Technologie & Innovation, Technology & Innovation

What is Parboiling and how does it work?

A visual journey to a Women’s parboiling cooperative in Burkina Faso

Komsilga, just outside of Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou: a young lady, Habibou Kombasseré, whizzes in on her scooter, delivering paddy rice to her mother Mariam Ilboudou and the other women who form part of a parboiling cooperative. The delivered rice is soaked, in preparation for parboiling activities. After the twenty-four-hour mark, the women, clothed in bright green oversized shirts, synchronously begin the final steps of preparation.

Some women take large water barrels to fill with water from the onsite hand pump, supplied with water from a borehole.

The water is used to rinse and fill the cauldrons used to parboil the paddy rice. Other women begin taking ash waste from a previous rice husk fire, and begin mixing it with water, to form a paste that will later be applied to protect and make cleaning the cauldrons (a cauldron is three leg black pot, commonly used over open fires) easy.

Another group of women begin mixing a green paste, made of dried baobab tree leaves and water that will be used as a sealing agent between the cauldrons and aluminum rice parboiling steamers (false bottom), which sit atop the cauldrons.

The remaining group of women have begun to rinse the rice that was previously left overnight to soak. Using large brown sieves, the soaked rice is sieved into large basins, and transported to the steamers for parboiling.

Once preparations are completed, the women begin lighting fires using inedible and discarded rice husks. Once the fire is consistently burning, the cauldrons now covered in ash are placed over the fire and filled with the hand pumped water.

The false bottom is then placed and sealed to the cauldron using the green baobab paste.

Followed by the soaked and rinsed paddy rice being filled into the steamer, closed with a lid, and left for some hours to parboil.

It should be noted that for fire, women usually use improved stoves. An improved stove is a stove that is built to use rice husks to reduce smoke emissions and the diseases that these fumes cause, to reduce deforestation, and to improve the efficiency of traditional stoves by improving them.

In this demonstration the women used wood for the fire. Usually they use rice husks as an energy source to let nothing get to waste:

Around the three-hour mark, during which some much needed down time was enjoyed by the women, the women begin filling the parboiled rice into basins carried to a large clearing. Once the women reach the clearing, they then tip and evenly spread the parboiled rice using a rake, thereafter, leaving it in the sun to dry. Once the rice is dried, the parboiled rice is winnowed. Winnowing is a process where parboiled rice is tipped from one basin to another, taking advantage of gentle breezes that remove light grains, allowing larger rice grains to fall into a basin placed on the ground. Thereafter, the parboiled rice is milled, weighed, bagged, and prepared to be sold.

The parboiling work speaks to the on-going successful impact that the CARI project has had. The training includes good parboiling practices and in a recent study conducted by CARI 85% of parboiling women reported they have ownership over the profits and decide how to spend them. 79% reported that their decision-making power improved since the training: reasons given were higher contributions to household income and 63% have grown their confidence.

The photos were captured by photojournalist Nyani Quarmyne, who on behalf of CARI took pictures of a parboiling cooperative in Burkina Faso in August 2021. You can find more of his work here: Nyani Quarmyne | Photographer | Global Health & Social Justice (


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