In January 2023, the Rice Research Team distributed 2 tons of aromatic rice seed – NARORICE-1 to 100 farmers in Doho Irrigation Scheme Farmers Association in Eastern Uganda. This initiative was in time for establishment of nurseries for the 2023A season in a move to make NARO’s newly released aromatic rice widely available to farmers and consumers. “80% of Ugandans prefer aromatic rice and its price is 1.5 times higher than the price of non-aromatic rice,” revealed Simon Alibu-a Research Scientist under NaCRRI’s Cereals Program.
Through the project Farmhouse demonstration and distribution of high-yielding aromatic rice and cultivation technology in Uganda, the Korean Government through Korean Partnership for Innovation of Agriculture (KOPIA) is supporting NaCRRI to engage smallholder farmers to increase local rice production and reduce imports.
To enhance farmers’ capacity in good agronomic practices, 200 farmers have been recruited 200 farmers in the Scheme to host rice demonstration fields with an estimated area of 75 ha. According to the Project’s Principal Investigator-Simon Alibu, this is in addition to providing critical farm equipment. “We secured and delivered a hydro-tiller and a three-wheel motorcycle to assist farmers with field preparation and transportation of produce and farm supplies in Doho,” he said. Male youths have been trained in operation and maintenance of the equipment.
Released in December 2021, NARORICE 1 is aromatic, early-maturing, resilient to Rice Yellow Mottle Virus, Rice blast and Narrow Leaf spot and high yielding; giving up-to 5780 Kgs/ha. The variety competes comfortably with popular commercial varieties such as Supa and Basmati.
To ensure availability and access to quality seed in communities, the project is empowering local seed producers. “We’ve identified farmers like Mr. Baker Njalira Naleba in Doho II. He is set to produce seed on 4.5hactares in the 2023A season,” Alibu noted.
The project specifically targets to train 700 rice farmers in Butaleja (Doho) and Lira (Olweny) in improved rice varieties and advanced rice farming techniques to increase aromatic rice production in eastern and northern Uganda. This will increase the household income of target rice farmers in eastern and northern Uganda by at least 20%.
Rice ranks 4th, after cotton, coffee, and maize, among the top 12 crops prioritized in Uganda’s Agricultural Sector Strategic Plan (ASSP) to tackle food insecurity and poverty. It is the second most-produced cereal after maize. In terms of consumption, rice is increasingly favored by Ugandans over traditional staples such as bananas and millet as it is easier to cook and eat. The production of rice is projected to increase from the current 320,000 to 700,000 tons by 2026, with a minimum export target of $7.3 million. However, rice yields in Uganda are remarkably low at 2.5 t ha compared to South Korea (8 t ha), Kenya (4.9 t ha), and Rwanda (4.7 t ha).
The low yields coupled with the limited expansion of rice acreage is constraining production, maintaining Uganda’s dependence on imports, and further straining the economy. This presents tremendous economic opportunities for our farmers who need improved varieties and training in good agricultural practices (GAPs) to increase production.