The countries of Burkina Faso and Senegal import more than half of the rice they need, despite their agroecological potential. This rice imported and consumed by communities in West Africa is often of poor quality, contributing to diabetes.
Introducing new hybrid rice varieties in West Africa has also led to the abandonment and disappearance of some traditional types. Additionally, this rice is highly dependent on agrochemical inputs, contributing to the acidification of the land. These chemicals have led to biodiversity loss and soil health degradation.
Nous Sommes la Solution (NSS), meaning ‘We Are the Solution,’ is a campaign led by rural women in West Africa to restore the knowledge of ancestral food production and land stewardship.
This project from NSS, along with the pan-African Fahamu movement, entitled "Restoration of Traditional Rice Biodiversity in West Africa,” supports women's agroecology and aims to contribute to the food and nutritional security of communities for whom rice is both an essential food staple and a cultural identity. Food sovereignty and self-sufficiency begin with adequate control of seeds, the basis of agriculture, by food producers.
The project’s goal is to add value to Indigenous and traditional rice varieties and agricultural practices that preserve biodiversity and soil fertility and play an important social, cultural, and economic role. It builds on a previous collaboration between the rural women's movement and research institutes to map, test, and breed rice varieties in Burkina Faso and Senegal that led to a noticeable improvement in traditional rice production using environment-friendly techniques.
Funding will reinforce and expand production and marketing. More women will be encouraged to adopt traditional rice varieties and farming techniques and, more importantly, find local markets for their produce, thus creating sustainable livelihoods and accelerating the uptake of agroecology.
Promoting local food economies such as these based on agroecology principles could play a key role in influencing policy on the national level. Women in traditional rice production areas will be the direct beneficiaries of the project and the ones responsible for its implementation.
Creative communications strategies are also critical to the success of this project. Fahamu and NSS communicate mainly to local communities through village forums, assemblies, and community radio. These messages also reach local and national political authorities.
The West Africa Democracy Radio (WARD) will be used to produce and broadcast radio programs on the activities and results of the project through its network covering the entire West African sub-region. In addition to the Fahamu website, the website of the NSS movement (under construction) and social networks (Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter) will be an excellent support for the dissemination and sharing of results through films, articles, and reports.