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Overwhelming Optimism for the Future of Rice in Africa as the First Africa Rice Congress Gets Underway

Cotonou, Benin —  World-renowned researchers attending the first Africa Rice Congress are confident that a rice-based Green Revolution in Africa is achievable and can be accelerated through strong partnership among national and international research centers, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and policy-makers.

African policy-makers were urged to put in place the right policies and infrastructure to maximize the potential of rice, which can play a major role in lifting Africa out of poverty. At the same time, scientists were exhorted to initiate dialogue with policy-makers in order to bring to their attention the importance and implications of rice research and development for their constituencies.

As the experts embarked on discussions to chart the way forward for rice research in Africa, optimism and goodwill marked the opening day of the Congress that is being held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 31 July – 4 August 2006.

Thanking WARDA for selecting Tanzania to hold the First Rice Congress, the Honorable Joseph Mungai, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives, Government of Tanzanzia, who inaugurated the Congress, said, ”African Governments need to focus on such African centers of excellence that are already doing world-class research, such as the Africa Rice Center(WARDA).”

The achievements of WARDA’s partnership-based research, especially its New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties, innovative partnership models and international awards, were enthusiastically acclaimed at the Congress.

“We are just witnessing the beginning of the NERICA revolution in Africa,” stated Prof. K Otsuka, a leading Agricultural Economist and Chair of the Board of Trustees of theInternational Rice Research Institute (IRRI), who is a strong advocate of IRRI-WARDA research partnership to improve rice productivity in Africa, particularly in Eastern Africa.

The tone of the Congress was set in motion by a Round Table discussion on the first day, led by an eminent group of panelists under the chairmanship of Dr R Wang, IRRI Deputy Director General for Research. The panelists included, in addition to Prof. Otsuka:

  • Prof. R Oniang’o, Member of Parliament, and Founder of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development
  • Prof. E Tollens, an authority on agricultural economics, from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium;
  • World Food Prize Laureate Dr G S Khush, who was a major force behind the Green Revolution in Asia;
  • Prof. S McCouch, from Cornell University, who played a central role in creating the rice genome map;
  • Prof R Musangi, former WARDA Board Chair, from Kenya
  • Dr M Bokanga, a leading food scientist and Executive Director of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Kenya;
  • Dr M Quinones, Africa Director of Sasakawa-Global 2000;
  • Dr O Niangado, Delegate from Syngenta Foundation, from Mali;
  • Prof. K Sibuga, Associate Professor, Sokoine University, Tanzania;
  • Prof. T. Wakatsuki, soil science specialist from Kinki University, Japan;
  • Dr S Keya, WARDA Assistant Director General for Research;

The Round Table session provided a valuable platform to brainstorm on some of the critical issues relating to rice research and production in Africa. Through the exchange of information and viewpoints between the panelists and the rest of the participants, the challenges and opportunities relating to rice R&D were examined.

The issues centered around six themes:

  1. Current trends of rice production, consumption and trade in sub-Saharan Africa
  2. The NERICA experience
  3. What can Africa learn from the Asian Green Revolution
  4. Current constraints and thrusts for rice production and research in sub-Saharan Africa
  5. Maximizing partnerships in rice R&D
  6. Policy implications

The Round Table discussions will serve as a contextual framework for the technical presentations and deliberations that will take place during the next few days of the Congress. This, as well as the issues raised by the presentations made during the first day, notably by WARDA Director General Kanayo F. Nwanze, will also help the participants draw up the key declarations and resolutions that will be made at the end of the Congress.

About 175 participants from all over the world, particularly from West, East and Central Africa, are attending the Congress, which is organized by WARDA under the aegis of theTanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives, with support from USAIDCanadian Fund for AfricaSasakawa Africa AssociationCORAFASARECAEuropean Union and theRockefeller Foundation. The ROCARIZ rice network in West Africa and the ECARRN rice network in Eastern and Central Africa have been instrumental in coordinating this Congress.

Tanzania was selected as the venue, because it is the largest rice-producing country after Madagascar in Eastern and Southern Africa. Its rice research program at the Mwabagole Station, which began its activities in the 1930s, is among the earliest rice programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

About AfricaRice

AfricaRice is a CGIAR Research Center – part of a global research partnership for a food-secure future. It is also an intergovernmental association of African member countries.

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