The 39th meeting of AfricaRice Board of Trustees was held, 21-24 March 2016, and represented the first time that the Trustees met at the Center’s new Headquarters building in Abidjan. Under the chairmanship of Dr Peter Matlon, the Trustees expressed satisfaction with progress in the renovation of the Headquarters building and with the level of occupancy by staff members, thereby signaling completion of the first phase of AfricaRice’s return to Côte d’Ivoire.
The Chair reported on his activities since the Board’s September 2015 meeting, focusing both on issues that were directly Center-related and those associated with the on-going reform of the CGIAR in which he played an increasingly active role.
Dr Harold Roy-Macauley presented the Director General’s report highlighting activities of the senior management team during the preceding six months. The Board was informed of solid progress across a range of advocacy initiatives, including efforts to raise political support for rice research in the region which have resulted in an African Union decision to hold a Rice Summit in 2016.
This will involve AfricaRice working in partnership with the Africa Union Commission, theNEPAD Agency, the African Development Bank and FAO, and reporting back to the African Union Assembly of Heads of State during their January 2017 meeting.
The Director General reported good progress in resource mobilization with several traditional partners and recent initiatives with new development partners such as the Syngenta Foundation and the Office Chérifien de Phosphates of Morocco.
Management explained that a new invigorated resource mobilization strategy was aimed at helping to mitigate the impacts of dwindling resources received through Windows 1 and 2 from the CGIAR Fund Council.
Reporting on the transition to Côte d’Ivoire, Dr Roy-Macauley indicated that the move of administrative and senior management staff to Abidjan had been completed, and that the transfer of research staff to Bouaké and the Center’s 700 hectares’ station at M’Bé was underway and expected to remain on schedule through the end of 2016.
Management briefed the Trustees on several impressive advances being made in the implementation of the Center’s programs – including the activities of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), in monitoring, evaluation and impact analyses, data archiving, the projects on “Rapid mobilization of alleles for rice cultivar improvement in sub-Saharan Africa (RAM)” and the “Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA).
Management underscored outstanding achievements of the Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project working through the Rice Hubs to accelerate delivery of improved technologies to rural rice producers and entrepreneurs across the rice value chain.
The Board was also briefed on the Center’s reoriented and updated rice breeding program aimed at strengthening AfricaRice’s product-oriented (or demand-led) development of rice varieties suited to market situations. Given the reduced funding for breeding, management posited that the new approaches would enhance the efficiency and impacts of the Center’s breeding programs and of the Africa-wide rice breeding Task Force.
The new approach was also expected to contribute to strengthening rice seed systems since it would stimulate uptake of improved rice varieties, including the new generation of ARICAvarieties recently developed by the Center.
The Board examined impacts of system-level funding cuts on the 2016 Center budget. Following analysis of management’s plans for reducing the center’s budget deficit for 2016, combined with analyses of revenue and expenditure projections through 2018, the Board expressed confidence that the senior management team was taking appropriate steps to ensure resources were being prudently managed, and approved the 2016 budget.
The Board Chair designate Prof. Eric Tollens, accompanied by Prof. Seraphin Kati-Coulibaly, the Ivorian representative on the Board and the Director General Dr Roy-Macauley, paid a courtesy visit to the new Ivorian Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research, Prof. Ramata Bakayoko-Ly.
Prof. Tollens, on behalf of the Board, expressed gratitude to the Government and people of Côte d’Ivoire for their continued support to AfricaRice during the Center’s full return to the country. Particular gratitude was expressed to the Minister for the Center’s new Headquarters building, offered to AfricaRice by the Government.
Prof. Tollens also underlined the importance of the Minister’s personal commitment and follow-up to ensure that the funds pledged to AfricaRice by the Ivorian government to facilitate the Center’s return was released during the current fiscal year. The Honorable Minister thanked the AfricaRice delegation and promised to do all within her power to ensure that the government honored its pledge.
During a closing ceremony attended by all AfricaRice Headquarters-based staff members the outgoing Board Chair, Dr Peter Matlon handed over the Board chairmanship to Prof. Eric Tollens, and thanked fellow Trustees for their cooperation in making his tenure successful. He also expressed gratitude to management and staff of the Center for the productive outcomes of working with them.
Dr Matlon served a full six-year mandate as a trustee, during which he served five years as the Chair of the Board. Dr Matlon and Ms Thenjiwe Chikane, the outgoing Audit Committee Chair, were honored with plaques for their services as Trustees to the Board of AfricaRice.
Dr Marco Wopereis, the outgoing DDG/DR4D, was similarly honored for his more than eight years meritorious service to AfricaRice. The closing ceremony featured glowing citations for the 2016 Dr Robert Carsky award winners, Ms Gisele Dago, a General Support Staff member, and to Dr Olupomi Ajayi, an Internationally Recruited Staff member. It was recalled that AfricaRice instituted the Carsky award to honor the contribution and dedication of the late Dr Robert Carsky, who served as Agronomist at AfricaRice.
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