Cotonou, Benin — Mr Gaston Grenier, a Canadian national, was elected as the new Chair and Mrs Mary Uzo B. Mokwunye, a Nigerian national, as the new Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Africa Rice Center (WARDA). Both of them have been serving as Board members.
“We are delighted to have elected Mr Grenier for his dynamism and enthusiasm as well as his extensive international experience. He will be ably assisted by Mrs Mokwunye who has strong administrative and research management skills,” the outgoing Board Chair Prof Musangi stated. He added that the decision took into consideration the importance given by the Center to gender equality and diversity.
The announcements were made at the conclusion of the 25th Board meeting, 13-18 March 2005. The meeting was significant because it was being held for the first time in Cotonou, Benin, where the Center’s headquarters has been located since January 2005 because of renewed strife in Côte d’Ivoire.
About 90% of its Management, Administration, Finance and Research staff have been accommodated in the facilities kindly offered by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Institut national de recherches agronomiques du Bénin (INRAB).
Some of the other significant decisions made by the Board during the meeting are:
In view of their traumatic experience and several displacements, including two evacuations within 3 years from their headquarters near Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, the Africa Rice Center staff will operate from Cotonou with an initial planning horizon of 5 years during which the decision will be regularly reviewed. “This will give the stability needed for scientists to carry out their important research agenda,” Prof Musangi explained.
However, Bouaké will remain the Center’s permanent headquarters. The Center’s Campus, including its research and genebank facilities in Bouaké, continues to be intact.
The Center’s staff located in its sub-regional stations in Senegal and Nigeria will continue to work as usual at those locations.
The Center is not abandoning Bamako, Mali, which had kindly hosted its research staff after the 2002 Ivoirian crisis. It would like to carry out projects there, in partnership with the Institut d’économie rurale (IER), funded through restricted project grants.
Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze will complete his second term as the WARDA Director General in November 2006. In view of its unique structure and constitution as an Association of African member states as well as an international Center supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), WARDA follows a long process for recruiting a Director General. Prof Musangi announced that the Board had approved the process for the recruitment of a new Director General who will succeed Dr Nwanze.
Prof. Musangi thanked the Government of Benin, IITA and INRAB for hosting the Center. He thanked all the Board Members, particularly Dr Edwin C. Price, the outgoing Vice Chair, for their support. He congratulated the Management and the staff for their outstanding ability to recover from severe setbacks.
“It is truly amazing how much the staff have been able to accomplish despite all their difficulties,” he commented, referring to the Center’s recent exciting weeklong research review and planning meeting in Cotonou, involving all its research staff and several partners from the national agricultural research systems (NARS), international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and CGIAR Centers.
He expressed profound happiness over the growing popularity of the NERICA varieties – the Center’s flagship technology and the CGIAR’s pride – in eastern Africa, especially Uganda and Kenya.
“Prof. Musangi will continue to be a great ambassador for the Africa Rice Center. We are very grateful to him and to Ed Price for their courage and steadfast support to the Center during one of the most difficult periods in its life,” Dr Nwanze said.