Saturday, May 7, 2016

AfricaRice training center for rice value chain actors inaugurated

A training center set up by AfricaRice to provide vocational training to rice value chain actors was inaugurated today in Saint Louis, Senegal, by His Excellency Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Senegal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment.

The training center has been set up with strong support from the Government of Senegal, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the African Development Bank.

As an association of member states and an international CGIAR Center, AfricaRice seeks to respond to the priorities of its member countries on issues relating to the development of the rice sector. One of the most pressing challenges for the African countries is youth unemployment, which is among the main obstacles to development in the region.

The youth population in Africa is exploding.  With almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, the continent has the world’s youngest population. And this figure is expected to double by 2045. Many rural young men and women are migrating to cities or emigrating from Africa to escape poverty.

African countries and the international community are increasingly realizing that investing in the rural youth is vital to reduce poverty, hunger and rural exodus.

Agriculture is an area of great opportunity for Africa's youth. The rice sector alone could employ many of the 17 million young people, who are entering the job market in sub-Saharan Africa each year. AfricaRice believes that rice sector development can offer several pathways to steady employment and entrepreneurship along the value chain.

But to achieve this, it is imperative to enhance performance in production, processing and marketing, and overcome the severe lack of capacity across the rice value chain in Africa.

The Center considers training as one of its main pillars. Its capacity building activities have traditionally focused on the professional development of national scientists and technicians involved in rice improvement. AfricaRice has also trained farmers, seed producers and extension workers.

In addition to these efforts, AfricaRice is adopting a new strategy to professionalize the full range of actors in the rice value chain and. This will help Africa to produce enough quality rice for its population and even export to other regions in due course.

The new training center set up by AfricaRice aims to strengthen the technical capacity of the rice value chain actors in Africa. In addition to thematic courses on rice production, specialized modules that promote entrepreneurship and agribusiness will be offered to participants to help them develop profitable and competitive rice enterprises.

The training modules will focus on a range of professions, ranging from technical advisory and extension service to mechanical service for agricultural equipment, rice processing and marketing, seed production and quality control and management of rice-related enterprises.

The training center is strategically located in Saint Louis, Senegal, 15 km from the old town, which has a unique historical charm and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Louis is also close to the Senegal River Valley, which is Senegal’s main rice belt.

The center will greatly benefit from its proximity to the AfricaRice Sahel Regional Station, which has excellent laboratories and experimental fields. The Station has a team of international rice experts, who will serve as resource persons in the training courses. Technologies and innovation developed by AfricaRice can be easily disseminated through the training center.

It will draw on experts from partner organizations when necessary. It will also benefit from the presence of the Senegal Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA), the University of Gaston Berger and Senegal’s national organization for the development of delta (SAED), which are based in Saint Louis.

The land for the training center of about 1 hectare was a generous gift from the Government of Senegal. The training facility has a fully equipped conference hall, which can accommodate up to 100 people, 2 training halls with a capacity of 25 students each, a computer hall, a hall for practical work, a cafeteria and a library. It has 20 rooms with 2 beds each and 6 independent rooms for trainers, two recreation areas and a multifunctional playground.

The center will be a valuable tool for the region to modernize the rice sector and transform the lives of the rural communities. It is open to all the research and development partners of AfricaRice on a charge basis.

During the inauguration ceremony, AfricaRice Board Chair Prof. Eric Tollens and Director General Dr Harold Roy-Macauley conveyed their deep appreciation to the Senegal government and the other donors and partners for their strong support, reassuring them that the best use will be made of the training center to support the member countries in strengthening the capacity of rice value chain actors, particularly the youth.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by local authorities, representatives of donors and R&D partners and AfricaRice staff.

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