Women farmers in Burkina Faso live better thanks to parboiled rice

Launy Dondo & Lander Paesen
14 June 2017
The new 'Agriculture and Food Security' strategy note from the Belgian Development Cooperation highlights the importance of entrepreneurship. As such, Salimata Sanon, a rice grower and chairwoman of an agricultural cooperative, has introduced the processing of rice into parboiled rice in Burkina Faso. Thanks to the resulting added value, things are now a lot better for its 3,900 members.

Parboiled rice: a booming business in Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, parboiled rice has really taken off in recent years. Thanks to the specific processing method of parboiled rice - the raw rice is first partially steamed before being laid in the sun to dry - it is rich in vitamins and minerals, and the quality of the rice is substantially improved. Farmers who have incorporated this technique are referred to as parboilers. Sanon is also a parboiler herself, and is Secretary General of UNERIZ, an association of parboilers in Burkina Faso. In the beginning when she set up her business, she had neither the financial means nor the necessary equipment for a sustainable production chain. Thanks to her business, the production of parboiled rice has reached unprecedented levels, and she can even set aside a portion of her profits to invest in the further development of her activities.

Thanks to the specific processing method of parboiled rice it is rich in vitamins and minerals, and the quality of the rice is substantially improved.

Strength through unity

The success of her sustainable and enterprising method of farming has not gone unnoticed by the government in Burkina Faso. That was not the case for a long time. For example in 2001, the government had little interest in the mainly female parboilers who were gaining more and more importance in Burkina Faso. A parboiler’s movement gradually began to take hold, and continued to grow. Today, UNERIZ unites 3,900 parboilers in Burkina Faso, and they are stronger than ever in political negotiations with the government.

Women at the forefront

Not only does parboiling rice improve its quality, but also the quality of life of the many women who are involved in its production. With the wages they can pay themselves, they can take care of their own basic needs and those of their families. Moreover, women invest in the health and education of their children more than men do. They are also increasingly successful in arranging loans with which they can invest in their own equipment. In addition, the association carries out an essential awareness-raising function in the area of gender issues within the agricultural sector. For example, not only does it help to remind women that they have an important role to play, but it also informs young people about UNERIZ and its benefits for female farmers.

Not only does parboiling rice improve its quality, but also the quality of life of the many women who are involved in its production. With the wages they can pay themselves, they can take care of their own basic needs and those of their families.

Woman taking rice from a basin
© Vredeseilanden

Consultation as the driver for progress

Various actors are involved in the value chain for parboiled rice. In addition to producers, the sector is also made up of technicians, rice processors, traders and consumers. UNERIZ's goal is also to make consultation between these stakeholders run as smoothly as possible. Every stakeholder within the value chain gets a say. Tasting panels and sessions act as tools to take account of the preferences of consumers as much as possible. Price setting for parboiled rice is in the hands of the government. But UNERIZ defends the interests of consumers and producers, with the aim of setting the price as fairly as possible. Sanon's business also benefits from support from NGOs including Oxfam-Solidarité and Vredeseilanden. Of course there is still work to do. For example, more attention must be given to the illiteracy among farmers which is still far too prevalent in Burkina Faso.

Burkinabe farmers selling their rice
© Vredeseilanden
Rice Burkina Faso
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In the same category - Article 26 /39 WOMED Award South rewards female entrepreneurship