Sustainable rice

The white egret: an icon of local rice development in the DRC

March 8, 2024

Thanks to government cooperation, World Bank funding and the implementation of the PICAGL programme, new dynamics are emerging in the rice value chain in South Kivu and Tanganyika in DRCongo. Increased productivity, sustainable production and high-quality local rice are creating new business opportunities for farmers and young people.

Icon Place



DRC - Provinces of South Kivu and Tanganyika (Bukavu-Uvira-Fizi-Kalemie)

Icon Scope


Development of the local rice value chain

Icon Duration




Alongside Rwanda and Burundi, bordering DRCongo, we find the plain of the Ruzizi River which flows into Lake Tanganyika. The rice production potential of this long stretch of land is enormous but the rice sector faces major challenges mainly due to a lack of government oversight and public services, among which:

  • Lack of access to good quality seeds resulting in low production per hectare (1.5 to 2.5 t/ha).
  • Difficulties in managing water in the rice fields due to the lack of hydro-agricultural infrastructures.
  • Scarcity or absence of rice processing machines (hullers). The existing ones are old and obsolete. They produce rice of too low quality to be appreciated on the market. Consumers would rather eat an old, dry, and tasteless imported rice than one that breaks their teeth.
  • Local rice is unknown in a market flooded by low-price rice imported from Southeast Asia.
  • A fragmented landscape of many small cooperatives (in name only), too small to be viable and stifled by market competition, is an obstacle to the development of local rice supply chains.

Rikolto has been promoting agricultural investment and rice marketing in the region since 2011, but PICAGL presented an incredible opportunity to scale up our activities. PICAGL (Great Lakes Integrated Agriculture Development) is an ambitious project promoted by the Congolese government and financed through a World Bank loan. The project aims to increase agricultural productivity, create business opportunities and improve the resilience of food systems to crises in the DRC. It's focused on the development of four agricultural value chains, including rice.

I still remember the first time I came down to the Ruzizi Plain in the province of South Kivu. When we asked them about their challenges, every rice producer replied: “We don't have a market for our rice”. I was incredulous. Already at that time, the population of the city of Bukavu, 45 km away from the fields, was estimated at almost 1 million.

Ivan Godfroid

Former regional director | Rikolto in DRC

Our approach

A hard-earned kick-off

The completion of administrative procedures, alongside the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, hampered the implementation of project activities, which eventually started in 2019 instead of 2016. To make up for the time lost, an extension was granted and a second phase of the project was approved, which will end in 2024.

In the first phase of PICAGL 2019-2021, Rikolto's intervention was focused on four pillars:

  1. Strong and resilient crops grow from quality seeds. Low productivity is often due to the use of poor quality seeds. We helped farmers gain access to improved, resilient and more productive rice varieties (Komboka, Tai, Mugwiza) that meet consumer demands. Farmers’ main concern was paying for these types of seed at the beginning of the season. We linked seed multipliers and producers through the cooperatives and thanks to the cooperation and mobilisation of the Territorial Agricultural Inspectorates, provided credits for seed supply.
  2. Training of farmers in good agricultural practices through the Farmers’ Fields schools, a methodology developed by FAO that had never been used in the region. Farmers carry out experiments in their own fields, comparing traditional practices with those proposed by Rikolto (Integrated Soil Fertility Management – ISFM – and System of Rice Intensification – SRI) which increase yields while respecting the environment.
  3. Structuring, training and support for farmers’ cooperatives. As Rikolto, we have experience in helping producers organise themselves into cooperatives and in fostering their spirit of cooperation. Collective action both in terms of supply and marketing, reduces farmers’ costs and prompts the creation of services within the cooperatives.
  4. Rice marketing. We supported farmers' organisations to access the Bukavu market and position their rice by developing a label and certification mechanism for 100% locally produced, high quality rice.

Investing in water and youth

The second phase of the project focused on water management and youth involvement.  

In order to ensure a year-round supply of rice to urban consumers, access to irrigation and drainage water must be provided in all the production areas targeted by the project. To overcome the failure of UNOPS, PICAGL’s infrastructure provider, to establish new rice perimeters for farmers we decided to adopt the Smart Valley Approach, a community-based, participatory and less costly methodology developed by Africa Rice for constructing hydro-agricultural systems. 24 sites covering 1320 ha will be developed in the two provinces, 792 ha in South Kivu and 528 ha in Tanganyika.

