Friday, December 4, 2009

CCER for Research Program 1

The Research Program 1 – Genetic Diversity and Improvement – at AfricaRice underwent a comprehensive Center-Commissioned External Review (CCER). The Review Panel was chaired by Dr Alain Ghesquiere, and had Dr Oumar Niangado and Dr Flavio Breseghello as members.

In addition to visiting the Center’s facilities and having detailed discussions with AfricaRice scientists at headquarters and the research stations, the team also met with representatives from partner organizations.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

EU project reviewed

AfricaRice project Rice policy and technology impact on food security and poverty reduction, funded by the European Union, and implemented by Research Program 4, was reviewed and the favorable report was announced in December.

The review team commended AfricaRice for generating high level of interest for its work on identifying and quantifying factors of importance for ensuring competitiveness of African rice; communicating research results efficiently; timely production of effective policy briefs; developing policy options; enabling stakeholder participation; coordinating effectively with the national agricultural research systems; and generating effective international public goods.

Overall, the reviewers recommended that future support for the project be continued to build on the results achieved.

Friday, November 13, 2009

USAID emergency rice project takes stock of progress made in target countries

A regional workshop of the project “Emergency initiative to boost rice production in Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal,” was held in Cotonou, Benin, 9 -13 November 2009 with representatives from AfricaRice and partner institutions.

This project is led by AfricaRice in partnership with the International Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development Center (IFDC), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the national research and extension systems in target countries. The Project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The project is a short-term intervention in major rice-producing countries of sub-Saharan Africa in response to the global rice crisis in 2008. It seeks to:
  • Increase the use of high yielding rice varieties;
  • Increase the use of improved farming methods;
  • Increase the use of fertilizers through use of vouchers/coupons;
  • Assist at least 10,000 farm families in each target country;
  • Increase rice production in the four target countries by at least 30,000 tonnes by the end of the project.

The workshop discussions focused on: i) the conclusions from the monitoring tour; ii) implementation, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms at country and regional levels; and iii) the work plans for 2010. The workshop also included a side-event to train project participants in the reporting of success stories and lessons learnt relating to the project.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

AfricaRice Research Days

The Research Days function for AfricaRice was organized from 2 to 5 November. In addition to AfricaRice scientists from all locations, it had participation from senior representatives from the Center’s partner organizations. In 2009, the Center had used a new format for the research days which permitted a greater time for scientific discussions when compared to the earlier years. 

The Research Day meetings included intensive discussions on ideas and challenges related to genetic diversity and improvement; water management; weed management; integrated pest management; training and extension linkages; seed systems; learning and innovation systems; impact assessment; policy; and value chains.
The progress on scientific research activities was reviewed and action plan was drawn up for the coming year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

AfricaRice researcher wins Japan International Award

Dr Amos Onasanya, AfricaRice researcher, won the 2009 Japan International Award for Young Agricultural Researchers, on 4 November at the University of Tokyo, for his contribution to the molecular and pathotyping characterization of major rice diseases and insect pests in Africa. He was one of the three recipients of the award during 2009.

The Japan International Award for Young Agricultural Researchers is given by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Government of Japan, in recognition of the contribution of young agricultural researchers for developing technologies to improve food security and environment in developing countries.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

UNDP project indicates positive impacts of NERICA

In Benin, NERICA adoption resulted in a 6% increase in school attendance, 14% increase in the gender parity index, and an increase of 11,400 CFA (about $20) in school expenditure per child. These were some of the findings from impact studies on NERICA adoption that were shared with research partners at the concluding workshop of the project on “The Research on Inter-specific Hybridization between African and Asian Rice Species (Phase III),” held at AfricaRice, Cotonou, Benin, 6-8 October.  

This project, supported through the Japan-UNDP Partnership Fund, addressed food security and poverty reduction issues in selected African countries, through improved rice production as well as improved livelihood of small-scale farmers. The project was based on the outcomes of the researches conducted in the previous two phases. 

The project covered AfricaRice member countries as well as selected countries of Central and Eastern Africa. Partnership with international institutions and universities engaged in rice research as well as coordination with parallel UNDP-funded projects was pursued.

