Africa-wide Rice Task Forces
Task forces, hubs, innovations platforms (IPs) are the core of the partnership model to implement AfricaRice Strategic Plan. The modus operandi of task forces are trials, surveys, introduction of technologies and innovations through IPs.
The task force mechanism is the main vehicle used by AfricaRice to conduct research in partnership with the national agricultural research systems (NARS). It is an Africa-wide systematic collaborative research effort on critical thematic areas in the rice sector and is based on the principles of sustainability, build-up of critical mass, and ownership by the NARS.
A major thrust of the task forces is building the rice research capacity at the regional and national levels. It helps reduce the time lag between the development and the release of new rice technologies across the continent and increase their impact.
Focusing on six themes – (1) breeding; (2) agronomy; (3) postharvest and value addition; (4) policy; (5) gender: and (6) mechanization – the Africa-wide Rice Task Forces aim to provide synergy to research efforts across the continent, pool scarce human resources and foster a high level of national involvement.
1. Breeding Task Force
The Africa-wide Rice Breeding Task Force was established in 2010 to accelerate the development of rice varieties through continent-wide varietal evaluation of nominated elite lines from AfricaRice and international and national partners, using a standardized experimental methodology. The Task Force comprises international and national rice breeders from about 30 African countries.
The Breeding Task Force provides access to new breeding materials for national breeders, and generally shortens the time needed for adopting new rice varieties for major production systems in Africa. It is actively engaged in capacity development programs on breeding, experimental design, and data management for national researchers, thus contributing to the development of a new generation of rice breeders across the continent.
2. Agronomy Task Force
The Africa-wide Rice Agronomy Task Force, established in 2011, pools the resources of rice agronomists across the continent, with overall coordination provided by AfricaRice. The overarching aim of this Task Force is to improve rice production and productivity through the situation analysis, introduction, testing and dissemination of best-bet and best-fit crop management practices. Most of its activities are conducted in farmers’ fields in the rice hubs.
As part of activities, the Agronomy Task Force determined the farm level rice yield gaps and their causes in different rice systems through yield-gap and diagnostic surveys. The results from the surveys enable AfricaRice and its national partners to identify the opportunities available to introduce and adapt suitable technologies to close the yield gaps. Another key aspect of the task force’s work is rebuilding and strengthening agronomy capacity across the continent.
3. Postharvest and Value Addition Task Force
The Africa-wide Postharvest and Value Addition Task Force, established in 2011, works with partners across sub-Saharan Africa to develop/adapt machineries and practices that reduce post-harvest losses and enhance the market value of rice, rice-based products and by-products.
The Task Force conducted situational analyses in rice hubs in partnership with value-chain actors to identify bottlenecks along the rice postharvest value chain and propose achievable measures to upgrade the postharvest system in each hub. It also works to rebuild and strengthen capacity across the continent in the areas of rice postharvest and value addition.
4. Policy Task Force
The Africa-wide Rice Policy Task Force works with national partners to provide policy-relevant information about rice to policy-makers of its member countries. On behalf of the Task Force, AfricaRice has developed standardized sampling, data-collection and data-analysis methods and conveyed these to the NARS through numerous training programs. These have been instrumental in establishing quality rice statistics for the continent.
The Task Force activities cover (i) rice policy, (ii) production, resource and institutional economics, (iii) marketing, consumer preferences, (iv); value chain, and (v) impact assessment. to further promote vital regional collaboration toward food security. The Policy Task Force specifically addresses regionalization through supporting the development of: (i) a regional rice development strategy; and (ii) regional rice trade policies and harmonization of rice trade policies across countries and regions.
5. Gender Task Force
The Africa-wide Task Force on Gender in Rice Research and Technology Development, established in 2011, functions through gender focal points in AfricaRice member countries. It seeks to ensure an effective gender mainstreaming in rice R4D and address gender concerns, especially gender gaps in access to technologies and knowledge, specific technology needs of women, and women’s potential roles as contributors and beneficiaries of technologies in rice value chains.
The Gender Task Force is also engaged in capacity building activities for researchers and other partners (gender and non-gender researchers) to integrate gender into their approaches and to deliver gender-friendly technologies. It is also involved in gender sensitization among the farming communities and in determining women empowerment and related conditions.
6. Mechanization Task Force
The Africa-wide Rice Mechanization Task Force was established in 2013, involving partners from both the public and private sectors, because the private sector can provide the scaling up required to truly mechanize Africa’s rice value chain.
The Mechanization Task Force helps introduce appropriate small-scale machinery (e.g., seeders, weeders, threshers, harvesters, dryers, parboilers, etc.) to be tested, adapted and produced locally. It has the following objectives: 1. Introduction, testing and outscaling of agricultural equipment; 2. Training of manufacturers and end-users; and 3. Promotion of mechanization.