27 June 2022, Nairobi - International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Director General Dr. Jean Balié visited the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) President Dr. Agnes Kalibata and her team to enhance cooperation and explore ways to further intensify efforts to improve the productivity and incomes of rice farmers in Africa.
As Africa emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, food and nutrition security has become more important than ever. Imports of major food crops have increased in recent years, putting pressure on Africa's trade balance and leaving the continent vulnerable to price shocks.
IRRI and AGRA have been working separately and together to address these issues through technology, capacity building, and policy responses. This visit provided an opportunity to identify areas of collaboration, and reaffirm the need for strong partnership between the two organizations.
During the discussions, Dr. Balié and Dr. Kalibata agreed on the importance of regional networks in addressing development challenges and promoting resilience at national and regional levels. They also reaffirmed the need for coordination mechanisms and models of engagement that ensure quality and competitiveness of agricultural products across regions and continents.
For example, "Seed Without Borders" is an initiative launched by IRRI that aims to improve seed availability, quality, and supporting policy reforms across countries and continents. The initiative will tackle bottlenecks for effective seed systems and varietal replacement by learning from experiences in Africa and Asia.
With the One CGIAR transition in full gear, both organizations acknowledged the potential for greater collaboration and committed to further strengthening their partnership. They also discussed the need to build a campaign to more strongly engage in rice sector development, understand the need for quality and policy reforms, and reverse the dominance and preferences of imported rice.
Moving forward, IRRI and AGRA will continue to work together to develop modalities for impactful partnerships, with a focus on commodity systems and climate resilience, nutrition, quality and productivity, and engagement with national agricultural research and extension systems. These efforts will be piloted in a few countries with the potential to scale up to other countries in the future.
AGRA Mozambique and IRRI are also discussing a possible rice sector development project that includes two major components: 1) Strengthening seed systems and 2) addressing nutrition challenges in Mozambique. Based on AGRA, this project is expected to start in January 2023.
IRRI is also working alongside the rest of CGIAR in 11 Initiatives relevant to Africa around the themes of food security and nutrition, social and gender equality, climate change, water, and agriculture value chains. IRRI scientists are also leading or co-leading the implementation of these initiatives in the continent.
The two organizations are planning to meet on or before September 2022 to develop a strong joint program. IRRI and AGRA are also expecting to conduct annual meetings to assess progress and identify areas for course correction and adjustments to accelerate impact at scale.