In 2008, as food prices rose around the world, riots broke out in West Africa, and Mali’s government stepped in.
It quickly launched an initiative to subsidise purchases of good-quality certified rice seed, as well as fertilisers, for farmers, in an effort to cut reliance on rice imports and grow more food of its own.
In just two years, the country was producing enough grain for domestic consumption, and today is a rice exporter, said Bourema Dembele, who until July was director of research at Mali’s Institut d’Economie Rurale, a government institution.
“We had no choice other than to develop a policy that would later see our country out of the crisis,” said Dembele, now a Mali programme officer for the Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (AGRA), a nongovernmental organisation.
Such policies need to be replicated around Africa if the continent is to cope with a burgeoning population and climate change while improving food security and economic growth, African experts say.
“Rice is going to be the biggest challenge for Africa because countries highly depend on imports from sources that are totally unsustainable,” William Asiko, the executive director of Grow Africa, a non-governmental organisation, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Read more