CORAF

Leading Agricultural Innovation in West and Central Africa

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It was in 1987 that CORAF was baptized. The registration of the birth of the institution is dated 27 March 1987 in Abidjan. On this day, fifteen French-speaking agricultural research institutions from West Africa, Central Africa and Madagascar and their colleagues from French agricultural research institutions, including the Center for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA), the Overseas Scientific and Technical Research Office (ORSTOM) which later became the Research Institute for Development (IRD), decided to create the Conference of Heads of African and French Agricultural Research (CORAF) with headquarters in Paris.

CORAF: THIRTY YEARS OF INNOVATION IN THE SERVICE OF AGRICULTURE

In what context was CORAF created?

The second post-independence decade was marked by acute food, nutrition and environmental crises. The food situation of the young independent nations was soon confronted by repeated cycles of drought, with the result of:

 

  1. Endemic famines;
  2. Significant migratory movements within countries and beyond national borders, from dry areas to wetter areas;
  3. A marked degradation of the environment leading to a significant loss of biodiversity.

 

If these phenomena were more pronounced in the Sahelian countries of West Africa, they were also observed in Central Africa, particularly in the northern part of Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic. The serious degradation of the Congo Basin forest, considered as the “second green lung” of the world after the Amazon, was also noted. This environmental degradation had a tragic impact on the poorest populations, in this case women and children living mainly in rural areas.

 

The heavy dependence of the agriculture of these countries on climate hazards had a catastrophic impact on agricultural production, particularly food production, and on national economies, which are generally highly dependent on the agricultural sector. Faced with a nature that had become hostile, it required mobilization at the level of countries, sub-regions and the international community to deal with the situation. As a result, the role of agricultural research became crucial. Many initiatives were taken to revive agriculture through the dissemination of new farming techniques. These are:

 

  • The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), created in 1975, with the aim of promoting regional cooperation and development in economic areas including agriculture and natural resource management. It includes fifteen (15) member countries: Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, and Niger;
  • The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) was initially created in October 1983 by eleven Central African States (Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe 16 and Chad) with a view to promoting regional cooperation. Currently Burundi and Rwanda are part of the East African Community (EAC).

 

Initiatives to better coordinate and strengthen research capacity at the regional level in response to development challenges have also emerged. These include :

 

  • The Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) set up in 1973 with the mandate to invest in food security and the fight against the effects of drought for a new ecological balance. This mandate covers nine (09) countries, namely Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Senegal and Chad.

 

CILSS has two (02) specialized structures, the Institute of the Sahel (INSAH), in charge of the coordination of agricultural research in the Sahel and the AGRHYMET Regional Center, responsible for agro-meteorological issues, ecological monitoring and training in plant protection:

 

  • The Food Crops Research and Development Project in the Semi-Arid Zones of Africa (SAFGRAD), created in 1975 with the financial support of USAID to promote food production through a partnership between international centers and national agricultural research institutes. The coordinating office for this project, which was based in Ouagadougou under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity (OAU, predecessor of the AU), covers twenty-five (25) countries in sub-Saharan Africa. From the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA, now Africa Rice), created in 1974, sixteen (16) countries joined the organization and became a CGIAR structure with its headquarters in Bouake in the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire.
  • CIRDES, created in 1991 to serve as a sub-regional research facility in the field of livestock. Based in Bobo Dioulasso (Burkina Faso), its activities currently concern six West African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Togo and Guinea-Bissau.

 

All these initiatives of the time were intended to contribute in their respective fields, to solve the food and ecological crisis in West and Central Africa.

Before CORAF, how was agricultural research organized in French-speaking African countries?

In the aftermath of the independence of some African countries in 1960, most of them, because of the lack of a critical mass of national scientific expertise at the time, entrusted the management of their research system to France through cooperation agreements.

