Thursday, 29 May 2008

Mainstreaming eLearning for Environment

Currently, there is a very low awareness of the benefits of eLearning among environmental institutions in Africa. Other sectors such as education, health, and development are more advanced in the application of eLearning and blended learning to support their training activities. The Educa series of eLearning conferences and the eLearning Africa series of conferences have little or no involvement by environmental organisations.

A seminar was therefore organised in Accra on 28th of May by UNEP in cooperation with ICWE as a pre-conference activity to the e-learning Africa 2008 conference.

It had the following objectives:
  • to increase awareness by environmental authorities on the cost-effectiveness of eLearning in their training, educational and awareness raising programmes;
  • to increase awareness of technology-supported learning and a new way of thinking about environmental education in universities and other learning institutions;
  • to strengthen institutional capacities in Africa to mainstream environment in university education across all academic disciplines, as well as long term knowledge competence development;
  • to enhance outreach of environmental education in Africa in the context of sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Speakers and participants at the seminar included decision makers, eLearning experts, educators, environmental education programme managers, eLearning programme managers and information specialists working in international organisations, environment ministries, environmental protection agencies, universities, non-governmental organisations, research institutions and the private sector.

The seminar comprised of four sessions:
  1. Keynote presentations by high-level representatives of environmental institutions in Africa and Europe.
  2. Roundtable – Policy dialogue on capacity development challenges facing environmental authorities in designing and delivering eLearning.
  3. Presentations on the application of eLearning in environmental programmes.
  4. Implementing an eLearning programme – the way forward.

Hereafter folows an interview with Maria Eugenia Arreola of UNEP Nairobi about this seminar.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

FARA and the Scientists Without BordersSM Web site

Google's power is unprecedented, but even its strength fails when faced with certain tasks. For example, a person seeking organizations that work on neglected tropical diseases in Africa might type "Africa neglected tropical diseases organization" into the Google search box. If so, 127,000 results would pop up. Sorting through these items is daunting enough—but what if the searcher desires more specific information? Say this individual is looking for blood samples from schistosomiasis patients or wants to help an African university that aspires to bolster its curriculum on neglected tropical diseases. Perhaps he or she wishes to study oesophagostomiasis in Ghana and wonders how labs there cope with the frequent power outages that plague the country.

The new Scientists Without BordersSM Web site ( might help. Launched on May 12, its cornerstone is a free database that collects key information about individuals, projects, and organizations that work—or would like to work—in the developing world. This resource will allow the scientific community to mobilize and coordinate its activities, thus harnessing its potential to promote global health, agricultural progress, environmental well-being, energy development, and so on. The online tool will fuel communication, link individuals with institutions and projects that would welcome their expertise, allow people to register their wants and assets, and provide a mechanism by which organizations can build on one another's progress. With a few clicks, users can start matching needs with resources and find out who is doing what where.

Already, 141 organizations, 82 projects, and 421 individuals from all over the globe have completed profiles. The initiative has raised more than $1 million—and a wide range of world-class organizations have joined as programmatic partners. The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), which is spearheading Scientists Without Borders, envisions it as a community venture and actively seeks feedback about how the site can best serve its members.

The potential power of the database is tremendous, but depends on the extent to which it is populated and used. To raise awareness about the initiative, Scientists Without Borders have been promoting the type of "viral marketing" that other Web sites have harnessed to create different types of social and professional networks. For example, organizational partners are expanding the database's universe by educating their constituents and contacts about the initiative. At press time, organizational partners included the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, the Earth Institute, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the Pasteur Institute, Duke University Health System, the African Centre for Technology Studies, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Health Sciences Online, SciDevNet, the University of Ghana, INDEPTH Network, Seeding Labs, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, the Science Initiative Group, the Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa, the International Foundation for Science, the Nigeria Higher Education Foundation, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations, and Sustainable Sciences Institute.

23/05 Guest blog: Harnessing science to foster sustainable improvements in the developing world

Scientists Without BordersSM Web site will be presented during the e-learning International Congress:
Thu. 29/05: Demonstrations

Oluremi A. Omowaiye, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nigeria
Science Without Borders - the New Single Reference Science Community Portal for Africa-Europe

African Development Bank creates fertilizer subsidy facility

The annual meeting of the governors of the African Development Bank (ADB), held in Maputo on May 14 and 15, approved the creation of an African Fertiliser Facility, that will make fertilizer available to African farmers at affordable prices.

