Streamlining policies for enhancing rice production in Africa: Past experiences, lessons learnt and the way forward
AbstractThere is a consensus that African development confronts several challenges, which include alleviating widespread poverty and unemployment, providing basic foods for the people, containing the HIV/AIDS pandemic, eliminating gender disparities and ensuring sustainable management of natural resources. In order to overcome the
problem of food supply, investment policies have focused on certain commodities. Rice (Oryza sativa) has been at the centre of particular policy attention in West Africa since the 1970s, following the formation of West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA). Even though substantial investments and policy actions have been undertaken, the results belied the efforts made and expectations nursed. Africa today still depends on rice imports at a scale never imagined and domestic rice production programmes have been largely unsuccessful. The question is: What went wrong? Why has Africa been unable to produce enough rice to stem imports? Why did the initial investments in irrigation schemes and programmes fail? Now that attention is on expanding rice cultivation to other parts of Africa, what policy imperatives are essential to ensure sustainable rice production? This paper examines these issues by drawing experiences from several countries across West Africa. The overall objective is to provide appropriate policy framework for the expansion and sustainable production of rice to new areas in Africa. Specifically, the paper examines some of the policies pursued in the past in a number of countries and the reasons for their ineffectiveness. Drawing on the benefits of past experiences, the paper makes proposals for
improved policy environment to support the new initiatives to increase rice output in the continent.