Rice Cluster learning exchange in Uganda

Rikolto Rice Cluster’s members met in Uganda, East Africa, from 29th April to 5th of May, to discuss challenges, opportunities and evaluate progress in advancing sustainable rice programme globally. Participants also had discussions with Rikolto in Uganda’s government: private sector and farmers associations counterparts, seeking to better align Rikolto’s work with all rice value chain actors.

Rikolto Rice Cluster works within rice value chains in 9 countries: Vietnam, Indonesia, Uganda, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali. Rice focal point from each countries meet twice every year to learn from each other and fine-tune rice programmes at regional, national and global level. Participants of the Uganda’s meeting were: John Ereng (Uganda), Mame Birame Ndiaye (West Africa), Louis Tchuma (RD Congo), Nana Suhartana (Indonesia), Tuan Le (Vietnam), Christ Vansteenkiste (Rice Cluster Coordinator) and Mark Blackett (East Africa).

The cluster also carried out field visits to meet rice value chains stakeholders in Uganda. We discussed the state of rice in the country with the Rice Industry Secretariat of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and the Uganda National Bureau of Standards. On this occasion we also shared our work on promoting Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) Standards Production. We also talked to Rice Millers Council, East Africa Grain Council, National Crops Resources Research Institutes, and private companies such SWT Tanners and Tilda to learn about current challenges in rice production. Insights also gained through the visit to Doho and Manafwa Basin farmers’ organisations who already conducted SRP pilots and Bongomin Group about biochar and rice husk management.

The visits informed the cluster the Ugandan context of rice production, including how political, social and cultural milieu influencing the sector. Throughout the meeting and visits, John Ereng, rice focal point of Rikolto in Uganda stated the importance of understanding local context in a bid to achieve a desired outcome, instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach. Considering this, it is important for Rikolto to have a tailored-approach to suit the needs of stakeholders Rikolto is targeting, for example when promoting SRP to various audiences.

Engaging with stakeholders also opens up collaboration opportunities for Rikolto. At policy level, MAAIF is in a process of reviewing the Uganda National Rice Development Strategy, a key policy document guiding the production of rice in the country, across all rice players, for the last ten years (2008-2018). It is a timely opportunity for Rikolto in Uganda to advocate for sustainable rice cultivation to be adopted in the new upcoming rice policy. Drawing on from this experience, rice programmes in other countries can also check with their respected Ministry of Agriculture on how sustainable practices can be embedded in rice policies.

Other key learning points that emerged during the agenda include pushing for young people and women’s involvement in rice programmes, sharing more cases of inclusive business from the rice sector and showcasing more of our work at farmers’ level through SRP pilots.