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Japan fronts rice growing for Uganda’s food security

Rice farmers

Rice farmers

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in collaboration with the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Makerere Uni- versity have renewed their commitment towards the development of rice grow- ing in Uganda as way of solving the country’s food insecurity, writes ERNEST JJINGO.

During a JICA Chair session at the university under the theme “Rice for the Modernization of Agriculture in Uganda; Lessons from Japan, the JICA Chief Representative in Uganda Uchiyama Takayuki said that agriculture is not only the mainstay in Uganda’s economy but also the sector with the biggest potential to completely unlock Uganda’s social and economic development.

Takayuki noted that JICA has since 2004 worked with the government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NAR0) to develop the agriculture sector for increased food and income security.

“Following the 2002 Technical Cooperation Agreement between the governments of Japan and Uganda, JICA in 2004 dispatched to Uganda rice expert Tsuboi Tatsushi to determine the feasibility of a development cooperation in the rice sub sector. JICA has since dispatched Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) to support capacity building in rice culture at the community level.”

He noted that on top of the Regional Rice Research and training Centre (RRRTC) which was established and equipped, technical cooperation projects for rice development continue to be implemented and to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, the Grant Aid Project on establishment of irrigation systems in Atari river basin area is under preparation.

“This will be augmented by the technical cooperation project on sustainable utilization, operation and management of the developed irrigation systems which will seek to support the establishment of functional irrigation water user associations in addition to dissemination of improved rice cultivation technologies to the people of Bulambuli and Kween districts,” Takayuki revealed.

Through technical projects like the Project for Rice Development (PRIDE) based at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) at Namulonge, JICA is promoting the growing of NERICA rice which is drought tolerant, resistance to rice blast disease and only takes 100 to 120 days to mature.

Gorettie Nabanoga, the principal of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University said most of their research scientists have been working closely with NARO to able to advance the cause of rice production in Uganda and they are committing to have a rejuvenated rice industry within the country.

“The NERICA rice species has been developed to take care of the challenges of climate change in terms of being resistant to drought, pests and diseases, high yielding and it one of the rice types which has been advocated for to be grown in the upland areas thereby protecting the environment.”

Nabanoga added, “We believe that if this is taken on, we are going to improve the food security aspect of the country because through our research, it is estimated that if properly grown, the NERICA rice can yield 2.5 tonnes per hectare which is goes a long way in improving rice productivity in the country.”

Meanwhile, James Baba, the former minister of state for internal affairs and former ambassador of Uganda to Japan said that whereas rice production in Uganda has increased, it still needs more quality improvement.

He therefore called upon the government through the Ministry of Agriculture to establish regional rice processing centres and silos in areas where a lot of rice is grown so that it can be processed into quality products for both local consumption and export.

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), in 2020, Uganda exported $18.2m in rice making it the 46th largest exporter of rice in the world. In the same year, however, Uganda imported $99.6m in rice making it the 59th largest importer of rice in the world.

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