The continent of Africa has seen a spike in rice consumption over the recent years. A third of the total amount of rice traded on the global market is imported to African countries. In 2015, this total number was 26 million MT, and 13 million MT of it was going to the continent alone.
In 2025, rice consumption in Africa is projected to increase to 34.9 million MT. This is due to factors such as increased population, increased urbanization, and increased per capita consumption.
Because of this, the African Development Bank foresees the continent’s rice sector to be an engine for economic growth across the northern and southern countries.
To meet this projected demand for increased rice consumption, Africa will have to produce an additional 13 million tons of premium rice each year.
However, domestic rice in Africa is still commonly processed through traditional parboiling methods. These methods pose a threat to the environment, the continent’s forests, and the rural women who perform most of the unsafe and laborious work.
The process requires large amounts of firewood, which has caused deforestation. Air pollution is also another threat.
In order to address such challenges, concerned groups have introduced GEM rice production technology. GEM stands for Grain quality enhancer, Energy-efficient and durable Material.
The rice compact of the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) has coordinated with the African Development Bank as part of the Feed Africa Initiative, a process that aims to improve rice business in African countries through mitigating risks, raising agricultural productivity levels, and promoting diversification.
The Africa Rice Center, which heads the TAAT’s rice compact, aims to achieve rapid intensification of the production of rice through enhancing efficiency. To do this, the group plans to join innovative partnerships and employ advanced technologies in order to increase market opportunities.
GEM parboiling technology is one of them. Designed by AfricaRice through partnerships in the private sector, this groundbreaking technology rapidly intensifies the capacity of rice produced in a given amount of time.
Part of the main design of GEM technology is an eco-friendly stove with a fan powered by solar energy and rice husk, the latter being highly abundant as well as free in rice-producing areas.
Apart from this, the technology also protects the women from heat and smoke.
Firewood consumption is likewise estimated to be reduced by 41-100%, addressing the problem of deforestation in neighboring areas.
Switching firewood for rice husks has also proven to be more cost-efficient, saving US$30 per ton.
The installation of GEM systems has also gained the interest of other groups. The Bouake Innovation Platform plans to supply 4.4 tons of milled parboiled rice in the coming month.
PAFER, an NGO, has also installed six mini GEM parboilers in different communities.