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Rice value chain/Cameroon - Commercial rice farming supports women farmers from climate stress

08 November 2015

Women farmers in Western Cameroon are leading the way in commercial rice production, benefiting from new seeds and marketing opportunities that are helping them cope with climate stresses and provide for their families. A programme run by the Upper Nun Valley Development Authority (UNVDA), a government agro-industry body, aims to help rice farmers adopt better crop varieties, use water more efficiently and adapt to climate change. Female commercial rice farmers have been able to pay school fees for their children and medical bills from rice sales, unlike before when the harvest from vegetable farms were uncertain, thanks to the commercial rice production strategies. Cameroon's Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), together with international partners, has developed improved rice varieties that are more resistant to climate extremes, as well as farm technologies to increase rice productivity. These varieties can resist submersion, droughts and high temperatures including pests and diseases, said UNVDA General Manager. Initially, Cameroonian women improved rice production through previous 18 rice varieties released under a line called New Rice for Africa (NERICA), developed by the Africa Rice Centre which crossed an African species tolerant to local stresses, including drought and pests, and a high-yielding Asian species. Local development authorities were involved in the project which has established a rapid impact seed programme to distribute new high-yield seed varieties to farmers in Cameroon. The UNVDA Programme went further through, supplying fertilizers directly to farmers during cultivation, promoting post-harvest technologies like rice milling and packaging, processing activities, and boosted stronger links with input dealers and micro-finance institutions. The programme gives households opportunities to raise their income by developing new rice-based products like rice flour and husks for fuel and exploring the use of rice in fortified foods, including vitamin-rich cereals. The Cameroonian government acknowledges that achieving its plan to make Cameroon an emerging economy with double-digit growth by 2035, and implementing the new U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty and hunger depends largely on the economic empowerment of women. According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Cameroon has the potential to become a rice granary for the Central African region. UNVDA launched its project in 2012 to support over 13,000 rice farmers nationwide with improved seeds, fertiliser, herbicide, information, training and equipment rental. Mostly focusing on women rice farmers, UNVDA has transformed the traditional extensive farming practices based on shifting cultivation to more sedentary and mechanized forms of production.



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