa for sustainable increase in incomes of women, men and young people employed in the value chain of locally produced rice.
The 13th Meeting of the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security held in Arusha, Tanzania was informed that the project will be implemented over a period of 36 months (April 15th, 2019 – April 14th, 2022).
The project funding is worth US$3,133,378, courtesy of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), whereby EAC will receive a grant of USD 322,600.
CARI-EA will support the EAC Secretariat to address the most critical bottlenecks in creating an enabling environment for structured trade in rice at both national and regional levels.
Key activities will include supporting EAC Partner States governments to develop clear rice development plans and mobilize private sector investments in rice mills as well as public sector investments in irrigated rice schemes.
On its part, the EAC Secretariat will aim to develop an EAC rice trade strategy involving all Partner States, establish the EAC Regional rice platform and increase the membership of private sector processors and rice value chain actors in the industry platform, and undertake research into the issues affecting rice regional trade.
The Secretariat will also establish a rice traceability and certification mechanism for locally produced rice in the EAC and promote the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) protocol already developed by the Community.
The ultimate aim of the project is to unlock constraints that hinder regional rice trade and thus catalyse growth by stimulating investment, create competitiveness and inclusiveness in the rice industry.
Furthermore, CARI-EA will partner with National Agricultural Research Centres and seed agencies in Partner States to ensure that enough breeder seed is available for multiplication by commercial rice seed companies.
The 13th Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security consequently noted the introduction of a new programme on rice sector development and urged Partner States to support its implementation.
Speaking at the opening session of the meeting, the Chairperson, . Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana, said that the agricultural sector contributes between 24 and 44% of Partner States’ GDPs.
Dr. Mukeshimana, who is also Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, further noted that agriculture employs between 70 – 80% of the population in the region.
She added that it was a key sector in the transformation and development of EAC Partner States, particularly in employment creation and increasing national agriculture export earnings.
Dr. Mukeshimana underscored the need for Partner States to prioritize and invest in livestock and fisheries value chains taking cognizance of their important role in the food and nutrition security.
In his remarks, EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Productive and Social Sectors, Christophe Bazivamo, said that the EAC has a huge potential for agricultural production, but the sector was facing challenges related to food insecurity, climate change, and trade.
“The sector supports over 80% of the population and is the main source of raw materials for industries in the region. More than 70% of the industries in the region are agro-based and agricultural commodities and products constitute about 65% of the volume of intra-regional trade,” said Bazivamo.
He noted that region has been experiencing a decline in intra-regional trade over the last five years yet trade was essential for the promotion of agricultural production and industrial development.