The resilience of the Beninese rice sector is at stake due to the severe impacts of climate change and its still weak commercial performance on local markets. In consortium with the National Consultative Council of Rice Farmers of Benin (CCR-B) Rikolto is implementing interventions to "Strengthen the resilience of actors against climate change in the rice sector in Benin and sustainably supply cities with healthy rice" as part of a larger programme (DEFIA - Development of Entrepreneurship in Agricultural Sectors, implemented by Enabel with DGD grants.
Benin has about 205,000 ha of lowlands, the landscape where more than half of the rice farmers cultivate, but which is hardly exploited in Benin. Only 10% is devoted to rice production. In addition, as in many other West African countries, rice production faces environmental shocks such as droughts, early rains, floods and land degradation. Due to climate change, these extreme events have become more frequent, straining farmers' resilience. Rice cultivation also has a major impact on water resources and contributes to climate change as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Although rice producers have managed to increase their production of white and parboiled rice, about 50% of the rice consumed in Benin is imported, mainly from Asia. The quality of local rice is often unsatisfactory for Beninese consumers (presence of impurities such as small pebbles, chaff residues, high levels of broken rice) and supply is unreliable.
We will support the actors of the rice sector, and more specifically the value chains "white rice", "organic rice" and "parboiled rice", in a process of agro-ecological transition by strengthening their technical, organisational and institutional capacities in the area of intervention of the DEFIA programme.
Thanks to DGD grants, Rikolto has been strengthening farmers' capacity to access national and international markets by professionalising farmers' organisations for more than a decade.
We facilitated the structuring of women's parboiling cooperatives into a regional umbrella organisation, URFER-C, and supported them and the Union of Rice Farmers of the Centre (UNIRIZ-C) in transforming paddy into white or parboiled rice, sorting it and packaging it attractively under the Saveur des Collines brand for different market segments.
UNIRIZ-C obtained the FLO certification for two FOs, which placed almost 8,000 tonnes of white and parboiled rice on the local market (2012-2016) and exported 48 tonnes of long grain white rice to the Colruyt Group in Belgium (2010-2011). In addition, in the 2018-2019 season, we involved 1143 farmers from 62 cooperatives in the application of the Sustainable Rice Platform standard, resulting in higher yields and better control of production costs.
We also have a long-standing relationship with CCR-B (Consultation of the Rice Growers of Benin). We have helped strengthen their capacity to carry out studies on the rice sector and supported their advocacy work.
To make the environment more conducive to sustainable rice production and to create incentives for actors to favour more agroecological choices, we will facilitate:
An effective agroecological transition requires access to specific inputs (organic fertilisers, bio-pesticides, etc.), appropriate equipment, qualified and certified seeds, specialised services (for ploughing, weeding and harvesting) and expert advice. We will ensure and facilitate links with the most appropriate service providers and provide them and the farmers' organisations with training and capacity building in agroecological concepts and practices. We will also develop digital solutions adapted to the needs of all involved.
We will support the Interprofessional Rice Organisation (IFRIZ-Benin) and the CCR-B to develop and implement a communication plan to promote the consumption of sustainable rice and an advocacy plan to raise the awareness of institutional actors in favour of agroecology in the rice sector.
Through the organisation of events involving producers and distributors in the rice value chain, we will promote Beninese rice in major urban centres and strengthen the link between farmers and urban markets. Specific studies will be carried out to analyse the existing distribution systems, understand their functioning, constraints and development potential in order to build resilient short supply chains. As Rikolto, we facilitate and encourage the participation of all stakeholders in the process to steer the development of common solutions and sound business cases.
By documenting the experiences, the use of methodologies and tools, and the innovations developed during the implementation of the project, we'll build evidence to share with research institutes (INRAB, CIRAD, AFRICA RICE, ...), public institutions (ATDA Territorial Agency for Agricultural Development, MAEP Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Benin), universities (Parakou, Abomey Calavi and Leuven) and participants of our workshops. The results will also be used for advocacy purposes in order to the establishment of a regulatory or legal framework for the dissemination of sustainable rice production.
As Rikolto, we have promoted the use of the SRP (Sustainable Rice Platform) standard as a tool for diagnosis and self-assessment of the agro-ecological performance of rice producers worldwide. The SRP also provides an internal management system to autonomously monitor the sustainability of production and processing processes. We will be responsible for disseminating the core principles of the SRP standards to all stakeholders and organising in-depth training for those directly involved in the project. The Participatory Guarantee System method will also be used to ensure compliance with organic standards.
In partnership with CCR-B, we'll train local producers to become SRP advisors, reaching nearly 1,800 producers in 103 cooperatives. They'll assess the cooperatives' production practices and carry out Farmers Field Schools, a methodology to test and compare with traditional practices the new agro-ecological practices selected to improve the resilience and reduce the environmental impact of rice production.
We'll work closely with research (INRAB - National Institute for Agricultural Research of Benin) and public agricultural services (ATDA) to validate our practices, who will be invited to visit the FFS. Doctoral students from local universities (Parakou and d'Abomey Calavi) will also closely monitor our work and translate their findings into digestible recommendations for farmers.
In summary, our aim is to provide rice producers with methods and tools to engage in the agro-ecological transition we are striving to achieve, as well as to create incentives for other actors to promote more sustainable production processes. Since the project began, we have
This is the first time I've attended a Farmer Field School. I used to sow 40 kg of seeds per hectare. This year, using only 10 kg, I obtained a yield of 3.7 tonnes compared to 2.8 tonnes last season
Vincent BODJRENOU – Rice farmer from the village of Agoita
This new advocacy plan will enable IFRIZ-B to reposition itself as a catalyst for increasing the visibility of Beninese rice through all relevant niches, especially institutional purchases and short circuits.
CCR-B Consultative Council of Rice Farmers of Benin
IFRIZ Benin Interprofessional Rice Organisation
MAEP Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Benin
INRAB National Institute for Agricultural Research of Benin
ATDA Territorial Agency for Agricultural Development
Universities: Parakou, d’Abomey Calavi, Leuven
Funders: Enabel (DGD funds)