Promising interspecific (NERICA) and Oryza sativa lines were identified through selection from segregating populations, evaluation of fixed lines for agronomic performance and specific stresses such as drought and pests. The project also focused on the development of new interspecific rice from the cross of O sativa and O. barthii, which is an ancestor of O. glaberrima and a wild species of African origin. The new interspecific rice is expected to widen the genetic diversity in farmers’ fields.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chevalier honor for DG

AfricaRice Director General, Dr Papa A Seck was honored by the French Government with the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole for his service for strengthening agricultural research. His other distinctions include the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Lion conferred by the Government of Senegal in 2005 for his services to the country; the Certificate of recognition from Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in 2005; and the Medal of Honor from the West and Central African Council for Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) in 2007.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

27th Council of Ministers Meeting

The 27th Council of Ministers (COM) Meeting of AfricaRice was held at Lomé, Togo, on 2 and 3 September. The COM resolved to change of the Center from West Africa Rice Development Association to Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), “considering the expansion of the geographical mandate of Africa Rice Center towards Eastern Africa, Central Africa and Northern Africa.

Further, the COM endorsed the establishment of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) between AfricaRice, IRRI and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

The COM also congratulated Director General, Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, and the staff of AfricaRice for their efforts to increase the international visibility of the Center.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gabon joins as the 23rd member state

Gabon joined AfricaRice as a member state. This extended the Center’s reach outside the West African region.
Gabon also has one of the highest per capita rice consumption levels in the sub-region. The Government of Gabon aims to boost domestic rice production and reduce imports.

Friday, August 7, 2009

JICA and ARI enhance rice seed production capacity of national African technicians and extension agents

Jointly organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the African Rice Initiative (ARI) of the Africa Rice Center, the Seed training workshop was held at the Songhai Center in Porto Novo, Benin, 3-7 August.

More than 20 technicians, including four women, from five countries (The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) participated in this training course, which had the following objectives:

  • •     Enhance the capacity of rice technicians from the national agricultural research and extension systems of sub-Saharan Africa to produce good quality seeds
  • •     Enhance their capacity in varietal maintenance

•     Offer opportunities to them to exchange their experiences and information.

The course consisted of presentations, group discussions and field exercises. It covered the following areas:

•         Principles of seed multiplication
•         Key steps to quality seed production
•         Rice morphology characters and growth stages
•         Post-harvest operations
•         Participatory varietal selection (PVS) and Community-based seed system (CBSS)
•         Common insect pests and diseases of rice

The participants raised major issues relating to rice production in their countries, such as the shortage and the high cost of production inputs; poor funding of research and development; lack of infrastructures, equipments and qualify human resources; weeds, birds and rodents.

At the end of the workshop, participants prepared and presented Action Plans for their respective countries. These plans were discussed and suggestions for improvement made.

Friday, June 12, 2009

BADEA and Africa Rice Center boost Africa’s rice research and development capacity

As part of a new partnership between the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and the Africa Rice Center, a capacity building program to make the rice sector in the region competitive by improving the capacity of operators at the research and extension levels was launched.

The program is complementing the Center’s efforts to raise rice productivity in sub-Saharan Africa through the African Rice Initiative and the Emergency Rice Initiative launched in 2008 in response to the food crisis.
With support from BADEA, scientists from the Africa Rice Center and its partners imparted knowledge on Integrated Rice Management through hands-on training to more than 50 participants including about 30 women from 16 countries across SSA.

The participating countries comprise Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.

The Africa Rice Center has found that knowledge of Integrated Rice Management is crucial to bridge yield gaps in farmers’ fields through better crop management. By applying this knowledge combined with a participatory learning and action research (PLAR) approach developed by the Center, rice yields in farmers’ fields can be increased by 0.5 to 2.0 tonnes per hectare without enhanced production costs.

During the training program, which was conducted in French and English in May and June 2009, manuals on the Integrated Rice Management based on the PLAR approach as well as farmer learning videos developed by the Center were extensively used by the facilitators.

Dr Seck along with BADEA delegates participated in the official ceremony of the handing over of certificates to the participants. Thanking the Center for the successful capacity building program, the delegates mentioned that about 4000 African nationals have benefited from various training programs supported by BADEA.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Japan-funded Emergency project addresses Africa’s critical needs in rice seed and data

As part of its overall support to the Africa Rice Center’s Emergency Rice Initiative in response to the world food crisis, Japan is providing significant support to carry out activities in two major areas:  
  • Enhanced access to quality seed of improved rice varieties in selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa in 20 out of 21 Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) candidate countries;
  • Collection of reliable rice data in all 21 CARD countries to support the development and implementation of national rice development strategies.
The 21 CARD countries comprise Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Liberia, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo in West Africa and Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia in East Africa.