 

The resumption of the management of agricultural research by the national structures has thus been gradual. It should be emphasized that all national research institutions faced common growth challenges. They also had to plead their cases with their governments and donors in a context of structural adjustment. In addition, the national dimensions of States were too narrow for the scientific community. It was necessary to overcome the “political and administrative balkanization.” The new generation of researchers who had been recruited by the national institutes needed a framework of expression and career and there was unanimity around the idea that research should be thought of at the regional level.

 

In general terms, the prevailing view at the time was the lack of organization of most agricultural research institutes, on the one hand, and the existence of a multitude of actors for this sector, without links with each other, on the other hand. In addition to the weakness of national institutes, the absence of formal links with international centers was added.

Why the creation of CORAF?

CORAF was, above all, a demonstration of the desire of the main actors of agricultural research in French-speaking Africa, in this case the Directors-General of the national agricultural research institutions, to break up the compartmentalization that has taken place between the countries at the favor of independence; to provide an original and relevant response to the challenges facing their structures. These institutions, although growing, had indeed a real specificity: that of occupying a key position on the scene of the African agricultural research. Indeed, this originality comes from their rootedness in the field, origin of the questions and target responses both of the action of all operators involved in the evolution of rural areas: national development policy makers, bilateral or multilateral donors, non-African national or international research institutions (specifically oriented towards development or not), national development actors (public, private, associations, etc.).

 

From this specificity, thus results the very originality of CORAF, which has adopted for the implementation of joint research projects, a bottom-up approach based on a grouping of researchers from national programs on priority themes. The desire shown by the main actors in African agricultural research since the Paris meeting was strongly encouraged and supported by CIRAD and the French Ministry of Cooperation.

Who are the founding fathers of CORAF?

CORAF was designed by a small group of agricultural research managers who played a key role. They are :

  • Coulibaly Dognenena, Director of Research at the Institut Des Savanes (IDESSA) of Cote d’Ivoire
  • Jacques Eckebil, Director of the Institute of Agricultural Research (IRA) of Cameroon
  • Jean Nya Ngatchou, Secretary General of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research of Cameroon
  • Michel Sedogo, Director General of the National Institute for Agricultural Research and the National Center for Scientific and Technical Research of Burkina Faso
  • Fatogoma Traoré, Director of the Institute of Rural Economy of Mali
  • Charles Razafindrakoto, Director General of the National Center of Applied Research for Rural Development (FOFIFA) of Madagascar
  • Moctar Toure, Director of the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA)
  • Research managers from Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Togo, Benin, Niger, Guinea and Gabon also played an active role.

On the French side, Hervé Bichat, former Director General of CIRAD and his collaborators, Mr. Bernard Bachelier who was the first Executive Secretary of CORAF (1987-1990) and Rolland Guis, Africa Delegte of CIRAD.

The representation of ORSTOM was provided by Harry Palmier.

It is this group that developed the basic elements of CORAF: statutes, logo, principles of operation, strategy, facilitation of meetings.

What is the Mission of CORAF?

The mission assigned to CORAF by its founding fathers is to ‘’strengthen national agricultural research programs through better consultation in order to develop a genuine African scientific community’’.

 

CORAF was therefore conceived as the instrument of strengthening an African scientific community rooted in its environment, by creating an African space for collaborative research. Later, CORAF will become, in fact, the technical arm of ECOWAS in all that concerns agricultural issues.

How were research programs put together within CORAF?

Two (02) types of activity could be distinguished :

 

  1. Country programs jointly managed by the national institutes or services of rural development ministries with French specialized institutes. The implementation of these programs followed mutually agreed patterns. As a general rule, there was a National Committee for Agricultural Research which defined the orientations and lines of research.
  2. Programs emanating from new initiatives or international centers whose implementation was done with the involvement of researchers nominated by their institutes but which escaped the overall coordination.

 

In both cases, the vast majority of the programs concerned food production through a disciplinary approach of the activities: varietal selection, agriculture, plant protection. This classic approach was partly justified by the success of the green revolution that had just taken place in Asia, where the spread of successful varieties has eradicated hunger. As such, many programs in Africa aimed to spread “miracle” varieties to boost food production and to achieve food self-sufficiency in countries.

