Write-up taken from the IRRI's Rice Almanac (2013):
Madagascar is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean. It has a total area of 587,041 km2, of which 5.1% (2009) is arable land and contained within a coastline of 4,828 km. The climate is tropical along the coast, temperate inland, and arid in the south. Natural hazards include periodic cyclones, drought, and infestation by locusts. Terrain varies from a narrow coastal plain to high plateaus and mountains in the center. The population in 2011 was 21.3 million, with an estimated annual growth rate of 2.9%. Life expectancy at birth is 64 years. Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is a mainstay of the economy, accounting for about one-third of GDP and employing 70% of the labor force. Rice is the main subsistence crop in Madagascar and it occupies an important place in the agricultural sector. About 85% of the farmers grow rice. About 2 million farming households and about 10 million people derive at least part of their economic income from the rice sector.
Recent developments in the rice sector
The area under rice increased to about 1.81 million ha in 2010 from 1.15 million ha in 1995. Production increased from 2.45 million t in 1995 to about 4.74 million t of paddy rice in 2010. Rice yield increased slightly from 2.1 t/ha in 1995 to 2.6 t/ha in 2010. Enhanced production gradually reduced the need for rice imports. The rice self-sufficiency ratio was about 96.7% in 2009. Caloric intake per day from rice increased from 45.5% in 1995 to 50.7% in 2009. Protein intake from rice over the same period increased from 42.7% to 48.1%. Almost all mineral fertilizer inputs are imported.
The Madagascar Action Plan, which was developed for 2007-12, describes the new strategy and action plan geared toward stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty, and one of the main aspects is increasing rice production. The target for 2009 was to move toward doubling paddy production from 2006 in order to reach a volume of 5 million t. This growth is underpinned by an increase in productivity (through the supply of inputs, improvement in crop techniques, improvement of hydro-agricultural techniques, the introduction of agricultural machinery, and regular technical support) as well as an increase in area under cultivation.
There are four principal types of rice growing: irrigated rice, rainfed lowland rice, upland rainfed rice (called tanety), and rice as a first crop after slash and burn (called tavy). In terms of cultivated area, irrigated rice is the most important, covering 82% of all area under rice in 2008. About 60% of irrigated rice is transplanted. Rice is grown in six zones of Madagascar: the north, northwest, and central-western regions; the central part of the Malagasy highlands; the east; and the central-eastern part, including Lake Alaotra, with its swampy areas, plains, and valleys suited for rice.
Major yield gaps occur between yields obtained in farmers’ fields and what would be possible under improved management because of a lack of access to agricultural equipment, good-quality seed, and mineral fertilizers, and a range of biotic and abiotic stresses, including poor soil fertility, drought, and weed infestation. In the dominant irrigated lowland systems, the step-wise introduction of good agricultural practices and principles and improved modern varieties may strongly boost rice productivity. The upland and tavy systems suffer from a multitude of abiotic and biotic stresses; first and foremost are low soil fertility and drought. In the highlands, cold stress and blast disease reduce rice yields.
The major challenge for the rice sector is to ensure a reliable supply to the market of sufficient quantities of quality rice to ensure food security for the growing population, to supply industries down the rice value chain, and eventually to export. Land tenure problems hinder investment by farmers and the private sector. Farmers also lack access to quality agricultural inputs (improved seed, fertilizer, etc.) and have difficulty in obtaining credit because of a lack of collateral and high interest rates. Extension systems are underfunded and understaffed. Rice production systems are too fragmented and heterogeneous to attract private investment. Road infrastructure is often run-down and storage and processing facilities are often sorely lacking or not well maintained.
Madagascar has an enormous potential for rice production and more than a dozen large rice production basins could be further developed to become veritable “rice baskets” for the country and for the region as a whole. Currently, close to 1 million ha are under irrigation, representing 30% of the agricultural land. The irrigable potential is close to 1.5 million ha. In 2009, the percentage of irrigated rice area represented 78% of the total rice area. Next to rehabilitation and expansion of irrigated rice area, there is clear scope for raising yields and increasing cropping intensity (two or even three crops of rice per year) and diversification.
The National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS) for Madagascar developed as part of the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) and with clear backing from the government aims to realize that potential by focusing on the following six interventions:
- Clearly identify rice seed needs and develop the seed sector.
- Develop a fertilizer market with the private sector as the central actor.
- Further develop irrigation schemes for rice, rehabilitate and modernize existing schemes, and turn over management of irrigation structures to farmers.
- Boost agricultural mechanization through capacity building for local artisans, promote cooperatives, build up of sales and distribution networks, and obtain exemption from import taxes.
- Develop rural credit schemes.
- Enhance linkages between research and extension and ensure wide-scale diffusion of agricultural technologies and knowledge.
Sources: *WARDA, 1994, ** Madagascar Rice Statistics survey, 2009; FAO’s FAOSTAT database online and AQUASTAT database online, as of September 2012.