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Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)
Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)

AFRICARICE - A Concise History 

The early years

AfricaRice was constituted as the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) in the early 1970s by 11 west African countries. It began operating from Monrovia, Liberia.

Because of the civil disturbances in that country, AfricaRice moved its headquarters from Monrovia to M’bé, near Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, between late 1987 and early 1988. A new Sahel station was established in 1990 at Ndiaye, Senegal, reinforcing the Center’s presence in the country (where it had been active since 1977) to work on the Sahel irrigated rice ecology. By 1991, a total of 17 countries of west and central Africa had joined the association. Meanwhile, AfricaRice had also become a member of the CGIAR, while retaining its status as an intergovernmental association with governance provided by both a Board of Trustees and a Council of Ministers, its highest oversight

The Nigeria station was established in 1991 on the campus of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) with a focus on lowland rice. In 1994, the landmark successful crossing of the two cultivated rice species was achieved, producing the first NERICA (New Rice for Africa) plants, the first of which were officially released in Côte d’Ivoire in December 2000.

With the onset of the ‘Ivorian crisis’ in September 2002, AfricaRice relocated its headquarters staff to Abidjan. Research staff subsequently moved to Bamako, Mali, in January 2003. With renewed violence in Côte d’Ivoire, the decision was taken to relocate all headquarters staff to the IITA station in Cotonou, Benin in December 2004.

In recognition of its growing pan-African significance, management dubbed WARDA the Africa Rice Center in January 2003, a name that was formally accepted by the Association’s governing body in September 2003. Six years later, in December 2009, the CoM approved to replace the acronyms WARDA and ADRAO with AfricaRice as its abbreviation in both English and French.

An AfricaRice staff member was appointed to coordinate the now defunct Eastern and Central African Rice Research Network (ECARRN) in Tanzania, which established the Center’s presence in the eastern Africa region in January 2005.

Recent history

The Association expanded its membership from 17 in 2006 to 25 in 2013, in part as a result of its widened mandate reflected in the name change to Africa Rice Center (the additions were from central, eastern and northeast Africa). Moreover, from 2007, many countries began to take greater ownership of the Association (i.e. their membership) in large part as a result of the Director General’s advocacy work by paying their financial contributions and much of their arrears — e.g. total membership contribution in four years (2007–2010) exceeded the amount received over 18 years (1989–2006).

The Center’s research was re-organized in January 2008 into three interactive research programs (Genetic Diversity and Improvement, GDI; Sustainable Productivity Enhancement, SPE; and Policy, Innovation systems and Impact assessment, PII) and one support unit (RiceTIME — Training, Information Management and Extension linkages).

The GDI Program covers the area ‘from gene to plant’, and aims to enhance genetic diversity and develop improved rice lines adapted to abiotic and biotic stresses and consumer preferences, using conventional breeding, marker-assisted selection (MAS) and profiting from farmer knowledge. The SPE Program covers crop and natural resource management (NRM) research related to intensification and diversification, and protection of environmental services in the face of climate change; it aims to move research from plot to systems level and to introduce systems thinking in general. The PII Program covers partnerships, learning and innovation systems, and works on improving the link between farmers and input and output markets, and value-chain development. It also includes policy research and impact assessment. The RiceTIME unit promoted the uptake of research products and methodologies, and their improvement through capacity-building, information-exchange, links with development activities and the private sector, and feedback to AfricaRice’s three research programs. In 2011 the RiceTIME Unit was converted into a full-blown AfricaRice program, entitled the Rice Sector Development (RSD) Program.

The restructuring allowed greater focus and clearer distribution of tasks among Center staff. The Center also ensured improved monitoring of activities, instituted annual work plans for scientists, and ensured frequent visits to outstations by research managers.

Subsequently, AfricaRice achieved an ‘outstanding’ rating in an external evaluation of the 15 CGIAR Centers in 2010, in large part for its research and scientific publications, financial and institutional health, and the perceptions of its stakeholders.

A major thrust of the Center throughout its history has been the strengthening of its member and partner NARS. From 2006 to 2013, the financial value of the joint AfricaRice–NARS research portfolio more than quadrupled; 70% of the Center’s publications were co-written with NARS scientists up from about 40% in 2006; quality seed was provided or facilitated for 20 countries; hundreds of visits were made by AfricaRice staff to NARS; several thousands of participants took part in workshops; the numbers of MSc and PhD students hosted at AfricaRice reached 56 and 46 respectively in 2012; and a post-Master’s program was established to extend professional training to allow young university graduates to gain experience in an international setting.

