Sustainable rice

Burkinabe women design an innovative, sustainable business model

February 19, 2024

Burkina’swell-loved parboiled rice, steamed and dried rice before being hulled, wouldlikely have disappeared without Burkina Faso’s innovative women. Rikolto andUNERIZ established a franchise business model to allow for quality parboilingat home to complement the quality of parboiling in centres.

Icon Place



West Africa, village of Douna in Burkina Faso

Icon Scope


Supporting women in their sustainable parboiled rice business by offering infrastructure and learning opportunities to reach the rice quality expected by the market.

Icon Duration


4 years (2014-2018)


  • Rice production in Burkina Faso is threatened by climate change, and the volumes of rice harvested are not stable. It is crucial to work with rice producers and women parboilers on the preservation of the environment to ensure a stable supply of rice.
  • Rice producers are not willing to sell their rice to the parboilers on trust; they want to be paid immediately, and not after the women have sold their rice.
  • Women parboilers have difficulties to pay rice producers upfront. They rarely have access to working capital, thus have to rely on their income, which only allows them to buy small quantities of rice at once.
  • Women parboil about three quarters of their rice at home, as the collective parboiling centres do not have sufficient capacity. However, rice parboiled at home has a lower quality, as women do not have the necessary capital to buy the equipment needed to process the rice.
  • Women parboilers often have weak entrepreneurial skills: they are not aware of the rice market, prices, bookkeeping skills, etc.
  • UNERIZ does not have a brand name or recognisable packaging for its rice, which makes it difficult to launch a marketing campaign and gain consumer recognition.

Without women, no development. It is crucial to invest in female entrepreneurs.

Salimata Sanon

Secretary General of UNERIZ

A business model developed by women for women

At the heart of Burkina Faso’s rice supply chain transformation

Our story unfolds on the rice plains of Burkina Faso, where women saved the local rice chain from collapse by transforming paddy into nutritious parboiled rice. In 2017 they partnered with Rikolto to establish a franchising business model, which empowered them to evolve into successful businesswomen and enabled inclusive and stronger business relationships, resulting in an increased supply of healthier and sustainable rice. Who has reaped the benefits of this model, and what are the next steps in this inspiring journey?

Read the business case

Our strategy

Rikolto and UNERIZ have joined forces to co-create an alternative business model, namely a franchise model. This model allows for quality parboiling at home by individual women or small enterprises of women, and complements the parboiling done in the centres.

  1. Rikolto and UNERIZ co-create a franchise model. In this model, UNERIZ adopts the role of franchisor rendering services to enterprises of women parboilers. The women are the franchisees. Concretely, these services include for example that UNERIZ foresees the material for women to parboil at home, gives women access to credit, organises training on the use of the parboiling materials and entrepreneurial skills, …
  2. The business model will be tested by a dozen women of four of UNERIZ’s sub-unions, based in Bama, Banzon, Douna and Karfiguela. When the profitability of the model is proven, the experiment will be extended to all UNERIZ members.
  3. The lessons learned during the test period will be shared in multi-stakeholder meetings in Burkina Faso and during regional agro-conferences; a ‘marketing’ strategy vis-à-vis parboilers and parboiler unions will be developed to convince them of the benefits of the model.
No items found.

Results reached 2014-2016

Rikolto has been working together with UNERIZ since 2011 to strengthen the position of women parboilers in the Burkinabe society and increase their income. From 2014 onwards, Rikolto has supported UNERIZ’ sub-union in Douna to set up a collective rice parboiling centre, to allow the parboilers to improve the quality of their rice and sell at a higher price. Meanwhile, this model has been replicated in UNERIZ’ other sub-unions.

  • From 2014 until 2016, the % of rice parboiled in Douna of which the quality corresponded to the market needs increased from 20% to 75%; and the % of rice with flaws and impurities decreased to 10%.
  • From 2014 until 2016, the % of rice processed in the Douna centre that was sold collectively by the sub-union, increased from 5% to 80%; the total sales volumes increased from 120 to 420 tonnes. The main buyer of parboiled rice, SONAGESS, yearly renovates its contract.
  • Women parboilers saw their income increase to approximately 450,000 francs CFA yearly since the opening of the collective parboiling centre. They indicate that these revenues from selling parboiled rice give them an important independence from their husbands, which contributes to their empowerment.
  • Women parboilers have learned best practices to reduce water usage during the parboiling process, and tests have been done to replace the traditional wood fires with solar panels and with briquets made of rice hulls.
  • UNERIZ has signed two contracts with Coris Bank for working capital, at low interest rates (8%).

What do we expect by the end of 2018?

  • A business model (franchising model) adapted to the needs of the women parboilers is developed in co-creation.
  • The income of women parboilers who are a member of UNERIZ grows sustainably, because they sell higher volumes of quality parboiled rice.
  • The business model helps women overcome several challenges: UNERIZ offers the right services to parboiling women, their entrepreneurial and parboiling skills improve, and women can sell their rice more easily thanks to the existence of a rice brand known by consumers for its good quality.

What do we expect in the long run?

The model, if proven feasible from a financial, cultural, socio-economic and environmental point of view, will be scaled up in Burkina Faso, and across West-Africa.


Rikolto works together with UNERIZ. Its 3,730 members (all women) are the key beneficiaries of this project. Indirect beneficiaries include the rice producers, and urban and rural consumers who gain access to higher quality rice.

Who do we work with?

Anton Jurgens Fund


Michel Tougma

Programme Manager Burkina Faso
+ 226 70 74 57 18

Stories from the ground

Discover more stories