The Rice Hub Approach: How It Is Working In Sierra Leone

(Part 2)

By: Richard Bockarie


Web Vol: 1 No. 2                                                                                     29 Jan 2015             

In the first part  of this article, and as an introductory and background information, I gave a brief situation analysis of the rice sub sector in Sierra Leone by looking at the socio-economic and political import of the rice crop,  hence its lead role among the many and available food crops in the country; the hugely available potential for rice production and also the government’s policy stance for farmers to use the available lowland ecologies as a result of the rapidly declining fertility of the upland ecology; the need to protect it (upland ecology) for the cultivation of other crops and for other related development initiatives, among many others.

As an organization with the mandate to help partner countries in Africa to increase rice productivity and production as well as its multiple products, AfricaRice has come up with the Rice Sector Development Hubs Approach for implementation by its various national partners on the continent.

 In response to this initiative, scientists of the Rokupr Agricultural Research Centre (RARC) under the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) together with other national partners and actors have begun implementing the initiative. For example, RARC scientists have since the inception of the rice hub development initiative undertaken what is known as "Farmers Adoption Trial"(FAT) in the Mangrove Rice Hub.  Farmers were involved in the trial to assess the performance of three outstanding improved rice varieties as against the performance of their local rice varieties under their own farming condition and management. The outcome of the experience will clearly enable farmers to appreciate and adopt the better high yielding rice varieties suitable for cultivation under their own farming condition and management.

Also, within the Mangrove Rice Hub, RARC scientists have introduced rice varieties from AfricaRice. The exercise is known as "Participatory Advanced Trial (PAT) and Multiple Environment Trial (MET).The outcome of this trial will make farmers learn and adopt the varieties of rice that are adaptable and suitable to their condition and management, resistant to salinity, diseases, insects and other pests. Analysis of this will soon be made and conclusion reached by the participating farmers. Farmers were also involved in the multiplication of Rok 10 and WAR 77-3-2-2.The objective is for them to get access to seeds of soil tolerant rice varieties for mangrove swamps. Harvesting is currently in progress.
In Sierra Leone, iron toxicity is a serious problem in the cultivation of the rice crop commonly in the Inland Valley Swamps (IVS). As a result, RARC scientists carried out FAT, PAT and MET in rain fed lowlands, that is in IVS rice hubs in Rokupr, Bo and Blama. The Objective is for farmers to know, appreciate and adopt rice varieties that are tolerant to iron toxicity, pests, insects and diseases. As the availability of quality rice seed is one serious impediment to productivity and production, improved rice varieties including Nerica L19, and Rok 24 were distributed to farmers within the hub for multiplication. In Rokupr at MAWIRR, IVS was used to undertake breeder seed production of both released and pre released rice varieties. At the same time and in Rokupr also, rice breeding continued in rain fed Lowland -IVS hub. An exercise known as Preliminary Multi Environment Trial (PET) was also undertaken. 30 accessions or improved rice varieties or lines from AfricaRice are currently being assessed there for adaptation, high yield potential and acceptable user qualities. In the area of hybridization, 10 new crosses were made with the objective to develop new plant types with low multiple stress tolerance, earliness, high yield and acceptable grain quality.

In the area of post harvest and food technology programme, fabrication and testing of Rotary Weeders were carried out with the purpose to eventually  do away with or at least reduce drudgery, high labour cost and enhance increased rice production,. The testing was done in the riverain and IVS rice hubs located in the Bo and Kenema districts. The Task force in-charge of this operation intends to do same in the mangrove ecology. During the testing process, the Japan type weeder proved outstanding and popular with farmers."I like the Japanese type because I can dismantle it and take it to my farm as well as assemble it when I am ready to work with it”, a farmer said during the testing process with other rotary weeders. Because it is adjustable, farmers of all heights can use it. Another advantage appreciated by farmers is that the Japanese Rotary Weeder has in front of it a floater that controls the weeder from burging into the soil.

On the socio -economic and post harvest front of the rice hub development approach in Sierra Leone, baseline survey has been conducted to determine the existing status of the rice hubs along the rice product value chain in terms of existing rice varieties, agronomic practices, income levels, educational status, post harvest practices etc. The objective being to know the existing situation of the farmer together with his farming practices as against coming interventions or innovations with a view to increasing rice productivity and production so as to raise the quality of life of our farmers as well as boosting the national economy. Following such interventions, impact assessment of livelihoods, adoption of new technologies, educational levels, nutrition and health among others will be assessed.

The team or Task force has also conducted post harvest assessment in the three rice hubs namely IVS, riverain grassland and Mangrove Swamps. Traditional post harvest practices were looked into and will be compared with improved post harvest technologies involving the active participation of farmers and for them to make informed decisions   for adoption.

Salinity is one major factor   that significantly brings down farmers rice yields in mangrove swamps in Sierra Leone. Although the West Africa Agricultural Development Association (WAADA) now known as AfricaRice long ago helped to delineate salinity period zones, Rokupr scientists in collaboration with partners are making efforts to tackle this problem by determining or delineating areas that are free of salinity for long, medium and short periods; more so against the background of the current threat of climate change. In addition, Rokupr entomologists are conducting studies on the molting time period of crabs that are very serious pests in mangrove swamps with a view to recommending to mangrove swamp farmers the appropriate time of planting. Studies together with the involvement and active participation of farmers of other Good Agronomic Practices (GAP) including best bet fertilizer practices are also conducted.

Partners in the Sierra Leone Rice Development Hubs are no doubt doing their best to boost rice productivity and production and the development of its various products in Sierra Leone. For example, the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) is building the human, physical and financial capacity of RARC to help farmers meet domestic rice sufficiency as well as for export. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is also helping farmers in developing their IVS as well as providing Rural Banks so as for them to access the needed credit facilities. Yet, the challenges are huge and daunting, considering the policy shift from production to rice product value chain. And until enough resource investment is brought to bear on the rice sub sector and producing rice along its value chain, it will be difficult to say goodbye to the painful paradox of spending needed foreign exchange for the importation of the golden crop – rice, in Sierra Leone in the midst of vast lowland ecologies, large rivers for irrigation and enough rainfall and other related potential for enough domestic rice production and for export. 


SLARI Launches MSP Initiative for the Implementation of RAP-IVS


In order to establish and operationalize the Multi Stakeholder Platform (MSP) for the successful implementation of the Project “Realizing the Agricultural Potential of Inland Valley Swamps (RAP) in Sub Sahara Africa”, the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) and AfricaRice has launched the MSP initiative in Bo.



La plateforme virtuelle pour les pôles de riz de AfricaRice. Elle utilise et contribue au système eRAILS de FARA . Mentions Légales