Initiative Result:

Improved parboiling technology increases women’s income and nutrition

The GEM parboiling system allows women to gain 140 kg of milled rice and US$73 per tonne in Benin.

Food insecurity and child malnutrition remain persistent problems in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). GEM, an improved parboiling system developed by AfricaRice and its national partners, leads to better physical and nutritional properties of processed rice than the traditional system. Compared to the traditional system, GEM allows women in Benin to gain an additional 140 kg of milled rice per tonne of paddy and US$73 per tonne.

Micronutrient deficiencies, or “hidden hunger,” are on the rise in SSA, affecting one in every two Africans. At the same time, little progress has been made to reduce undernutrition. The region has the highest prevalence of undernutrition, with 98 million children affected by stunting.

To improve the nutritional quality of rice as a staple food crop, AfricaRice and partners developed GEM, an improved parboiling system that allows rice to be processed with better physical and nutritional properties compared to the traditional system. GEM is an improved parboiling technology that uses both a uniform steam parboiler and an improved parboiling stove. The GEM system is not only about the equipment but also the improved process.

After first being introduced in 2015 by the CGIAR Research Program on Rice , the GEM system has now been scaled to 11 African countries. The Initiative builds on the existing GEM equipment to strengthen women’s technical capacity, such as through the process of parboiling rice with GEM, and soft skills, such as business skills, marketing strategies, and personal development. The Initiative has also helped to link women parboilers to markets through its women and youth innovation platform.

The Initiative funded a study to assess the impact of the system’s adoption on women’s livelihoods. Results showed that adopting the GEM system increased women parboilers’ rice output rate (dehulling return), income, and food security, and reduced poverty. Compared to the traditional system, GEM allows women to gain an additional 140 kg of milled rice per tonne of paddy and US$73 of additional income. Adoption of the GEM system also reduced the poverty rate by 26 percent among adopter households. These results are supported by women’s perceptions that the output rate, better
nutritional value, and reduction in the amount of broken rice during dehulling are major advantages of the new parboiling system. This shows that parboiled rice using improved equipment and methods can not only reduce hidden hunger in SSA but also improve women’s livelihoods.

Women in 36 areas in 11 African countries are benefiting now from the GEM system: 23 areas in West Africa (Bante, Glazoue, Malanville, and Savalou in Benin; Gaya in Niger; Goronyo and Nasarawa in Nigeria; Soutouboua in Togo; Abidjan, Bouake Dar Salam, Bouake marché de gros, Boundiali, Daloa, Gagnoa, Korhogo, Man, and Odiene in Côte d’Ivoire; Baguineda, Dioro, San, and Segou in Mali; and Saint Louis in Senegal); one area in Central Africa (Nkolfolou-Yaounde in Cameroon), and 12 areas in East Africa (Bahidar and Woreta in Ethiopia; Ambatondrazaka, Ankazomiriotra, Antanarivo, Antsirabe, Antsohihy, Mahabo, and Tanandava in Madagascar; and Gaza, Sofala, and Zambezia in Mozambique).

Header photo: Internal view of the rice parboiling complex in Glazoue, Benin. AfricaRice.

CGIAR Centers



National Agricultural Research Institute of Benin