The recent news of unprecedented growth rates of rice production and productivity in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) based on an analysis of independent data by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) coupled with a remarkable upturn in the funding of the Center were highlighted as “historic developments in rice R&D in SSA” by the AfricaRice Board of Trustees at its just-concluded meeting.
“Research by AfricaRice and its partners has contributed significantly to the surge in rice production and yield in terms of policy advice, improved seed and cropping practices, technical information and knowledge, capacity development and support to the development of rice markets and value chains in SSA,” the Board stated.
“We are also extremely proud of the Director General Dr Papa Seck and the staff of AfricaRice for their successful resource mobilization efforts, which have led to a tripling of the Center’s budget since 2006, when Dr Seck took up his functions,” the Board announced.
“In 2013, AfricaRice’s budget went up by 41% compared to last year, which is the single largest increase in the history of the Center,” remarked the Board. “We are very grateful to the donors who have made this increase possible, as it will ensure that we can maintain the highest quality programs while expanding our efforts and impacts across Africa.”
Explaining that investments in rice R&D in SSA are paying off, the Board observed, “We fully deserve the confidence of donors and we will do everything possible to live up to their trust and the expectations of rice stakeholders in SSA by continuing to demonstrate excellence, effectiveness, accountability, and transparency at all levels.”
The Board highlighted a number of notable accomplishments of the Center, among them:
- Impressive quality of science of high relevance to AfricaRice member countries
- 40% increase in the number of training workshops organized by AfricaRice, with 64% increase in the number of national participants, including 50% increase in women participants in 2012 compared to 2011
- 20% increase in publications by AfricaRice and its national partners in scientific journals in 2012 compared to 2011
- Increase in the number of PhD students from 43 in 2011 to 46 in 2012 and MSc students from 51 to 56
- Launching of the Rice Sector Development Hubs across Africa – an innovative approach to achieve development impacts at scale. So far, 56 Hubs in 20 African countries have been selected by national partners.
- Sustained efforts to develop the next generation of rice scientists in the continent through donor-supported training programs and the Africa-wide Rice Task Force mechanism
- Targeted support to specific countries with special needs to assist them in the development of their rice sector, in addition to addressing the regional and continental priorities in rice research for development
- Active leadership in implementing activities of the CGIAR Research Program on Rice – the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) – in Africa
- Increased visibility and recognition through international science awards and national honors
As part of AfricaRice’s new vision and strategy to decentralize its activities across the continent to be able to more effectively address the needs of different countries, rice ecologies and market environments, the development plan of the Center was discussed and relevant recommendations were made regarding its implementation.
The Board analyzed the feasibility of a phased return of AfricaRice’s headquarters to Côte d’Ivoire and took note of the engagement of the Ivoirian Government. The Director General was encouraged to pursue this issue with the Government.
After examining matters relating to governance, financial management, business continuity, risk management and gender, the Board made recommendations to further improve the quality and performance of AfricaRice. The Center’s new policy on Intellectual Assets was approved.
The Board extended a warm welcome to Prof. Eric Tollens, an internationally renowned agricultural economist from Belgium, as a new Board member. “Prof. Tollens’ breadth of experience and in-depth knowledge of both rice in Africa and AfricaRice will be invaluable to us,” declared the Board.
It bade a fond farewell to Mr Engida Getachew, former Board Chair and member, thanking him for his outstanding service and guidance to the Center during a challenging period.
The Board gratefully acknowledged the generous support of AfricaRice donors and the close collaboration of its national and international partners. It recognized the strong leadership of the Center and the dedication of its highly motivated staff. “AfricaRice is well positioned to meet the challenges ahead,” the Board concluded.