The system, called GEM, was set up as a part of an African Development Bank (AfDB) project, Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa. Combined with targeted training, it was rolled out two months ago among more than 450 women rice parboilers in the Glazoué rice hub in central Benin.
In the short time it has been around, both the average quantity of parboiled rice produced monthly and the average monthly income from this activity have more than doubled, compared to those obtained using the traditional parboiling system.
A parboiling session is the period from cleaning to drying which normally takes two days. The first day is used for cleaning and soaking and the second for steaming and drying. Earlier, the women parboilers were processing about 120 kg of paddy per session, while using the GEM technology, they are already processing about 300-400 kg of paddy per session and plan to go up to one tonne.
The process has also improved the quality of the parboiled rice. Using the GEM technology, there was less than two per cent burnt grains, 90 per cent whole grains, zero chalkiness and zero impurity compared to about 24 per cent burnt grains, 60 per cent whole grains, more than 20 per cent chalkiness and five per cent impurities with the traditional system.
“As the quality is so much better, traders from here and from Cotonou are readily buying up all our rice and are also giving us a better deal,” said Batcho Léontine of Glazoué Women Parboilers Association (UFER-C).
The GEM technology consumes a lot less fuel and water than the traditional system and is also safer and more durable. It is equipped with hoists and rails to lift and move the heavy vessels in which the paddy is steamed.
AfricaRice designed a prototype for the technology based on models from Institute of Agricultural Research for Development in Cameroon, Food Research Institute in Ghana and the National Institute for Agricultural Research, Benin. The locally adapted prototype was fine-tuned in collaboration with the McGill University, Canada and members of UFER-C.
Building on this successful model, AfricaRice and its partners are planning to set up a similar parboiling system in Malanville in northern Benin.