Commercial rice farming cushions Cameroon women from climate stress
By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame
NDOP, Cameroon, Oct 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women farmers in western Cameroon are leading the way in commercial rice production, benefiting from new seeds and marketing opportunities that are helping them cope with climate stresses and provide for their families.
A programme run by the Upper Nun Valley Development Authority (UNVDA), a government agro-industry body, aims to help rice farmers adopt better crop varieties, use water more efficiently and adapt to climate change.
"I have been able to pay school fees for my children and medical bills from the sale of my rice crop, unlike before when the harvest from my vegetable farm was uncertain," said Bridget Ngang, one of over 300 female commercial rice farmers in Ndop.
Her vegetables were often ruined when heavy rains brought floods, she explained.
Cameroon's Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), together with international partners, has developed improved rice varieties that are more resistant to climate extremes, as well as farm technologies to increase rice productivity.
In the last 15 years, scientists have released 18 varieties under a line called New Rice for Africa (NERICA), developed by the Africa Rice Center which crossed an African species tolerant to local stresses, including drought and pests, and a high-yielding Asian species.
"These varieties can resist submersion, droughts and high temperatures including pests and diseases," said UNVDA General Manager Chin Richard Wirnkar.
The local development authority is involved in a project led by the Africa Rice Center which has established a "rapid impact" seed programme to distribute new high-yield seed varieties to farmers. Continued...