Saturday, December 17, 2011

First ASARECA General Assembly

AfricaRice participated in the exhibition showcasing agricultural research, extension, education, training and development work under the theme ‘Feeding Our Region in the 21st Century’ as part of the First General Assembly of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) held in Entebbe, Uganda, 14–16 December.

Over 350 agricultural researchers from across the globe, as well as ministers from the 10 ASARECA member countries (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) attended the Assembly, which called for greater cooperation among research, training, extension services and the private sector within countries and across the sub-region.

The Assembly’s recommendations included the needs to:
• Support farmers and their associations
• Strengthen extension
• Support NGOs
• Support the private sector and its strategic partners
• Address emerging issues underlying food insecurity in the ASARECA region and the role of agriculture in  overall regional transformation
• Mainstream universities

Workshop on National and Regional Variety Catalogs

A workshop on ‘Varietal release and national and regional variety catalogs’ was held, 15–16 December, in Cotonou, to raise awareness of rice breeders involved in the Africa Rice Breeding Task Force on issues relating to variety testing, characterization, releases, cataloguing and maintenance; breeder/foundation seed production; and harmonization of descriptors. Presentations on the current status of variety release and regional and national catalogs were made by AfricaRice, the Institut du Sahel (INSAH)/ Comité permanent Inter-État pour la Lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel (CILSS), UEMOA and CORAF/WECARD.

The participants noted that a major effort has been made in West Africa regarding the harmonization of regulations relating to variety release and seed certification over the past few years. The document was adopted by ECOWAS in 2008 and by UEMOA in 2009. At the end of the workshop detailed action plans were made for greater harmonization.

Data collection and analysis training course

A training course on ‘Data collection and analysis’ was organized in collaboration with national programs participating in the Africa Rice Breeding Task Force, 12–16 December, in Cotonou, to help rice researchers adopt good principles of data collection and management, improve the quality and quantity of their research publications and conduct statistical analyses. The course targeted scientific staff involved in the design of experiments or the collection, analysis and interpretation of data from designed experiments in the Breeding Task Force.

Friday, December 16, 2011

First ASARECA General Assembly

AfricaRice participated in the exhibition showcasing agricultural research, extension, education, training and development work under the theme ‘Feeding Our Region in the 21st Century’ as part of the First General Assembly of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) held in Entebbe, Uganda, 14–16 December.

Over 350 agricultural researchers from across the globe, as well as ministers from the 10 ASARECA member countries (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) attended the Assembly, which called for greater cooperation among research, training, extension services and the private sector within countries and across the sub-region.

The Assembly’s recommendations included the needs to:
  • Support farmers and their associations
  • Strengthen extension
  • Support NGOs
  • Support the private sector and its strategic partners
  • Address emerging issues underlying food insecurity in the ASARECA region and the role of agriculture in overall regional transformation
  • Mainstream universities in the research and development system. 

Improving rice postharvest handling, marketing and development of new rice-based products

The inaugural meeting of the Project Steering Committee of the CIDA-funded project on ‘Enhancing food security in Africa through the improvement of rice post-harvest handling, marketing and the development of new rice-based products’ was held in Cotonou on 15 December.

The meeting was attended by 14 participants representing CIDA, AfricaRice, the Commission de la communauté économique et monétaire de l'Afrique centrale (CEMAC), ECOWAS (represented by UEMOA), McGill University, the national project coordinators from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda. The progress made in 2011 in the project implementation and the Project Implementation Plan (PIP) were reviewed and the work plan and budget for 2012 discussed.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Youth Employment Program in Mali

Youth Employment Program in Mali In view of AfricaRice’s new emphasis on improved postharvest technologies, which will help open up opportunities for local households to raise their incomes by promoting the development of new rice-based products, the Center was invited by  the Government of Mali to showcase its work at the country’s National Youth Employment Program 13–15 December.

The President of Mali inaugurated the event in the presence of several members of the government and representatives from R&D institutions and youth organizations. He promised to give priority to the development of small enterprises and to facilitate youths’ access to credit. After the inaugural ceremony, the President visited the exhibition set up as part of the Youth Employment Program.

