Case Study 29
ROK-5 Mangrove Rice Variety in Sierra Leone
Purdue University, West Lafayette,
Indiana 47907-1077, USA
Keywords: Sierra Leone, Africa, mangrove rice, improved yields, intra-national
The development of a new mangrove rice variety in Africa is an important case
study of technology development and diffusion that relates to the opportunity
for agriculture to contribute to increased output of food while at the same
time reducing the impact of agriculture on global climate change per unit of
food produced. This development involved both international cooperation and
a critical commitment of local resources to be successful and has proved itself
to be an important contributor to increasing rice production in Sierra Leone
with important potential contributions to similar areas in Africa.
This project developed and extended a rice variety for mangrove rice production
that increased yield per unit of land and per unit of inputs as well as adapting
to changes in climate that had already occurred. The diminishing rain forest
resulted in less rainfall and in a reduction of the fresh water available to
mangrove rice systems. Thus, a shorter-season variety to capture available seasonal
rainfall was a logical potential adaptation. Pest resistance was also added
which reduced energy consumption from the use of pesticides. The incentive for
this was a national and regional concern over adequate food production. The
path used was the development of a new rice variety to improve yields and reduce
the level of inputs required. Stakeholders included consumers and farmers in
Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone agricultural researchers at Rokupr, and the West
African Rice Research Development Association (WARDA). Critical to the choice
of this path was the farming systems research which had been carried out years
earlier. This identified the problem, provided an understanding of mangrove
rice farming systems, and described the parameters under which new technology
would be successful and successfully transferred. The barriers to technology
transfer included a civil war, a collapsed transportation system, no capital
for investment, and the lack of government resources to mount a large-scale
technology transfer effort.
Much of the success of this effort hinged on the accident of a critical mass
of researchers at the government rice research station in Rokupr Sierra Leone
and the interest of WARDA in this effort. WARDA provided additional resources
to the station at Rokupr to carry out the development of a new rice variety
to meet the changed climate conditions and improve yields above those previously
achieved. The development and diffusion took only years to achieve, not decades.
There were no real commercial considerations here. It is critically important
to recognise that in agriculture a genetic improvement such as a new variety
usually does not require an accompanying change or increase in the capital stock
or equipment of a farming operation.
There were no royalties or commercial benefits involved. The Sierra Leone agricultural
research establishment was able to demonstrate the value of their rice research
effort to the food supply of the nation, and WARDA was able to demonstrate to
their financial supporters their value in contributing to this new technology
and its transfer. There was a German seed distribution project that helped with
some seed distribution, but farmers themselves undertook most of the technology
transfer to other farmers once the success of the new variety became apparent.
The impact was an increase in rice output from mangrove rice production where
climate change was beginning to reduce yields from this agricultural resource.
This lead to improved conditions for farmers and more rice available beyond
farm-family subsistence for distribution and sale to local consumers. This case
is replicable, but the key was the existence of local research and development
capacity such as the Rokupr rice research station with a critical mass of competent
staff. (Due to civil war, this institution is no longer a viable operation.)
Its viability was also a result of the willingness of WARDA to give it the marginal
resources to do the job that the government of Sierra Leone was unwilling or
unable to supply.
For successful technology transfer there must be locally-based and supported
institutions with a primary stake in the technology and in its successful transfer.
There may also be instances where an international organisation can provide
marginal resources to get the job done. However, the transfer of the technology
by the users themselves depended upon the ease of local adaptability to the
technology, the confidence farmers had in their local institution and its products,
and effective demonstration of its success. The development of technology also
depends upon a degree of civil order and investment by the local government
in technology development and transfer. Where there are similar crops and farming
systems in different countries there is also a natural opportunity for several
countries to combine and pool resources for technology development and transfer.
The key lesson learned is that if there is an essential need and the technology
is good enough agriculture technology can be transferred by farmers without
new formal technology transfer institutions or efforts. A new effort may assist
and speed up the transfer. However, in the case of a variety or practice that
does not require new investment and changes in basic skills, farmers will adopt
and pass this technology on to their neighbours rapidly.
The international community needs to recognise that parachuting in a new technology
from the outside often does not work and faces especially severe problems in
technology transfer. What is key is how international resources are spent. In
cases like this, international resources must involve and contribute to the
national programme to ensure appropriateness and transfer based on local ownership
and local institutions that are already trusted in technology transfer.
Adesina, A., and M. Zinnah, 1993: Technology characteristics, farmers' perceptions
and adoption decisions: A tobit model application in Sierra Leone. Agricultural
Economics, 9, 297-311.
Agyen-Sampong, M., S. Anoop, K. Sandu, M.P. Prakah-Asante, C.A. Jones, S.F.
Dixon, W.A.E. Fannah, W.A.E. Cole, and H. M. Bernard, 1986: A Guide to Better
Mangrove Swamp Rice Cultivation in the WARDA Region. WARDA Regional Mangrove
Swamp Rice Research Station, Rokupr, Sierra Leone.
Dept. of Ag. Economics
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Phone: (765) 494-4230
Fax: (765) 494-9176