 

Over the years, the CORAF base has grown again. And at the institution’s third Plenary, held in 1990 in Antananarivo, Madagascar, the decision to transfer the Executive Secretariat to Dakar, Senegal, was taken.

What is the Vision of CORAF?

CORAF aims to contribute to a sustainable reduction of poverty and food insecurity in West and Central Africa. To achieve this, it is working to increase economic growth, generated by agriculture, and to improve the agricultural research system of the sub-region. This vision is based on the principles that govern the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). It also builds on the vision of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa that the African Union has designated as the Technical Agency for the Implementation of CAADP Pillar IV (Improving Agricultural Research, Dissemination and Adoption of Technologies).

What is the Objective of CORAF?

The objective of CORAF is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of smallholder farmers and promote the agribusiness sector. For this, it puts producers and agricultural users at the Center of research.

What are the functions of CORAF?

The main functions of CORAF are to :

 

  1. Coordinate the NARS of the 23 countries, encourage planning and common financial and administrative systems, harmonize sources, support programs aligned with FAAP principles.
  2. Strengthen the capacity of the NARS, create and maintain expertise, promote institutional strengthening, develop skills in the implementation of the IAR4D.
  3. Undertake advocacy, facilitate the adoption of strategic options, facilitate the implementation of policies, advocate for the mobilization of financial resources and finally
  4. Manage agricultural knowledge, convert information into knowledge, and establish mechanisms to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge.

What are CORAF’s areas of intervention?

CORAF’s actions are based on three main pillars :

  • Development of new technologies and agricultural innovations
  • Collection and dissemination of agricultural data and
  • Strengthening and coordinating regional agricultural systems, including policy recommendations for agricultural growth for member states.

With whom does CORAF collaborate?

CORAF reserves the right to collaborate closely with Pan-African or International Organizations, International Agricultural Research Centers of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, as well as with the Regional Economic Communities of West and Central Africa (ECOWAS, ECCAS, UEMOA, CEMAC) which have similar goals and objectives, international financial institutions.

What is the composition of CORAF?

CORAF is composed of the institutions of the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) of (23) West and Central African countries and their partners.

 

As such, it is made up of two types of members :

 

  • Founding members
  • Associate members

Who are the founding members of CORAF?

The founding members of CORAF are the National Agricultural Research Institutions having adhered to its first Statutes, on 19 July 2001, in Libreville, Republic of Gabon :

 

  • National Institute of Agricultural Research of Benin, INRAB, Benin
  • Institute of Environment and Agricultural Research, INERA, Burkina Faso
  • Agricultural Research Institute for Development, IRAD, Cameroon
  • Instituto Nacional de Investigacion and Desenvolvimento Agrrio, INIDA, Cape Verde
  • Central African Institute for Agronomic Research, ICRA, Central African Republic
  • General Delegation for Scientific and Technical Research, DGRST, People’s Republic of Congo
  • National Center for Agricultural Research, CNRA, Cote d’Ivoire
  • Institute of Agricultural and Forestry Research, IRAF Gabon
  • National Agricultural Research Institute, NARI, Gambia
  • Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, Ghana
  • Agricultural Research Institute of Guinea, IRAG, Guinea
  • Institut National de Pesquina Agrara, INPA, Guinea-Bissau
  • Institute of Rural Economy, IER, Mali
  • National Committee for Agricultural Research, CNRA, Mali
  • National Center for Agronomic Research and Agricultural Development, CNRADA, Mauritania
  • National Center for Livestock and Veterinary Research, CNERV, Mauritania
  • National Institute of Agricultural Research of Niger, INRAN, Niger
  • Department of Agricultural Sciences, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria
  • Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research, ISRA, Senegal
  • National Agricultural Research Co-ordination Council, NARCC, Sierra Leone
  • Chadian Institute of Agricultural Research for Development, ITRAD, Chad
  • Laboratory of Veterinary and Zootechnical Research of Farcha LRVZ, Chad
  • Togolese Institute of Agricultural Research, ITRA, Togo
  • National Institute for Studies and Agricultural Research, INERA, Democratic Republic of Congo

Who are the associate members of CORAF?

