I found a story in today’s Vanguard, a Nigerian news site, that could serve as a case study to illustrate the complexities of the interaction between conservation and use of plant genetic resources. Government imposes levy on rice imports, and launches a Presidential Initiative, no less, on Rice Production, Processing and Export. High-yielding varieties — including the famous NERICA — are multiplied and made available to farmers. A “rice value chain” linking farmers, parboilers, millers, traders etc. is facilitated. A project called Promoting Pro-Poor Opportunities in Commodity and Service Markets (PropCom) is launched, funded by Britain’s DFID, “a market-driven intervention programme that facilitates initiatives which enable the production of quality local rice in sufficient quantities that can compete with imported rice and benefit the poor stakeholders.”
I have two questions for the students who will no doubt be given this case study to ponder in years to come. Is all this good or bad for rice genetic diversity? And will it be good or bad for rice farmers in the long run?