The project works in close collaboration with national research and extension systems and the private sector in the target countries.

For the seed component of this project, the West Africa regional launching meeting, followed by a training workshop, was organized in Cotonou, Benin, 27 April-1 May. The East Africa launching meeting and training workshop took place in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 4-8 May.

For the rice statistics component of this project, the West Africa regional launching meeting, followed by a training workshop, was organized in Cotonou, Benin, 11-15 May and the East Africa launching and training took place in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1-5 June.

The project is using the Emergency Rice Initiative Spreadsheet (ERIS) that has been developed by the Africa Rice Center to assist African countries in developing strategies to boost domestic rice production.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

CFC-funded Inland Valley project workshop reviews achievements

An end-of-project meeting was held at Africa Rice Center, 3-4 June, on the CFC-funded project on “Sustainable productivity improvement for rice in inland valleys in West Africa (SPIRIVWA).”

SPIRIVWA is carried out in three in three different agro-ecologies in West Africa (savanna – Burkina Faso; intermediate zone – Côte d’Ivoire; humid forest zone – Nigeria) with the respective national partners INERA, NCRI and CNRA.

The project aims at improving inland-valley rice productivity through the development of water management structures, participatory farmer training and farmer participatory experiments with improved weed management practices.

The objectives of the workshop, which marked the final stage of the project, were to get an overview of project achievements and to discuss technical and financial reporting. It was attended by nine project participants.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

7th African Rice Initiative Steering Committee meeting organized

The 2009 Steering Committee/Experts meeting of the African Rice Initiative (ARI) of the Africa Rice Center was held in Cotonou, Benin, 4-6 May.

More than 35 participants attended, including four representatives from the African Development Bank (AfDB) as well as representatives from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the AfDB-funded NERICA® project countries, the three Common Fund for Commodities (CFC)-funded rice project countries, four observer countries (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon and Senegal), and Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG 2000).
The Director General of the national program from Gabon, Dr Obame Ondo, was specially invited to attend as observer. Gabon is keen to join  the Africa Rice Center.

The Steering Committee reviewed the progress made in AfDB-funded project countries (Benin, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) and in the CFC-funded project countries (Cameroon, Chad and Central African Republic).

The areas covered included the availability of good quality seeds of upland NERICA® varieties, introduction of lowland NERICA® rice and other improved varieties, seed system development, capacity building, development of integrated rice management options, varietal maintenance, participatory varietal selection (PVS), post-harvest processing and commercialization.

The Steering Committee meeting this year was particularly noteworthy because of the participation of Mr Bakary Togola from Mali, President of the farmers’ association APCAM, who has achieved remarkable success in rice farming.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Strengthening national partners’ capacity in impact assessment

Strengthening the capacity of national partners in impact assessment is an important component of the Policy and Impact Assessment Program activities at the Africa Rice Center.

A training course on impact assessment was jointly organized by the Africa Rice Center, Institut sénégalais de recherches agricoles (ISRA) and the University Gaston Berger (UGB) in St Louis, Senegal, 20-24 April.

The main objective of this training course was to introduce to participants new methods and tools in impact assessment that are used for evaluating agricultural research projects.

About 20 participants from 11countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal) attended the workshop. The participants included 6 PhD students from UGB.

Helping African agriculture adapt to climate change

As part of a multi-partnership project led by the University of Hohenheim on “Developing rice and sorghum crop adaptation strategies for climate change in vulnerable environments in Africa (RISOCAS),” a workshop was organized in Cotonou, Benin, 16-17 April, to evaluate the results from the first year.

The main objective of this project is to deliver coping strategies for crop adaptation to changing climatic conditions, along with tools and methodologies enabling stakeholders to develop such strategies further, or to apply them to other crops or environments.

The project focuses on rainfed rice and sorghum and irrigated rice, which are three of the most important staple small-grain cereals in sub-Saharan Africa. For each of the three target crops and ecosystems, sets of valuable physiological and morphological traits for breeding will be delivered to breeders, along with suitable selection tools.

The project is jointly carried out by the University of Hohenheim and Africa Rice Center in partnership with the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD); Université Gaston Berger, Senegal, Centre national de la recherche appliquée au développement rural (FOFIFA), Madagascar and the Institut d’économie rurale (IER), Mali.

