Rice is a very important food crop for about half of the seven billion people in the world, particularly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. That is a clear indication that innovations in the global rice sector can greatly make a difference in the lives of millions of people, especially at this time when the world is committed to adapting to climate change, eradicating hunger, and lifting poor people (who are mostly smallholder farmers in rural communities) out of poverty.
Agricultural scientists and technologists have worked (and are still working) very hard to develop wonderful scientific and technological innovations that can sustainably transform the global rice sector and significantly change the world for the better. Some of the scientific innovations in the global rice sector are IR8 (an IRRI-developed rice variety that changed the course of history by helping to reverse mass famine in Asia thereby saving the lives of millions of rice farmers and consumers), NERICA (an AfricaRice-developed rice variety that is also changing lives in Africa), new irrigation techniques, effective weed management techniques, improved agronomic practices, better soil management, and improved water management techniques. The technological innovations include web-based and mobile applications such as Ricepedia, Crop Manager, and RiceAdvice, as well as remote sensing and GIS technology.
The objective of this essay is to suggest effective actions that can be taken to ensure that the aforementioned innovations in the global rice sector can change the world again.
First, proper awareness of the innovations is very vital. For an innovation to really change the world, there is a need to ensure that rice farmers are well informed about its existence and means of application. This can be done by organizing awareness programs for farmers locally or through radio broadcasts that are presented in the language that the farmers understand.
Also, there is a need to encourage the formation of cooperative societies at local levels so as to facilitate easy access to valuable information on released innovations, farm machinery, and financial support. This will make it possible for all the farmers to succeed together and ultimately change the world together. This can be achieved through the help of agricultural extension agents who have direct links to farmers.
Essentially, it is imperative to provide adequate support and incentives for youths and women who are engaged in the rice value chain. This will promote the use of applicable innovations at every stage of the rice value chain: rice research, extension service, input supply, rice cultivation, rice processing, rice packaging, rice storage, rice marketing, and rice distribution. Such incentives can be in the form of scholarships or grants.
Moreover, provision of efficient storage and processing facilities to reduce postharvest losses is also crucial. The adoption of early maturing and high-yielding varieties by farmers will ensure that food is in sufficient supply only when the level of postharvest losses is substantially reduced through good storage or timely processing. That way, we can gradually eradicate hunger and make a difference in the world.
Furthermore, creation of reliable market access for farmers is very important. If the use of an innovation is going to bring about increase in crop yield, then it is important to ensure that rice farmers have reliable access to markets where they can sell their excess farm produce. Access to markets also makes it easy for farmers to purchase the needed input at the right time. This can be done by creating either offline (local markets) or online (website or social media) platforms where farmers can easily notify the general public of the sale of their farm produce.
In addition, governments also have important roles to play to ensure that innovations in the global rice sector will change the world again. The government is responsible for creating enabling policies that make it possible for farmers to have easy access to the innovations in a timely manner. It is also important for governments at all levels to foster the development of infrastructure (such as good roads, electricity, clean water supply, health clinics, and so on) in rural areas so as to make life easier for farmers as well as to prevent the migration of vibrant youths to urban areas. Governments also need to increase its funding of extension services to achieve the effective transfer of innovations to the farmers.
Therefore, the proper consideration and implementation of the above points will go a long way in ensuring that innovations in the global rice sector will change the world again by eliminating hunger, enhancing food security, reducing poverty, and even creating new jobs for unemployed youths who are interested in promoting the adoption of innovations in their local communities.
In conclusion, as a way of contributing toward ensuring that innovations in the global rice sector (and the agricultural sector in general) will change the world again, I am coordinating an initiative (FarmSmartly Initiative: @FarmSmartly) that focuses on facilitating access to quality agricultural information and innovations that can help smallholder farmers improve their productivity, revenues, and livelihood. This effort will go a long way in creating awareness about the available innovations and in contributing to changing the world again.
Note: The views and opinions on this essay are those of the author's and do not reflect those of the institute and its partners.
Moses Ajireloja is the coordinator of FarmSmartly Initiative (@FarmSmartly), which focuses on facilitating access to quality agricultural information and innovations that can help smallholder farmers improve their productivity, revenues, and livelihoods.