The 38th meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) was held between September 7 and 10 at M’bé near Bouaké, its main research station in Côte d’Ivoire, for the first time in 12 years following the civil crisis that forced the Center to scale down its activities in that country. The Board meeting – an important signal marking the full return of the Center to Côte d’Ivoire – was warmly welcomed by both the government and traditional authorities. A colorful closing ceremony, attended by the local government administrator of Bouaké, Mr Konin Aka, and an array of community leaders from M’Bé, dressed in their full traditional regalia, expressed their joy on the return of AfricaRice to the community.
During the meeting, the Board of Trustees elected a new Board Chair, Professor Eric Tollens, to succeed the current Chair, Dr Peter Matlon, after March 2016. Prof. Tollens, who joined the AfricaRice Board in 2013, has served on several CGIAR Center Boards. He led the External Program Management Review (EPMR) for WARDA (now AfricaRice) in 2008 and serves on the Scientific and Technical Committees of both the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) and Institut sénégalais de recherches agricoles (ISRA).
Prof. Tollens obtained his PhD degree in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University in 1975. He was Professor of Agricultural Economics, Catholic University of Leuven (K U Leuven) from 1983 to 2009 and is currently Emeritus Professor. He is a member of many professional bodies and sits on the review panels of many international journals.
The Board meeting also featured the AfricaRice management report presented by the Director General, Dr Harold Roy-Macauley. The Board was informed on progress in the preparation of the pre-proposal for the new CGIAR Research Program on Rice Agri-Food Systems (RAFS). RAFS will build on the CGIAR Research Program on Rice – the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) and will strengthen in particular research on rice processing and marketing and rice-based production systems, given the changing climate and the need to increase rice productivity per unit of land, water, labor and energy to meet the needs of rapidly rising demand for rice across the continent.
The Board was impressed by the product-focused, demand-led breeding approach implemented by AfricaRice in partnership with national agricultural research institutions from 30 sub-Saharan African countries and international research institutions under GRiSP, led globally by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and in Africa by AfricaRice. The Board agreed with the proposed new breeding strategy that received strong support from the recently conducted Center-Commissioned External Review (CCER) to concentrate early stages of breeding at AfricaRice’s 700-ha research facility located near M'Bé in Cote d’Ivoireusing rapid generation advancement techniques.
The Board also deliberated on the Center’s preparations for the up-coming 30th meeting of the AfricaRice Council of Ministers (COM) scheduled for December 3 and 4, 2015, in Kampala, Uganda. Management explained to the Board of Trustees the necessary decisions that the 30th COM would be taking to further strengthen the Center in the context of a rapidly changing business environment, to ensure financial sustainability, and to better work with and serve the Center’s privileged clients, its member States.
The Board Chair, Dr Peter Matlon, led members of the Board to pay a courtesy visit to the Ivorian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, H.E. Gnamien Konan. Dr Matlon, on behalf of the Board, once again, expressed gratitude to the Government and people of Côte d’Ivoire for the support being provided to AfricaRice especially at this time of the Center’s full return to the country. He underlined the importance of the Minister’s personal commitment in advancing a number of dossiers on AfricaRice, and thanked him for his steadfast support.
Finally Dr Peter Matlon led members of the Board of Trustees on another courtesy visit to the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, who was also a former Principal Economist and Coordinator of the West Africa Rice Economics Task Force at WARDA (now AfricaRice). Dr Matlon briefed the AfDB President on the growing progress being made by the Center, and the challenges facing AfricaRice. The AfDB President reiterated his vision of ensuring food sufficiency on the African continent, promised AfDB’s support to agricultural research and technology development to achieve food self-sufficiency and welcomed a partnership with AfricaRice to meet that common goal.
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