Cotonou, Benin — Dr Moussa Sié, Lowland Rice Breeder from the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), has been chosen as one of the two laureates of the 2006 Fukui International Koshihikari Rice Prize of Japan in recognition of his significant contributions to rice production in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr Sié, a Burkinabe national, is the first African to receive this important prize. He has over 20 years experience in the selection and improvement of rice varieties, with particular emphasis on rainfed systems.
Before joining WARDA, Dr Sié was long associated with rice R&D at the Institut de l’environnement et des recherches agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso and is credited with the development of several high-yielding and multiple stress-resistant rice varieties. He has been actively involved in the coordination of rice research and technology transfer at national and regional levels.
Dr Sié, in close association with WARDA’s Irrigated Rice Breeder Dr Kouamé Miézan and national programs of West African countries, was instrumental in extending WARDA’s upland NERICA rice breakthrough to lowlands—one of the most complex rice ecologies in the world.
NERICA refers to the successful crossing by WARDA researchers of the Asian and African species of cultivated rice to produce plants that combine the best traits of both parents. Dr Monty Jones, former senior scientist at WARDA won the 2004 World Food Prize for his pioneering work on NERICA. The NERICA name was trademarked by WARDA in 2004.
Dr Sié and his partners used the NERICA technology to go beyond the original NERICA product, which has been a remarkable breakthrough for upland rice ecologies, but has had little impact in the lowland ecologies.
Given the high potential of the lowlands for sustainably intensifying rice farming in Africa, the new rice varieties developed by Dr Sié and his partners are poised to have an even bigger impact than the original NERICAs, which unleashed the potential of the upland ecology in sub-Saharan Africa.
Key to Dr Sié’s success was the unique R&D partnership model forged between WARDA and the national programs of West African countries through the ROCARIZ rice network, which facilitated the shuttle-breeding approach to accelerate the selection process and achieve wide adaptability of the Lowland NERICAs.
“The development of Lowland NERICAs is another significant breakthrough from WARDA and its national partners. We are delighted that Moussa Sié has won this prestigious international award from Japan, which is one of the foremost NERICA champions,” said Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, WARDA Director General.
“This recognition in addition to the World Food Prize for NERICA shows that WARDA, which is both a research Center and an Association for rice development in Africa, continues to deliver world-class products for the benefit of resource-poor farmers in the poorest region of the world,” Dr Nwanze added.
About 60 of the Lowland NERICA varieties, with yield potential of 6-7 tonnes per ha and good resistance to major lowland stresses, have already received the stamp of approval from farmers in several African countries through the participatory varietal selection (PVS) process. Four Lowland NERICA varieties were officially released in Burkina Faso and two in Mali in 2005.
Dr Sié shares the 2006 Fukui International Koshihikari Rice Prize of Japan with Dr Akihiiko Ando from Brazil, who has contributed to rice breeding by using radiation-induced mutations. The Prize was instituted in 1997 to commemorate the development of Koshihikari, one of the most popular Japanese rice varieties. The award ceremony will be held on 15 April 2006 in Fukui city, Japan.
Former awardees include the World Food Prize laureate Yuan Longping, Vu Tuyen Hoang, Choi Hae Chune, and two IRRI scientists: the late Dharmawansa Senadhira, and Sant Singh Virmani.