Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

How Rice is Made in Madagascar

Rice is a major source of calories for half of the world's population. In Madagascar, rice markets have always been important, since rice is the most important staple in the country. Many families eat rice three times a day, and most of it is homegrown.

Grounding rice in Madagascar
Grounding rice in Madagascar

In the 1970s, Madagascar was a rice exporter but has since become a rice importer making Madagascar’s economy very fragile; the country imports significant amounts of rice from international markets for everyday consumption, around 51%.  The average household income in Madagascar is less than $1.25 making Madagascar an extreme low-income African country according the World Bank Standards.

Rice production is a major source of income and employment for many households in Madagascar. But, as prices increase for rice as well as other major staples of cassava and maize, most small farmers benefit little or not at all from price increases.

The rice production technologies used in Madagascar are still largely traditional, however many rice farmers are using the System of Rice Intensification or SRI. Nevertheless, rice production is still largely highly labor intensive.

Working rice fields in Madagascar
Working rice fields in Madagascar

The French Jesuit priest Henri de LaulaniĆ©, developed the SRI method in the 1980s. Traditional Madagascar rice farmers flood their rice fields and plant bunches of mature rice plants, while SRI farmers transplant young seedlings with greater spacing on soil that is moist but not flooded. 

Better U Foundation, funded by actor Jim Carrey, has assisted in SRI’s rice growing implementation in Madagascar. SRI cultivators claim the system uses 25% -50% less water, requires 80% -90% fewer seeds, and can sometimes double or even triple the rice yields.

Rice cultivation is found almost everywhere in Madagascar however, the central and northern regions of the country is where nearly 80% of Madagascar’s rice is grown. Lowland rice production structures are well developed and rice terraces are regularly found along the roads between the capital and largest city in Madagascar Antananarivo and the third largest city in Madagascar Antsirabe. 
Mother and daughter pound rice in Madagascar
Mother and daughter pound rice in Madagascar

Cyclone Enawo, equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane hit in early March 2017 and crossed the length of the country, causing rice production in 2017 to be below average. Approximately 434,000 people were affected by Cyclone Enawo and were in need of food assistance. 

Cyclone Enawo was the strongest tropical cyclone to strike Madagascar since Gafilo in 2004. The damage is enormous wherever the cyclone hit and damage to Madagascar’s rice production was immediately felt since another natural disaster, severe drought 2015, affected the county with the southern region the worst affected.

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