The decision was not unanimous. The chairperson of the ADB Board of Governors, Mozambique's Planning and Development Minister Aiuba Cuereneia, told reporters that the United States was opposed to the fertilizer facility, "but the Board of Directors voted for it."
"We are now seeing international organisations talking about subsidizing agriculture", said Cuereneia. "This used to be taboo, but now it is being accepted. You can't manage agriculture commercially without subsidies."

At a closing press conference, the ADB President, Donald Kaberuka, noted that African agriculture used to suffer from low producer prices, and farmers had little incentive to produce. Now, with the sharp rise in grain prices internationally, there were incentives - but fertilizer prices had also soared.


Experts discuss at TICAD the importance of boosting the continent’s agricultural production to increase food self-sufficiency and reduce reliance

At the TICAD meeting, experts discussed the importance of boosting the continent’s agricultural production to increase food self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on imported food staples and food aid. Researchers said that while people around the world have been feeling the impact of the soaring prices of key staples like rice and maize, no one has been hurt more than Africans.

Prior to the meeting in Japan, the Chair of the Council of Ministers that has oversight responsibility for the Africa Rice Center signed a declaration commending Japan’s long-term investment in science and technology toward sustainable development in Africa. In particular, the Council noted not only the current investment in high-yielding rice varieties, but also said that Japan has sent hundreds of agricultural scientists to Africa over the last few decades and contributed a total of $593 million to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) since its inception in 1971.

AllAfrica 23/05 Africa: At Time of Food Crisis, New Rice Varieties Boost Rice Production

Japan pledges to help Africa double rice production

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Japan vowed Wednesday 27/05 to use its technological prowess to help African nations double rice production within a decade and ease the burden of soaring food prices.

Fukuda opened the conference by pledging to double aid by 2012 and offering four billion dollars in low-interest loans to develop infrastructure. Amid spiralling food prices that have triggered unrest in some parts of the world, Fukuda also promised to devote Japanese technology to help Africa double rice production over the next 10 years from the current 14 million tonnes.

A symposium hosted by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, the President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), was organised Tuesday 27/05 in advance of an African economic summit conference attended by some 100 heads of state of African nations, UN and international organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Other members of the symposium included Jakaya Mrisho Kitwete, the President of Tanzania and the current head of the African Union, Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former president of Mozambique and Donald Kaberuka, the President of the African Development Bank. Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University in New York delivered a video message to the symposium.

The panel members debated the current state of Africa's economic situation, the best ways to accelerate economic progress, the delicate balance between government controls and private enterprise and the lessons to be learned from Asia’s so-called economic miracle of recent decades.


Japanese International Cooperation Agency New Initiative to Double Rice Production in Africa +

Tokyo Int'l Conference on African Development (TICAD)

FARA is attending the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) held from May 28 to 30 in Yokohama, Japan.

Hundreds of delegates from all over the world, including over 40 heads of state of African countries are expected to attend the quinqennial event, under the theme "Toward a Vibrant Africa: A continent of Hope and Opportunity."

TICAD is a policy forum for African Development which Japan initiated in 1993 and has led with other co-organizers which consist of the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on African, the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank. A central feature of TICAD is the cooperation between Asia and Africa.

Since the inauguration in early 1990s, the TICAD meetings have evolved into a major global framework to facilitate the implementation of initiatives for promoting African development under the dual principle of African "ownership" and international "partnership".

The main objectives of TICAD are to promote high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and their partners and to mobilize support for African-owned development initiatives. Summit-level meetings are held every five years, while four ministerial conferences and other meetings have been held in between.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (2nd L, front), Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana (L, front) and Gabonese President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba (3rd L, front) visit the booth of Ghana Shea Butter soap at the African Fair 2008 Opening Ceremony, during the first day of the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in Yokohama, Japan, May 28, 2008. (Xinhua Photo/Ren Zhenglai)

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (C) and guests including Gabonese President Omar Bongo Ondimba(5th L), Madagascar's President Marc Ravalomanana(4th R), take a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of African Fair 2008 in Yokohama, near Tokyo oJn May 28, 2008. This five-day fair opened here connected the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). (Xinhua Photo/ Kazuhiro NOGI/Pool)

The conference aims to mobilizes knowledge and resources of the international community in the core areas of boosting economic growth, ensuring human security and addressing environment and climate change issues.

TICAD IV is scheduled to conclude with the adoption of the "Yokohama Declaration", outlining guiding principles and approaches to African development among TICAD stakeholders, as well as the "Yokohama Action Plan and the Yokohama Follow-up Mechanism", laying out a road map for action-oriented initiatives with measurable targets.

Results from TICAD IV are expected to be fed into the G-8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit hosted by Japan from July 7 to 9, 2008.