Training course in grain quality evaluation

A basic course in rice grain quality evaluation was conducted from 7 to 9 December for English-speaking countries and from 12 to 14 December for French-speaking countries in Cotonou. Participants from 12 countries involved in the STRASA project attended. The course, which included both theory and practical sessions, offered an opportunity for the participants to learn about the basics of assessing the quality of rice grain and preferences for grain quality in their respective countries, and to evaluate the grain quality of rice samples brought from their respective countries.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The case for an affordable locally adapted combine-harvester

Harvesting and threshing of paddy are serious bottlenecks for rice farmers. Large combine-harvesters are ill adapted to the rice fields of smallholders. Consequently, paddy may sit in the field for weeks or even months waiting to be harvested or threshed, during which time its quality deteriorates because of exposure to the elements.

As a result, many rice farmers resort to manual harvesting and threshing operations, which are time-consuming and affect the quality of the paddy. Delayed removal of paddy from the farm impinges upon the second season, jeopardizing the option for a profitable second crop.

AfricaRice is introducing and adapting a small affordable combine-harvester in the Senegal River valley, to enable timely harvesting and threshing. This could provide the incentive for farmers to sell their paddy quickly and focus on producing a second crop (either rice or a horticultural crop such as tomato, potato or green bean).

The early removal of paddy from the farm would not only enable farmers to focus on their core farming business (i.e. crop production), but would also open up the prospect for greater aggregation of the marketable surplus of paddy.

Fragmentation of available marketable volume of paddy — that is, the fact that producers act alone in processing and selling their surplus paddy — is a major disincentive to private-sector investment in the domestic rice value chain.

Le cas d’une moissonneuse-batteuse adaptée et accessible localement

La récolte et le battage du paddy constituent de sérieuses contraintes pour les riziculteurs. Les grandes moissonneuses-batteuses sont inadaptées aux petites exploitations des paysans. Par conséquent, le paddy peut rester au champ pendant des semaines avant d’être récolté ou battu, pendant ce temps sa qualité se détériore du fait de l’exposition aux aléas climatiques.

Ainsi, de nombreux producteurs ont recours aux longues opérations de récoltes et de battages manuels, qui affectent la qualité du paddy. La récolte tardive du paddy dans les exploitations empiète sur la seconde campagne, empêchant l’option d’une seconde culture rentable.

AfricaRice est en train d’introduire et d’adapter une mini moissonneuse-batteuse accessible dans la vallée du fleuve Sénégal pour permettre la récolte et le battage à temps opportun. Cela inciterait les producteurs à vendre rapidement leur paddy et à se focaliser sur la production d’une seconde culture (le riz ou une culture maraîchère telle que la tomate, la pomme de terre ou les haricots verts).

La récolte rapide du paddy dans les champs permettra aux paysans non seulement de se focaliser sur la production agricole (c.-à-d. culture), mais aussi d’ouvrir la voie à une commercialisation à grande échelle de grandes quantités de riz. La fragmentation de la commercialisation du paddy découlant du fait que les producteurs assurent seuls la transformation et la vente de leur excédent de paddy – constitue une contrainte majeure qui dissuade l’investissement du secteur privé dans la chaîne de valeur du riz local.

Mise en place des Groupes d’action à l’échelle du continent africain en vue d’accélérer la livraison de technologies rizicoles

Les experts riz nationaux et internationaux d’Afrique se sont réunis pour mettre en place des Groupes d’action à l’échelle du continent dans les domaines thématiques importants du secteur rizicole en vue de stimuler la livraison de technologies améliorées.

Se focalisant sur cinq thèmes – (1) sélection, (2) agronomie, (3) post-récolte & valorisation, (4) politique, et (5) genre – les Groupes d’action riz d’Afrique visent à fournir une synergie aux efforts de recherche à travers le continent, à mettre en commun les rares ressources humaines et à encourager l’implication nationale au niveau élevé.

« Cette approche permettra de réduire le délais entre le développement et l’homologation de nouvelles technologies rizicoles à travers le continent et d’augmenter leur impact, » a fait remarquer Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Directeur général du Centre du riz pour l’Afrique (AfricaRice).

Dr Seck a expliqué que le mécanisme des Groupes d’action est basé sur trois principes : durabilité, développement d’une masse critique et appropriation par les systèmes nationaux de recherche agricole. « Le renforcement de la capacité en matière de recherche rizicole aux niveaux régional et national est l’objectif central des Groupes d’action. »

AfricaRice anime ces Groupes d’action continentaux en réponse à la forte demande faite par les participants du 2nd Congrès du riz en Afrique organisé en 2010, demande qui a été approuvée par la 28e Session ordinaire du Conseil des ministres en 2011.

