Friday, March 26, 2010

Africa Rice Congress calls for strengthening capacity building

The second Africa Rice Congress, with the theme of Innovation and partnerships to realize Africa’s rice potential, was held at Bamako, Mali, from 22 to 26 March. The Congress was organized in collaboration with the Malian national agricultural research system, the Institut d’économie rurale (IER). The Government of Mali hosted the Congress, which brought together about 500 participants from 54 countries.

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, NGOs, and the donor community; and other development partners.

In view of the severe lack of capacity in rice production, which is throttling the development of Africa’s rice sector, the participants called for a ‘Marshall Plan’ to overcome this weakness.

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 F. Nwanze for their outstanding contributions to rice research and development in Africa during their respective terms as directors general of AfricaRice.

Mr 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 AfricaRice, IRRI and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to harmonize national and international rice research agendas worldwide.

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.

An important event during 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 in each theme, the best poster, and the Most Promising Young Scientist were also presented. 

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