Food security: Madagascar sets its sights on rice self-sufficiency

By adopting new production techniques and improved seeds, Madagascar has doubled its rice production in just a few years.

In the Madagascar highlands, the use of improved technologies has improved rice yields © Mamy Andriatiana

Farmers in Madagascar are adopting improved climate change resistant seed varieties that mature at a faster pace, at higher temperatures. By using a Nepalese variety known as Tsipolatra or Chromrong Dan, the country increased its rice yields from 2.5 to 4.8 t per hectare between 2008 and 2014, and annual rice imports fell from 400,000 to 300,000 t between 2013 and 2017. “At this rate, Madagascar will achieve rice self-sufficiency (5 million t) by 2020 and will cut annual import volumes by 10-20%,” says Roland Ravatomanga, the country’s former Minister of Agriculture.

A World Bank-funded irrigation and watershed management project has also provided 6,600 Madagascan farmers with new or improved irrigation or drainage services, and seen over 2,500 ha cultivated with improved technologies or inputs. As a result, the average yield per hectare in irrigated sites has more than doubled to 5.2 t/ha, allowing farmers to save money to invest in the upcoming season and fund other family needs including health and education costs.

In Madagascar’s central uplands, irrigated rice farmers have also seen their yields increase from 2.5 t/ha to 4.5 t/ha as a result of a 5-year Japanese government-funded initiative. The Project for Rice Productivity Improvement combines intensive rice farming techniques, organic fertiliser (a mixture of cow dung, rice straw and compost), and small farming tools – such as weeders and threshers – that smallholder farmers can afford.

Despite the encouraging progress, Madagascar remains a member of the ‘Vulnerable Twenty’ group of nations severely impacted by climate change, and has the highest occurrence of cyclones in Africa. In 2017, a serious drought resulted in agricultural losses of €166 million, spurring the Government of Madagascar to join the World Bank to adapt irrigation infrastructure to climate change. The first step was to develop new standards for irrigation schemes that would better resist cyclones and pass laws to ensure that their implementation was compulsory. So far, 12 dams and related channels in six regions have been rehabilitated and upgraded to better withstand cyclones.

Mamy Andriatiana

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.