Bamako, Mali — The Board of Trustees of the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) met at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya, from 30 November to 2 December 2004 to examine the current situation of the Africa Rice Center following the resurgence of hostilities in its host country, Côte d’Ivoire. This release is to inform colleagues and friends of WARDA of recommendations and decisions regarding future operations of the Center.
The Board regrets the death on 6 November 2004 of Dr Robert Carsky, a senior scientist with WARDA, as a result of the bombing in Bouaké of the French barracks where he had taken refuge. The Board expresses its deepest sympathy and condolences to the Carsky family.
Because of the prevailing insecurity in Côte d’Ivoire, the Center evacuated its internationally-recruited staff and senior non-Ivorian support staff. The WARDA Headquarters at M’bé (Bouaké), including offices, laboratories, field facilities and genebank, remain intact. Activities in Côte d’Ivoire have been reduced to a minimum. It is expected that the Center will resume operations at its Bouaké Headquarters only after the cessation of hostilities and when conditions have been adjudged to be conducive for WARDA’s operations.
The Board of Trustees would like to assure the research and development community that the Center meanwhile continues to undertake its activities through its existing stations in St Louis, Senegal; Ibadan, Nigeria; and Bamako, Mali.
Consequent upon these developments, the Board of Trustees has made the following decisions:
The Africa Rice Center will relocate its management, research and administrative staff to Cotonou, Benin, and utilize facilities made available by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Institut national de recherche agronomique du Bénin (INRAB).
Staff evacuated from Côte d’Ivoire, and those located in Bamako, will be relocated to Cotonou, Benin, as soon as the Center resumes after its end-of-year break.
Staff normally located in St. Louis, Senegal, and in Ibadan, Nigeria, will continue their work as usual at those locations.
The Board of Trustees approved a planning document prepared by Management for the implementation of the relocation to Cotonou, Benin.
The Board reassures staff of its support and urges Management to undertake all steps necessary to facilitate resettlement of staff and their families at the new locations. This will include appropriate counseling and team building as soon as possible.
The Board has requested Management to take measures to minimize the risk for those local staff who have been retained specifically to maintain the facilities in Côte d’Ivoire.
The Board has agreed on a contingency plan so that should it not be possible to move to Cotonou within the anticipated timeframe, WARDA will operate in a decentralized mode utilizing facilities in St Louis, Ibadan and possibly Bamako.
In arriving at these decisions, the Board took cognizance of the current exercise of the CGIAR Task Force on Sub-Saharan Africa and the principles embedded within the Collective Action framework of the new Alliance of the Centers. It sought to identify opportunities for optimizing the competences of the Africa Rice Center, given the recent advances of the NERICA in Africa and beyond.
In this regard, the Board recommends that, within the current Strategic and Mid-Term Plans, the following activities should receive highest priority in the near term:
NERICA seed multiplication and distribution using strengthened private-public partnerships and farmer associations;
Continued aggressive rice breeding programs for African lowlands and uplands, including further research on the physiology and genetics of NERICA;
Assessment of the spread and adoption of WARDA rice varieties, their use in other breeding programs, and their impact.
The Board is concerned that the cost of evacuation and relocation requires additional resources beyond the Center’s current budget and appeals to the donor community for additional financial support to complete the above actions.
The Board is conscious of the enormous stress caused throughout the WARDA and associated communities by the loss of Dr. Robert Carsky, by the suffering of his family, and by the disruption of personal and professional lives of staff caused by the renewed armed conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. Management is requested to make every effort to alleviate the stress and concern of staff and their families, and take all necessary measures to ensure an attractive, productive and safe working environment.
The Board, Management and Staff take this opportunity to thank the WARDA Council of Ministers, the CGIAR and the donor community, and partners for the generous expressions of sympathy and support during this difficult period.