Farmers in Burundi will soon sow the seeds of hard work and international cooperation with the release of two new rice varieties set to boost rice production and meet the rapidly growing demand for rice in Burundi.
Farmers and agricultural stakeholders chose the two rice varieties bred by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), called IR77713 and IR79511, over the country's locally grown varieties - V14, V18, Watt, and Rukaramu - because they produce more rice and taste and look better.
The varieties have been tested and evaluated in different regions across Burundi for three years in participatory variety selection (PVS) trials in which farmers choose the rice varieties they like most and that perform best.
One of the farmers who helped pick the new varieties, Ms. Scolastique Simbandumwe, shared, "I am happy that the varieties I selected are now released. I would like to get seeds now, to be among those who will multiply seeds, so that my income can increase."
The new varieties easily gained favor not only for their high yielding capability of up to seven tons per hectare, which is one to one and a half tons more than the locally grown varieties, but also because of their ability to mature two to three weeks earlier. Early-maturing varieties mean that farmers can grow a second crop, allowing them to produce more food for their families or to sell it. This is important in Burundi because more than 90% of the population depends on agriculture for livelihood.
The farmers also ranked IR77713 and IR79511 highest in grain quality of unmilled, milled, and cooked rice. In addition, a sensory test revealed that farmers find IRRI's new varieties tasty and better looking compared with the locally grown varieties.
"We congratulate IRRI for this achievement," concluded Director General of Agriculture Sebastien Ndikumagenge, Burundi Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. "By releasing these two varieties, IRRI contributes a lot to our efforts to find food for Burundians. We encourage IRRI to go forward."
Dr. Joseph Bigirimana, IRRI's liaison scientist and coordinator in Burundi, said, "We are very happy that IRRI has released these two new rice varieties in Burundi. The IRRI-Burundi team worked hard, with the support of the whole IRRI family at the regional and international level and our partners in Burundi. We are proud of that effective collaboration.
"We do, of course, still have a long way to go," he added. "We will actively assist Burundi's Ministry of Agriculture to multiply the seed of these new varieties so that they can reach farmers as soon as possible."
IRRI-Burundi developed the new rice varieties especially for Burundi after recognizing the urgent need for better rice varieties adapted to local conditions and matching farmer and consumer needs. In a first, IRRI-Burundi released the varieties after just four growing seasons - usually it takes much longer.
The new varieties are targeted to be planted in lowland areas of the country (800 meters above sea level) and are expected to boost food production in Burundi.
"I am sure this is only the start of a major contribution by IRRI in Burundi in association with the University of Burundi and Burundi's government to develop the rice industry," said IRRI's coordinator for East and Southern Africa, Mr. Joseph Rickman.