The Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) Board of Trustees has approved the Center’s Development Plan for 2014-2020, which proposes a stronger presence of the Center in Eastern and Central Africa in response to the growing demand from its member countries to enhance rice research and development (R&D) capacity in the two sub-regions.

“We approve the systematic expansion of AfricaRice’s operations in Eastern and Central Africa for effective implementation of its Strategic Plan 2011-2020,” the Board stated at its recent meeting in Cotonou, Benin. “The Center will continue to maintain an important presence in West Africa, while building up critical research mass in Eastern and Central Africa.”

AfricaRice is one of the 15 international agricultural research Centers that are members of the CGIAR Consortium. It is also an intergovernmental association of 25 African member countries. Its temporary headquarters is based in Cotonou, Benin; research and support staff members are also located in Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Center Development Plan, which is a companion document to the AfricaRice Strategic Plan 2011–2020, is based on the principles of decentralized mode of operation, long-term stable funding, strengthened capacity of AfricaRice scientists and national partners, and efficient support services.

The Plan anticipates that over the period 2014 – 2020, AfricaRice would return its Headquarters to Côte d’Ivoire and establish three Regional Centers, each focusing on specific groups of countries and rice environments and consisting of one or more stations, as follows:

Headquarters: Abidjan office and M’bé Station, Côte d’Ivoire

West Africa Regional Center: Ndiaye Station, Senegal (will host the regional representative); Cotonou Station, Benin; Ibadan Station, Nigeria; M’bé Station, Côte d’Ivoire

East and Southern Africa Regional Center: Dar es Salaam Station, Tanzania (will host the regional representative); Madagascar Station (exact location to be identified); Uganda Station (exact location to be identified).

Central Africa Regional Center: Location(s) under study with partners

The Center Development Plan is expected to improve operational efficiency and develop greater cohesion of AfricaRice’s activities, most of which will continue to be conducted under the umbrella of the CGIAR Research Program on Rice, known as the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), led globally by the International Rice Research Institute, with AfricaRice leading GRiSP activities in Africa.

“The Center Development Plan is a living document that will be reviewed regularly to ensure that AfricaRice can respond in a timely manner to new strategic choices and regional and global developments,” the Board observed.

Recent achievements

The Board reiterated its pride in the appointment of the former Director General Papa Abdoulaye Seck as the Senegal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment in September 2013. Thanks to him, AfricaRice has become a catalyst behind the remarkable visibility of the rice sector in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Board commended the Interim Director General Adama Traoré for ensuring a smooth transition with the support of AfricaRice Management and staff. In line with the resolutions of the 29th Session of AfricaRice Council of Ministers, the new Director General will be selected in September 2014 and will be in place by January 2015.

The Board was pleased with the successful organization of the 3rd Africa Rice Congress in October 2013 in Cameroon, which was attended by about 650 participants from 60 countries (including 35 African countries). The Congress issued a clarion call to increase investments in Africa’s rice sector as well as in rice-related research, extension and capacity building so that the continent can realize its rice promise.

Research program: The Board appreciated the strong pace of implementation of the AfricaRice Strategic Plan, which is nested within GRiSP. It took note of several key achievements in 2013/2014, which include the following:

Launch of a new generation of high-performing rice varieties under the ARICA (Advanced RICes for Africa) brand; to date 11 ARICAs, including climate-smart rice varieties, have been identified for the main rice ecologies

Release of a new reference book, “Realizing Africa’s Rice Promise,” which provides a comprehensive overview of Africa’s rice sector

Development of an automated monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system to help researchers track progress of R&D activities, outputs and outcomes

Development of decision support and diagnostic tools for rice extension workers and farmers

Establishment of the Africa-wide Rice Mechanization Task Force

Setting up of 68 Rice Sector Development Hubs across 24 countries to concentrate R&D efforts and connect partners along the rice value chain

Technical support provided to several member countries to operationalize their national rice development strategies

Launch of the Rice eHub for stimulating knowledge exchange in and beyond the Rice Hubs

Financial management: The Board was pleased with the continued improvement in the financial health and stability of the Center. It commended the Management for the sound and prudent management of the Center’s resources.

Planning for return to Côte d’Ivoire

The Board approved the Center’s plan for a phased return to Côte d’Ivoire in keeping with the resolution of the Council of Ministers. It noted that progress had been made in the discussions with the Ivorian Government.

Board matters

The Board extended a warm welcome to new Board members: Lala Razafinjara, Director General, Centre national de recherche appliquée au développement rural (FOFIFA), Madagascar; Sylvie Mbog, Chair, Organisme de développement d’études de formation et de conseils (ODECO), Cameroon; and Gordon MacNeil, Chair, XCG International Consulting Group, Inc., Canada.

It bade a fond farewell to Yo Tiemoko, former Board Vice Chair; Barbara Becker, former Board Program Committee Chair; and Fatouma Seyni, former Board member, thanking them for their outstanding services to the Board and the Center.

“For AfricaRice, the period has been one of growth and landmark achievements,” the Board Chair Peter Matlon said at the end of the meeting, thanking the Management and staff for their dedication. “We are also very grateful to all our donors and partners for their continued support and commitment to improving the lives of resource-poor rice farmers in Africa.”

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