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Capacity-building workshops in East Africa help strengthen partnerships and create new ones

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (18 August 2023) – The local rice supply in Burundi and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains far below the demand, even if it is planted across different agro-ecological zones and the governments have increased in arable land areas.

This gap is due to the low adoption of performant rice varieties, the lack of good quality seeds, and insufficient use of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

To fill this gap, the International Rice Research Institute in Burundi (IRRI-Burundi), through the Great Lakes Accelerated Innovation Delivery Initiative, Rapid Delivery Hub (AID-I GLR) project, and in collaboration with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) implemented in Burundi and DRC two sessions of training of trainers on rice production techniques. The training was intended for technicians working in the rice-growing sector, respectively from 22 May to 2 June 2023 for the benefit of twenty-six (26) Burundi extension agents, and from 26 June to 7 July 2023 for the benefit of thirty-two (32) DRC extension agents.

Through the training, IRRI-Burundi strengthened existing partnerships and created new ones. “Through AID-I GLR projects, IRRI has strengthened the partnership that existed with Confédération des Associations de Producteurs Agricoles pour le Développement (Confederation of Agricultural Producers' Associations for Development or CAPAD); and has established new partnerships with the WORLD VISION-ACORD-PAM consortium (Burundi) and Rikolto (DRC),” said Jean-Berchmans Bizimana, AID-I GLR project manager at the IRRI level.

In the two training workshops, participants were able to enhance their knowledge through lectures, group work, exercises, and practical work in laboratories, greenhouses, and experimental fields. The training covered the critical issues and challenges regarding different rice production techniques. “The training of trainers (ToTs) reached 58 people, and included good varieties and seeds, production technologies, rice disease management and post-production technologies,” said Jean-Berchmans Bizimana.

The Governments and private institutions’ extension agents who trained in both countries are expected to acquire in-depth expertise in the field, effectively transmit this knowledge to other farmers, become references and resources for their community in rice production, and contribute to the overall improvement of rice productivity and rice cultivation sustainability.

Trainees expressed their satisfaction with regard to the content of the program. “I was able to deepen my knowledge and I learned about new products that will serve me well in my professional life. I was particularly interested in the concept of mechanization and the concept of Rapid Generational Advancement (RGA). My expectations were fully met,” said Jean de Dieu Nzeyimana, a participant from Burundi.

Another participant from the DRC pointed out, “This training is for all of us, young and adults, a training where we had total gender inclusivity, rich debates, inspirations, and enrichments. We thought it would be normal training, but by participating, we gained the necessary scientific knowledge. It is true that we had empirical knowledge, but trainers brought us technological innovations that took us further in understanding the effects of climate change on rice.”

“We used to do everything hastily and in a traditional way, but with this training, we gained new knowledge about what others do: how to mechanize, irrigate, and drain. It allowed us to capitalize on the set of things we already know, innovate them, and bring them to light. This training also serves as a source of inspiration, as we believe that with the community and the installation of PVS (Participatory Varietal Selection), we can assess the adoption of these kinds of tolerant and stress-resistant newly introduced varieties. Furthermore, we can learn how to maintain and disseminate these varieties throughout the region, making food security a feasible solution through the introduction of these varieties,” the participant added.

At the same time, IRRI appreciates its partnership with the DRC in the rice sector which started some years ago with germplasm-sharing where more than 350 lines have been shared for testing and evaluation.

In Ruzizi plain, farmers are growing IRRI varieties like Mugwiza, Komboka, Tai, and Makassane. IRRI has also established an experimental and demonstration field in Luberizi in the DRC since May 2023. “In my point of view the partnership between IRRI-Burundi and the DRC is becoming stronger and I expect more projects to be implemented by IRRI in favour of the rice sector in the DRC,” said Jean-Berchmans Bizimana.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Livestock, and Rural Development in South Kivu Province (DRC), Jean-Bosco Ruteye Kitambala, stressed the importance of devoting a great deal of effort to the agricultural sector in order to cope with food insecurity, which is one of the major concerns of the President of the Republic, Head of State Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo.

On his behalf, the Minister invited IRRI to become intensely involved to ensure that this good collaboration between IITA and IRRI would further strengthen bilateral relations between the DRC and Burundi.

In addition, he believes that this partnership with the provincial government, through his ministry, will contribute to the fight against food insecurity in the province of South Kivu in particular, and in the whole DRC in general.