The members of CORAF are the Private Sector, the Non-Governmental Organizations and the Civil Society having adhered to its Statutes :

 

  • The Network of Agro-Industry Professionals in West and Central Africa, Interface
  • The Network of Farmers Organizations and Producers of West Africa, ROPPA
  • The Regional Platform of Farmers’ Organizations of Central Africa, PROPAC
  • Regional Economic Communities and Intergovernmental Organizations
  • Scientific Partners
  • Financial Partners

What are the organs of CORAF?

The Organs of CORAF/WECARD are: the General Assembly (GA) which is the supreme body which evaluates with sovereign rights all issues concerning the institution, the Governing Board (GB), the Executive Secretariat (ES), the Scientific and Technical Committee (STC).

The General Assembly

The General Assembly is composed of the members of the Governing Board, the Delegates representing each member National Agricultural Research System, the Representatives of Regional and International Agricultural Research Organizations operating in the West and Central African sub-region; Representatives of the Regional Economic Communities (ECCAS, CEMAC, ECOWAS, UEMOA); Development Partners as observers, Representatives of the Private Sector, Representatives of Farmers’ Organizations, Representatives of Government Organizations. It holds its regular sessions every two years.

 

Extraordinary sessions of the General Assembly may be convened in exceptional circumstances or to consider matters relating to an amendment of the statutes. Extraordinary sessions of the General Assembly may be demanded by two-thirds of CORAF members.

Governing Board

The Governing Board of CORAF is composed of thirteen (13) members who are: the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Governing Board appointed by the General Assembly, six (6) Representatives (including the President and Vice-President) of National Agricultural Research Institutions and/or National Research Institutions elected by the General Assembly, two (2) Representatives of the Main Regional Economic Communities such as ECCAS, CEMAC, ECOWAS and UEMOA, One (1) Representative of Scientific Partners from Agricultural Research Institutions recognized by CORAF and who have affirmed their adherence to the Statutes, One (1) Representative of Non-Governmental Organizations members of the Association; One (1) Private Sector Representative member of the Association; A representative of the professional agricultural organizations; Development Partners; The Executive Director of CORAF. At least four (4) of the thirteen (13) members must be women.

 

The members of the Governing Board serve for a period of two (2) years renewable once. One-third of the members of the Governing Board are renewed at each ordinary session of the General Assembly. In the event of a vacancy, the Governing Board co-opts a member until the next General Assembly, which then ratifies the appointment of that member. The Governing Board meets at least two (2) times a year. The Governing Board may invite observers to its meetings, who, however, have no voting rights.

Functions and Powers of the Governing Board

The Governing Board has extensive powers to act on behalf of the General Assembly in accordance with the Statutes of the Association. It convenes the meeting of the General Assembly and acts on behalf of the Association on all matters that require immediate action. It submits to the General Assembly for approval and ratification policies, programs, budgets, financial statements, audit reports, contract agreements, protocols, statutes, new memberships, membership fees, examines the status of members and engages actions of exclusion or suspension of members in accordance with the provisions of Article 9 of the Statutes. It authorizes any purchase, rental, credit or loan necessary for an efficient operation of the Association, recommends candidates to the General Assembly for appointment to the post of Executive Director of CORAF, defines the functions and responsibilities of the Executive Director of the Association. It is also the responsibility of the Governing Board to evaluate the annual performance of the Executive Director, oversee the operations of the Executive Secretariat, review and approve the Annual Work Plan and Budget, approve Technical Reports as well as Annual Financial Reports for submission to the General Assembly, etc.

