Friday, September 16, 2011

AfricaRice Science Week and GRiSP-Africa Science Forum

GRiSP aims to mobilize the very best of the world’s rice science and involve the widest possible range of stakeholders in the technology generation and dissemination process to address, among others, Africa’s major rice-development challenges.

The GRiSP-Africa Science Forum, held at AfricaRice’s temporary headquarters in Cotonou, from 12 to 16 September, was attended by over 100 international and national rice experts, including representatives of all the key partners. Participants reviewed the progress made by GRiSP in Africa in 2011, particularly on the development of new research products — ranging from gene discovery[1] to the mini-combine[2] and policy briefs for decision-makers — grouped under the six GRiSP themes:

  •       Harnessing genetic diversity to chart new productivity, quality and health horizons
  •       Accelerating the development, delivery and adoption of improved rice varieties
  •       Increasing the productivity, sustainability and resilience of rice-based production systems
  •       Extracting more value through improved quality, processing, market systems and new products
  •       Technology evaluations, targeting and policy options for enhanced impact
  •       Supporting the growth of the global rice sector.

Laying emphasis on the need for pooling intelligence to better exploit the comparative advantages of all the partners to more efficiently address the constraints to rice production, AfricaRice Director General Dr Seck spelled out 10 conditions that are essential for GRiSP to become a successful program and ensure a high degree of satisfaction among rice farmers and consumers throughout the world.

The conditions include the need to respect the diversity of partnerships, regional differences and institutional identities in GRiSP, while rejecting ‘hegemonic thinking’. The conditions also include the need for equitable resource allocation based on the real requirements of the various regions; the urgent need to strengthen the capacity of African stakeholders; the significant role of the national partners within GRiSP; the importance of continuous dialog with policy-makers; and the need to avoid bureaucracy, including excessive evaluation with scientists spending more time writing reports than doing research.

AfricaRice Deputy Director General (DDG) and Director of Research for Development, Marco Wopereis highlighted the major shift in focus from supply-driven research, where the emphasis is mainly on increasing rice production, to more demand- or market-driven research, where the attention is given to the entire rice value chain.

Achim Dobermann, IRRI Deputy Director General for Research and GRiSP Program Director, took an active part in the GRiSP-Africa Science Forum, expressing his satisfaction with the progress made by the Africa-based team in 2011, particularly with regard to the new way of doing research.

In his capacity as outgoing chairman of the AfricaRice National Experts Committee, Babou Jobe (Director General of the National Agriculture Research Institute, Gambia) confirmed “100% support” to GRiSP, particularly its major thrust on strengthening national capacity. He was pleased to learn that one-third of the Global Rice Science Scholarships had gone to African students in 2011.

[1] See ‘The genes that could beat the “AIDS of rice”’ in the GRiSP Annual Report 2011.
[2] See ‘Research in brief: Promoting small-scale mechanization across the continent as the essential ingredient for rice intensification’ in this report and ‘A mini-combine for sub-Saharan Africa’ in the GRiSP Annual Report 2011.