Pour AfricaRice et ses partenaires, le mécanisme du Groupe d’action est un outil important permettant, d’une part d’établir un lien entre le développement des technologies rizicoles améliorées et les partenaires locaux par le biais de la recherche d’adaptation, et d’autre part d’accélérer leur dissémination à travers des partenariats novateurs.

Le Centre va s’appuyer sur son expertise dans le mécanisme du Groupe d’action au niveau régional introduit dans les années 1990, et qui avait été apprécié par ses partenaires nationaux.

Les nouveaux groupes d’action vont opérer sous l’égide du Partenariat mondial de la science rizicole (GRiSP), un programme de recherche du GCRAI, qui est une nouvelle plateforme de partenariat unique pour la recherche rizicole pour le développement (R4D) visant un plus grand impact.

« Nous devons veiller à ce que les Groupes d’action servent d’espace vital pour que les jeunes chercheurs puissent y évoluer, » a déclaré Dr Marco Wopereis, Directeur général adjoint d’AfricaRice, lors du lancement des Groupes d’action riz d’Afrique sur l’agronomie et la post-récolte & la valorisation qui a eu lieu récemment à Cotonou, Bénin, et auquel ont pris part les participants de 14 pays africains.

Plus tôt cette année, le Groupe d’action genre sur le riz en Afrique a été lancé en vue d’assurer une intégration effective du genre dans les activités de recherche pour le développement et de renforcement des capacités en vue de livrer des technologies respectueuses du genre qui puissent améliorer la qualité et la compétitivité du riz produit localement.

Le Groupe d’action Sélection et amélioration variétale du riz en Afrique est déjà opérationnel et facilite l’accès des jeunes sélectionneurs riz du continent aux nouvelles variétés et lignées. Il est également activement engagé dans l’organisation des programmes de formation sur la sélection, le dispositif expérimental et la gestion des bases de données du matériel génétique pour les chercheurs nationaux.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Training on experimental auctions held in Kampala

A training course on experimental auctions, financed by CIDA, was organized by AfricaRice and the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) Cereals Program of the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) in Kampala, Uganda from 4 to 9 December. One facilitator and eight trainees from eight organizations were trained. The trainees came from organizations in Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda. The training was unique in that it combined theoretical lectures with practical sessions — a series of real experimental auctions was conducted, which participants organized. The auctions aimed at eliciting urban Ugandan consumers’ willingness-to-pay (WTP) for alternative NERICA rice varieties and the determinants of WTP. This was the first training of its kind on experimental auctions in Africa and was a big success. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Enhancing smallholder access to improved rice technologies in West and Central Africa

The phase 1 of the IFAD-funded project ‘Enhancing Smallholder Access to NERICA for Alleviating Rural Poverty in West and Central Africa’ came to an end in December after 4 years of activities. A final workshop was held, 6–8 December, in Cotonou, to enable the regional project coordinator and national project coordinators from Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Sierra Leone to discuss the project’s achievements and challenges. The participants explored the way forward in order to ensure the sustainability of the results achieved in phase 1, highlighting the need for facilitating market access for seed and grain producers, promotion of value addition for income generation, and strengthening stakeholders’ capacities in seed production, marketing and enterprise development. The main recommendation was to move from a seed-production focus that was dominant in phase 1 to a rice value-chain focus in phase 2.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

African Development Bank meeting

On behalf of AfricaRice, DDG Marco Wopereis participated in a meeting with the Operations and Development Effectiveness Committee (CODE) of the Board of AfDB in Tunis, Tunisia, on 1 December, to answer questions regarding the SARD-SC project. About 20 members of the board attended. Also present in this meeting were: Monty P. Jones (FARA), Jonathan Wadsworth (Fund Office), Lystra Antoine (Fund Office), Nteranya Sanginga (IITA), Mohamed El-Mourid (ICRISAT), Dougou Keita, Jonas Chianu (AfDB) and Bouchaib Boulanouar (AfDB). It is expected that the proposal will be submitted for approval to the full board of AfDB in December 2011.