New report on how climate science could be better used for supporting adaption in African agriculture.

The Stockholm Environment Institute has recently published a policy brief and report (March 2008, 52 p.) on how climate science could be better used for supporting adaption in African agriculture.
The policy brief is available online
The full report is available online

Climate change is expected to place considerable additional stress on the biophysical, economic, political and social systems that determine livelihood security in Africa. Accordingly there is a growing need for “anticipatory adaptation”, in other words, proactive rather than reactive management of climate change risk.

Successful anticipatory adaptation requires the best available information concerning the nature of future climate risks: therefore it is vital that climate science is used more effectively in adaptation decision making.

The report makes following recommendations:
  1. Improve access to historical climate data
  2. Strengthen skills for applying climate science
  3. Bridge the gap between information producers and information users
  4. Create ‘platforms’ for collaborative action and information sharing
  5. Build on existing organisations and networks
  6. Develop records of ‘good’ adaptation
  7. Focus aid to better support adaptation

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

e-Learning Africa 2008 conference

Accra 28-30/2008. More than 1390 delegates from 78 countries are registered so far for the third edition of the eLearning Africa conference. The event will be opened by His Excellency Alhaji Aliu Mahama, the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana on Thursday, May 29th. The Opening Plenary will mark the kick-off for two full days of sessions, discussions and debates around ICT-supported education and training in Africa.

315 speakers and chairpersons from 54 countries will offer an abundance of opportunities for participants to learn, share and network with colleagues from all over the world. With 4 plenary sessions, 66 sessions in 11 parallel conference strands, 48 demonstrations and best practice examples, 14 pre-conference events and a number of exciting new features, the event will again be a landmark in pan-African capacity building for ICT-enhanced education and training.
Relevant topics for agricultural research in Africa:

Thu. 29/05: Mobile Phones Offering a Lifeline to Learners
Patrick Kiirya, Busoga Farmer Network (Bufanet), Uganda & Ignatz Heinz, Avallain AG, Switzerland
Uganda-MarketlnInfon et: ICT-Driven Agricultural Knowledge and Market Information for Small-Scale Farmers

Thu. 29/05: Using Open Source Technologies and Tools in Practice
Kwaku Boadu, Arrow Network Systems Ltd., Ghana
Javelin - Delivering On-line Educational Content in Poor Infrastructure Areas in Africa

Thu. 29/05: ICT for African Mother Tongue Language Education
Lauryn Oates, University of British Columbia, Canada

Thu. 29/05: Repositories, Knowledge Banks and Online Resources
Dr Petr Kosina, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Mexico
Cereal Knowledge Bank – Empowering Research to Reach the Doorstep of the Farmers
He was also in Addis

Thu. 29/05: Unleashing the Capabilities of Universities Through Information and Communication Technologies
Jan Beniest, World Agroforestry, Kenya
Lessons Learned from a Blended Learning Event on ‘Research Induction – Thinking Scientifically’

Thu. 29/05: Demonstrations
Oluremi A. Omowaiye, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nigeria
Science Without Borders - the New Single Reference Science Community Portal for Africa-Europe

Fri. 30/05 Access Solutions for Rural and Poorly Connected Regions
Ugo Vallauri, Computer Aid International, Kenya
Rural Access to ICT: The Importance of a Low-Power Approach

Fri. 30/05 Libraries as Access Providers to Resources and Expertise
Marga Koelen, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, The Netherlands
Fri. 30/05 Ongoing Research in the African Technology-Enhanced Learning Sector (Part I)
Wanyenda Leonard Chilimo, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania.
Challenges and Opportunities of eLearning from Learners’ Perspective: Experiences of Graduates of NetTel@Africa eLearning Programme

Fri. 30/05 Putting in Place ICT-Supported Libraries in Africa
Dr Justin Chisenga, Food and Agriculture Organization, Ghana

Fri. 30/05 Best Practice Examples
Prof Virginie Levasseur, Université de Moncton, Campus d'Edmundston, Canada
L'Agroforesterie en Afrique Sub-Saharienne: Principes et Pratiques

Dr Bedilu Habte, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Blended Learning Using Moodle in the Course Design of Concrete Structures

Programme of the eLearning Africa 2008 conference: online.
If you would like to print the conference programme: PDF 260 kB

Women's farmer group create their own e-learning material in Mali

COPROKANZA Project: Zantiébogou Women Shea Butter Producers Cooperative in Mali.

On Wednesday 28th May 2008, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capacity-building expert Mr Ousseni Zongo, presented the benefit of ICT tools for Agricultural E-learning. Mr. Zongo is working with the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) in Holland.

He shared the story of work with grassroot women farmers’ organization in Mali, as an example of the projects IICD is implementing in Africa. With the help of IICD, the 1200 relatively un-educated women have strategized, developed, and implemented a project to share knowledge in their local language about their area of expertise; Shea Butter.

This “COPROKAZAN Project” is based in Zantiébogou, a small village out of Bamako, Mali. Recognizing that practical agricultural production tips can best be shared in their local dialect, these women enhanced a font system to include characters from the Bamanan language and by so doing, not only explored digital photography for the first time, but also created a basic PowerPoint slideshow to communicate the procedures and difficulties of production.

This method is particularly effective because though most of the women farmers in the region are uneducated, they can benefit greatly from peer-mentoring and conferencing using ICT to disseminate agricultural knowledge.Perhaps, local-dialect programs like these can be scaled-up to the Sub-Saharan African Regions, to all of Africa and further to the rest of the world.

Why agricultural e-learning is still marginal?

Ousseni Zongo from the International Institute for Communication and Development (the Hague - the Netherlands) is Coordinator for the ICT Capacity building and supervises a number of e-learning projects in Burkina Faso and Mali.

He shares his thoughts on following questions:
  • Why is agricultural e-learning so marginal in the International Conference on e-learning (Accra 28 - 30 / 05 / 2008)?
  • What is the advantage of farmers making their own content?
  • What is the MULTI MEDIA learning method?
  • How is agricultural e-learning linking policy makers, researchers and farmers?
  • How powerful is agricultural e-learning for dessiminating innovative agricultural practices?

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Evaluation of FAO's information, knowledge sharing and communication activities

A 400 plus pages report (September 2007, 417 p.) of the 'Independent External Evaluation of FAO' was recently made available on the FAO website.

Looking at all aspects of the organization's work, the evaluation team discusses its information, knowledge sharing and communication activities in several places.

The role of FAO as a 'knowledge organization' pervades the report, and provides useful notions for other organizations in this area.

  • In paragraph 601, for example, the authors say that FAO’s “principal task is to work to ensure that the world’s knowledge of food and agriculture is available to those who need it when they need it and in a form which they can access and use.”
  • Chapter 3 on the ‘Relevance and Effectiveness of the Technical Work of FAO for the 21st Century’ has a substantial section on knowledge management and ensuring the availability of knowledge to users.
  • In recommendation 3.6, the evaluation team concludes that the “maintenance and strengthening of information systems is thus fundamental to the performance of the Organization’s role and requires adequate resourcing.” [Comment of IAALD: This is perhaps a lesson for all organizations working in agriculture.]
IAALD 12/05 : FAO as a knowledge organization
The report of the Independent External Evaluation (IEE) of FAO was considered by the FAO Conference in November 2007. An immediate plan of action will be considered by a Special Session of the Conference in the latter part of 2008.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

How can software used in e-health in Africa be useful in agriculture?

Jorn Braa of the University of Oslo is the coordinator of the EU-funded (Framework Programme 6 on ICT) BEANISH project: Building Europe Africa collaborative Network for applying IST in the Health care sector.
The objectives are to build Collaborative Networks between countries in Africa and between Africa and Europe on:
  • Applying IST (ICT) in health care for improved health services
  • Share learning and best practices in Health Information Systems
  • Share development and application of Free and Open Source SW
  • Capacity building
He explains how the open source software (DATA WAREHOUSE approach) is perfectly adaptable to e-agriculture Africa.

African languages technology offers new opportunities for farmers' queries

Ms. Wanjiku NGANGA of the University of Nairobi believes that the latest developments in speech recognition and African languages technology will bring forth new promissing applications in the use of mobile telephones for agricultural extension services.

Active research groups on those issues need be supported:

  • to improve the technological side of database queries in f.i. Kiswahili,
  • to research how language technology can mediate the query (for example on diseases which affect a particular crop),
  • to have database queries translated from national languages,
  • to have an SQL transformation of this,
  • to have the system retrieve what the farmer would want
  • to translate the text-based query back into Kiswahili
  • to have the query played back to the farmer in his language

Ms.Nganga gives the example of banana farmers in Kenya who use an Instant Voice Recognition (IVR) system to ask his question. The system plays back the response in Kiswahili to the farmer.

She recognizes that language technology is very challenging and that a lot of work still needs to be done. Many present applications are SMS based. The language aspect is bringing things a step further: "We can reach farmers regardless of their local expertise in different languages"

She finally elaborates on the present collaboration between the MIT and the UNBI on training for mobile phone programming and how to develop a number of new applications for the mobile phone.

