Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire — “The increasing demand for the services and products of the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) beyond its traditional constituency of West and Central Africa (WCA), has earned the Center the name: The Africa Rice Center,” announced Dr K F Nwanze, WARDA Director General.
The appellation does not question the WARDA Constitution; it describes WARDA’s current and future activities and responsibilities in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). “In other words, WARDA as an Association of African States remains inviolate, whereas ‘WARDA –- The Africa Rice Center’ is a recognition and expression of the Center’s role in rice R&D in SSA,” Dr Nwanze explained.
The designation is fully backed up by the Association’s successful track record in creating the “New Rice for Africa” (NERICAs), which is bringing hope to millions of poor people in Africa. The success of the NERICAs has helped shape the Center’s future direction, extending its horizon beyond WCA into Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA):
In response to the surging demand to fast-track the dissemination of NERICAs throughout SSA, the African Rice Initiative (ARI) was launched last year.
The INGER-Africa rice germplasm exchange network that currently serves countries in ESA and WCA, is helping farmers to grow promising rice varieties, including NERICAs in Burundi, Congo Brazaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The future operationalization of the Inland Valley Consortium, which WARDA hosts, attests to a broader regional and ecoregional approach, reinforcing WARDA’s lead role in research on inland valley systems in SSA.
The designation of ‘WARDA –- The Africa Rice Center’ thus confirms a legitimate recognition of WARDA’s role and responsibility in SSA, giving it a sustained corporate identity. It was recommended by the WARDA National Experts Committee (National Program Directors General of 17 member countries of the Association) – the technical arm of the WARDA Council of Ministers – and endorsed by the WARDA Board of Trustees. FARA, ASARECA and CORAF/WECARD have welcomed this development.
WARDA’s leadership role in rice R&D in SSA will be carried out in close partnership with IRRI, which will provide its expertise, particularly in rice genetics and genomics research. WARDA will not devote its current limited human and financial resources to activities in ESA. Additional resources will have to be generated through such mechanisms as ARI, the implementation of ASARECA’s rice research network or other donor-supported rice projects in ESA.
“This development calls for the full support of national, regional, and international agricultural communities to WARDA so that it can move forward in providing the needed expertise and support to rice research and development in SSA,” Dr Nwanze said. “It is only then that we can deliver the promise of the NERICAs to the poor across Sub-Saharan Africa.”