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Agricultural research feeds the knowledge base that underpins food security and rural employment across sub-Saharan Africa. However, in West Africa, many national agricultural research programs (NARS) are small and have insufficient resources to carry out well-rounded, in-depth research programs. Since the crops, cropping systems and food needs of these countries have much in common, there is a clear opportunity for sharing knowledge and capacities for mutual benefit through networks.
However, conventional crop-based networks in sub-Saharan Africa were mainly mechanisms for centralized dissemination and testing of technologies, an approach that treated NARS as dependent recipients of research outputs generated by international centres. This paper describes the mechanisms employed by ROCARIZ, the West and Central Africa Rice Research and Development Network to overcome that tradition.
ROCARIZ broke the mold by structuring itself around multi-country, issue-driven ‘task forces’ that decentralize the international research agenda to NARS. The task force mechanism puts NARS in the lead in all aspects of the research cycle including idea generation, priority-setting, fundraising, work planning, building collaboration and teams, project execution, monitoring, evaluation and reporting. By creating opportunities and incentives for teamwork and scientific professionalism, the ROCARIZ approach generates pride and enthusiasm amongst its members while developing their technical capacities and knowledge sharing skills and behaviours.