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Magic Rice at Rokupr Rice Research Station in Sierra Leone
By Bernard M. Kamara
Dec 15, 2006, 14:06
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The press briefing coincided with a symbolic harvesting by H.E. the President, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabba of the Chinese Hybrid Rice planted at the Rokupr Station this year.

Head of the seed Technology Department answering a question from members of the press

Addressing Journalists, the Acting Director of the Rokupr Rice Research Station, Edward E.Y. Koroma informed them that the Chinese Hybrid Rice can produce - 300 - 500 bushels of rice per acre and President Kabbah arranged the bringing of the rice to Sierra Leone for multiplication at the Rokupr Station for onward distribution to farmers.

The Head of the banana and plantain programme at RRRS, Mr. Kallon leading journalists on inspection tour of the plantation

The President in his brief statement viewed the invitation extended to him to be the first person to start the harvest, as an honorary tribute in appreciating his effort in bringing the gem rice to Sierra Leone. The rice, he stated, if widely propagated would make farmers rich at much less labour and drudgery than now.

A sample of an improved banana variety being propagated at RRRS

Vegetable banana and plantain programme has also been established at the station. This underscores the need to diversify food intake of nutritious values, required to upkeep good health.

The RRRS Director, Edward Y. Koroma making a point while telling the journalists the importance of the Chinese Hybrid Rice

Through out his speech, Mr. E.Y. Koroma admonished the journalists to disseminate the information about the new rice in their newspapers, radio and television so as to reach people in every corner of Sierra Leone. He opined that if the rice is made available to farmers, they will accept it and that would mark the end of hunger and poverty among them.

That the Chinese Hybrid Rice Producing 500 bushels per 1 acre hold record as the most productive rice in the world.

He noted that over the years, several varieties of rice have been introduced in the country which produced high yields for farmers, but that the new Chinese Hobei variety yields far more than them all. The earlier rice varieties include; the local rice variety which produces between 15 -30 bushels per acre, the improved Rok Series variety bred by the National Rice Scientists at Rokupr-capable of producing between 50 - 100 bushels per acre, the New Rice for Africa (the NERICA Series) producing 100 - 200 bushels per acre. This new hybrid- the Hobei Hybrid, Mr. Koroma maintained has the yielding capability of 400-500 bushels per acre and referred to it as "the most productive" rice variety grown in most parts of the world today.

The Director therefore called on the journalists to encourage farmers across the country, to adopt the new improved rice variety, assuring that it would ensure the improved livelihoods of farmers.

The Director also explained the functions of the Rokupr Rice Station which was established in 1934 to conduct research into constraints affecting rice production in all ecologies as well as Sorghum, Millet, and Vegetable crops; including banana and plantain. It was also to conduct investigation into farming systems in the whole country. Over the period, Mr. Koroma explained, the stationed attained certain major accomplishments which were of direct benefit to the local farming communities. He mentioned them as:

- Education of the basic chemistry of mangrove swamp soils for profitable rice production.

- Demonstration of the efficiency of mechanical cultivation with the single axle tractor in mangrove swamps for increasing rice grain yield.

- Demonstration of cost effectiveness of the diesel power tiller with modified wheels for lowland cultivation.

- Release of 33 high-yielding adaptable rice varieties for upland and lowland including NERICAS.

Work in the Station, he said, is organized along programmes which include; Varietal Improvement and Plant Health, Resource and Crop Management, Seed Technology, Agricultural Engineering, Vegetable Research - Extension ­Liaison, and Administration and Finance.

The Government of Sierra Leone, he maintained, has been providing most of the funds. He however stated that limited funding on these programmes have been provided by EEC, WARDA, UTA and MUSACO- Cameroon for collaborative research benefits.

A total of 10 Media houses comprising both the print and electronic as well as the Agricultural Communication Unit, were represented at the briefing.

The briefing was climaxed by a question and answer session. The Director and other senior members of the various programmes provided the answers to the several questions posed by the journalists.

On what hybrid rice means and what has been the result of its trial so far in Sierra Leone, the Head of the Seed Technology programme, Mr. Mohamed S. Mansaray bellied the cat. In his response, he referred to hybrid rice as the most productive rice variety in the world. He explained that the current Chinese Hybrid rice under trial is the Hobei variety, noting that ten of these varieties have been bought for trials in Sierra Leone.

He went on to explain that the Hybrid rice is developed by crossing one African variety and one Chinese variety, pointing out that the hybrid once developed has very good yield and is highly resistant to diseases. The hybrid, he said, is a semi dwarf and the ears are bent to the ground which makes it self protective against birds. "It is not just a high yielding variety, it is also extremely nutritious," Mr. Mansaray observed, adding that this is achieved when it is well managed, fertilizers applied at the right time; with much consideration given to the dosage, weeding done on time and disease control mechanisms are put in place with intensity.

Mr. Charles Dixon, Head of Extension added that the advantage of the hybrid is that the technology is developed to feed hungry people and is good for Sierra Leone as it is trying to sustain food security.

A question was asked on the importance of the Banana and Plantain Programme to the nation. Responding to it, the Head of the Banana and Plantain Unit, Mrs. Anie Kallon started off by explaining the different varieties of bananas. She disclosed that there are 15 known varieties of banana. According to her, the most common types include; the first horn, the French and the second horn. The first horn she said produces about 8 banana offspring and is the biggest of all the products; the second horn produces 20 offspring, while the French produces the smallest but tallest types.

She indicated that the differences among these types of bananas are however visible in their colours, heads and duration (life span). For some, she says, the whole process of planting and harvesting last for 11 months while for others it lasts for 18 months. Other differences in the banana varieties she noted can also be found in their taste. Some she says are sweeter while some are less sweet. She referred to banana as a good food and is nutritious and contains much potassium which is good for children. She further mentioned that banana cures heat burn, rash and hangovers; and that it can be used take make chips, flour for confectionary foods as well as in the production of alcohol and cheese and it also contains a high level of carbohydrate.

The press briefing ended with an appeal to the Government of Sierra Leone, EEC, WARDA and MUSACO who are the parent donors to the management of the station, to provide more financial support towards the ongoing rehabilitation exercise of the station, following the devastation it suffered in the hands of rebels during the war.

The briefing noted, "Much work has been done in this regard; but much more work still needs to be done in order to raise the station to it previous standard if not far beyond."

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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