Friday, December 17, 2010

BADEA and AfricaRice join forces to help build Africa’s capacity in rice R&D

For the 2nd year in a row, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and AfricaRice teamed up to strengthen Africa’s capacity in integrated rice management (IRM), to bridge yield gaps in farmers’ fields and raise rice production in the region.

As part of this, two training courses – one for English-speaking countries (15-26 November) and another for French-speaking countries (6-17 December) – were organized in Benin. The courses not only provided a foundation in IRM, but also gave young national researchers an opportunity to establish research partnerships among themselves and within the international research networks early in their careers.

More than 50 researchers and extension staff, including 20 women, from 20 countries across Africa took part in this year’s BADEA-AfricaRice Training course. The participating countries comprised Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.

Explaining the importance of this course, AfricaRice Deputy Director General Dr Marco Wopereis said, “Knowledge of IRM is crucial to bridge gaps that currently exist between actual farmers’ yields and attainable yields through better crop management and to fully exploit the potential of improved varieties.”

AfricaRice’s manuals on IRM based on the participatory learning and action research (PLAR) approach developed by the Center were used by the facilitators. Participants were also exposed to AfricaRice’s training videos and radio programs.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

AfricaRice receives the South-South Cooperation Excellence Award 2010

AfricaRice was presented the South-South Cooperation Excellence Award 2010 at the just-concluded Third Annual Global South-South Development Expo in Geneva, Switzerland, for its NERICA rice varieties for the upland ecology (18 varieties) and for the lowland ecology (60 varieties), which were recognized as an innovative development option from the South.

On behalf of AfricaRice, Dr Inussa Akintayo received the award presented by Mr Yiping Zhou, Director, Special Unit for South-South Cooperation in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Dr Josephine Ojiambo, President of the UN General Assembly High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Director General of AfricaRice. “NERICA varieties have shown how science-based options can improve food security, reduce foreign exchange costs and improve the lives of poor farmers in Africa.”

With nearly 40% of Africa’s total rice consumption coming from the international market, African national rice economies are more exposed to unpredictable external supply and price shocks than elsewhere. The continent is especially vulnerable because of its high prevalence of poverty and food insecurity.

Adapted to the agro-ecological conditions in Africa and uniquely suited to smallholder rice farmers, NERICA varieties for the upland and lowland ecologies have been developed by AfricaRice researchers in close collaboration with many partners, particularly the national programs.

“The NERICA varieties are now grown in more than 700,000 hectares across Africa and since they are self-pollinating, farmers can keep the seed from year to year,” explained Dr Akintayo, who is spearheading the promotion of improved rice varieties in the region through the Center’s African Rice Initiative, with support mainly from Japan, UNDP and the African Development Bank.

Organized by the United Nations each year since 2008, the Global South-South Development Expo provides a forum to enable developing countries and their development partners, including donor agencies, organizations of the United Nations system, and private-sector and civil society organizations, to showcase their evidence-based South-South development solutions.

The Third Annual Global South-South Development Expo was attended by more than 400 delegates from over 40 countries and over 100 innovative solutions that can help achieve the Millennium Development Goals were showcased.

AfricaRice was invited to take part in the Expo as well as in the High-Level Meeting on South-South and Triangular Cooperation, which was organized to facilitate knowledge sharing of best practices in South-South and triangular cooperation and discussion of common challenges and innovative methods of capacity development.

Friday, December 10, 2010

EC-funded project in West Africa shows successful multi-stakeholder involvement in inland valleys

The establishment of multi-platform players at the village level – in southwestern Benin and in the circle of Sikasso in Mali – and the strong involvement of stakeholders are already positive signs of the successful management of land development by the actors themselves.

This was the verdict of the participants who attended the final workshop of the first phase of the European Commission-funded 2-year project “Realizing the agricultural potential of inland valley lowlands in sub-Saharan Africa while maintaining their environmental services (RAP).” The workshop was held, 7-10 December 2010, in Cotonou, Benin.

The project seeks to improve the livelihood of the rural poor by enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of inland valleys through sustainable intensification and diversification of agricultural productivity and product value chain development, while conserving land and water resources.

