BUTALEJA/MBALE – Uganda, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), together with their partners – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and The Government of China on Thursday launched water-saving and drought-resistant rice – geared at improving farmers’ livelihood through increased production.
This is implemented under the recently launched Phase 3 of the FAO-China South-South Cooperation (SSC) Programme, a mutual sharing and exchange of key development solutions – knowledge, experiences and good practices, policies, technology and resources – between and among countries in the global South.
The hybrid rice variety (WDR-73) was developed by Shanghai Research Institute in collaboration with National Agricultural Research Organisation – NARO.
To ensure sustainability, agricultural officers from 30 districts and 100 lead demonstration farmers and producers from districts of Butaleja, Luwero, Lira, Oyam, Tororo, Kibuku, Budaka, Bugweri, Pader, Kaliro, Adjumani, Kamuli, Iganga, Soroti, Katakwi, Luuka, Kalungu, Kayunga, Luwero and Bulambuli districts were taken through a 5-day training at Wills and Wash Hotel in Mbale where they were equipped with all the necessary skills.
Mr Antonio Querido – FAO Representative in Uganda underscored the importance of water-saving and drought-resistant rice for food security, nutrition and income security which at the same time addresses climate challenges such as drought.
Represented by Dr. Charles Owach, the Assistant FAO Representative in charge of programmes, he noted that WDR-73 rice combines both high yield potential, as well as water-saving and drought resistance, compared to the irrigated paddy and traditional upland rice varieties.
“This rice variety will address the resource and environmental challenges faced by rice producers.”
He revealed that in the cultivation experiments in Uganda conducted in Lukaya, Luweero and Arua, WDR-73 grain yield increased from 4.35 to more than 6.0 tonnes per hectare.
“In Arua, at a growth duration of 90-95 days, these varieties yielded upto 4.35 tonnes per hectare, while direct seeded WDR 73 grain in Luweero yielded between 6-8 tonnes per hectare,” he revealed.
Mr Antonio says much as rice is a staple for more than 3.5 billion people, including most of the world’s poor, it can be a problematic crop to farm.
“While it is an important food crop, it requires massive amounts of water and the paddies in which it grows emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas.”
This new variety, he noted, tackles such issues of drought and doesn’t need to be planted in paddies.
“As FAO, we are excited to be supporting the government of Uganda, through the South-South Project to scale up the production of this very important water-saving variety. We believe it will help many rice farmers and producers boost their incomes and nutrition, and contribute to economic development.”
Peter Muyimbo from the Ministry of Agriculture who also coordinates the SSC project noted that the new variety (WDR-73) can still produce considerably higher yield even with water stress situations.
“When you have enough water, its yields will be upwards of 3.8 tonnes and on high lands, it will be able at least to give you 1.5 to 3 tonnes which is not might not be possible with our previous varieties.”
He revealed that the government has partnered with the China-Uganda Agriculture Cooperation Industrial Park in Luwero that was established in 2016, which will ensure even distribution of seeds to farmers.
“The seed company will be able to supply these seeds to farmers and we are actually creating better distribution channels within the country. We are creating outlets where we can supply these seed to the farmer, but also capacity is being built to see that seeds are produced locally,” he noted.
Dr. Damalie Akwango-Aliau – Climate Change and Adaptation Specialist at NARO noted that their role is to generate technologies and also disseminate them to the users for purposes of improving agricultural production and productivity, hence the introduction of the new variety.
She commended the People’s Republic of China, for the technical expertise and the financial resources they have provided.
“It is our plea that in this phase three, we would like to see more of the integration of ICT in technology generation and dissemination. We’d also like to see more technologies that will enable farmers to produce rice in a sustainable way while conserving the environment.”
She called for the training of more technicians and extension staff since the first and the second phases focused on the scientists.
She also urged the stakeholders to dive into the diversification of products through value addition.
About the SSC Project
The project focuses on innovative technology transfers, high-yield rice and foxtail millet production, livestock management, and the development of aquaculture value chains, to improve the food security, nutrition, lives and livelihoods of thousands of farmers. Along with China’s contribution, Phase 3 of the SSC project will benefit from the substantial commitment of the Government of Uganda’s counterpart funding, which demonstrates the country’s deep commitment to the achievement of national development initiatives and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- Upscale and increase commercial production and productivity in cereals, livestock and fish;
- Build the capacity of policy and technical staff, private sector and farmers, including women, youth and other marginalized groups of people in utilizing improved Chinese agricultural technologies, and
- Facilitate agricultural investment, agro-industrialization and trade
The project is also intended at providing technical assistance for:
Establishment of an integrated technology transfer base, establishment of demonstrations of high yielding of rice and foxtail millet, livestock Improvement Programmes and development of an aquaculture value chain.