The inauguration of harvesting of new high-yielding and climate-resilient upland rice varieties (ARICA-5, NERICA-4 and NamChe-3) on a 3,000-acre rice farm run by Vinayak Agro-Farm Ltd. in Northern Uganda, took place 6 July 2016. A delegation comprising Dr Ambrose Agona, Director General of the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO); Prof Joseph Obua, Chairman of NARO Council; Dr Asea Godfrey, Director of the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI); and Mr Joseph Bazaale, Commissioner Seed Certification and Inspection under the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) inaugurated the harvest ceremony.
The event symbolized the success of an innovative public-private partnership to scale up new rice technologies in Uganda. It also testified to the success of the government’s strong support to the rice sub-sector in Uganda following the 2008 food crisis, when Uganda like other African countries, experienced severe shortage of rice. Since then, the Government of Uganda has come up with a range of strategies to prevent a repeat of the crisis.
NARO, with support from the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the World Bank’s East Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (EAAPP), has focused on training a new cadre of rice scientists, addressing constraints along the value chain and developing new technologies. This culminated in the release of new high-yielding, climate-resilient upland rice varieties with high grain quality, namely ARICA-4, ARICA-5, NamChe-2, NamChe-3, NamChe-5 and NamChe-6 in 2013.
Subsequently, Uganda embarked on a model to out-scale these technologies through an approach called the Rice Sector Development Hubs with support from the project ‘Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC)’ funded by the African Development Bank through AfricaRice. Under this model, two stakeholders, namely Naseco Seed Company and a seed producers’ association (ADAG ANII), were trained and contracted to produce seed of improved varieties.
Growing commercial interest in rice
“It takes time to defeat poverty and food shortage, but when you venture into commercial farming, poverty will be history in the shortest time possible and food is guaranteed,” said Mr Peshwa, one of the directors of Vinayak Agro Farm Ltd, which is growing rice on large scale in Nwoya district in Uganda.
“NARO Rice Breeder Dr Jimmy Lamo guided us well on rice cultivation. Therefore this season, we expect to harvest more than 4,000 tons, even though there was drought,” Mr Peshwa added. “The production of rice in Uganda is estimated at 260,000 tons, leaving a gap of 40,000 tons,” said Dr Lamo.
Vinayak Agro Farm Ltd will sell locally as well as export their rice, maize and green gram. It has around 50 out-growers. The investment includes tractors, combine harvesters, seed store and factories. “In addition, we aim to develop interventions for economic growth by investing in agriculture for higher productivity, food security, employment, income generation and capacity building,” Mr Peshwa said.
Earlier Hon. Simon Oyet, Member of Parliament of Nwoya County, along with other local government leaders and farmers had visited the Vinayak Agro Farm and appreciated the opportunities offered by the Agro Farm, in particular relating to employment. Hon. Oyet called on more investors to negotiate with landowners and the communities directly, but not through third party, for transparent transactions.
Speaking about the benefit of Vinayak Agro-Farm, Isaac Odongo from the local community, said, “It is a good development, because there are so many out-growers, who will mill their rice here and sell.”