Our Work

CONCEPT

The main objective of the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) is to increase the competitiveness of African small-scale rice producers, millers and other actors in the value chain and achieve a lasting reduction of poverty in Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Tanzania.

The principal aim is to address coordination failures, create better linkages among rice value chain actors as a result, and increase the expected economic returns for all stakeholders. CARI’s activities operate along four intervention areas:

  1. Improve exchange of experiences regarding productivity, business models, use of production inputs, financial services which is reflected by the use by other partners for policy-making
  2. Foster sustainable relationships and enhance productivity
  3. Improved access to financial services for main value chain actors
  4. Enabling environment at national and regional level including policy framework

Complementary interventions focus specifically to benefit women and youth (e.g. vegetable production).
The movie “Rice is our Business” showcases the work and experiences of CARI’s team in Nigeria.

Activities under intervention areas (1), (2) and (3) are implemented through a Matching Fund (PPP fund). The fund’s purpose is to stimulate investments in the value chain that are jointly planned and implemented by at least two partners.

CARI works along the rice value chain. Its work is based on the Value Links approach. The emphasis is on primary production, up and downstream business linkages and services.

ValueLinks 2.0 is the title of a generic methodology for value chain development that is used by government administrations, private companies and development agencies alike. The idea is to promote the transformation of value chains towards a greener and more inclusive economy. ValueLinks also is a network of experts and a set of training courses. The methodology is known and used in a growing number of development programmes. Over the past 10 years, more than 3,000 experts have been trained.

Programs have access to the principles and tools via the website www.valuelinks.org that also provides information on the ValueLinks training courses and presents the new “ValueLinks 2.0 Manual on Sustainable Value Chain Development” (2017). It has two volumes: the first covering value chain analysis, strategy and implementation, and the second a series of value chain solutions, from improved business models, linkages, financing and services to sustainability standards and regulatory change.

MATCHING FUND

The Matching Fund is an integrated development partnership, uniting private, public and civil society actors to blend financial and in-kind resources for clearly defined activities aligned with a common project focus in a common value chain. This mobilizes significantly more resources and leverages synergies, resulting in a significantly higher impact.

The Matching Fund engages private partners at different levels of the value chain like buyers, input and service providers, processors, farmer based organizations and retailers as well as public sector partners like extension agencies, research institutes or policy makers as well as civil society organizations in the coordinated implementation of project activities, contributing to achieving their own and common project objectives. The focus on a specific product like rice facilitates cooperation with and support to existing professional networks to reduce bottlenecks at all stages of the value chain.

The overall aim of the Rice Matching Fund is to serve as a vehicle or instrument for achieving the vision and objectives of the CARI project. Thus, the Matching Fund supports activities regarding intervention areas 1-3 which are aligned with CARI’s vision of achieving a sustainable success of the African rice industry. Eligible projects are in the four CARI countries Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Tanzania.

Projects approved under the fund result in sustainably increasing income for rice farmers through:

  • Increased productivity and quality of paddy rice and complementary crops
    (related to CARI objective 1 and 2)
  • Increased efficiency of local rice sourcing, processing and marketing
    (related to CARI objective 2)
  • Improved access to financial services for all value chain actors
    (related to CARI objective 3)

TRAINING

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)

Cost-effective extension to intensify production needs to build on research-based and viable Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). To this effect, technical-economic producer references on GAP for rice are developed. These are short documents for extension workers and farmers. They provide illustrated key messages on good agricultural practices as well as harvest and post-harvest techniques developed by agricultural research. Significant work is needed to ensure the concise, correct and compelling documentation and illustration of good agricultural practices as well as harvest and post-harvest techniques. The technical recommendations are completed a profitability analysis and management issues to succeed adoption and increase productivity and income. On the one hand this ensures well-structured and conducive extension sessions along the production cycle. On the other hand, it helps farmers to apply good agricultural practices between and after extension sessions. Each smallholder, man or woman, participating in extension sessions receives his or her producer reference. Producer references are also used to develop additional extension material such as image blocks.

Farmer Business School (FBS)

Farmer Business School (FBS) strengthens smallholders’ business attitudes and management skills for better and diversified incomes and nutrition. The traininig approach was developed by the Sustainable Smallholder Agri-Business Programme (SSAB) and its partners in 2010 for African cocoa smallholders. Since 2012, SSAB and the recently created FBS advisory facility supported the adaptation of FBS to production systems other than cocoa. In 2014 FBS was adapted to rice and firstly applied in CARI.

