|Africa News Digest
Zepp-LaRouche Was Right: African Nations Can Double Rice Production
PARIS, Sept. (EIRNS)A press release of the Cotonou (Benin)-based Africa Rice Center reports that, following the shock increase in food prices that which sparked food riots in several African cities early last year, several member countries of the Africa Rice Center adopted measures which resulted in an 18% increase in rice production in 2008 in Africa as compared to 2007.
Helga Zepp-LaRouche's call, in May 2008, to double world food production, was a key intervention at that time, to opt out of globalization and return to the dirigistic farming methods of President Franklin Roosevelt's Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace, and what became later known as the "Green Revolution" in Mexico, India, and elsewhere.
Most notable among today's achievements, is a 241% increase in Burkina Faso's rice production in 2008 compared to 2007. Burkina Faso was one of the countries rocked by food riots. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) attributes this turnaround to government support to farmers that ensured access to high-quality certified rice seed, including rice varieties developed by the Africa Rice Center, and to other basic farm inputs.
Senegal, the world's eighth-largest rice importer, increased its rice production by 90% in 2008, through a Presidential initiative that put in place a distribution system which ensured that rice farmers could readily access subsidized farm inputs such as certified seeds and fertilizers. Other African rice-producing countries that have recorded double-digit increases in rice production in just one year are Mali, Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Uganda.
A high-level, Paris-based source commented this morning that those figures might be slightly exaggerated, since prices normally would drop after such increases. However, he confirmed the substance of the reports: Production is huge. African governments really woke up and did a great job, he said. They went to each farmer and told him that he was important. Even if the IMF and the World Bank didn't like it, governments spent the money from their own funds, including going into deficits. Subsidizing agriculture is still considered a crime by Washington today, he said. The charities of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and George Soros have nothing to do with this miracle.
The Africa Rice Center conducted a simulation, showing that Africa could, in principle, become a net rice exporter, providing more than 5 million tons of rice to the international market by increasing the current area under rice cultivation by 15%, and by using improved technologies to close the yield gap. The Center is urging governments to better manage and exploit natural water resources to increase the productivity of rice. According to the FAO, Africa uses only 4% of its renewable water resources. Irrigation would increase yields three or four times what is currently being achieved by relying on rainfall alone. Development of roads and storage facilities would reduce post-harvest losses, which amount to 40-60% of the rice produced. Targeted input subsidies to defray the costs of new and improved technologies are also necessary for ensuring the continent achieves its rice production potential. Africa's current rice yields are less than one third of what could be produced, if technologies and innovations were properly applied.
The Africa Rice Center is an intergovernmental association of 23 rice-producing African countries, which facilitates more effective policy dialogue on the continent through its council of ministers. It is also one of the 15 international agricultural research Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). More information on the Rice Center is available at: http://www.warda.org/
Also see EIR's interview with Dr. Robert S. Zeigler, director-general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, Philippines), a sister agency to the Africa Rice Center, in the CGIAR, in EIR, March 2, 2007, on the vast potential to increase rice production. http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2007/2007_ 1-9/2007-9/pdf/54_709_interview.pdf