Cotonou, Benin — At its just concluded meeting, the Board of the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) expressed its pride in the awards and distinctions garnered by WARDA scientists during the last few years under the leadership of Director General Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze. The awards include:
Japan’s International Koshihikari Prize in 2006
The World Food Prize in 2004
Senegal’s Presidential Award in 2003
Côte d’Ivoire Government Honors in 2001 and 2003, and
The CGIAR’s King Baudouin Award in 2000
“For a Center, which has a relatively small budget, these world-class awards testify to the dynamism and the excellence of its leadership, its staff and its unique partnership model with national programs,” the Board commented.
Highlighting Dr Nwanze’s relentless commitment to excellence, his passion and enthusiasm for the Center’s activities, the Board said, “His vision has helped expand WARDA’s horizon to the whole continent, transforming the sub-regional Association into the Africa Rice Center, despite the major crises that it has faced.”
Board Praises WARDA’s New Strategic Alliances
The Board described 2006 as “a year of great significance” for the Center, which is forging new strategic alliances with its sister Centers, with international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector to increase the impact, reach and value of its technologies, especially the NERICA varieties, across sub-Saharan Africa.
MoU with IRRI: NERICA’s amazing popularity among rice farmers in Africa is attracting several Centers, such as IRRI and CIAT to team up with WARDA to pursue work on this exciting technology. In Eastern and Central Africa, WARDA, IRRI, and national programs are joining forces to enhance the rice sector in the region. To formalize this partnership, WARDA and IRRI have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work collaboratively in sub-Saharan Africa. Thousands of small farmers and rural entrepreneurs are expected to benefit from this collaboration.
MoU with IITA-Tanzania: In response to the increasing demand for its involvement in rice research and development in Eastern Africa, WARDA has reactivated the rice network (ECARRN) of ASARECA and established a Coordination Unit for the network in Tanzania. To increase the resource use efficiency of the CGIAR Centers based in one location, WARDA is signing an MoU with IITA-Tanzania station to provide corporate service support to the ECARRN Coordination Unit.
Agreement with JICA: The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and WARDA have a long-standing partnership on rice R&D. JICA has currently posted two rice experts to work with the WARDA-coordinated African Rice Initiative (ARI). A Research Collaboration Agreement was signed with JICA to formalize this collaboration.
MoU with Songhai Center: Songhai is an international NGO in West Africa that provides an ideal extension platform for agriculture and trains farmers to become entrepreneurs. An MoU was recently signed with the Songhai Center, which will help link up rice research to farmers and the rice market.
Partnerships for the regional MTP development: As part of CGIAR’s sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) strategy and the move towards greater programmatic alignment, WARDA has been entrusted to take the lead in developing the first regional (WCA) Medium Term Plan (MTP) in close partnership with CGIAR Centers, regional and sub-regional organizations, national programs and NGOs engaged in agricultural R&D in the region.
The Regional MTP is expected to help stakeholders to have better research coherence, efficiency and impact in the region. Common thematic areas with potential for programmatic integration have been identified. The Board congratulated WARDA’s Assistant Director General for Research and Development Dr Shellemiah Keya for the progress made in the development of the regional MTP. Dr Keya is leading this initiative in close consultation with all the partners.
Board Proceeds with the Selection Process of WARDA’s Next Director General
In November 2006, WARDA’s current Director General Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze will reach the maximum 10-year term allowed under the Center’s constitution. To ensure a smooth transition and in keeping with WARDA’s constitution, the Board proceeded to carry out the crucial assignment of selecting the next Director General to lead the Center.
WARDA has a unique organizational structure as an Association of African member states and a CGIAR Center. The Council of Ministers is the Association’s highest oversight body. The current Chairmanship of the Council is held by Nigeria.
According to the guidelines laid down by WARDA’s constitution, the result of this important process will be announced by the Chair of WARDA’s Council of Ministers. The announcement is expected to be made in early summer at an extraordinary Council meeting in Nigeria.
Explaining this selection process, the Board took the opportunity to thank Dr Nwanze for his excellent leadership during the last 10 years during which WARDA came to be known as the premier rice R&D Center for Africa.
The Center is facing major challenges on one hand from the surge in demand for its services and products from different corners of Africa and beyond, spurred by NERICA’s ever-growing fame.
On the other hand, WARDA has to address the challenges from the changing external environment, such as CGIAR’s SSA strategy and the civil crisis in Ivory Coast, which hosts WARDA’s permanent headquarters. Since January 2005, the Center has been working from Benin, having temporarily relocated from its headquarters in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, because of the civil crisis there.
“The selection of the right kind of person at the helm, who will ably steer the Center in collaboration with strategic partners and maintain its world-class research momentum for the benefit of Africa’s poor, is very critical at this juncture,” Dr Nwanze said, as he thanked the Board for their strong support to him.
In line with the CGIAR WCA strategy for programmatic alignment, two Board members from IITA had been invited to take part in this significant WARDA Board meeting.