Throughout the period 2006–2013, AfricaRice maintained five principal locations (Cotonou, Benin; Ibadan, Nigeria; Ndiaye, Senegal; M’bé, Côte d’Ivoire; and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania). In the aftermath of the last evacuation from Bouaké in 2004, major expansion occurred in Cotonou, Ibadan, and Ndiaye. A new office was opened in Dar es Salaam in 2009. Meanwhile, the M’bé site was maintained by a small technical team under the supervision of a regional representative.

In 2007, AfricaRice initiated discussions with the other rice-research centers in the CGIAR — namely, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) — and began the process of Africa-wide partnership that pre-dated the CGIAR change process and the development of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP). The Center also built relations with regional economic communities and the African Union, and built and strengthened strategic alliances with advanced research institutions, in particular Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) and Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences ( JIRCAS), the co-architects of GRiSP.

In 2007, AfricaRice predicted the rice-price crisis that hit at the end of that year and the beginning of 2008. This prediction, combined with an advocacy tour and policy advice for ‘weathering the storm’, demonstrated the value of the  Association to its member states in possibly the strongest terms in the center’s history, and greatly increased the cooperation between the member states and the Center.

In November 2010, the CGIAR Fund Council approved the GRiSP proposal. GRiSP thereby became the first global ‘CGIAR Research Program’ of the new CGIAR Consortium. Under the Framework Agreement of Cooperation (signed by the three directors general of IRRI, CIAT and AfricaRice in May 2011), AfricaRice has regional responsibility to deliver on GRiSP products and milestones in Africa.

AfricaRice’s 2011–2020 Strategic Plan (‘Boosting Africa’s Rice Sector’) was approved by the Center’s Council of Ministers during its 28th Ordinary Session held in Gambia, 22–23 September 2011. The Strategic Plan will be implemented in partnership with many partners along the research-to-development continuum, with the national agricultural research systems as the key entry point in each country. To achieve impact and boost Africa’s rice sector it is essential to: (i) concentrate efforts (avoid dispersion); (ii) build critical mass; (iii) connect actors in the research and development communities; and (iv) communicate results. Following these four principles, AfricaRice will implement its Strategic Plan through the following three mechanisms.

The first mechanism is through AfricaRice’s participation in CGIAR Research Programs, in particular the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP). AfricaRice will broker the mobilization of rice knowledge from outside Africa and ensure that knowledge from Africa will benefit other continents. The large majority of AfricaRice’s activities will be reported under the global umbrella of GRiSP.

The second mechanism is the Rice Task Force Mechanism: an Africa-wide systematic collaborative research effort on critical thematic areas in the rice sector, based on the principles of sustainability, build-up of critical mass, and ownership by the NARS. The Task Force Mechanism will contribute to the development of a new generation of rice scientists across the continent.

The third mechanism consists of Rice Sector Development Hubs — zones where rice research products and local knowledge are integrated across the rice value chain to achieve development outcomes and impact. Hubs represent key rice growing environments and different market opportunities across African countries, and are linked to major national or regional rice-development efforts to facilitate broader uptake of rice knowledge and technologies. The geographic
positioning of each Hub is determined in national workshops convened by the NARS. In 2011 and 2012, a total of 54 Hubs were identified in 19 countries.

In 2005, the Center employed or hosted 46 internationally recruited staff (4 hosted). By the end of 2013, this reached 72 (3 hosted, including post-doctoral fellow and longterm consultants).

The Center’s overall budget tripled from just over US$ 11 million in 2006 to $32 million in 2013. The Center’s reserves were also built beyond the CGIAR Consortium recommended minimum of 90 days to a solid 222 days in 2012.


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Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)



AfricaRice is a CGIAR Research Center –
part of a global research partnership
for a food-secure future.
It is also an intergovernmental association of
African member countries.


AfricaRice Headquarters
01 BP 4029, Abidjan 01, Côte d'Ivoire
T: +225 22 48 09 10; F: +225 22 44 26 29

M’bé Research Station
01 B.P. 2551, Bouaké 01, Côte d'Ivoire
T: +225 22 48 09 20; F: +225 31 63 25 78

E: AfricaRice@cgiar.org


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