Sustainable rice

West African rice farmers reconquering the local rice market

April 18, 2023

West Africa's local rice production only covers 60% of the regional demand, while rice is the most consumed grain in the area. Although, West African farmers have the potential to feed its population, the region depends still on import. Structural change will strengthen the position of West African rice farmers on their local market.

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West Africa, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal

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West African rice to become more competitive in terms of quality, price, appearance, and accessibility and family farmers to be viable entrepreneurs and reliable suppliers.

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From 2021??

Rice in West Africa is booming!

  • It has become the most consumed grain in West Africa.
  • More than 5 million families of rice farmers cultivate 6 million hectares of rice.
  • The demand for rice is growing by around 6% per year (from 11 million tonnes in 2008/2009 to 15 million tonnes in 2012/2013), with annual per capita consumption exceeding 100 kg in some countries.

Rice, an ultra-strategic commodity in West Africa!

  • Current local production only covers c. 60% of regional demand.
  • The other 40% of the needs are covered by imports from Asia.

West Africa is the world's largest rice importing region. 20% of the volumes traded on the world market are consumed in West Africa, even though the region has the potential to feed its population. However, the volumes produced in West Africa represent on average only 7% of world production, which is not enough to feed the population entirely. This increases the temptation for decision-makers to continue with food policies heavily based on the import of rice. It makes it easy to source homogeneous and well-cleaned rice. However, this dependence of West Africa on rice from elsewhere is problematic, because at the slightest difficulty the (Asian) producer countries will first ensure the food security of their own populations. This is evidenced by the reduction in the export of rice by Asian countries which was a trigger for the surge in prices in Africa in 2008.

Prospects for increased production for import are bleak, not only because populations in Asia continue to grow, but also because of the stagnation of agricultural land due to urbanisation and accelerated industrialisation in eastern countries. In the long term, West African rice food security can no longer depend on food imports. It will depend on the capacity of the region to develop its own rice cultivation - also considering the real threats of climate change as well as the local rice market.


  • Improve the quality of locally produced rice: West African rice is generally fresh and therefore more nutritious. However, consumers blame it for its many impurities (stones and rice husks), its poor appearance and its low rate of swelling.

  • Improve the availability of rice on the market. To this end, adapting rice production to climate change is crucial. Farmers can lose their production due to drought or flooding in their region. In addition, in irrigated plots where producers do not respect certain cultivation practices, they contribute very strongly to the production of nitrous gas, a gas which strongly contributes to the greenhouse effect and therefore to climate change. Rice is recognised as a crop that contributes the most to GHG emissions from agriculture. Women engaged in processing have so far used wood as their main source of energy, a resource that is becoming scarce with the effects of climate change. Proven technologies that reduce wood consumption exist and can be used.
  • Control production costs: the lack of control of production costs by value chain actors, especially farmers, means that the price of rice produced locally is generally higher than that of imported rice. In addition, it limits the improvement of the producers' income.
  • Strengthen business relations between actors of the rice value chains in the region: the bad business relations between actors of the value chains have resulted in a crisis of confidence. As long as the actors of the rice value chains do not cooperate well, it will be difficult for them to win back their market.
  • Connect national and regional food security policymakers with those who implement them and those who are the primary beneficiaries (farmers and processors of national rice). An effective policy for the development of rice growing in West Africa should imperatively make the link between national food security and the profitability of rice growing at the level of family farms. However, governments often hardly recognise rice farmers’ organisations as full partners in rice sector developments, which can harm West African farmers’ growth. Their involvement in commercial transactions is in many cases limited by the government to selling their rice to a governmental organisation, at a fixed price. In the most serious cases, the good intentions of the government become factors of annoyance for farmers, or factors disrupting the market, damaging the farmers. One example being the import of rice by the government without considering local availability.
  • Improve management within the rice value chains in the region: the situation presented in the context is often the result of weak consultation between the actors to create an environment that is helpful to the real development of West African rice value chains.
  • Master statistical data to better meet market needs: farmers’ organisations have little control over their data and very little control over their statistics. As a result, they find themselves in a weak position during negotiations with decision-makers or other agricultural value chain actors. Mastering their statistics would allow them to be stronger in their arguments during negotiations.
  • Make the rice sector attractive to young people

I think it is important to invest in the value chain because it is a source of jobs for young people. The market exists and the production factors are available. On the macro side, investment by the governments in the value chain will reduce foreign exchange losses; they must indeed recognise that rice imports currently account for about 5.2 million tonnes against 1.7 million in the early 1990s.

Mame Birame Ndiaye

Rice programme officer / focal point for Senegal


  • Improving rice quality according to market needs, appearance (packaging), facilitation of access to efficient processing equipment: support for the construction of parboiling centers and rice peeling units; support for the upgrading of farmer organizations' processing units, for the construction of end of the line, and distribution centers; support for the establishment of a quality approach, facilitation of access to suitable/supporting financing for the establishment of suitable financing mechanisms,
  • Support of farmer organizations for the application of smart production techniques in regard to climate change; support for the adaptation and application of sustainable rice production standards; strengthening the production capacities of family farmers.
  • Strengthening business relationships between actors to link production areas to markets: development of innovative and inclusive business models with integrated services, use of innovative tools for the development of business relationships (methodology link, Sensemaker, Scope Insight)
  • Improvement of the management of value chains: development of multi-actor processes, support for the emerging and / or reinforcing of existing inter-professions
  • Support for advocacy actions of actors for the creation of a favourable environment
  • Support for the control of statistical data;
  • Strengthening of the organizational, technical and managerial capacities of actors, in particular farmer organizations
  • Support for inclusion of young people and women
  • Funding and distributing the results with a view to scaling up efficient practices.

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"I am very proud of Rikolto's achievements in the various countries of intervention. There remains a need for support for the development of different models for access to the farmers’ market, as is the case with institutional purchases in Burkina Faso and Mali. Support also remains necessary for the contribution to development of an integrated financing model for FEPROBA (Federation of producers of the Anambé basin) in Senegal."

Mame Birame Ndiaye

Rice programme officer / focal point for Senegal

I am sure that the rice value chain has a bright future in West Africa because today there are four pillars supporting it. The strong commitment of governments and CEDEAO (Economic Community of West African States) in support of the rice sector, the start of a professionalisation process of actors, in particular producers and processors, the production factors (land and water), and the guaranteed market.

Mame Birame Ndiaye

Rice programme officer / focal point for Senegal

Who do we work with?



Mame Birame Ndiaye

Rice programme director in West Africa

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