While consumers prefer whole grain long grain rice, this is to the detriment of producers for whom 25 to 30% of production is represented by broken rice after husking. Young people have taken this as an opportunity to transform production waste into various rice-based products (biscuits, croquettes, flour for porridge, patties, etc.) and new business opportunities.

No items found.


Open-air schools for learning technological innovations

  • 584 is the number of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) installed between 2019 and 2020, enrolling 17,056 participants. Through these FFS, we have disseminated the use of sustainable agricultural practices (SRP Standards), promoted local production of organic fertiliser and introduced two innovative technologies: the ISFM and SRI.
  • In 2022 we trained 5,194 farmers on good agricultural practices in line with the SRP Standard. 66.4% of farmers have adopted the technologies by the end of 2022. The ISFM is highly appreciated (adoption up to 72.4%) because it reduces the number of weedings, thus saving money, and the plants are more resistant in case of erosion. SRI's has more limitations due to the need for significant amounts of fertiliser, which are often difficult to access.

Increased yields

  • The yields achieved through the application of SRI and ISFM were significantly higher than the yields of plots cultivated using farmers' normal practices. Compared to 2.5 tonnes/ha, farmers achieved 4.5 tonnes/ha in South Kivu and 5.1 tonnes/ha in Tanganyika, thanks to the technological innovations combined with access to quality seeds.
"In Bwegera, the Tai variety has improved production from less than 2t/ha to 4t/ha, which gives us some hope. If we improve access to water, we could go up to 4.5t or even 5t per hectare..

• These results have convinced the farmers, who have increased the area of rice grown under SRI and ISFM by 30%.

A matter of seeds

  • 46 groups of seed multipliers have been trained and technically supported in the seed multiplication process and have generated a volume of 372 tonnes of seed (2020). In 2023, 22 structures will replicate the process on an area of about 60 ha and we expect a volume of 376 tonnes.
  • The collaboration and mobilisation of the Territorial Agricultural Inspectorates ensured "seed credits", the distribution of 124 tonnes to 18,748 households and the sowing of an area of almost 6,000 ha. In order to ensure the effective management of the loans granted to producers, GEMAMs (groups of agri-multiplier households) were set up within the cooperatives. Each GMAM is made up of 25 to 30 neighbouring households.
I am in charge of a GMAM set up by the CABAS cooperative. We received a credit of 10 kg of Komboka seed for each household, to be repaid at harvest time either with part of the production or in cash. This seed credit was a relief for us because we did not have access to good quality seeds.

Feza Zabuloni |Farmer of CABAS cooperative

The Nyange Nyange label: 100% locally produced rice named after a white egret

  • Kivu rice, originally intended for domestic consumption and then for the Bralima brewery, now has other market outlets. Kivu rice is becoming more and more popular thanks to the establishment of the Nyange Nyange quality label. Nyange-Nyange is the name of a white egret, a very frequent visitor to rice fields and a synonym of 100% local Congolese quality rice. Through an inclusive and participatory process, we developed a business model whereby a non-profit organisation (Nyange Nyange) certifies the rice produced by the cooperatives and guarantees quality for consumers.
  • 77% of the 14,874 tonnes of paddy produced in the two provinces (at the end of 2022) was husked and sold as white rice, including 82 tonnes of Nyange Nyange certified rice. An awareness campaign was conducted in Bukavu and local rice made a breakthrough in Bukavu’s market. Its traceability has improved to over 62.8% and Kivu’s rice can now be found on the shelves of shops and supermarkets of the city.

Stronger farmer cooperatives

16 farmer organisations are better structured and have improved their organisational capacity, governance and financial management thanks to Rikolto's training and close follow-up, and the provision of new accounting software (SAGE). The organisations developed their own business plans and applied for loans through connections with financial institutions (Equity Bank, SMICO, PAIDEK and Coopec Kalundu) facilitated by Rikolto; 6 of them received agricultural loans for a total of more than USD 220,000.

Youth entrepreneurs valorise rice by-products

We have supported the development of new food products based on rice by-products. In the laboratory of the Evangelical University in Africa (UEA), 11 food formulas with high nutritional value were developed with promising young entrepreneurs. Two of these start-ups (Uzima Food and STADL/HINJA) sell their products  in supermarkets (Amigo and Stars Maket) in the city of Bukavu.

Who do we work with?

World Bank


Augustin Rushunda

Country coordinator - Rice Cluster
+243 997 762 789

Stories from the ground

Discover more stories