Over 50 participants presented and discussed the results obtained in the first phase and made recommendations to identify methods and tools capable of ensuring the national and regional dissemination of technological innovations, institutional and socio-economic improvements to enhance the sustainable productivity of rice in the inland valleys and improve the lives and livelihoods of all the actors along the value chain.

The participants included partners involved in the project from France, Mali, Netherlands and Benin (AfricaRice, IITA, CIRAD, WUR, IER, INRAB, UAC-FSA ICRA); experts from Africa (Burkina Faso and Togo); development specialists; project managers (FAFA PAFIRIZ Benin) and institutions for agricultural development (CERP Department), NGOs, and government representatives.

This plurality of actors reflects the commitment of RAP to involve the entire range of stakeholders in the participatory learning and action research (PLAR) process.

At the workshop, 25 papers and 14 posters were presented, structured around three sessions:

• Success Factors of increased development of lowland
• Intensification and diversification in rice systems
• Development of value chains of agricultural systems based on rice

The meeting included a field trip to the inland valleys of Dogbo and Houinga in the Mono-Couffo area in Benin. It allowed participants to interact with the villagers and to evaluate in situ the relevance of the participatory process around the multi-platforms actors.

The participants were honored that Dr Lynn Haight, a member of the Board of Directors of the CGIAR Consortium to Benin, who was visiting AfricaRice during that period, joined the field trip.

The workshop concluded that a great deal of knowledge and experience has been gained and collaborations initiated with partners in development projects. The next step is to document this knowledge in scientific publications and produce tools that will facilitate decision-making (videos, agro-socio-economic geo-referenced databases on inland valleys, etc.) in partnership with the development actors. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Aligning with Global Rice Science Partnership

AfricaRice is an important partner in the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), which is a bold new rice research initiative that aims to lift 150 million people out of poverty by 2035 through partnership-based research and more ecoefficient production systems that are more resilient to climate change.

GRiSP was launched as the first new Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Program in November 2010 in Vietnam at the International Rice Congress, which was attended by a delegation from AfricaRice led by the Director General Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck.

Describing the potential impact of this global partnership for Africa, where rice is the fastest growing food staple, Dr Seck said, “It will help reduce Africa’s current reliance on rice imports by developing its huge potential to grow more rice.”

The main architects of GRiSP are three CGIAR Centers (IRRI, AfricaRice and CIAT), CIRAD, IRD, and JIRCAS which will play a strategic role in GRiSP, with hundreds of other partners worldwide representing governments, the private sector and civil society.

IRRI will lead this initiative and also oversee the activities in Asia; AfricaRice will lead the work in Africa, and CIAT in the Latin America & Caribbean region.

GRiSP will work with quantitative impact targets and develop 26 product lines through six research for development themes:

(1) harnessing genetic diversity to chart new productivity, quality, and health horizons;
(2) accelerating the development, delivery, and adoption of improved rice varieties;
(3) ecological and sustainable management of rice-based production systems;
(4) extracting more value from rice harvests through improved quality, processing, market systems, and new products;
(5) technology evaluations, targeting, and policy options for enhanced impact; and
(6) supporting the growth of the global rice sector.

“Our research structure broadly corresponds to these themes, so it is relatively easy for us to align our research activities to the GRiSP mode,” commented AfricaRice Deputy Director General Dr Marco Wopereis at the AfricaRice Research Days, held in December 2010, in Benin.

AfricaRice lays the groundwork for setting new research priorities

AfricaRice scientists and their partners attending the Center’s Research Days, 29 November to 2 December 2010, began an important exercise to set new research priorities as part of the Strategic Plan that the Center is developing.

Based on household- and village-level datasets collected from more than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the participants were asked to give their best estimates on possible research options that would address some of the constraints identified in these surveys; associated costs and benefits; and the likelihood of success in developing such options.

“The priority setting exercise will be a consultative process that will involve not only rice experts from AfricaRice and its member States, but also our strategic partners and key stakeholders,” said Dr Aliou Diagne, who is leading this exercise.