Promoting the future of Benin’s rice

Promoting the future of Benin’s rice

Local supply does not cover the needs of Benin’s population, and half of the rice on the urban markets comes from abroad.

To feed rural and urban consumers with high-quality and sustainable Benin rice, that is Rikolto’s target and dream for Benin.

Herman Réis Azagnandji Programme manager


Since about ten years, rice producers have succeeded in growing their white and parboiled rice productions. Notwithstanding this performance, about 50% of the rice consumed in Benin is imported rice, mainly from Asia. The local rice is not popular: supply is not reliable and its physical quality is weak (presence of impurities like small pebbles, chaff residues and high levels of broken rice).

Over these ten years, lots of initiatives have been developed to produce and commercialize rice of a higher quality. Also, UNIRIZ-C and URFER-C, two farmers’ organisations from the Collines area, have created – thanks to the support of various partners – an autonomous semi-industrial transformation unit to resolve the difficulties to commercialize the paddy of their members. The transformation unit is equipped to deliver a white rice and a parboiled rice that meet the requirements of the markets of the big cities of Benin, and especially of the city of Cotonou. It has developed the brand “Saveur des Collines”. Today, UNIRIZ-C and URFER-C are able to supply a local rice of good quality.

Yet, the marketing of this locally produced rice remains difficult. Due to the atomized supply, informal and unreliable business relations and the presence of cleaner imported rice with a nicer presentation, the market access for local rice, especially in the major urban centres, is subject to significant constraints. The producers of white rice and the women parboilers need support to build sustainable business relations with other players around a sustainable and healthy high-quality rice. This way they can increase the profit of their activity and earn a better living.

On the other hand, due to climate change, the producers have had to deal with significant episodes of draught (the Collines rice is produced on shallows), leading to drastic drops of yield (from 3.5 tons/ha to 1.5 tons/ha). Likewise, the quality of paddy has decreased because the rice plants haven’t received enough water to finish their cycle. This has affected the income of farmers: some have lost half, some even two-thirds of their income! On top of that, the low quality of the paddy affects both quality and quantity of the rice produced: after shelling, the quantity of rice obtained is less and the rice has many more broken grains. As a consequence, farmers who made the transformation have difficulties pulling revenues from their activities.

Finally, since 2014 and with the support of Rikolto, the Council of Consultation of the Rice Growers of Benin (CCRB) – the national platform of rice producers in Benin – has contributed to the rise of the Rice Inter-profession in Benin (IFPRIZ). The new organisation needs to strengthen its capacity to adequately take on its role.


  • Improving the quality of the “Saveur des Collines” rice, in order to meet the demands of the rural and urban consumers;
  • Sustainably intensifying productivity and production of “Saveur des Collines” rice, strengthen its competitiveness to respond to the demands of the urban markets (in terms of quality, food security and regular availability/supply) and at the same time ensuring the profitability and thus, the income of the farmers;
  • Increase producers’ capacity to adapt to climate change by adopting good farming practices;
  • Conquer new parts of the market in Benin and/or explore new foreign markets;
  • Lobby with the political and commercial framework in favour of local rice: ensure sustainable access for white and parboiled rice to urban and rural markets;
  • Make the rice subsector attractive for young people and women: increase the revenues of 2875 rice farmers (of which, 1940 women and 607 youngsters) and 500 women parboilers with at least 25%, while also improving their resilience;
  • Improving the governance in the rice value chains of the region: the inter-profession in Benin is still very young. It has been installed in 2017 and in order to function well, it needs its managers to be reinforced so they can correctly take up their role.

In 4 years, UNIRIZ-C, with the support of Rikolto, has places 7935 tons of white and parboiled rice on the local market.

Herman Réis Azagnandji Programme manager

Nos stratégies

  • Building sustainable and inclusive business relations between the players, to place a high-quality, healthy and sustainable rice on the urban market. In the business model to be built, the Transformation Unit will make contracts with the producers on the one hand, with the distributors on the other hand, to offer “Saveur des Collines” rice to the market. This collaboration will guarantee the access of urban consumers and big households to local rice through already established commercialization circuits;
  • Accompanying the Transformation Unit in becoming a cooperative company of reference. It will deliver services to the producers (m/f) on the one hand, and to the women parboilers on the other hand. It will set up contracts with wholesalers;
  • Technical support of the emergence of parboiling cooperatives and individual parboilers to increase a parboiled rice supply of good quality and to meet the continuously growing demand at a remunerative price;
  • Increasing the capacity of producers to adapt to climate change, by adopting good farming practices;
  • Exploring new markets to conquer new market shares;
  • Promoting rice production with the Sustainable Rice Platform standards, as a reference to differentiate and better position the rice from Benin and the brand “Saveur des Collines”. The promotion of this sustainable practice (SRP standard) will not only allow to increase the competitive advantage of local rice in terms of quality and cost, but also to promote sustainable practices to adapt to or mitigate the effects of climate change.

Number of farmers involved

  • UNIRIZ-C and its 2425 members rice farmers (935 men, 1490 women and 607 young people)
  • URFER-C and its 500 members women parboilers.
  • IFRIZ-B, CCRB and their members (64786 rice farms, including 25.914 women and 16196 young people) will be affected by the political measures that are taken in favour of the rice sector

Intervention area

The projects are located in the department of Collines in Benin.

  • Rikolto contributed to improving the income of rice farmers (m/f) through strengthening their capacity to access demanding national and international markets. Colruyt Group a learning project to increase the quality rice up to a level that can compete with imported rice.
  • The Union of Rice Farmers of the Centre (UNIRIZ-C) was able to obtain the FLO certification for two Organizations of rice farmers members and supply the market with good quality long grain white rice in packaging of 0.5 kg, 1 kg, 5 kg and 25 kg. From 2012 to 2016, UNIRIZ-C put about 7935 tons of white and parboiled rice on the local market.
  • As for exportation to Belgium under the FLO label, a quantity of 48 tons of white long grain rice (variety IR 841) was purchased by the Colruyt Group in 2010-2011.
  • Moreover, always with the support of Rikolto, the rice label of Collines with the trademark “Saveur des Collines” (intellectual property in course of formalization) is a reality. To this end, Rikolto has accompanied professionalization of UNIRIZ-C and of the Union of Women Rice Parboilers of Collines (URFER-C) in transforming paddy to white or parboiled rice, sorting and putting it in attractive packaging under the “Saveur des Collines” brand for different market segments (long grain rice, broken rice).
  • Rikolto facilitated structuring of women parboilers cooperatives into a regional umbrella URFER-C, which has become the point of attention of the technical and financial partners.
  • Rikolto strengthened the capacity of the CCR-B to conduct studies on the rice sector, which has made possible to prioritize the advocacy issues and to provide a basis for arguments. The advocacy process for the formalization of institutional purchasing is ongoing and making significant progress.
  • Rikolto contributed to the implementation of the families of players of the transformation and commercialization links for the creation and implementation of the rice inter-profession of Benin.
Case study

Case study

Cooperation between Beninese farmers' organisation, the Belgian retailer Coluyt Group and Rikolto (formerly Vredeseilanden/VECO)

Read the case study (2011)