Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire —
Genebank: Duplicate Samples Recovered
Over 6000 seed samples of rice varieties, representing over 80% of the total genebank collection of the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA), have been recovered from the genebank on the WARDA Campus at M’be, near Bouake, in Côte d’Ivoire. “This duplicate set of our valuable treasury which is stored in the WARDA genebank will be maintained in cold storage in Abidjan and at our substation in Nigeria,” stated Dr K F Nwanze, Director General, WARDA.
The samples were retrieved and brought back to Abidjan on 17 December 2002 by a team of WARDA senior Management and staff, who “armed” with a UNDP-negotiated laissez-passer, negotiated a safe passage to the Campus. This is the second such WARDA mission after the political crisis began in September 2002 in Côte d’Ivoire, which forced WARDA to evacuate its international and regional staff from Bouake – the heart of the zone of conflict – to Abidjan where temporary headquarters have since been established.
The first mission carried out in November had successfully recovered a limited number of computers, hard-disks, datasets, documents, and personal effects and ascertained that the Campus facilities were intact.
The second WARDA team was less successful in this regard, because further retrieval of documents and computers was strictly refused by the forces occupying Bouake. Apart from recovering seed samples and personal effects, the team made arrangements to begin the annual dry-season fire prevention activities on the Campus.
Thanks to the World Bank’s special allocation to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Centers – one of which is WARDA – for upgrading genebanks and other public goods infrastructure, WARDA has set up a task force to develop a strategy for efficient backup systems for research, administration, and financial datasets.
Bamako, Mali: Ensuring Continuity of Research
Although the WARDA Management will continue its operations from Côte d’Ivoire, which remains its headquarters, in view of the political crisis in the country, it plans to temporarily relocate its scientists to Bamako early next year to ensure continuity of research activities.
“The temporary relocation of our researchers to Bamako is part of our long-term crisis-management strategy that we have developed in consultation with the WARDA Board of Trustees and we hope that it will open up new opportunities for future partnership,” Dr K F Nwanze said.
As a member of the Association, Mali has a long history of collaboration with WARDA. It is an important rice-producing country of West Africa and enjoys tremendous donor confidence because of its stable growth. The Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER) and the Conseil National de la Recherche Agronomique (CNRA) have been very enthusiastic about this new development.
WARDA scientists will be based at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) Research Station in Samanko, near Bamako. After the recent downsizing of ICRISAT staff in Mali, the Samanko Station has spare research facilities that can be suitably used by WARDA scientists. The ICRISAT Management and Board Chair have warmly welcomed this move.
After an initial visit to make high-level contacts with the Malian Authorities and the ICRISAT Representative by Dr Nwanze in November 2002, a WARDA team including G Hahne, Director of Research and P-J Kouka, Assistant Director of Corporate Services, visited Bamako to examine research and communication facilities, explore housing and transport arrangements, and initiate the administrative process for a Host-country Agreement.
“In addition to the Samanko Station, we explored the possibilities of working with IER and the University of Mali on activities relating to soil science, GIS, and biotechnology,” Dr Hahne stated.
With this move, the momentum of WARDA’s research, which led to the development of the New Rice for Africa (NERICAs) – the hope for Africa’s food security – will be maintained. “Fortunately, the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire hasn’t dampened the spirit of our research staff or put a stop to our research activities,” said Dr Nwanze, who is very grateful for the heroic efforts made by a few local technical staff, who have been able to maintain the 2002 field trials and seed multiplication plots on the WARDA Campus.
Some of the trials have been harvested, data collected, and seeds gathered for continuing next year’s trials on breeding, screening for resistance to drought and diseases and agronomy. Trials have also been carried out on the WARDA Key-Sites in western Côte d’Ivoire.
These are gratifying news for the WARDA scientists who have used the time profitably to develop research proposals, process data, review their work-plans, interact with their NARS partners in the region, and participate in workshops and monitoring tours.
