28 March 2007, COTONOU, Benin — At its just-concluded meeting, the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) Board of Trustees strongly endorsed the process of harmonization of specific activities of the Center with those of the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
WARDA is joining forces with IRRI and CIAT as part of a new wave of partnership aimed to create a strong synergy for rice research in Africa.
To improve resource efficiency, WARDA and IITA-Cotonou are adopting common corporate services for the activities at the IITA research station in Benin, where WARDA’s temporary headquarters is based.
WARDA, IRRI, CIAT and IITA are Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
The WARDA Board endorsed these bold new directions in inter-Center alliance, based on mutual respect, while reasserting WARDA’s integrity and special status as an inter-governmental association of African member states.
“I am happy to state that the new vision presented to the Board by the WARDA Director General Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck emphasizes these strategic alliances because he believes strongly that it would be impossible for any single organization to implement an effective research agenda in Africa,” said WARDA Board Chair Mr Gaston Grenier.
Mr Grenier described this Board meeting as “very special”, because for the first time, on WARDA’s invitation, IRRI representatives—Board Chair Dr Keijiro Otsuka and two Board members, Dr Ronald L. Phillips and Prof. Ruth K. Oniang’o—took part in this meeting as observers.
“This testifies to IRRI’s firm commitment to work closely with WARDA,” remarked Dr Otsuka, who is a strong advocate for IRRI-WARDA partnership for Africa.
Taking into account the comparative advantages of WARDA and IRRI, five thematic areas have been identified for joint research on rice: genomics, seed, policy, post-harvest, and commodity chain.
Senior scientists from both Centers have already started attending each other’s research planning meetings and joint proposals have been submitted to donors. “The IRRI-WARDA partnership is advancing well,” said WARDA Board Chair Mr Gaston Grenier.
Mr Grenier also expressed the Board’s satisfaction in the steps taken to set up common corporate services for WARDA and IITA at the Cotonou research station. “We are grateful to the CGIAR for its support to this exercise, which is expected to be over by September 2007.” He appreciated that WARDA scientists were benefiting from sharing IITA’s biocontrol research facilities in Cotonou.
The Board warmly welcomed the two new Board members who are common to IITA and WARDA: Dr Barbara Becker from Germany and Dr Adama Traoré from Mali.
The other new WARDA Board members—Dr Tsekede Abate from Ethiopia, Dr Getachew Engida from UK and Dr Kiyoaki Maruyama from Japan—also received a special welcome from WARDA.
The Board meeting was made even more significant by the presence of two representatives of the WARDA External Program and Management Review (EPMR) Panel: Prof. Eric Tollens, Panel Chair and Dr Pammi Sachdeva, Panel member for Governance. WARDA is going through its fifth EPMR this year.
The other highlights of the meeting include some important announcements, notably:
- Launching of a post-MSc internship program: The Board applauded Dr Seck’s new initiative to launch a 2-year internship program for African MSc students to work at WARDA. This would not only increase the critical mass of scientists at WARDA, but would also develop the scientific capacity of African countries.
- High-level advocacy: WARDA is developing a strategy in association with partners to influence African policy-makers to make greater investments in agriculture and agricultural research.
- Endorsement of the WCA MTP: The Board praised the progress made in the West & Central Africa Regional Plan for Collective Action and suggested ways to advance the process.
- Streamlining of the WARDA research structure: The WARDA research structure has been simplified and thematic groups established to further increase the Center’s research efficiency and quality.
- Status of facilities at WARDA’s headquarters in Côte d’Ivoire: The facilities, including the genebank, are intact and well-maintained. The experimental fields are being used for large-scale NERICA seed multiplication for distribution to national programs.
At the end of the meeting, the Board thanked the outgoing Board members, Mrs Mary U. B. Mokwunye from Nigeria and Prof. Takeshi Horie from Japan for their valuable contribution to the Center.
The Board took the opportunity to congratulate WARDA for winning recently the prestigious United Nations Award for South-South Triangular Partnership. Individual WARDA staff members and post-doctoral fellows who had been singled out for their achievements were also felicitated.