PIC:Adungna Wakjira, Deputy Director General of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR)
As resolved by the African Council of Ministers of Agriculture in Kampala on Tuesday, Ethiopia is now a member of Africa Rice, the continental association that promotes the crop’s local production.
The Ethiopian government had forwarded an official application to Africa Rice that was reviewed by the Council under the chairmanship of Vincent Ssempijja, the Ugandan Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries during the Council’s 30th Ordinary Session.
Accepting the approval on behalf of Ethiopia as the 26th member state was Adungna Wakjira, Deputy Director General of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) who was representing the country’s state minister of agriculture and natural resources.
Adungna pledged, on behalf of his government, Ethiopia’s commitment to increasing rice production in Africa.
“We are thankful for the membership and henceforth we will step up technologies and research for rice. We will also focus on increasing the acreage under rice cultivation in Ethiopia,” he said.
What Ethiopia brings to the table
Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa with over 87.9 million people as of 2014.
This puts the country in the spotlight of the African Union’s mission to end hunger in Africa by 2025.
According to the Ethiopian National Rice Development Strategy that was approved in Kampala in April 2009, Ethiopia has huge potential to produce rice on an estimated 20 million hectares.
The strategy also indicates a continual increase in land under rice cultivation that grew from 24,434 to 32,685 hectares between the seasons of 2007/08 and 2008/09.
The country also has six major rivers for the supply of water for irrigation including Abav in the North, Awash in the North-East, Wabi Shebele which stretches from the East into the central region, Genale in the South, Omo in the South West and the Baro River in the West.
With increased land under cultivation and availability of water, the total rice production has also been expanding according to a presentation by EIAR’s Dr Dawit Alemu to the General Meeting of the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) in 2015, going up from 11,244 tonnes in 2006 to 184,210 tonnes in 2013.
Alemu also pointed out an increase in number of rice farmers from 32,250 in 2006 to 119,497 in 2013.
The Council of Ministers is looking to rice as one of the crops that can help end hunger and improve livelihoods of African farmers and youth.
New leadership, same fight
During Tuesday’s session, Vincent Ssempijja handed over the seat of Council Chairperson to Dr Papa Seck, the Senegalese Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development for the next two years.
During the same session, Uganda’s Dr Ambrose Agona, the Director General of the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), also handed over to Senegal’s Dr. Alioune Fall, Director General of the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA) as the Chairperson of the National Experts Committee.