Building the capacity of organizations and individuals so that they can carry out their work effectively and efficiently is an integral part of the majority of AfricaRice projects. For many years, the agricultural sector has been under-resourced in sub-Saharan Africa to the point that many national agricultural research systems (NARS) were aging and shrinking, because of the lack of qualified young scientists moving into position as the ‘old guard’ moved on.
To help address the shrinking human-resource base of the NARS, AfricaRice has a long history of collaboration with universities both within and outside its mandate region.
Since the temporary relocation of the Center’s headquarters to Cotonou, Benin, the policy program has developed strong informal linkages with the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of the University of Abomey-Calavi, also based in Cotonou. Prof. Gauthier Biaou explains that students who want to study rice within the faculty are linked with either AfricaRice or the Institut national de recherches agricoles du Bénin (INRAB). Students involved in this linkage are pursuing either a bachelor’s degree or a postgraduate Diplôme d’études approfondé (DEA, equivalent to a master’s).
For AfricaRice, Aliou Diagne determines the thesis program and is also involved in developing the research protocol with Biaou and the student. Diagne and a lecturer from the faculty supervise the thesis work. “We start between one and three new thesis programs each year with AfricaRice”, Biaou says. Many students gaining their DEA then have the opportunity to take up a six-month placement at AfricaRice for ongoing training, prior to moving on to a PhD program. “Many of our students choose to pursue their PhDs in the USA”, says Biaou.
AfricaRice has similar links with the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, the University of Gaston Berger, Saint-Louis, Senegal, and the University of Lomé, Togo.
AfricaRice model for capacity-building
AfricaRice’s philosophy for capacity-building is intimately linked to its approach to research and development within the region, which is that AfricaRice will empower its NARS (and other) partners to carry out much of the research and all of the development work. Consequently, the model for capacity-building is a combination of the following:
■ AfricaRice does not implement — that is the NARS’ role
■ AfricaRice provides backstopping and training
■ The Center runs an annual training workshop for one to two weeks on policy analysis and impact assessment
■ AfricaRice develops software tools to automate the processing and analysis of survey data collected by the NARS
■ The Center’s Visiting Scientist scheme involves NARS scientists being invited to AfricaRice, which provides tools and training for their work; the scientists analyze their own data and write their own country reports (the time spent at AfricaRice is typically six weeks), while AfricaRice focuses on cross-country comparative analyses and synthesis reports
■ AfricaRice facilitates linkages between universities and NARS to give students ‘real world’ research experience.