Biotech Updates

New Production System to Boost Rice Yield in West Africa

June 13, 2008

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has developed a new rice growing system that could significantly boost production in West Africa. The new system, termed ‘Sawah’ (Indonesian for “wet rice-field”), makes it possible to grow the crop in the region’s wetlands with more than twice the yield of traditional dryland rice farms. Yield of as high as 3.5 tons per hectare has been recorded, compared to the average 1.5 tons per hectare yield in traditional lowland rice farms. IITA estimates that some 10 million rice farmers stand to benefit from the adoption of the Sawah system.

Although rice production in West Africa steadily grew over the past decades, it only supplies 58 percent of the domestic demand. Dr. Oluwarotimi Fashola, agronomist at IITA’s headquarters in Nigeria noted that “by expanding rice production to the wetlands, where the crop is not traditionally planted, and intensifying yield per unit area, the basic principles of the ‘Sawah’ system, Nigeria alone could be producing up to 10 million tons of rice annually by the year 2020”.

The ‘Sawah’ rice-growing system was developed through IITA’s five-year “Hirose Project” sponsored by the Development Corporation of Japan (JSPS).

 View the press release at