UbuntuNet and the importance of networking in agriculture

F.F. Tusubira from UbuntuNet Alliance for Research and Education Networking (who is himself based in Kampala, Uganda) explains that 4 levels of networking are important for agriculture:
  • at the policy level ;
  • the academic level ;
  • the farmers ;
  • and the markets.
UbuntuNet as such can not reach the farmers but can demonstrate to researhers the potentialities of the use of ICT for national and regional linkages and for agriculture at the grass roots level. He gives the example of the ICT support of Makarere University to a milk cooperative using mobile phone text messages.

Kenya launches interactive voice service system and agriculture information service

The Government of Kenya has launched farmers information service, where the community's farming community will be able to receive and exchange timely news and information on agriculture, weather patterns and other related issues through their mobile phones.

Nafis has been developed by the National Agriculture and Livestock Programme of the Ministries of Agriculture and of Livestock Development. It is intended to provide Agricultural extension information and enhance existing direct extension services. It is not expected to substitute but rather to supplement these direct extension services.

The pilot project of the service was launched Monday 05/05 in Kiambu, near Nairobi by the country's assistant minister for agriculture Japeth Mbiuki at a ceremony attended by Swedish Ambassador Anna Brandt.

The launch of National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS) will enable farmers and other interested parties to receive timely agriculture information through their mobile phones. To ensure the sustainability of the service, the envoy called on the government to set aside some funds for it and also to develop modalities for attracting the participation of the private sector through cost sharing.

NAFIS is the first voice-site in Kenya and the only farmer's service of its kind in Africa. The voice-site is hosted by Popote Wireless. Although many Private Automatic Branch Exchanges (PABXs) offer interactive voice services, the NAFIS one is run by a Text-to-Speech engine that picks typed text from a computer and speaks it loudly in either Kiswahili or English.

The system is already being used to help farmers in Kiambu obtain critical information about agriculture by just dialling the number for the National Agriculture Information Service (NAFIS).

AllAfrica 13/05 Kenya: Voice Service System for Farmers Launched
Africa Online 05/05 Kenya launches agriculture information service
AllAfrica 05/05 Information System for Farmers to Fill Void of Extension Services
AllAfrica 28/04 Kenya: Agricultural Extension Work Both Important And Under-Valued

SIDA, September 2007, 64 p. The innovative use of mobile applications in the philippines - lessons for Africa
e-agriculture: Rwanda’s Government Launches Rural Mobile Phone Scheme 08/02
Bicycle Phone Charger for Rural Areas Launched in Uganda 27/03

UNECA and the promotion of national e-agriculture strategies

Sizo Mhlanga, Regional Advisor ICT Policies and Strategies of UNECA - Addis Abeba, elaborates on how so far only 3 African countries have developed an e-agriculture national strategy (Swaziland, Rwanda and Malawi).

Many governments prioritise e-governance strategies where only the administrative part of agriculture is covered. He calls for FARA to help implement e-agriculture strategies where national policies already exist.

The Government of Rwanda has received a Grant from the World Bank for the implementation of its eGovernment strategy. This Grant has been provided under the eRwanda project which is being implemented by the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA). The eRwanda Project will support the Ministry of Agriculture in developing a Market Price Information System that will leverage on the power of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of MINAGRI’s process of collecting, processing, dissemination and diffusion of market information including market prices and other relevant data.

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 4)

FARA participated at the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 4) which was held in Bonn, Germany, from 12 to 16 May 2008.

After four years of intensive negotiation, the 2000 participants attending the Bonn Biosafety Meeting, the largest ever gathering on biosafety, agreed to work towards legally binding rules and procedures for liability and redress for potential damage caused from the transboundary movements of living modified organisms (LMOs), commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety has agreed to a time table and a framework for the negotiation of the rules and procedures. The legally binding instrument for liability and redress will be discussed in October 2010 at the next meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, in Nagoya, Japan.

Delegates listened the COP 9 theme song “I’m a part of it” during the opening plenary of COP 9.

The ninth Conference of the Parties (COP 9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) started immediately following the fourth Meeting of the Parties (COP/MOP 4) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. During the two-week meeting 19-30 MAY 2008, the COP will consider: agricultural biodiversity, including biofuels; the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation; invasive alien species (IAS); forest biodiversity; incentive measures; the ecosystem approach; progress in implementation of the Strategic Plan and towards the 2010 target and relevant Millennium Development Goals; and financial resources and the financial mechanism.

Ben Turtur Donnie of Liberia for the AFRICAN GROUP called for the precautionary approach to be applied to large scale production of biofuels, and for suspending introduction of new measures for biofuel consumption until policy frameworks are adopted and a risk and benefit assessment is concluded.

Alfred Oteng Yeboah of GHANA said genetically modified (GM) biofuel crops could contaminate natural habitats.

Victor Ogbuneke (CBD)

Emmanuel Bayani Ngoyi of GABON proposed a donors’ meeting on biodiversity funding.

James Seyani (Malawi) for the AFRICAN GROUP, with others, emphasized the need for capacity building, enhanced public awareness, and financial resources.

Boukar Attari (Niger)

Matilde Da Conceicao Gomes Lopes (Guinea Bissau)

Maria Mbengashe (South Africa)

David Hafashimana (Uganda) in behalf of the AFRICAN GROUP pointed to ongoing work on rules and procedures on liability and redress under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, as a reference point for future work under the CBD.

Ivone Lopes (Cape Verde), for the WEST AFRICAN COUNTRIES, called for the integration of the three CBD objectives into climate change adaptation and projects for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) through a joint programme of work with the UNFCCC.

Maadjou Bah (Guinea)

Gemedo Dalle Tussie(Ethiopia)

Karma Nyedrup (Bhutan) with Mary Fosi Mbantenkhu (Cameroon)

Robert Höft (CBD) consulting with Alfred Oteng Yeboah (Ghana)

Budget group Chair Ositadinma Anaedu (Nigeria) reported on progress made in the budget group. He asked delegates to be mindful of financial implications during their negotiations. He noted that, on the basis of the already reviewed CRPs, a three-fold increase in voluntary contributions may be required.

The COP 9 high-level ministerial segment will be held from 28-30 May 2008. Other parallel events include: a mayors conference on local action for biodiversity, to be held from 26-28 May 2008; a fair on experiences and best practices in CEPA; and numerous side events, including many focusing on business and biodiversity, and biodiversity for development.

Some 5,000 delegates from 190 countries are taking part in the ninth conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that runs until May 30. Scientists and environmental groups have called for urgent action to stem the loss of the plant and wildlife which underpins the health of our planet and has a direct impact on people's lives.

Additional information about the Protocol is available at the following websites:
CBD Web site ; the Biosafety Clearing-House ; Frequently asked questions ; Media and Outreach

View of the plenary during the International Day for Biological Diversity celebration 22/05.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Ministers of Trade, Agriculture and Finance discussed the soaring cost of basic food items in West Africa

Representatives of eight international organizations involved in agricultural development and water resource management were invited to a one-day extraordinary meeting on Monday 19th of May of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Ministers of Trade, Agriculture and Finance to discuss the soaring cost of basic food items in West Africa.

Among those invited to the ministerial meeting were the President of the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Also invited to the meeting was the President of the Commission responsible for Agriculture, Environment and Development in the ECOWAS Parliament as well as the Ministers responsible for Finance, Agriculture and Trade in Mauritania. The one-day meeting discussed the various options and propose solutions for mitigating the effect of the spiralling prices on the region's population.

At the opening ceremony, ECOWAS Commission President Mohamed Ibn Chambas said the current food crisis should act as an incentive to ECOWAS member countries to imlement the common agricultural policy.

Pan-Africa workshop on service delivery to smallholder farmers

18-21 May 2008. Nairobi, Kenya. Supported by the Syngenta Foundation, the workshop brings together participants from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Benin, Europe and the USA to evaluate crop protection and stewardship industry in Africa, agricultural markets, service delivery to farmers, and practical examples of moving out of dependency.
Kenya’s Minister for Agriculture Hon. William Ruto officially opened the workshop on the 19th May

The participants include farmers, government (policy makers and regulatory bodies), agribusiness (manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers), academia, health experts, civil society and the media will also review the potential of mechanization and technology use in the agricultural field in the continent. The main objectives of the workshop are:

  • To review Africa’s agriculture environment in terms of service delivery to small holder farmers
  • To discuss commercialization of agricultural ideas as a strategy to move Africa away from dependency


IREN Kenya


Africa Science 24/05 Africa told to rethink research institutions, industry interractions

Enhanced Africa Rice Development Initiative

A high – profile delegation from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) visited FARA on 7th May to discuss the role of FARA in an initiative to enhance rice production in Africa. This initiative will be launched during the TICAD 4 meeting in Japan end of the month of May. The delegation comprised: Kenzo Oshima (Sr. Vice President), Yoshitaka Sumi (Group Leader Africa Group Rural Development Department), Kunihiro Yamuchi (Resident Representative), Masato Kumagai (Deputy resident representative), Akito Tatsuka (Project advisor – Agriculture and rural development).

This initiative with an overall strategy and a framework for action, is jointly proposed by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The initiative aims to respond to the increasing importance of rice production in Africa and to provide the international framework to assist self-effort of African countries to increase rice production, building on the existing policies and programs, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and the Africa Rice Initiative (ARI).
"With world food prices soaring and global shortages increasing JICA has unveiled a project to double rice production in Africa within a decade. A symposium entitled Toward a Green Revolution in Africa will be held May 29 (15:00-18:00) at the Pacifico complex in Yokohoma, the headquarters of the forthcoming fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV). The symposium will include a panel discussion entitled "Toward a Green Revolution in Africa" and key speeches by JICA and leading African officials including Dr. M. Jones, the so-called father of a newly developed rice strain for the continent called Nerica."

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The climate challenge for ACP agriculture

A short report was released 15th of May as well as the updated version in French and English of the Reader produced for the Briefing on “The climate challenge for ACP agriculture” held in Brussels on 13 February 2008. It gives a summary of the subject as well as resources and references available.

All the relevant documents on this subject are online at:


A report released by the UK based Globalisation Institute says that while many proposed solutions to climate change have the right intentions, they will ultimately fail to protect the planet. The debate about climate change solutions has been hijacked by "negative environmentalism", the view that thinks that improving the environment has to be done through big government plans to restrict foreign holidays, limit trade, force local shopping, or curb GDP.

Instead, the report says, policymakers need to adopt "positive environmentalism". This view recognises the importance of dealing with environmental problems but rejects the doom and gloom approach so commonly encountered. It sees the great environmental achievements over the past century and rejects the notion that there are long term limits to economic prosperity. It sees the importance of technology, innovation and economic growth in tackling climate change.

3rd Fair Trade International Symposium

  • 14-16 May. After the first two Fair Trade symposium held in Montréal in 2002 and 2006, the 3rd International Symposium was held in Montpellier on the theme ‘New dimensions in fair trade: implications and challenges’.

    A Web Symposium was organised to make the Symposium more accessible to distant auditors and to reduce the ecological cost of international travels.

    Hereafter an overview of the (heavily under-represented) African contributions:
  • Le commerce équitable : une étape vers l’amélioration des conditions de vie des petits producteurs du Sud ? Le cas de Fédolive au Maroc ; CHOHIN-KUPER A. & KEMMOUN H. ; CAP Rural, Meknès, Maroc
  • South african fair trade Rooibos Tea : chalenges of the US Market; NGCWANGU S.U. ; Univ. Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa

"Planet Diversity" The World Congress in the Future of Food and Agriculture

550 participants from 90 countries met from May 12 -15 in Bonn; Germany for a world congress on the future of food and agriculture. It is an alternative summit to the UN Convention on Biodiversity and the Biosafety Protocol meeting. The fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 4) is held in Bonn, Germany, from 12 to 16 May 2008. The ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9) will be held in Bonn, Germany, from 19 to 30 May 2008.

African member of the organisation committee:
Presentation from Africa:
  • Africa needs smart technologies, not GMOs: Dr. Coulibali, Mali
  • GMOs in Africa organised by IRPAD and Copagen, Mali
  • Participatory breeding in Africa: Assétou Founé Samaké, Mali
  • The small farmers' agenda: Mamadou Goita, Mali
  • Education and Cultural Biodiversity: Million Belayin, Ethiopia
  • Organic Agriculture, Abdoulaye Sarrin, Senegal
  • Guinea Fowl Raising and Hunting: Romeo Mpoack, Cameroon



La Présidence française du Conseil de l’Union européenne, en partenariat avec la Commission européenne et le Parlement européen organisera, au Parlement européen à Bruxelles le 3 juillet 2008, une conférence internationale intitulée « Qui va nourrir le monde ? Vers des agricultures diverses et durables, moteurs du développement ». Le programme de la conférence est maintenant disponible

ICTs and Climate Change

The May issue of the India based i4d magazine features an article on ICTs and Climate Change Building partnerships: Addressing change, more specifically on the Mountain Forum's initiative on Climate Change.

MF intends to develop a comprehensive network of partners to address regional issues and concerns pertaining to climate change. The network of partners, which is key to implementation and support of climate change dialogues is to be developed with the help of: Information function: widen the network in all regions with both scientific as well as civil society partners; widen on-line content of scientific and local experiences relevant for sustainable mountain development agenda and expertise through portals on mountain information. Support documenting local knowledge and good practices of communities and programs on climate change mitigation and adaptation, especially on renewable energy, connectivity and risk aversion.

