AfricaRice News release

Third Biennial WARDA/National Experts Committee Meeting

Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire — From 11 to 13 June 2002, WARDA hosted the third Biennial Meeting of the WARDA/National Experts Committee at its Headquarters at M’bé, Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire. The purpose of this statutory meeting is to provide a regular forum for interaction between WARDA and its partners in the national agricultural research systems (NARS). This is particularly important as the starting point (that is, at the country level) in a multilevel stakeholder consultation process.

The National Experts Committee (NEC) comprises the Directors of theNARS of WARDA’s member states.The Third WARDA/NEC Meeting was attended by representatives from 16 of the countries that are members of the Association: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Nigeria was absent. WARDA’s Board of Trustees was represented by Dr Diomandé Mamadou, and Dr Bamba Gue, who is scheduled to replace Dr Diomandé later in 2002. The West and Central African Council for Research and Development (WECARD/CORAF) was represented by Dr Samuel Bruce-Oliver, Director General of the National Agricultural Research Institute, The Gambia. The meeting was officially opened by Prof. Yao Thomas N’Guéssan, Director of Research, on behalf of HE the Ivorian Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research.

At the beginning of the meeting, a minute of silence was held in memory of Dr Andrew Paye, former Director General of the Liberian Central Agricultural Research Institute, who died tragically in a vehicle accident in May 2002.

Issues

  • The meeting had three main objectives.

  • To review activities and achievements since the second NEC meeting in March 2000, and review current prospects for rice research and development in West and Central Africa and WARDA’s role in them.

  • To review the on-going change process in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and interactions between the CGIAR and NARS.

  • To review the status of the recently launched African Rice Initiative.

  • In addition, participants were briefed on the following subjects, which they discussed in detail.

  • WARDA’s mandate, possible need for name change, modalities of membership, and nature of the Association.Member state financial contributions.

  • WARDA’s on-going research program, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative.Biotechnology, biosafety, intellectual property, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

  • Rice: cash crop or staple—policy implications.

  • WARDA, Inc.—a proposal for resource mobilization.

  • The Forensic Audit commissioned by WARDA’s Board of Trustees in response to World Bank allegations of fraud against WARDA Management

Research collaboration: WARDA/NARS and CGIAR/NARS

The NEC recommends:

  • Collaboration between research institutions and universities should be revamped. This recommendation confirms the appropriateness of steps taken by WARDA in 2001 to work more closely with African universities.

  • The Directors of Research of the NARS and WARDA should meet on an annual basis to improve research coordination and complementarity.

  • The various WARDA–NARS collaborative networks should aim for closer integration of activities, and should add emphases on varietal development and post-harvest aspects to their agendas. Particular attention should be paid to monitoring of joint meetings, development of joint projects, implementation of joint programs, and timely submission of reports.

  • Some improvement in the collaboration with regard to meetings and seed production is desirable.

  • The Management Committee of the African Rice Initiative—which is to be hosted at WARDA as a non-core program—should report to the WARDA Council of Ministers through WARDA Management channels.

  • CGIAR/NARS collaborations should seek economies of scale.

  • Other CGIAR Centers should include NARS in their priority-setting exercises.

Biotechnology, biosafety, intellectual property and related issues

The NEC recommends:

  • The development of harmonized biosafety legislation be sped up in the countries of the sub-region.

  • WARDA should hold a training workshop on intellectual property and biosafety issues.

  • WARDA should claim intellectual protection on its products.

  • The Ivorian biotechnology laboratory in Adiopodoumie should be used to strengthen NARS capabilities in this field through training.

Forensic Audit

The NEC recommends that WARDA’s Council of Ministers be convened for an extra-ordinary meeting within two months, to adopt a common position on the findings of the external Forensic Audit that recently found no grounds for claims of fraud against WARDA Management.

Conclusions

In the closing session, Dr Paco Sereme (Director of the Institut de l’Environnement et des Recherches Agricoles, Burkina Faso) noted that WARDA had been badly shaken by the accusations of the World Bank, but could now move on. WARDA’s Director General, Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, commented on the active and lively discussions that had been open and fruitful. He thanked all participants for their confidence in WARDA, its staff and management, and particularly in his leadership. He also acknowledged the consistent support of the host Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research during his five years in office.

Finally, Prof. N’Guéssan noted that the Association cannot function without a safe financial environment. He said this made WARDA fragile, and should encourage member states to maintain their financial contributions, as a sign to external donors of their commitment to the Association. The safe financial environment is also dependent on transparent management, which the Forensic Audit had shown was in operation at WARDA. He concluded by saying: “Problems may be big, but we can always overcome them.”

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About AfricaRice

AfricaRice is a CGIAR Research Center – part of a global research partnership for a food-secure future. It is also an intergovernmental association of African member countries.

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