As part of a global program on rice science that has laid out concrete and quantifiable key impacts to benefit the poor, the hungry, and the environment in the next 25 years, rice experts in Africa have adopted a more interdisciplinary and product-oriented approach in order to deliver greater development impacts.
The innovative program known as the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) aims to mobilize the very best of the world’s rice science and involve the widest range of stakeholders possible in the technology generation and dissemination process to address, among others, Africa’s major rice development challenges.
“We acknowledge the urgency to conduct research activities differently – to do more and to do better, given the increasing poverty throughout the world,” stated AfricaRice Director General Dr. Papa Abdoulaye Seck. “GRiSP proposes a new global approach to research and we are part of this program.”
Laying emphasis on the need for pooling intelligence to better exploit the comparative advantages of all the partners to address more efficiently the constraints to rice production, Dr. Seck spelt out 10 conditions that are essential for GRiSP to become a successful program and ensure a high degree of satisfaction among rice farmers and consumers throughout the world.
The conditions include the need to respect the diversity of partnerships, regional differences and institutional identities in the GRiSP, while rejecting “hegemonic thinking.” “It is only the synthesis of these differences that will make us move forward,” Dr. Seck said at the recent GRiSP-Africa Science Forum held at AfricaRice in Cotonou, Benin.
The conditions also specify the need for equitable resource allocation based on the real requirements of the various regions; the urgency to strengthen the capacity of African stakeholders; the significant role of the national partners within the GRiSP; the importance of continuous dialog with policy-makers; and the need to avoid bureaucracy as well as excessive evaluation where scientists spend more time writing reports than doing research.
The GRiSP-Africa Science Forum, which was attended by over 100 international and national rice experts, including representatives of all the key partners, reviewed the progress made by GRiSP in Africa in 2011. The results focused on the development of new research products – ranging from gene discovery to small combine harvesters and policy briefs for decision-makers – grouped under six GRiSP themes.
“We saw some exciting progress in marker-assisted selection (MAS) work on resistance to rice diseases and pests and salinity. This work is very valuable in the context of the changing climate in the continent,” said AfricaRice Deputy Director General & Director of Research for Development Dr. Marco Wopereis.
“This research activity involves many experts, not only from AfricaRice and its national and regional partners, but also from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the French Research Institute for Development (IRD), the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) and other advanced research institutes. It is therefore an excellent example of how GRiSP works as it helps leverage global expertise to solve Africa’s rice problems.”
Dr. Marco Wopereis also highlighted the major shift in focus from supply-driven research where the emphasis is mainly on increasing rice production to more demand- or market-driven research, where the attention is given to the entire rice value chain.
Launched in November 2010, GRiSP is the first CGIAR Research Program (CRP) to be approved. It operates under the overall leadership of IRRI, which also oversees the activities in Asia; AfricaRice is leading the work in Africa, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in the Latin America & Caribbean region.
The French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), IRD and JIRCAS are playing a strategic role in GRiSP, with hundreds of other partners worldwide representing governments, the private sector, farmers’ organizations and civil society.
Dr. Achim Dobermann, IRRI Deputy Director General for Research & GRiSP Program Director, who took an active part in the GRiSP-Africa Science Forum, expressed his satisfaction with the progress made by the Africa-based team in 2011, particularly with regard to the new way of doing research.
“We live in a globalized world and we can move much faster if we can learn from each other and incorporate that knowledge into our own thinking. And this learning goes in all directions – from Asia to Africa, from Africa to Asia, from Africa to Latin America and so on,” Dr. Dobermann explained.
In his capacity as the outgoing Chair of the AfricaRice National Experts Committee, Dr. Babou Jobe, Director General of the National Agriculture Research Institute, The Gambia, confirmed “100 percent support” to GRiSP, particularly its major thrust on strengthening national capacity. He was pleased to learn that one third of the Global Rice Science Scholarships had gone to African students in 2011.