An integrated food system to ensure sustainable rice for all

An integrated food system to ensure sustainable rice for all

in News

In 2019, 20% of the African population experienced hunger, and at least 12.8 million children were malnourished (World Vision). This picture has only worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mark Blackett, Director of the Agribusiness Market Ecosystem Alliance (AMEA), summed up to state of play while introducing the session “Forging Resilient Food Systems with Smallholder Farmers and Agri-SMEs" at the 2021 African Green Revolution Forum: “The crisis has underlined how critical the concept of a sustainable food system is to everyone's life and future developments.

In 2020, driven by food supply chains disruption during the Covid-19 pandemic, the discussion around sustainable and resilient food systems has been placed at the centre of political agendas at both the national and international levels. The scientific group of the UN Food Systems developed a food systems framework on which most of the professionals and organisations working in the sector would agree. We must shift towards more sustainable consumption patterns and improve the way we produce food to ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all.

Scaling up is the only way in which transformation can become a reality. To scale up you need the right commitment, the right capacities and the right financing

Mark Blackett Director of AMEA Network

Food systems are multi-sectorial and require coordinated actions between actors belonging to different fields, with various backgrounds and in some cases conflicting interests. How can Africa’s smallholders farmers and agri-food SMEs lead the way in forging a sustainable, nutritious and equitable food system to address hunger and malnutrition? Three projects, by Rikolto, Harvest Plus and NCBA CLUSA were presented during the session to highlight how committed partnerships could lead to scalable, win-win and exemplary initiatives.

What should we eat tomorrow? Rikolto chooses sustainable rice

Rikolto has been working with farmers in 9 different African and Asian countries for the adoption of practices in line with the standards of the Sustainable Rice Platform - a global multi-stakeholder partnership. The aim is to meet a growing demand for rice while at the same time protecting the environment, create a healthier working environment for farmers, increase their income and provide a safer and more nutritious product for consumers. Our rice experts, John Ereng and Djalou Franco, took part in the AGRF 2021 conference to give their insights into Rikolto’s experience with introducing the SRP standard in East Africa, specifically referring to evidence from a project in Iringa, Tanzania (2019-2021).

In Iringa, Tanzania, Rikolto trained more the 11,000 farmers. The implementation of more sustainable farming practices contributed to a 56% reduction in methane emission and a 56% growth in micro-organisms in the soil.

Besides these environmental benefits, it’s important to bear in mind that the definition of sustainability also embeds concepts of social equity and economic development. On one side Rikolto supports farmers’ organisations to develop business models and processes to more solidly cope with crises such as the Covid pandemic, and to increase their access to finance and insurance. On the other side Rikolto advocates with governments for the inclusion of the Sustainable Rice Platform Standard in national strategies and policies.

It’s imperative that the SRP adoption is institutionalised. Uganda is now finalising the review of the second national rice development strategy, and we have recognised the importance of the SRP standards and of all the rice cultivation practices and technologies in line with it.

Alex Lwakuba Commissioner, Crop Production – Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries in Uganda

What are the SRP standards?

The Sustainable Rice Platform standard serves as a working definition for sustainable rice production and enables benchmarking and objective comparison of the sustainability of any rice system based on 41 requirements. They cover the areas of farm management, pre-planting, water use, nutrient management, pest management, post-harvest, health & safety, and labour rights.

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Other scalable initiatives to achieve nutritious and inclusive food systems

Donal Mavidndidze – Harvest Plus regional director – presented Harvest Plus’s work in Nigeria on bio-fortification crops (cassava and maize) that contain high levels of vitamins and micronutrients.

Their intervention not only is about applying this innovative technology but also has a strong economic dimension because it generates livelihood opportunities for farmers and SMEs. The agricultural production is sold both to final customers and to food manufacturers and distributors SMEs, some of which are directly supported by Harvest Plus and its network in the development of their businesses. Thanks to their collaboration with governments at the federal and state level and with the private sector, the biofortified crops have multiplied and have reached almost 2 million Nigerians through different channels.

In Senegal, NCBA CLUSA runs the US aid project Feed the Future that promotes nutritious and safe food by working on several levels and through a “platform approach”. They work with several actors on innovation to find the best agricultural practices, on their dissemination, on behaviour change not only at consumer and social level but also at farmer level (e.g. for the adaptation of new agricultural techniques) and on the market by working with buyers and sellers to secure inputs.

When we talk about economic justice we also talk about equity and inclusion or alternatively ownership and a democratic voice.

Douglas Steinberg Practise director, Building Resilient Communities, NCBA CLUSA

Research institutions’ expertise, civil society’s dynamism, private sector mechanisms, and farmer and producer organisations’ participation and consumer awareness are just some of the key ingredients of an integrated food system. Engaged collaboration and partnerships are the watchwords to make it more just and sustainable.

Want to know more about our project?

Reach out to our colleagues:

John Ereng
John Ereng
Rice Cluster Director in East Africa

Djalou Franco
Djalou Franco
Rice Senior Agribusiness Advisor