01 April 2008, COTONOU, Benin —
Deeply concerned by issues such as climate change and soaring rice prices, particularly in relation to their impacts on Africa, the Board of Trustees of the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) at its recent meeting approved the new research directions proposed by the Center to urgently address these challenges.
“This meeting was particularly special because we focused most of our attention on WARDA’s new Strategic Plan that is being developed at a crucial moment to respond to the fast-changing environment of the rice sector in Africa,” the Board Chair said.
The Strategic Plan will reflect the Center’s new vision and its development will be based on close consultations with the National Experts Committee (NEC) comprising the Directors General of national programs of WARDA’s 21 member states as well as with various other partners.
As part of the new strategy, a streamlined research structure consisting of four inter-related programs was proposed by the Center and approved by the Board. These programs will be complemented by the System-wide Initiative of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) on Inland Valley Consortium, which is convened by WARDA.
The Board announced that it was setting up an external Scientific Advisory Committee consisting of three top-caliber experts to help its Program Committee provide in-depth guidance on the technical quality of research undertaken by WARDA. This innovative mechanism was introduced in response to the recommendations of WARDA’s Fifth External Program and Management Review.
The Board commended the Center for the tangible progress made, particularly in the following areas:
- Significant increase in member country contribution: Thanks to sustained advocacy, the member country contribution to WARDA in 2007 reached an unprecedented level.
- Historic expansion in membership: Four countries from central and eastern Africa – Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Uganda – joined WARDA in 2007, bringing the number of member countries from 17 to 21. In addition, Egypt’s application is under consideration by the Council of Ministers of WARDA.
- Alignment with CGIAR Centers for increased efficiency: The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) and WARDA signed a memorandum of understanding in 2007 to align their rice research programs in Africa. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and WARDA have aligned their Corporate Services in Cotonou, Benin.
- Improved financial health: The number of days of reserve increased from 109 in 2007 to 141 in 2008, while the 2008 budget increased by 15% compared to 2007.
The Board was particularly happy with the gradual improvement in the overall resource mobilization efforts. It approved the 2008 working budget and a prudent investment policy for WARDA.
New Board Chair, Vice Chair
The Board announced the appointment of Mr Getachew Engida from UK/Ethiopia as the new Board Chair and Dr Adama Traoré from Mali as the new Vice-Chair.
Mr Engida is the Director and Comptroller, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in France and Dr Traoré is the Executive Secretary of the Malian Council for Agricultural Research (CNRA).
On behalf of the Board and WARDA staff, the Director General Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck conveyed his deep appreciation to the outgoing Chair Mr Gaston Grenier for his leadership since 2005. “Fortunately for WARDA, Mr Grenier will continue to be a Board member until the end of his second term,” stated Dr Seck.
A warm welcome was extended to three new members – Dr Fatouma Seyni, Docteur-Ingénieur in Soil Science, National Agricultural Research Institute of Niger (INRAN); Dr Yo Tiémoko, Director General, National Center of Agricultural Research of Côte d’Ivoire (CNRA); and Mr Momodou Ceesay from The Gambia (member country representative from the private sector).
The Board and staff bade a fond farewell to three members, including two WARDA “veterans” — the outgoing Vice-Chair Dr Clémentine Dabiré from Burkina Faso and Dr Rémi Pochat from France – and host country representative Dr Bamba Gué from Côte d’Ivoire. “Their service to WARDA has been invaluable and I am sure they will continue to be WARDA’s goodwill ambassadors in their countries,” said Dr Seck.