SCIENTISTS HOPE NEW VARIETIES CAN START AFRICA RICE REVOLUTION

The first hybrid rice varieties developed in sub-Saharan Africa are yielding up to four times more than other improved varieties, say scientists, who are using web-based tools to identify the right climate conditions to maximise harvests.

The 15 hybrids, bred in Kenya and Tanzania, are also tolerant to diseases and the high temperatures found in Kenya’s western Lake Region and coastal areas.

African farmers have always depended on imported hybrid rice varieties, particularly from Asia, which sometimes do not adapt well to conditions in sub-Saharan Africa.

As the climate shifts and arable land shrinks under population pressure, experts say there is a need for more innovative ways to produce food.

Africa’s food deficit is projected to increase to 60 million metric tonnes by 2020 if no action is taken, according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Joe DeVries, director of an AGRA programme to strengthen Africa’s seed systems, said productivity on the continent is limited by the fact that farmers have a narrow choice of improved varieties.

“Most of them (are) planting varieties that were released more than 30 years ago,” he said.

Denis Kyetere, executive director of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), which has developed the new hybrids in a public-private partnership, said hybrid technology had revolutionised rice production in Asia, especially in China.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK