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CERAAS resulted from the commitment of a national agricultural research institution, ISRA, and some research institutes of the member States of CORAF/WECARD and their bilateral partners, to respond to the challenges of improving agricultural production under drought conditions.

It started with the decision taken by ISRA in 1982, to develop a new scientific approachto improve and stabilise groundnut production in the Central and Northern zones of Senegal, with its partners, CIRAD and the University of Paris7. In 1983, a multidisciplinary team was constituted at the National Agronomic Research Centre of ISRA based in Bambey, to respond to this objective.

This team very quickly produced the first concrete results. Based on these results, in 1987, the research institutes of the member States of CORAF/WECARD in agreement with ISRA mandated the team to extend its expertise to all the other research teams in the sub region working on the same problem.

This marked the beginning of the CERAAS concept launched by ISRA, CORAF/WECARD and its member institutions, with the aim of responding effectively to the challenges of improving agricultural production under drought conditions. This concept included strengthening of local capacity as well as training capacity of teams in the sub region, by providing them with a high performance scientific system that no other institution in the South alone had the financial and human means to construct.

With the help of this system, research teams in the sub region must be able to integrate the knowledge, methods and techniques necessary for carrying out their own plant breeding programmes and dissemination of varieties adapted to drought. The system must also have the capacity of carrying out new and adaptive research, which could be applied to different crop species in the dry regions of the sub region.

By 1988 the concept was already set, and in 1989, CERAAS was officially created as a national laboratory with a regional vocation, specialised in the area of improving plant adaptation to drought, for research teams in the CORAF/WECARD zone.

The quality and harmony of the partnership developed between CERAAS and institutions in the North, rapidly resulted in reducing the existing gap between research teams in the North and those in the South, with respect to scientific capacity, acceleration of knowledge transfer and mastering of research methods and tools, in the area of plant adaptation to drought. This enabled research teams in the sub region to create adapted plant materials and decision-making tools for their agriculture.

The development of CERAAS as a pilot structure or more exactly as a test-laboratory of new partnership modalities between the stakeholders in Senegal, CORAF/WECARD and their partners in the North continued. In 1996, ISRA and CORAF/WECARD decided to strengthen the position of CERAAS as a national tool with a regional vocation. The NARS also strengthened their contribution to the partnership by accepting, for example, to define and experiment new forms of mobility and exchange of national research experts.

In 1997, three major stakeholders of the Senegalese NARS, ISRA, ENSA and UCAD, decided to invest in CERAAS, by developing a training programme leading to the award of diplomas in the area of plant adaptation to drought, which would be open to the sub region . To integrate this new dimension into the system, the new buildings of CERAAS were constructed within the campus of ENSA in Thiès.

CERAAS, therefore, constitutes a model of the new research tools, capable of responding to the challenges of local development, capacity building in the South and development of equitable partnership between the North and the South. It is also a generator of significant and reciprocal added values for each one of its stakeholders and their clients.