Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire — 08 March 2003.
TURNING ADVERSITY INTO OPPORTUNITY
Scientists from ‘WARDA-The Africa Rice Center’ are exploring with growing excitement the new avenues for research opened up by the rich rice landscape in Mali, which is not only one of the most important rice-growing countries in Africa, but also encompasses a vast range of rice ecologies.
WARDA-The Africa Rice Center has temporarily relocated its scientists to Bamako, Mali, to continue the Center’s research activities that have been affected by the political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, its host-country. The WARDA-The Africa Rice Center Management will continue to operate from its temporary headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
“By strengthening our presence in Mali, our scientists have a great opportunity to explore new rice ecologies and cropping systems as well as new niches for our products,” stated Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, Director General of the Center. Mali has been a long-time active partner of WARDA-ARC as a member of the Association.
Welcoming the increased collaboration, Seydou Traore, Minister for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Government of Mali, said, “This is the beginning of a new phase of collaboration in rice research. Rice responds well to the twin challenges of food security and economic wealth and can help us to enter the world market.”
Dr Bino Teme, Director General of the Institut d’économie rurale (IER), reaffirmed WARDA-The Africa Rice Center’s benefit to Mali. “There is very high demand, particularly from women farmers, for NERICA (New Rice for Africa) seed.” NERICA, which is bringing hope to millions of poor in Africa, was created by WARDA-The Africa Rice Center. As part of the African Rice Initiative, launched in 2002, Mali is one of the seven pilot countries selected for the rapid dissemination of NERICA.
To mark this new dynamism in its research strategy, WARDA held the 23rd meeting of its Board of Trustees, 24-28 February 2003, at Bamako, Mali. The meeting was a fitting occasion for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) – which supports WARDA-The Africa Rice Center – and the World Bank to demonstrate their strong support to the Center through the presence of Dr Francisco Reifschneider, Director of CGIAR.
“CGIAR is extremely proud of WARDA’s contribution,” Dr Reifschneider said during his brief visit to Bamako to meet with the WARDA-The Africa Rice Center Board, Management, and scientists. “NERICA is indeed a flagship of the CGIAR,” he added. He reported that in the recent past, CGIAR has requested for Dr Nwanze’s presence in high-level meetings with donors, such as Japan and the World Bank, to convey to them the value of CGIAR’s contribution to agricultural growth and poverty alleviation in Africa.
Commending the “heroic efforts” made by WARDA-The Africa Rice Center Management and staff in coping with the Ivoirian crisis, Dr Reifschneider said, “CGIAR and the World Bank recognize the fantastic work done by WARDA and their strong support during the crisis is a measure of this recognition.”
In his presentation to Dr Reifschneider, Dr Nwanze highlighted that the WARDA-The Africa Rice Center staff are safe, except for one local staff, who was reportedly killed. The WARDA-The Africa Rice Center Campus in Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire, remains intact, including the rice genebank, which is fully operational. A duplicate set of over 6000 seed samples of rice varieties, representing over 80% of the total genebank collection, has been recovered from the genebank for safe storage outside the Campus.
The WARDA-The Africa Rice Center Board reported to Dr Reifschneider their discussions on the various scenarios envisaged for the Center’s future, the primary focus of which is to maintain the Center’s viability and credibility while emphasizing staff security, motivation, and stability.
The Board has been supportive of the management strategies developed by the Center in response to the crisis and sympathetic towards staff who have been traumatized by the events. In response to their concerns, Dr Reifschneider said that the Secretariat would take every opportunity to convey to the CGIAR members the need to maintain support to WARDA-The Africa Rice Center particularly during this crisis.
Accompanied by the Board Chairman, Dr Lindsay Innes, and Dr Nwanze, Dr Reifschneider met with the Malian authorities, including the Prime Minister. Highlighting CGIAR’s special focus on Africa, Dr Reifschneider stated, “We invest about 45% of our resources in Africa and we need strong partners such as Mali to achieve our goals.”
NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR PARTNERSHIPS
The move of the WARDA-The Africa Rice Center scientists to Mali has opened up opportunities to explore new modes of partnership with national and international research organizations. Mali boasts of one of the strongest national agricultural research systems in the region.
WARDA-The Africa Rice Center scientists are based at the ICRISAT Samanko Research Station, near Bamako, which hosts scientists from several international Centers. Referring to the special opportunities for partnership offered by this close working relationship, Dr Reifschneider told the international scientific community that they represent a holistic view in the developing countries. “There is tremendous knowledge and experience within the CGIAR, which could be disseminated to others through the form of an open university,” Dr Reifschneider said.
Some of the scientists from the organizations based at Bamako have initiated discussions on maximizing their research experience, such as institutionalizing models for participatory research, for example.
Collaboration with laboratories in advanced countries, optimal use of WARDA-The Africa Rice Center’s research facilities for training of NARS, and video-conferencing were some of the ideas for pooling resources and expertise that emerged from the WARDA-The Africa Rice Center Board Meeting.
Inviting the research Centers based in Africa to become actively involved in the CGIAR Challenge Program (CP) on sub-Saharan Africa, Dr Reifschneider said, “It offers special opportunities to all the actors involved to benefit from enormous resources through close linkages and synergies.”
Dr Reifschneider added that WARDA-The Africa Rice Center was well-positioned to make significant contribution to this CP, which is closely linked with NEPAD and is led by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the Executive Secretary of which is Dr Monty Jones, former Deputy Director of Research at WARDA-The Africa Rice Center.
Referring to Dr Reifschneider’s visit as a “landmark” for WARDA-The Africa Rice Center, Dr Nwanze thanked the CGIAR for its immense support. On behalf of WARDA-The Africa Rice Center, he thanked all those who have helped the Center during the Ivoirian crisis, and was especially grateful to the Malian Government and ICRISAT for their hospitality.