In the training smallholders learn in five half-day sessions about:

  • Principles of farming as business
  • Basics of human nutrition and farm management for a balanced diet
  • Investment strategies based on cost-benefit analysis of production techniques
  • Financial management, savings and credit
  • Benefits from quality produce and from membership in producer organizations
  • Investments in replanting of tree crops

FBS complements training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), financial and technical services that smallholders demand.

Essential success factors are:

  • Focus on the business skills most needed by smallholders
  • Thorough qualification in theory and practice of trainers with good social skills
  • Combination of basic standard modules with product specific modules
  • Participatory group work approach.

ICT SOLUTIONS

A key driver for improving farming practices is access to information and knowledge. The limited numbers of public extension workers in Sub-Saharan Africa mean that farmers often have only poor access to extension services or none at all. The ratio of 3,000:1 between farmers and extension workers does not allow intensive and individual assistance.
To further foster knowledge as a crucial development factor in the agricultural sector, in order to strengthen and support these varied and long-standing services, complementary measurements are being developed. Alternative options for improving farmers’ access to knowledge are increasingly found in information and communication technology (ICT) solutions. Mobile device-based ICT solutions play an important role, considering price decline of smartphones and the advancements of ICT in Sub-Saharan Africa. These conditions have triggered the innovation of various ICT solutions in agriculture, enhancing the scale-out and dissemination of information and knowledge on recommended management practices for staple crops at comparably low costs.

Within the CARI program, mobile-based application and voice messages on good agricultural practices and weather forecasts via SMS messaging are examples of innovative ICT components promoted and supported.

Rice Advice
RiceAdvice, an android-based application developed by Africa Rice in consultation with end-users, provides farmers with personalized advice on field-specific rice management practices for increasing rice yield and income. Recommendations are validated in field trials and continuously updated through further research.
As most of farmers do not have a smartphone or tablet, they rely on someone providing guidelines generated by RiceAdvice to them. Since the launch of the app, more than 300 service providers from public and private sector have been trained in the use of RiceAdvice.
So far, RiceAdvice has reached more than 25,000 rice farmers. After their use, farmers realized the benefit of tailored recommendations and indicated their willingness-to-pay for the service. This indicates the potential for developing business models at a sustainable manner, as well as opportunity to empower Africa’s youth through job creation.

POLICY ADVICE

A modern, development-oriented agricultural policy should consider managing the balance between a reliable public sector framework and the necessary space for private sector including civil society participation and advocacy. The process requires policy dialogues that go beyond traditional boundaries of the agricultural sector and intersect deeply with economic, environmental and social policies. Coherent policy development and implementation is, therefore, becoming more complex in the sector, particularly when many smallholder farmers and agribusinesses are involved, and multiple objectives are pursued. Other constraints include  trade-limiting factors, such as low regional production, the competitiveness of imports despite high import tariffs, variations in consumer preferences across the region, and policy restrictions on intra-regional trade.

Given these challenges, African agriculture must now confront a triple challenge agenda:

  • Developing productive agricultural sub-sectors and value chains as a way to reduce poverty and hunger;
  • Mitigating price volatility on markets for staple foods;
  • Making agriculture both economically sustainable and climate-smart; thus employing farming practices and systems that will improve aquifers, soils fertility, eco-systems and natural habitats. These must also include helping to limit global warming by carbon emissions related to farming systems.

CARI’s objective 4 aims to contribute to shape and strengthen an enabling environment for the rice value chain at national and regional levels. CARI pursues activities in three intervention areas:

  1. Policy advice to relevant government institutions,
  2. Advocacy for and advice to relevant non-state actors, and
  3. Joint learning at national and regional level.

An overview of detailed activities can be obtained in the following depiction.

 

Policy Advice
To relevant government institutions
  • Analysis of rice value chain
  • Elaboration of policy recommendations for value chain reform/development
  • Analysis of existing national rice policies, advice on adjustments and facilitation of implementation
  • Monitoring and evaluation of agricultural sector developments (e.g. rice market prospects)
  • Coordination with other development partners and regional bodies (e.g. ECOWAS,CARD, AGRA etc.)
Advocacy
For and advice to non-state actors
  • Organizational development for national rice industry associations in order to facilitate the establishment of a regional African Rice Industry Association
  • Trainings on advocacy strategy development
  • Strengthening of existing dialogue platforms between public and private actors in the rice sector
Joint learning
At national and regional level
  • Establishment of national and regional learning networks (e.g. stock- taking workshops, meetings at regional conferences, peer learning groups, trainings of master trainers)
  • Dissemination and upscaling of best practices and  innovative concepts.