Why NERICA is a Successful Innovation for African Farmers uri icon

abstract

  • In their paper ‘Funding international agricultural research and the need to be noticed: a case study of NERICA rice’, Stuart Orr, James Sumberg, Olaf Erenstein and Andreas Oswald (subsequently referred to as Orr et al) blame the Africa Research Center (WARDA) for not providing scientific evidence for statements on the performance of varieties of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA). Along the way, they question both the scientific credibility and the integrity of WARDA and its staff. They argue that WARDA created interest and excitement around these varieties for the sole purpose of augmenting funding and to get the Center through difficult situations, such as the forced displacement from Côte d’Ivoire because of the civil war, and they maintain that donors blindly went along with this because of some perceived need for an African success story. WARDA is presented as a flawed institution, poorly monitored, hungry for a success story and resources, continuously fighting for survival and misleading its investors, independent reviewers and the international community regarding one of its major achievements – the NERICA varieties. WARDA scientists are depicted as uncritical, lacking objectivity and at best sloppy in the conduct and analysis of trials or in reporting the results. WARDA donors and supporters and external and independent reviewers appointed by donors, the CGIAR or WARDA, who have reviewed WARDA-related and NERICA-related work throughout the years, are depicted as either naive or lacking the necessary knowledge and expertise to conduct such reviews. This type of assessment – coming from four authors not currently conducting research on rice and based outside Africa – gives an extremely distorted view of the reality, and is insulting to WARDA staff and partners who have worked and are still working, often under difficult circumstances, for the benefit of rice farmers and consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa. When deciding to paint such a negative picture of WARDA, its staff and supporters and reviewers of WARDA research, the authors should have had the intellectual honesty to inform readers that at least three of them are not disinterested parties in this assessment, having had previous employment and capacities at WARDA.1 Such information would allow readers to put their paper and its content into its proper context and judge its objectivity and merits.

publication date

  • 2008