Excited by the work of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) and its partners on the development of new stress-tolerant and climate-resilient technologies for major rice production systems in Africa, the Chair of the AfricaRice Board of Trustees Dr. Peter Matlon stated at the recent Board meeting, “We believe that rice research in Africa provides a strong case for investment.”
The work includes marker-assisted selection for tolerance to important yield-limiting and yield-reducing stresses, such as salinity, drought, cold, iron toxicity, rice yellow mottle virus and rice blast as well as component technologies to increase labor, nutrient and water productivities to close yield gaps and reduce risks in farmers’ fields. Several of these technological options are already being tested in participation with farmers.
The Board described AfricaRice’s new product-oriented 10-year strategic plan, which presents a clear vision of success to help Africa achieve almost 90% self-sufficiency in rice by year 2020, as “a compelling and convincing agenda for realizing Africa’s tremendous rice potential.”
The current thrusts of AfricaRice were recognized by the Board as signs of a new vitality and resurgence of rice research in Africa. These include (1) Evidence-based policy advocacy; (2) The establishment of ‘Rice Sector Development Hubs’ to conduct proof-of-concept work with public and private sector partners to develop competitive, equitable and sustainable rice value chains tailored to market demand; (3) Focused research product development to enable sustainable intensification and diversification of rice-based systems (varieties, agronomic options, mechanization); and (4) Strengthening of the capacities of national rice research and extension communities and rice value-chain actors.
In particular, AfricaRice’s strategic vision and leadership, diversified partnership and sound financial management were highlighted by the Board, based on the following indicators:
- Significant increase in average annual contribution of member countries to AfricaRice
- Increase in reserve funds that contribute to financial stability and efficient management of risks
- Increase in the volume of joint projects with national partners
- Increase in the number of PhD students (43 in 2011 compared with 9 in 2006) and MSc/DEA students ( 51 in 2011 compared with 5 in 2006)
- Increase in the number of workshops and training programs to build Africa’s research and development capacity relating to rice
- Launch of the CGIAR Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) activities in Africa under the leadership of AfricaRice
- Launch of the Africa-wide Rice Task Forces
- Strategic alliance forged with the African Union, and
- Winning of several international and regional awards, including the Japan International Award for Young Researchers
“Our ambition is to maintain high standards of excellence at all levels and to keep in mind that AfricaRice can achieve its mission only through strong national agricultural research systems and strategic partnerships worldwide in order to bring the best efforts of rice science to bear on the immense challenge of food security faced by Africa,” said AfricaRice Director General Dr. Papa Abdoulaye Seck .
Gratefully acknowledging the strong support of donors and partners, particularly the member countries of AfricaRice, the Board concluded that rice research in Africa was on the right track.
AfricaRice is an intergovernmental research association of 24 African member countries. It is also a member of the CGIAR Consortium.