Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Rice for Africa (NERICA)

Location: Africa

Years: mid-1990’s-present

Developer: Dr. Monty Jones and the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA)

Funding: African Development Bank, UN Development Program, Japanese government

Rice is in high demand in Africa. Rice imports represent 25% of total food imports in West and Central Africa. NERICA is a genetically engineered strain of rice that may restore agricultural sustainability in Africa, improve economics by encouraging local trade and reducing food imports, and strengthen the population’s health. NERICA mixes African rice, which is highly resistant to drought and local pests but which has a very low yield (triggering wide-spread slash-and-burn farming), and Asian rice, which has a very high yield but is more sensitive to environmental conditions (triggering increased use of pesticides). NERICA’s combined assets include higher yield, shorter growth duration, resistance to local stresses and higher protein content than traditional rice varieties.

While NERICA has potential to do good, it is controversial because it was developed in labs instead of as an incorporation of new seeds into African farms. NERICA is also a concern to small farmers and their local seed systems because it threatens to expand agribusiness. However, since most small farmers lack the means and money to irrigate or to buy pesticides, using NERICA could increase production, allowing them to feed their communities and participate in trade.

WorldChanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century, p.68

No comments:

Post a Comment