Friday, March 26, 2010

Africa Rice Congress 2010: Africa calls for "Marshall Plan" for capacity building

In view of the severe lack of capacity in rice production, which is throttling the development of Africa’s rice sector, participants at the Africa Rice Congress 2010 held in Bamako, Mali, 22-26 Mar 2010, called for a "Marshall Plan" to overcome this weakness.

The Congress brought together nearly 450 participants from 54 countries, particularly from Africa. The participants included rice farmers; seed producers; processors; input dealers; manufacturers of agricultural machinery; national rice research and extension systems; representatives from agricultural ministries, international and advanced research institutes, nongovernment organizations, and the donor community; and other development partners.

The Africa Rice Congress 2010, with a theme “Innovation and partnerships to realize Africa’s rice potential,” was organized by AfricaRice in collaboration with the Mali national program, IER, under the aegis of the Malian government.

During the opening ceremony, on behalf of Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Touré, Prime Minister Modibo Sidibé presented distinguished service awards to Drs. Jacques Diouf, Eugene Terry, and Kanayo Nwanze for their outstanding contributions to rice research and development in Africa during their respective terms as director general of AfricaRice.

Dr. Getachew Engida, AfricaRice Board chair, presented a plaque of appreciation to President Touré for his government’s tremendous efforts to raise rice productivity through the Presidential Initiative on Rice in Mali, which has led to a 50% increase in rice production in the country. 

The participants took the opportunity to deliberate on strategies to significantly increase rice production in Africa, develop competitive and equitable rice value chains, reduce imports, and enhance regional trade.
They enthusiastically supported the newly proposed Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), an initiative of the AfricaRice, IRRI, and CIAT to harmonize national and international rice research agendas worldwide for increased impact in Africa.

Under the main theme, the topics included rice genetic diversity and improvement; ecological intensification and diversification of rice-based systems; developing competitive rice value chains; new alliances and tools for rural learning and innovations and policy implications; integrated management of pests, diseases, and weeds in rice-based systems; and rice physiology and modeling.

A major part of the Congress was a forum on “Investing in Africa’s rice sector: opportunities and challenges,” in which ways to increase investments in the rice sector in Africa particularly through innovative public-private partnerships were explored. Issues such as the need to increase investments for increasing the area under irrigation, improving rural infrastructure, and introducing agricultural mechanization were raised. The forum featured exhibitions of machinery, inputs, and rice products.

At the end of the Congress, key recommendations were made to boost Africa’s rice sector. Awards for the best presentation per theme, the best poster, and the Most Promising Young Scientist were also presented.