By Herbert Musoke
A s the demand for rice continues to grow worldwide, farmers and all stakeholders have been advised to embrace new technologies and innovations for profitability.
According to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Uganda was producing about 238,000 tonnes of rice, with consumption estimated at 346,309 tonnes by 2020.
The gap was filled with imports. The report also indicates that rice is now the third most important crop in the world, feeding about 3.5 billion people. This presents opportunities for the country to reap big from its cultivation. Steven Byantware, the commissioner of crop protection in the agriculture ministry, says the information prompted the Government to include rice among the priority crops to end hunger and poverty among Ugandans. He made the remarks during the launch of the ReduceReuse-Recycle Rice Initiative for Climate Smart Agriculture Phase Two Project (R4iCSA-II) implemented in Uganda and Kenya by Kilimo Trust. The initiative aims at promoting the use of the crop’s by-products. Byantware represented the minister of state for fisheries, Hellen Adoa. He lauded the National Agricultural Research Organisation, which has come up with varieties that can thrive in ecological zones outside swamps. The varieties will stop farmers from growing rice in the swamps, which poses a threat of destruction to the environment. Swamps are water catchment areas needed in the environment. RICE BY-PRODUCTS The R4iCSA-II project has developed innovations such as rice husk stoves, super burners that carbonise rice straw, bio-effective microbes, vermicompost, vermi-juice, urea deep placement, biochar gasification, biochar fortification and black soliders fly frass. Anthony Makona, the coordinator of the R4iCSA-II, said the five-year project, which started last year, was being implemented in Uganda and Kenya.
Dr Birungi Korutaro, the Kilimo Trust Uganda CEO, said the organisation was working with all stakeholders to come up with innovations and technologies. She said they had created stoves that use rice husks as fuel through partnerships with moulders like Eco-Stoves in Uganda and Alex Technologies. “In working with innovators, we have come up with products like the biochar, 37,607.2 tonnes of organic fertilisers worth $1,505,712 (sh5,571,134,400) from rice straw, and 552 litres of liquid organic fertiliser (vermi-juice) worth $553 (sh2,046,100),” the Kilimo Trust chief added.