Africa Development Corps is introducing NERICA (The New Rice for Africa) seed rice to Lofa County for the very first time. This rice is a cross between varieties of high-yielding Asian rice and the robust and disease-resistant African rice. It was developed at WARDA - the West African Rice Development Agency - a rice research center originally located in Bouake, Cote d'Ivoire, which recently moved to Cotonou, Benin. WARDA is supported by the United Nations and several other donor countries, and boasts an international staff of agricultural experts from all over West Africa. WARDA originally started with 720 varieties of NERICA, permutations obtained through crossing several varieties of Asian and African rice. Of the original varieties, 60 showed some promise and were chosen for further testing throughout 15 countries in West Africa. These were further narrowed to 14 varieties that showed strong resistance to disease and produced a high yield per acre. Africa Development Corps is currently testing these 14 lowland varieties in four locations in Lofa County (Foya, Kolahun, Voinjama, and Salayea), and will report back to WARDA the results of its tests in terms of disease resistance and yield. Various types of NERICA are designed for differing conditions within West Africa. Factors affecting the choice of NERICA to plant in a given location include:
1. Amount of rainfall
3. Iron content in the soil
4. Presence of diseases such as rice blast (a fungus) and leaf-eater (an insect)
5. The taste - do local people find it palatable?
NERICA produces up to a 50% greater yield per acre than the standard Liberian rice varieties and matures in only 90-100 days. Africa Development Corps is currently multiplying this new seed rice and will soon make it available to farmers throughout Lofa County.
The varieties of rice being tested are: NERICA 2, NERICA 49, NERICA 9, NERICA 53, NERICA 22, NERICA 54, NERICA 32, NERICA 59, NERICA 33, NERICA 60, NERICA 44, NERICA 45, WITTA 7, and WITTA 8. Results of the first field tests will be published in February 2008.
Why NERICA rice is better than the Suakoko, ROC, and LAC rice varieties
Three of the most common varieties of rice utilized in Liberia are Suakoko, ROC, and LAC. Each of these varieties has advantages and disadvantages, as shown in the table:
NERICA varieties have:
-Shorter growing cycle
-Higher Yields per acre
-Stronger disease resistance
NERICA rice is being planted in Liberia's lowlands. There are many advantages of lowland versus upland rice farming: