Sunday, 31 August 2008

Freedom to innovate

Kenyan scientist Calestous Juma has told the Kenyan Parliament on 27th August to be brave enough and adopt the proposed Biotechnology Bill.

Prof Juma, who was presenting Africa's Heads of State and Governments' report on biotechnology (April 2007 - 93 p.) in Nairobi said the country had wasted too much time in meetings and conferences to appease so-called stakeholders while its people sunk deeper into poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

The report titled, "Freedom to Innovate", had been undertaken by a high-level panel on modern biotechnology, led by Prof Juma, who teaches at Harvard University in the US, at the request of the continent's leaders.

Kenya: MPs Urged to Back Biotechnology Bill All Africa 28th August

Twenty Second Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook FORUM

The Climate Change Adaptation – CCAA network is led by a core group (CG) of managing institutions (ENDA-TM, FARA, ICPAC and IDS).

The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) and other partners are organized the Twenty Second Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF 22) in Nairobi, Kenya from 28 to 29 August 2008. It was convened in Nairobi, Kenya by the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) in collaboration with the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and partners to formulate consensus climate outlook for the September to December 2008 rainfall season over the Greater Horn of Africa (GHA).
The forum reviewed the state of the global climate system and its implications on the seasonal climate of the sub-region. Among the principal factors taken into account were the observed and predicted SSTs in the tropical Pacific Ocean and over much of the tropical Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Users from Agriculture and food security, disaster management, health, livestock, water resources and media among other sectors were active participants in the forum. The users formulated the potential implications of the outlook for the September to December 2008 season and developed mitigation strategies for the respective countries and sectors.
The forum was supported by the USAID/OFDA funded project “Climate Prediction and Applications for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Greater Horn of Africa (GHA)”, which is being coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Developing economies worse affected by global warming Kenya Broadcasting Corporation - 28 aug 2008
Kenya takes first step in tackling climate change Daily Nation - 28 aug 2008

African Green Revolution Conference in Oslo

Kofi Annan, President Bingu Wa Mutharika of Malawi and other key leaders such as Dr. Jones of FARA have this week met to discuss Africa’s future at the 3rd annual African Green Revolution Conference held in Oslo .

The researchers, donors, and officials were meeting in Oslo on 28th and 29th August for the third in a series of gatherings that follow up a 2004 challenge from Annan to revolutionize African farming. The conferences are organized by Yara International ASA, a Norwegian fertilizer company. In addition to focusing on how to help African farmers climb out of poverty, this conference also draws attention to the role increased African food production could play in countering soaring world food prices.

Dr. Monty Jones, who leads the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, told The Associated Press that,

"With proper planning, Africa can produce food for itself and for the world.
Africa has more agricultural land than most places."
On 29th August, the Kenyan professor Florence Wambugu, shared the $100,000 Yara Prize with Tanzanian Victor Mfinanga for efforts in their home countries to help small farmers increase productivity and profits.The Yara Prize is an annual recognition of significant contributions to the reduction of hunger and poverty in Africa, as key contribution to the fulfilment of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

Florence Wambugu is founder and head of Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International. The award recognises her significant work in food security in Kenya and beyond, especially in helping small-scale farmers to improve their food quality, production and access to markets.

“The award is something to motivate me and Africa Harvest. It is about something I have pursued all through — to be able to alleviate hunger, poverty and malnutrition through a green revolution. Africa has the greatest opportunity in the current (food) crisis because we are a farming continent. An African green revolution is very important to stabilizing the whole food supply system."

Interview on 17/12/2007 with Tanzanian Victor Mfinanga. Shambani Graduates Enterprise Limited collects fresh milk from 200 Maasai cattle keepers in Morogoro Rural District; process and market the milk in Morogoro Municipality and Dar es Salaam City. The company creates employment, promotes milk consumption and pioneers for graduates to create wealth and jobs through agricultural based entrepreneurship.

In the second video Victor Mfinanga provides an overview of the milk processing business he founded and his desire to expand.


Reinventing the African future Standard (Kenya) - 22 aug 2008
Kenya's Minister assures on GMO technology adoption Africa Science News Service - 15 aug 2008

Farmers' Academies in Ethiopia: planting the seed of need for agricultural information

Video interview with Getachew Tikubet, interviewed at the workshop of biovision-infonet at icipe Nairobi 25-29/08/08. Getachew explains how the farmer academies in Ethopia reach today some 25.000 farmers. New information and communication technologies can play an essential role in the dissemination of information to farmers, in particular using the mobile telephone and voice.

African Biosafety Network Meeting

The African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) Regional Stakeholders' Meeting was held August 28-29, 2008 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. This is a follow-up on the activities under Phase I of ABNE and following the countries consultation on regulatory needs and gaps. Among the expected outcomes of this meeting were: validate the inputs on needs and gaps obtained during the countries consultative processes; discuss and agree on the operationalization of ABNE; and share information on biosafety from countries that have functional biosafety frameworks.

The Africa Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) is a project of NEPAD Biosciences Initiative, which comprises a cluster of life sciences flagship programmes of the Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, an African-led plan endorsed by the African Union Heads of State and Government. The objective of ABNE is to provide science-based information and technical support to the regulatory agencies of various countries in Africa.

Expert Consultation Meeting on Agricultural Biotechnology for Promoting Food Security in Developing Countries

20-22 August, 2008. International meeting of experts hosted by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) and the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI).

The theme of the meeting was “Agricultural Biotechnology for Promoting Food Security in Developing Countries”. Conference aim was to develop an action plan to harness biotechnology for addressing issues of food and agricultural production. The meeting also provided a platform to participants and presenters to exchange ideas and discuss matters of mutual interest.

Co-Creating a Farming Information Hub for the Next Decade

On 9th October 2007, icipe – African Insect Science for Food and Health, and BioVision Foundation of Switzerland have launched, an internet information platform tailored for farmers and farmers’ advisors in East Africa, to provide them with locally relevant information on ecologically safe, accessible and affordable methods to control pests and diseases of crops, animals and human beings, as well as sustainable methods for resource conservation and maintenance.

In its pilot phase Infonet has proven to be a high potential, much appreciated and useful tool, that has attracted the attention and interest of various stakeholders, from research institutes, government and non-governmental institutions, extension workers, journalists, representatives of donor agencies, information technology companies and last but not least farmers from all over the world.
Some 100 stakeholders validated the infonet farmer information hub and discussed its future

In order to design and further develop the set-up, content and service provision of Infonet in a next phase ICIPE & BioVision have asked carefully chosen representatives from various stakeholder groups and constituencies (of which FARA), to develop during a three day workshop in Nairobi - 25th August-27th August - an action plan for the next Infonet phase which should also incorporate new information, technologies and channels of communication.

Richard Fulss, Information manager at the International Lifestock Research Institute (ILRI - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) gives his impression on the outcome of the infonet-biovision workshop (Nairobi 25/08 - 27/08/08). He compares information distribution to farmers which are web-based with other means of distribution.

World Conference on Agricultural Information and IT

Tokyo, Japan, 24 - 27 August. Joint Conference of IAALD, AFITA and WCCA 12th World Congress of the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD) 6th Conference of the Asian Federation of Information Technology in Agriculture (AFITA) 6th World Congress on Computers in Agriculture (WCCA).

This conference had 250 participants from 46 countries and areas. Participants were from diverse background, including practitioners, researchers, educators and policy makers from various disciplines such as computer science, information technology, library and information science, archives, knowledge management, etc.

The Conference provided an effective forum for agriculture related researchers and information specialists to share and discuss the latest development on applications and developments in the use of Information Technologies. These include new applications of well established and understood technologies to innovative and entrepreneurial applications of emerging technologies, in addition to issues related to policy and knowledge dissemination. The Conference also provided an appropriate forum for agricultural information specialists for information dissemination, exchange and knowledge sharing.

The conference was held at the Atsugi Campus of the Tokyo University of Agriculture
Videos from IAALD:

Rachel Rege of KARI explains how the institute addresses policy, capacity, content and infrastructure challenges in Kenya. Her main challenge is to consolidate the various content streams so it can be streamed to different groups or communities.

Gauri Salokhe introduces the new aggregation service at

Margaret Sraku-Lartey of the Forest Research Institute of Ghana explains how forest information specialists need to work together and with scientists to make their infromation more accessible. She emphasizes the importance of cheap and easy approaches.

Luz Marina Alvare of the International Food Policy Research Institute relfects on the differences between generations of researchers and the impacts of these on their information-seeking behaviours.

Roxanna Sami, (IFAD) focused on the role of mobile phones and the impact they are having in rural Africa. Mobiles have an inclusive effect, both socially and economically, and really represent a great success story in Africa. She also reflects on the role of international organizations and how these should influence national government to make sure that adoption of ICTs is central in their poverty reduction strategies.

Dion Jerling of Connect Africa believes that combining social entrepreneurship with the adoption of the latest technologies from the mobile network market and satellite connections will provide farmers and rural communities with access to the information they need.

African Japanese Plenary Workshop on Sustainable Rice Production

Africa has to import more than 45 percent of its rice needs for consumption at a cost of more than $1 billion a year to satisfy local demand. With rice prices expected to double in the next couple years due to shrinking rice reserves, increasing African rice production is essential.

The Center for Special Studies and Programs (CSSP), Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in cooperation with the Ministry of High Education, organized 23 - 24 August a workshop entitled “African Japanese Workshop on Sustainable Rice Production” with the aim to :
  1. Enhancing sustainable rice production in the continent
  2. Preserving Ecosystem
  3. Intra and inter-continental collaboration
  4. Enhancing socioeconomic impact of rice and in particular enhancing the role of women in Africa.
  5. Identifying problems facing African rice growers and suggesting suitable solutions.
  6. Developing links between all African rice researchers and promoting young rice researchers’ talents and acting as a forum to discuss all problems facing rice production in Africa.

Japan is convinced that the development and dissemination of NERICA will strengthen rice production in West Africa, thereby contributing to food security and poverty reduction as well as to saving foreign currency that is otherwise used for importing rice.

Egypt achieved a mega shift in rice production in the last decade through releasing of a series of new japonica rice cultivars with short duration as well as the production and commercialization of hybrid rice varieties. Egypt also had a bright record in international training and disseminating knowledge for African rice specialists through JICA-funded 5 month training course on rice cultivation technology. More than 300 African rice specialists have been trained in the last decade.


Friday, 22 August 2008

Accra Climate Change Talks 2008

The next round of United Nations climate change negotiations is taking place in Accra, Ghana, from 21-27 August. The Accra Climate Change Talks will take forward work on a strengthened and effective international climate change deal under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as work on emission reduction rules and tools under the Kyoto Protocol. This is part of a negotiating process that will be concluded in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. Over 1600 participants are attending the Accra meeting, which is the third major UNFCCC gathering this year.

At the opening press conference in Accra, the UN’s top climate change official Mr. de Boer underlined the urgency for progress in the Talks on a strengthened international climate change agreement, to be concluded next year in Copenhagen.

Communication challenges at the Africa Rice Centre

Interview with Savitri MOHAPATRA Communications Officer at the Africa Rice Centre (Benin - Togo). Savitri explains:

  • how agricultural rice scientists have become more aware of the importance of communication,
  • how WARDA promotes the use Web 2.0 tools and
  • how the WARDA learning and innovation unit is looking into multi media productions in African languages.

Applying Ecological Economics for Social and Environmental Sustainability

More than two hundred scientists from six continents converged in Nairobi on 12/08 to discuss ways to apply economics to social and environmental sustainability.
The five day conference, under the theme 'Applying Ecological Economics for Social and Environmental Sustainability', was attended by over 250 scientists and practitioners from a broad range of fields and institutions in six continents.

The goal of the conference was to further trans-disciplinary dialogue in the face of climate change and globalization, and particularly to engage young scientists in developing countries to explore the relationship between the natural world and human social systems.

Environmental law Review 11/08/08 Ecological economics on the agenda as scientists from six continents gather in Nairobi
ISEE Nairobi 2008 conference site

Advocacy by Regional Forums for Improving Information Sharing and Exchange in Agricultural Research for Development

GFAR aims to improve the global flow of agricultural research information and information and communications management for agricultural research for development through four inter-related actions:
  1. Awareness, sensitization and advocacy to National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) leaders and policy makes for increased and improved investment, both financial and human capacities, in information and communications management;
  2. Capacity development in NARS information managers;
  3. Greater coherence and integration of agricultural information systems;
  4. Improved governance of information flows to ensure equitable access to information related to agriculture globally.
The document details what and how the Regional Forums should advocate and what the role of the GFAR Secretariat should be.Download the PDF.

The ARD Web Ring
This document describes the idea of a "web ring" of ARD web spaces and proposes an approach based on a distributed architecture. The Global ARD Web Ring is a “voluntary coalition of web spaces that share information related to agricultural research and innovation for development.” These web spaces make ARD related information sources more accessible through each other.

FARA launches new e-Bulletin

The FARA Secretariat is disseminating every 2 months a Bulletin on agricultural research in Africa and related subjects. It includes resources on a specific theme (climate adaptation, the food crisis, the use of ICT in agriculture, fertilizers subsidies, etc), an agenda of upcoming events, the recent activities of the FARA secretariat and many more relevant national/regional & international news items on agricultural research of agriculture in Africa more in general.

FARA has now launched its new bi-monthly FARA e-Bulletin for the months of June-July 2008. This latest issues has as very actual theme: the present food crisis. In the overfow of information of which we are all suffer, this Bulletin tries to filter the most useful resources on the food crisis.

The FARA Secretariat will use from now on MailChimp for the dissemination of its Bulletin. It allows for detailed statistics on the number of bounced mails, the number of recipients who opened their mail, the number of unopened mails, the forwarded opens, the number of clicks on particular « Read more » links (with a detail of the click performance towards the other websites which have been incorporated in the Bulletin), and the email domain performance.

You may wish to inform other agricultural mailing lists and help increase the number of recipients of our Bulletin. Please refer to

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

African journalists to report on climate change

Uganda is an example of a country where the media is getting its act together on climate change. But that's mainly thanks to the determination of a small group of journalists who take a personal interest in the issue and have tried to access international opportunities for training and education.

One of the key figures is Patrick Luganda, a veteran journalist who has covered agriculture for years and founded the Network of Climate Journalists of the Greater Horn of Africa, which recently launched a new website.

Also Reuters AlertNet has tried to untangle some of the challenges involved in covering the humanitarian impact of climate change in a new online training module.

NECJOGHA (Network of Climate journalists of the greater Horn of Africa) seeks to enhance interaction between climate scientists and journalists in the Greater Horn of Africa. Read more.

Reuters 15/08 Who's helping media in developing countries tackle climate change?
This article refers to the IDRC sponsored Climate Change Adaptation network to which FARA is participating.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Sustainable Aquaculture Research Networks in Sub Saharan Africa

The EC funded SARNISSA project aims to link like minded individuals throughout Sub Saharan Africa and beyond for their mutual benefit. Language differences present a particular challenge. English speakers may be unaware of key contacts or unable to access the wealth of information from French-speaking countries and vice versa for French speakers.
The three-year project will strengthen alliances between languages and across borders among experienced and emergent players in the African and wider aquaculture scene that will build on an existing knowledge resource base and exchange platform – The Aquaculture Compendium – - which will be made available throughout the project period to all key project stakeholders who will help provide new materials related to sub Saharan African development.
The project focus is very much on initiating regular communication among stakeholders (researchers, commercial and market sectors, government agencies, NGOs, and others) in order that collaborations can be initiated and nurtured.
19 September 2008 Workshop on fisheries in west Africa. Fisheries advisors and participants from fisheries/ marine ecosystem programs in West Africa : CSRP, PCRM, PPP - Meeting of European Fisheries Development Advisers Amsterdam
22-26 September 2008 Fourth International Conference of the Pan African Fish and Fisheries Association - African Fish and Fisheries

International Association for Food Protection IAFP 2008 95th Annual Meeting

FARA participated at Annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection - IAFP 2008 - August 3-6, 2008 - Columbus, Ohio.

The Annual Meeting has become the leading meeting concerned with the protection of the worldwide food supply. Each meeting is attended by over 2,000 of the top industry, academic and government food safety professionals. This broad mix of attendees includes professionals in quality control, processing operations, regulatory inspections, consulting groups, risk assessment, research and development, microbiological research, plant management, technical services and HACCP management.

With a reputation for quality content, the Annual Meeting features over 500 technical papers, posters and symposia, detailing current information on a variety of topics relating to food safety. The quantity and quality of contributed presentations provide information on the latest methods and technologies available.

Fifth Open Forum for Agriculture Biotechnology in Africa

Much as the global world is encouraging farmers to adopt the culture of planting modified plant species, scientists in Uganda are telling farmers to put more emphasis in producing traditional crops.

The scientists who were brainstorming with civil society leaders at the fifth Open Forum for Agriculture Biotechnology in Africa (Ofab) on the theme “The role of Biotechnology in Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation of Genetic resources” in Kampala on 12/08 argued the traditional plant species which are also the country’s staple food are rich in food value compared to the modified species.

The traditional crops include among others, sorghum, millet, cassava, beans, rice, matooke, groundnuts and simsim. On the other hand, the scientists encourage the production of the modified species since the government gave them a green light to carry out research on the modified crops, though both the government and farmers agree on preserving seedlings of the traditional plant in the gene banks.
The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) is a platform that brings together stakeholders in biotechnology and enables interactions between scientists, journalists, the civil society, industrialists, lawmakers and policy makers. It is a monthly lunch meeting that provides an opportunity for key stakeholders to know one another, share knowledge and experiences, make new contacts and explore new avenues of bringing the benefits of biotechnology to the African agricultural sector.
Environment Minister Ms Jessica Eriyo told the gathering that the cabinet was studying the draft bill on Biotechnology and Biosafety with an intention of passing it when all the loopholes in it filled in.
Scientists urge farmers to keep traditional crops Daily Monitor, Uganda - Aug 12, 2008