“Fortunately, there is much to be thankful for WARDA’s modus operandi of partnership that has kept our research and development activities outside of Côte d’Ivoire undisturbed,” Dr Nwanze said. Research activities in WARDA’s sub-regional stations in Senegal and Nigeria have continued without any hitch. In addition, WARDA’s collaborative networks, such as the rice network ROCARIZ, the Inland Valley Consortium (IVC), and the new African Rice Initiative (ARI) are fully functional.
In fact, bold new initiatives have been taken in IVC by the new Scientific Coordinator, P Kiepe, through wide-ranging discussions with partners in the region on the future operationalization of the Consortium, reinforcing WARDA’s lead role in research on inland valley systems in sub-Saharan Africa.
Similarly, the secondment of S Bredoumi, the new Interim Coordinator of the African Rice Initiative (ARI), by the Côte d’Ivoire Ministry, has given a fillip to the Initiative that was launched in March this year to fast-track the dissemination of the NERICAs in sub-Saharan Africa.
WARDA’s Rice Policy and Development Program has been revitalized by the joining of the new Program Leader J Sumberg, who brings to the Institute his 25-years experience in small-scale agriculture and natural resource management research in tropical areas, with particular emphasis on Africa. Even before taking up his duties in Abidjan, Sumberg attended a workshop and interacted with our key partners in Benin, Ghana, and Togo along with T Defoer, Technology Transfer Agronomist.
New Strategies: Guaranteeing Future Operations
In addition to catalyzing these new developments in research, the WARDA Management in consultation with the Board has been actively engaged in putting in place short-,medium-, and long-term strategies for Administration and Finance in response to the continuing political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.
The relocation of staff and activities from Bouake to Abidjan forced the WARDA Management to take extraordinary measures to maintain its activities as effectively and efficiently as possible with the whole-hearted backing from the CGIAR Secretariat. The Executive Management, Administration, and Finance departments are in full operation at WARDA’s offices in Abidjan.
As part of a short-term strategy to reduce the burden of managing a large group of staff in a time of crisis, a skeleton staff of Internationally Recruited Staff (IRS) comprising mainly of staff who have stayed in Côte d’Ivoire and a selected number of General Service Staff (GSS) has been retained. On advice from the local UN system, the rest have been put on leave with pay for an initial period of 3 months. Great care has been taken to pay the salaries of GSS not only in Abidjan, but also in Bouake despite tremendous difficulties.
With the prolongation of the crisis, which seems likely to continue beyond December 2002 and consequently the increasing financial burden on WARDA, effective 1 January 2003, a selected number of non-skeleton staff will be retained on a modified pay-roll schedule in order to guarantee WARDA’s continued operations.
Staff: Since the crisis began, one support staff has been reportedly killed in Bouake and three others died from lack of medical care.
Vehicles: From our last count, 63 vehicles (45 for WARDA and 18 for staff) have disappeared. Several of these can be still seen with the occupying forces.
Houses: Although no IRS houses have been vandalized, several staff houses in the city have been robbed and in some cases “emptied” by “petits voleurs”. The occupying forces have not been involved in these acts.
WARDA Campus Remains Intact
The occupying forces have maintained their presence at the WARDA Campus and insist on protecting the facilities. No offices or laboratories have been tampered with. The genebank is in full operation. Electricity and telephone services remain fully functional. The recent refusal by the occupying forces for us to remove computers and documents from the Campus is to ensure that “WARDA does not move out of Côte d’Ivoire.”
WARDA Board Vice-Chairman’s Visit
Prof. R Musangi, Vice-Chairman of WARDA’s Board of Trustees; B Gué, the Ivoirian Member of the Board, and the WARDA Management just concluded a meeting at Abidjan to review the Association’s crisis management strategy. They met with several Ivoirian Ministers, WARDA donor representatives, and Ambassadors of member States.
At a meeting with the staff, followed by a Christmas Luncheon, Prof. Musangi congratulated the Management on behalf of the Board for steering the Institute so well during this difficult period. Thanking the Board, Dr Nwanze said, “WARDA remains committed to Africa’s sustainable development and we are grateful for the support from the Council of Ministers of the Association, CGIAR Secretariat, and to all our donors who have stood by us during this period of crisis.”