African countries

African countries look to Japan to circumvent Ukraine wheat ban

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African countries that need to fill the void created by the lack of Russian and Ukrainian food imports must look outside the typical sphere of economic aid, UN Under-Secretary-General Ahunna Eziakonwa said after a five-day mission to Japan.

Eziakonwa, also the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Regional Director for Africa, spoke of the unique role that government and private sector partners in Japan could play in supporting African countries.

“Strengthened multilateralism and strong partnerships, including with government entities and the Japanese private sector, will be critical in supporting the ability of African countries to respond to new economic shocks caused by the war in Ukraine,” she said. declared.

Japan has played a strategic role in increasing food security on the African continent, and aims to do more, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

rice revolution

“JICA is also concerned about the current situation of the global food crisis. What we can do is build food capacity on the African continent using our strengths, our advantages, i.e. rice production – Japan is the land of rice,” says Shinjiro Amameishi, who works in JICA’s Agricultural Development Department.

This JICA assistance is directly under the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And although the group is not directly involved in diplomatic policies, Amameishi says supporting rice development in sub-Saharan Africa is essential.

Japan is working on a three-phase program that started in 2008 with the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) to increase rice production for the domestic market across the continent.

JICA, along with a number of bilateral and multilateral donors and research institutes, constitute the advisory group.

CARD started with 23 member countries on the continent and has expanded to 32 countries.

It achieved its first target of doubling rice production by 14 million tonnes in sub-Saharan Africa by 2018, surpassing the target with a yield of 31 million tonnes in 2018.

Tanzania

However, agricultural assistance and technology transfer to the African continent is nothing new for Japan. JICA began providing consistent technical assistance to Tanzanian farmers in Moshi, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, in the 1970s.

Tanzania’s rice production ranks third on the African continent, and also exports to neighboring countries. Its yield comes from a combination of irrigated fields as well as lowland and upland rainfed rice paddies.

JICA plans to establish seven training centers under the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture and provide training suitable for the country’s different climates.

Tanzanian farmers participating in JICA’s CARD project. © RFI/JICA

In the past, farmers in Moshi have complained about not receiving government support, arguing that duty-free rice from Asia has flooded the market in the past, ruining some farmers.

Each African country is supposed to develop its own strategies and promote domestic rice production, says JICA’s Amameishi.

“We are not in a position to forcefully influence the position of the government, but what we are doing is supporting the local farmer,” he told RFI.

“If they import rice from outside, the domestic production should be increased and the quality should be improved.”

Senegal

Senegal, one of the largest rice producers on the continent, has worked with JICA and JICA-supported rice development to boost rice productivity and quality. The Japanese development agency has made efforts to increase irrigation.

“In Senegal, rainfall is limited, but there is water from the northern rivers,” said Amameishi, speaking about JICA’s work in hydro-agricultural schemes in the Senegal River Valley between Saint Louis, Podor and Bakel.

JICA estimates that this area will contribute about 60% of total rice production under the Senegalese Agriculture Acceleration Program.

The agency is working to improve and expand rice cultivation techniques, including the double-cropping system, “meaning a farmer can produce rice twice a year; before, they only produced rice once a year”.

Agricultural technology

Drawing on his experience in Tanzania and Senegal, Amameishi has worked with farmers who want to mechanize their work more, but admits that there are some obstacles to trade, even though they have obtained permission from African countries to bring in Japanese agricultural equipment on the African continent. .

“From a business perspective, it’s not that easy. Japanese quality is better, but the problem is the price,” he says.

Part of the second phase of the CARD program is to create regional hubs for agricultural mechanization.

Most of the machines used by African farmers are made in China and India, which is cheaper.

“We are trying to attract Japanese companies to come to Africa to start business activities,” says Amameishi.

“We need to create a distribution network. If in the future the demand is bigger, then they will start, but for now it is too small.

Other options between Japan and the African continent will be discussed at the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) will take place in Tunisia from August 27 to 28, 2022.