37.Contributing to food security in Madagascar by developing rice cultivation technology that improves fertilizer use efficiency
Madagascar, located about 400 km east of the African continent, is known for its rich ecosystem and rare flora and fauna, and nearly 80% of the flora and fauna that inhabit the island are endemic species. However, the fact that agriculture in this country is based on rice cultivation and that rice cultivation is closely related to people's lives is not well known. Rice is a staple food and Malagasy people have high preference for rice as in Southeast and East Asian countries. In fact, per capita rice consumption in Madagascar exceeds 100 kg per year, more than double that of Japan. On the other hand, rice productivity remains stagnant to date, hindering the food security and poverty reduction for the majority of the populations in rural areas. As a result, Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries, with 77% of its population living on less than $1.9 a day. In order to overcome this situation, Madagascar is working on various policies, andone of the most important national strategy is to achieving rice self-sufficiency by 2023.
Factors that impede rice productivity include the limited capacity of poor farmers to purchase and the the highly weathered soils with low nutrients peculiar to Africa. Therefore, JIRCAS, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Madagascar and research institutes of Madagascar, started the project “Breakthrough in Nutrient Use Efficiency for Rice by Genetic Improvement and Fertility Sensing Techniques in Africa” commonly known as the FY VARY project to promote the development of technology that can improve rice productivity in a stable manner even with low nutrients from fertilizer and soils.
FY VARY is a also a Malagasy word for "tasty rice” and stands for “FertilitY sensing and Variety Amelioration for Rice Yield”. Our local collaborators have come up with this project name which is familiar to the people of Madagascar.
This project involves not only researchers in technological development of soils, remote sensing, breeding, crop management, molecular biology, but also experts in agricultural economics and psychology. This is because the project also aims to evaluate the impact of increased rice productivity on farmers' income and nutrition, the interest among farmers in adopting the new technology, and the network between farmers to which the technologies are transmitted. In addition, we are striving to develop technology in line with local needs and the environment by promoting activities centered on experiments and surveys on farm fields and holding farmers' meetings to reflect the opinions of farmers. Although experiments and surveys in rural areas of developing countries have various difficulties, we believe that these efforts will lead to the smooth transfer of the developed technology to the beneficiaries, which will lead to an impact on the local community.
As a recent research highlight, we issued a press release regarding the results of phosphorus dipping treatment on improving the fertilizer use efficiency and yield of rice in Madagascar. This technology involvesdipping the roots of rice seedlings for about 30 minutes in a mud-like mixture (slurry) of phosphorus fertilizer and paddy soil, and is easy to practice even for small-scale farmers. On-farm field trials in Madagascar showed that the yield of rice can be significantly improved with less fertilizer. In addition, the number of days from transplanting to maturity is shortened thereby avoiding low temperature stress during the reproductive growth stage. This achievement has been widely covered by the local media in Madagascar, and increased the interest among farmers, government agencies, fertilizer companies, etc. In the future, we would like to promote activities for the dissemination of technology while strengthening cooperation with these parties.
Located in the Southern Hemisphere, rice in Madagascar is currently in full bloom. However, due to COVID-19, researchers from JIRCAS and from Madagascar are restricted from visiting the rural areas. Even with all the difficulties under the circumstance, local technicians and farmers are trying to continue harvest evaluations in the experimental fields. In order to respond to their efforts, we are currently preparing to hit the ground and begin immediately as soon as local activities resume.
Contributor: TSUJIMOTO Yasuhiro (Crop, Livestock and Environment Division)