Scientific and Technical Committee

The Scientific and Technical Committee is the advisory technical structure of the Governing Board. It is composed of twelve (12) experts selected from the members of the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) of CORAF and partner institutions on the basis of their merit, proven expertise and experience in agricultural research for development and capacity building. The composition of the Scientific and Technical Committee reflects a representation of CORAF’s fields of activity, the official languages of work and gender. The role of the Scientific and Technical Committee is to: review the programs and guide the Governing Board on technical and scientific issues, as well as the conformity of research program activities, Base Centers, Networks and Poles to the CORAF’s vision and mission, to assist the Executive Secretariat in performing the functions of facilitating scientific cooperation and coordination, to assist the Governing Board in the evaluation of CORAF’s scientific activities between meetings of the General Assembly. The Scientific Committee monitors and evaluates all scientific cooperation activities including scientific publication and dissemination of technical information implemented by CORAF, assists the Executive Secretariat in coordinating the scientific activities of CORAF in order to promote scientific excellence and increase the influence of CORAF in all countries of West and Central Africa.

 

The members of the Scientific and Technical Committee sit for a term of three years renewable once. The Scientific and Technical Committee meets once a year in a regular session and in extraordinary session if necessary. To facilitate the implementation of its functions, the Scientific and Technical Council establishes ad hoc sub-committees to deal with specific issues.

Executive Secretariat of CORAF

The Executive Secretariat of CORAF is housed at CORAF headquarters in the city chosen by the host country. The Executive Secretariat plays a major role in the implementation of the CORAF Strategic Plan as approved by the General Assembly as well as the decisions of the General Assembly and the Governing Board. The Executive Secretariat is managed by the Executive Director. Under the responsibility of the latter, the Executive Secretariat has the following main functions: Supervise the implementation of the Strategic Plan including Monitoring and Evaluation, Finance and Administration, promote agricultural research in West and Central Africa, support the development of a program strategy, provide program support, including resource mobilization for agricultural research, and coordinate specialized agricultural research programs and networks. The Executive Secretariat also serves as a focal point for development partners and other actors. It advocates for investment and increased support for agricultural research and development, coordinates knowledge management programs and promotes the exchange of information between countries and member institutions.

Executive Director of CORAF

The Executive Director is a senior African scientist from one of the West and Central African countries whose NARS is a member of CORAF. He is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Governing Board after a selective recruitment process based on a call for applications. The Executive Director of CORAF performs the following functions :

 

Ensure the General Management and the Legal Representation of CORAF on the delegation of the Chairman of the Governing Board, supervise the activities of the Executive Secretariat, assume the scientific leadership of administration and effective management of the human, financial and physical resources of the Executive Secretariat of the CORAF. He also ensures that the decisions of the General Assembly and the Governing Board are fully implemented, and ensures the efficient and effective functioning of the Executive Secretariat. The Executive Director assumes the Secretariat during the meetings of the Governing Board and the General Assembly, control and regularly monitor scientific activities as well as the organization of financial, institutional and program and project audits. It is his responsibility to establish and develop scientific partnerships and development, seek funds and other resources necessary for the implementation of CORAF’s activities. He also represents CORAF at partner meetings, as delegated by the Chairman of the Governing Board, prepares CORAF statutory meetings, annual work plans and associated budgets. The promotion and effective dissemination of information related to agricultural research and development is also the responsibility of the Executive Director.

 

The Executive Director is appointed for a term of four (4) years renewable for a single term of four (4) additional years following satisfactory performance and a positive evaluation made by the Governing Board.

Conclusion

Thirty years after its creation, CORAF is at a crossroads. The institution that has grown in maturity and legitimacy, must now address the coming years by taking up the challenge of the dissemination and mass use of technologies and other agricultural innovations it has generated through its 23 NARS. With a covered area of 11.5 million square kilometers where a population of almost 400 million people live, 70% of whom on agriculture, CORAF wants to focus on the transformation of agriculture through technologies and other innovations to create wealth, jobs for young people, but also to achieve food self-sufficiency in these two regions.