ITU is organizing two Symposia on ICTs and Climate Change. The first was held in Kyoto, Japan 15-16 April, hosted by MIC Japan, and the second will be held in London, UK, on 17-18 June, hosted by BT. These symposia will bring together key specialists in the field, from top decision-makers to engineers, designers, planners, government officials, regulators, standards experts and others.
a) For the i4d article the Kyoto conference see: Symposium on ICTS and Climate Change
b) For the London, 17 - 18 June Advance Programme

International Workshop on Evaluating Climate Change and Development

10 - 13 May. Alexandria, Egypt. The workshop themes were climate change mitigation (including policy and market interventions in sectors such as energy and transportation) and adaptation (including land degradation, agricultural development, water management, preparedness for natural disasters, and climate resilience). This exercise was envisaged to involve approximately 120 evaluation specialists, researchers, policy and decision makers who make use of evaluation products.

The Global Environmental Facility Evaluation Office, the primary organizers of this International Workshop on Climate change has commissioned scoping materials pertaining to on-going and completed evaluations of projects and programs for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The purpose of these materials is to help describe the current state of the evaluation field in international development, build a common understanding of how evaluations can benefit work on reducing the impacts of climate change, and also identify the key areas that have yet to be addressed in terms of methodologies, indicators and results.

These materials are divided into three reports, which cover three different topic areas and include the current state of affairs as well as recommendations for the future:
  • On-line Mitigation Database - This is a searchable inventory of over 400 documents, including 235 evaluations of on-going and completed projects related to climate change mitigation, with a small portion related to adaptation issues. The database is composed of the published materials of bilateral donor agencies, international financial institutions, UN Agencies, research organizations, think-tanks and NGOs.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation of GEF Adaptation to Climate Change Projects - This piece is a review of adaptation projects implemented via the Global Environmental Facility's Strategic Priority on Adaptation, the Special Climate Change Fund and the Least Developed Country Fund. It proposes a series of recommendations on how the GEF might develop and expand the scope of its evaluation work with an "M&E Framework for Adaptation."
  • A Meta-Evaluation of Adaptation and Natural Hazard Risk Management Projects: Results Assessment - This report proposes a framework for the meta-evaluation of adaptation efforts to deal with the growing impacts of climate change. It is based on evaluations of natural hazard risk programs, which served as proxies for adaptation programs, and extracts the lessons learnedfrom a portfolio of case studies from the public and private sectors. (forthcoming)

International Symposium on Biotechnology in Tunis

From May 4 to 8, 2008, the city of Sfax Tunesia hosted a major international biotechnology symposium which was jointly organized by the International Biotechnology Engineering center (ICGEB), the University of Sfax and the Tunisian Union of Industry, commerce and handicrafts (UTICA). The venue is the exhibition hall of the Sfax International Fair.
The program included papers on 'biology and human health', 'biotechnology, microbes and the environment' and 'biotechnology, agriculture, food and sea products'. Other issues dealt with, will include innovative biotechnology.

The symposium which was held on the occasion of the 25 th anniversary of the Sfax Center of Biotechnology, gathered some 780 researchers, including 380 specialists from abroad, representing some 40 countries.


Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The Sustainable Development Report on Africa

The Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has released the second edition of its flagship publication, the Sustainable Development Report on Africa (SDRA), as the 16th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 16) opened in New York on Monday 5th of May.

Almost 60 ministers attended the 16th Session of the CSD which took place from 14-16 May, along with 680 representatives from 126 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Representatives from civil society, including women, farmers, science, business, children and youth, local authorities, workers and trade unions, indigenous peoples and nongovernmental organizations participated far more extensively than in the past.

The edition of the Sustainable Development Report on Africa (SDRA) was devoted to a five-year review of the implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development Outcomes in Africa (WSSD+5). CSD16 will address the following thematic issues: Agriculture, Rural Development, Land, Droughts, Desertification and Africa.
SDRA is chaired by Francis Nhema, Zimbabwe's Minister of Environment and Tourism.


The Commission on Sustainable Development was launched by the UN General Assembly in December 1992, with the purpose of securing the effective implementation and follow-up of the decisions from the UN Conference on Environment and Development, including the "Land Summit" or "Rio Summit". Grouping 53 member states, the commission is a functional organ of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations that has been meeting every year since June 1993.

Participants at the 16th Session of the CSD also elected Gerda Verburg, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in the Netherlands, as the next chair of the CSD – the first time that the subsidiary body of ECOSOC will be led by a woman.