Attached to the workshop, a training course about modeling was held, 20-24 April, to train RISOCAS project members and invited guests on existing models which will be used during later project phases.
In total, 17 participants attended the project workshop and 22 attended the training course, with a considerable number attending both workshops. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Regional harmonization of USAID-funded emergency rice project

Two regional coordination committee meetings were held as part of the USAID-funded Emergency project to boost rice production in Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal to harmonize project management, evaluation and reporting mechanisms.

The first one was organized in Cotonou, Benin (8-10 April) for Ghana and Nigeria and the second one in Saint Louis, Senegal (14-15 April) for Mali and Senegal.

The USAID-funded Emergency rice project seeks to increase rice production in the target countries as part of an overall effort to mitigate the effects of the food crisis on poor rice farmers and consumers.

The project is being carried out by the Africa Rice Center in partnership with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), and the national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) in each of the target countries.

Friday, April 10, 2009

UNDP and Africa Rice Center team up to rebuild rice capacity in post-conflict Liberia

With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Africa Rice Center through its African Rice Initiative (ARI) is rebuilding the capacity of smallholder rice farmers in post-conflict Liberia within the framework of the Millennium Village Project located in Kokoyah Village (KMV).

Through this collaborative project, ARI seeks to provide technical assistance and guidance across the rice value chain from seed production to harvest and post-harvest processing in close partnership with the national agricultural research and extension systems.

As part of this, a training program was carried out by ARI, 6-10 April, on quality seed production of NERICA® and other improved varieties and modern farming practices. More than 20 agricultural technicians attended the course.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Realizing the agricultural potential of inland valleys in sub-Saharan Africa

The European Commission-funded project “Realizing the agricultural potential of inland valley lowlands in sub-Saharan Africa while maintaining their environmental services (RAPS)” was launched in Benin (25-27 March) and in Mali (30 March – 1 April).

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.

It is jointly carried out by the Africa Rice Center, Wageningen UR, ICRA, CIRAD and the national research and extension systems of Benin and Mali.

The use of the Participatory Learning and Action Research (PLAR) co-learning and co-innovation approaches and multi-stakeholder platforms will ensure the ownership of research results and rapid diffusion of knowledge beyond the key sites in each target country.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Board highlights Africa Rice Center’s achievements

At the Board meeting held, 7-10 March, the following achievements of the Director General Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck and the staff of the Africa Rice Center were applauded:

  • Significant increase in contribution from member States
  • Increase in the number of member States from 17 in 2006 to 22 in 2008
  • Doubling of the Center’s budget compared to 2007
  • Clear and coherent research agenda
  • Progress in implementing  External Program and Management Review (EPMR) recommendations
  • The Director General’s participation at the UN Meeting on Millennium Development Goals in September 2008

It noted the Center’s active participation in the CGIAR change management process, while emphasizing its unique model as a pan-African intergovernmental institution.

It welcomed Dr Henri Carsalade as new Board member and sent a congratulatory letter to Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, former Director General of the Africa Rice Center on his appointment as the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Friday, February 27, 2009

Stakeholders take stock of stress-tolerant rice for Africa

Stakeholders of the project on “Stress-tolerant rice for poor farmers in Africa and South Asia (STRASA) met, 26-27 February, at the Africa Rice Center regional station in Ibadan, Nigeria to review the progress made by the project and plan for 2009.

Funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the STRASA project aims to accelerate the development and delivery of improved rice varieties that are tolerant to five major stresses – drought, submergence, salinity, iron toxicity and low temperature.

Africa Rice Center is IRRI’s main partner in implementing the African component of this project. The project member countries in Africa comprise Benin, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal in West Africa as well as Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda in eastern and southern Africa.

The project highlighted the following achievements at the meeting:
  • Production of seeds of improved and stress-tolerant varieties ready for evaluation in the project countries through farmer participatory varietal selection;
  • Training of national scientists, technicians and farmers in modern breeding approaches, improved seed production and impact assessment;
  • Implementation of improved and standardized screening facilities at the research stations of Africa Rice Center for the different stresses; and
  • Establishment of a network of national scientists and partners in the project countries

In addition to representatives from 16 sub-Saharan African countries, the President of the West and Central Africa Women Rice Farmers’ Association, Mrs Penda Gueye-Cisse as well as private seed producers were invited to the meeting to give their feedback.