China's rice technology nourishing Africa's needs

Perennial varieties reduce costs, provide higher yields, have potential to boost continent's food security

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Luwero, Uganda and LI LEI in Beijing | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-03 07:09
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Ugandan farmers harvest perennial rice from a test plot in Luwero, Uganda on Jan 27. WU XIAOHUI/CHINA DAILY

Sowing knowledge

To ensure good rice yields, Luo and his colleagues have been teaching rice-planting techniques to local farmers in recent years — including how to plant seedlings and how to use fertilizers and pesticides. However, the educational process has had to overcome hurdles.

For instance, in China, farmers usually plant the lower part of rice seedlings in the paddy field's water in order to promote the growth of the roots. However, many farmers in Luwero plant rice seedlings much deeper in the water.

"We are also cooperating with local agriculture departments to jointly train rice farmers here, hoping that they will learn advanced planting techniques to improve rice yields," Luo said.

Jimmy Lamo, the cereals program leader at Uganda's National Crops Resources Research Institute, said perennial rice has already been planted in several irrigation areas of the country.

The perennial rice variety has grains that are similar to the popular local variety called Super, which is aromatic and soft when cooked. Local people have started calling the perennial variety "New Super", Lamo said.

Perennial rice doesn't require a lot of water and when it's grown in upland areas that receive a lot of rain, farmers get an ample yield, he said.

"It has an upland trait in it and an irrigated trait, which is unique and makes it a game changer," Lamo said.

As plowing is only done once, the soil and the microorganisms' ecosystem are not disturbed, which is very healthy for the environment, he added.

Perennial rice can help improve food security in Africa, Lamo said, as it's easy to store and transport, unlike other sources of starch which have more moisture that can be lost during transportation.

The easy storage of perennial rice makes it a good option for busy communities and an attractive commodity to feed people in the rapidly expanding urban areas of Africa, Lamo said.

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