The Lake Victoria Basin Commission needs to establish a regional sustainable rice intensification program to support the upscaling of rice production in the East African Region.
This was recommended in the “Scaling Sustainable Land and Water Management in East Africa” virtual workshop by the Scaling Out Resilient Water and Agricultural Systems (ScaleWAYS) project held on the 18th of January 2023.
The workshop sought to share and present key findings of the integrated biophysical and political economy analysis for upscaling sustainable rice and fodder production systems in the region and geared towards facilitating knowledge co-generation and agreement on strategies for sustainable upscaling of rice and fodder production systems in the extended Lake Victoria Basin.
Rice consumption in the region has increased over the past few years leading to increased demand coupled by the rapidly growing population. Despite this growing demand, rice production is still faced with a lot of challenges – both climatic and socioeconomic.
Rice farmers for example, still suffer the ravaging effects of extreme weather conditions caused by climate change. Majority of rice farmers in the basin depend heavily on rainfed production systems which are vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.
Another major challenge which the farmers face is lack of adequate storage access to relevant technologies leading to constant post-harvest losses. It is common that the “Farmers produce go to waste due to lack of storage facilities as they wait and explore for good market prices to enhance profitability” noted one of the participants of the workshop.
However, from the research presentations, there is opportunity to meet local rice demand by local farmers using sustainable rice intensification options identified by the project research.
The research findings further, makes policy recommendations like localized assessment of rice production systems with local farmers that will help determine economic viability on specific farms and plots to increase adoption of sustainable intensification of rice production.
The research also highlights the importance of establishing effective extension services for sustainable intensification of rice production using modern technology including virtual applications and platforms.
The stakeholders were in agreement on the need to also leverage on Public-Private Partnership where Private and public partners such as NGOs and farmers organizations, can help provide farmers with knowledge needed to intensify rice production.
Support to ensure level paddy rice fields is particularly import for farmers to realize the potential of rice cultivation under rainfed conditions. Leveling rice fields improves water use efficiency and is therefore also beneficial for irrigation.
It is also important to assess the needs for irrigation to establish resilient rice supply chains and promote irrigated rice production accordingly. Research results show that rainfed production is a promising system while irrigation in some areas play a more important role in mitigating low rainfall and drought conditions.
The virtual workshop discussed on the recommendations of the research and urged LVBC to reach a policy statement on them to support relevant actions to address the same. With platforms like the Sectoral Council of Ministers for Lake Victoria Basin (LVB-SECOM) and the Regional Policy Steering Committee (RPSC), the commission has the convening power and opportunity to support member states in implementing the recommendations.