3 March 2008, COTONOU, Benin —
National and international rice specialists are taking part in a meeting to launch a multi-million dollar project on “Stress-tolerant rice for poor farmers in Africa and South Asia” at theAfrica Rice Center (WARDA), Cotonou, Benin, 5–7 March 2008.
The project, which will be carried out by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partners, has been approved for funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through a grant to IRRI for US$19.9 million over three years.
The Africa component of this project proposal was developed by IRRI in partnership with the Africa Rice Center, which will be its main partner in implementing this component. Both IRRI and the Africa Rice Center are supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
The project targets resource-poor rice farmers in Africa and Asia, who produce their crop under rainfed conditions, in which drought, flooding, and salinity reduce yields and harm their livelihoods.
The project aims to make available to such farmers improved, stress-tolerant rice varieties, which in complement with improved management practices, is expected to bring about a 50% increase in yield in farmers’ fields within the next 10 years.
The project is expected to benefit at least 400,000 households in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in the short term and 18 million households in the long term. In addition, the project aims to build the capacity of researchers and seed producers and promote the exchange of seed of stress-tolerant rice varieties.
The project member countries in Africa comprise Benin, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal in West Africa as well as Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda in eastern and southern Africa.
National program scientists from all the project member countries have been invited to the launching meeting, which will be inaugurated by His Excellency, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Government of Benin.
The scientists and the Directors General of the Africa Rice Center and IRRI are attending. IRRI’s delegation includes about 20 participants from its headquarters in the Philippines and its representatives from eastern and southern Africa.
Dr David Bergvinson, a program officer in Agricultural Development for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is also taking part in this meeting. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) will be represented by Dr Issoufou Kapran, Program Officer for Seed Production and Dissemination.
Other special invitees include:
- The Directors General of national programs in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo;
- Key development partners from non-governmental and private sector organizations (SG 2000 from Ethiopia, African Seed Trade Association, Songhai Center and Tundefrom Benin); and
- Local and regional farmers’ associations in West Africa (ROPPA)
The first day of the meeting (5 March) will be devoted to the project launching ceremony, overviews and visits to the research facilities of the Africa Rice Center.
The second and third days (6-7 March) will be used to develop work-plans. A field visit to the non-governmental organization “Songhai Center” in Benin is scheduled for 8 March.