Friday, 31 August 2012

African cooperation 'dropped from EU research calls'

European researchers may
now have less incentive to
seek collaborators in Africa
31 August 2012. Paula Park for SciDev.Net. From 2013, African scientists may be more likely to be left out of lucrative collaborations with European Union (EU) researchers, according to some policy experts.

A mandate for EU research groups to include African partners in projects was dropped from the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) 2013 calls for proposals for EU competitive research grant issued last month (9 July).

The calls cover 11 themes, including agriculture, water and energy, and are worth 8.1 billion Euros (US$10.2 billion).

In the FP7 grants for the period 2010–2012, researchers engaged in investigating a number of themes, including fisheries and biotechnology, were required to collaborate with at least one international group from Africa.

Some fear that in the absence of a specific mandate, EU researchers will be unwilling to collaborate with African peers. There are also concerns that the decision may affect calls for grants for Horizon 2020, the EU's 2014–2020 framework programme for research and innovation to replace the FP7, worth around US$100 billion.

François Stepman, European co-manager of the Platform for African-European Partnerships for Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD), told SciDev.Net that without requirements for African collaborations, many EU researchers will be reluctant to work with African scientists, believing it will not help their careers to do so.

"There's a decline [among EU researchers] in trying to include African researchers," Stepman said.

Young scientists keen on building careers are more likely to collaborate with US researchers, because this is more likely to lead to publications in international journals, he explained.

Stepman told SciDev.Net that EU scientists also worry African researchers can lack the administrative support available in developed countries, leading to challenges in "getting the reports in on time and in getting the finance".

"You have to do too much work to get them on board," he said.

The decline in partnerships will affect the ability of scientists to research subjects of mutual interest, including food security and price hikes, climate change, biofuels and genetically modified organisms, he added.

For African scientists, the fallout could be severe.

"Many African experts don't have access to research funding from their [own] countries," Kevin Chika Urama, executive director of the Africa Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) in Nairobi, Kenya, told SciDev.Net. "The EU research funding has been a pivotal avenue to partnership with EU researchers."

"A lot of African issues, such as the needs of the poor in rural areas, are under-researched," Urama added. "Some of these issues are not of interest [to European researchers]," he said, adding that a solution may be for the EU to set up a specific grant programme aimed at African researchers.

The move to drop the mandatory collaboration with Africa from 2013 calls for proposals reflects European political leaders' disquiet about the use of funds outside the EU generally, said Andrew Cherry, coordinator for the Network for the Coordination and Advancement of Sub-Saharan Africa-EU Science & Technology Cooperation (CAAST-Net).

However, Daan du Toit, minister counsellor for science and technology at the South African Mission to the EU said the move does not mean fruitful cooperation is not possible.

"All topics of this year's FP7 calls for proposals are open for African participation. African researchers have to identify, which ones are relevant for them, and ones where they can add value to the work of the European or international consortia — then participation will follow. In many of the topics in this year's calls African researchers are well placed to play an important part."

Michael Jennings, a European Commission spokesperson for research, innovation and science, told SciDev.Net there was a need "to better articulate science and technology capacity-building initiatives" to be supported with "collaborative research activities that can be selected and funded through FP7 and the upcoming Horizon 2020 programme".

Cherry told SciDev.Net that it remains to be seen how African researchers can participate in Horizon 2020.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

PAFO’s second General Assembly elects new president

23rd to 25th of August 2012. PAFO’s second General Assembly was held in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

The elections The new President is Mr. Bagna Djibo of Niger was elected to the position of Vice President of the Pan-African Farmers’ Organization (PAFO). He represents the Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations of West Africa (ROPPA) and took over from Mrs Elizabeth Atangana of Cameroon representing Central African Regional Farmers’ Organization (PROPAC).

The following is the full PAFO executive board for the next two years:
  1. President: Mr. Bagna Djibo (ROPPA)
  2. Vice President: Mr. Felix E. Jumbe (President of SACAU)
  3. Treasurer: Mr. Phillip Kiriro (EAFF)
  4. Women Representative: Mrs. Elizabeth Atangana (PROPAC)
  5. Youth Representative: Mr. Ahmed Jarallah (UMAGRI)
Among other items, the assembly discussed the PAFO Constitution and Strategic Plan.


More and Better at the PAFO congress

PAFO had invited the closest cooperating partners to attend the congress as guests. Because of the short notice – and vacation time in many European countries, only the More and Better Network was present. The good and important cooperation between PAFO and More and Better was also underlined in the report of PAFO’s work since the founding congress. Here is their story.

The congress was called on a very short notice, less than three weeks. The reason was that the PAFO board had not been aware of one condition on the main funding: the money had to be spent before the end of August – or be returned to the donor. The small staff of PROPAC and the national farmers organization in Cameroun, CNOP-Cameroun, had done an amazing job to organize the congress. They got the government to make exceptions for visa rules so visa could be issued on the border for all delegates, background paper were prepared, banners, bags, pens etc. for the congress had been made, translation and technical equipment functioned perfectly, and all delegates stayed in a nice hotel where the meeting also took place.

The last evening, after the congress had finished, became a wonderful and memorable evening at a training center where the outgoing president, Elisabeth Atangana, started for farmers more than 15 years ago. The center, located in the Mfou village in the outskirt of Yaounde, runs an agricultural school of two years for 70 student, runs other short time courses, organizes conferences. The center has also farming activities with plant nursery, raising chicken and pigs. When the delegates and guests arrived at the center, we were met by African music and dance , and the entrance and outdoor area had been turned into a beautifully decorated restaurant where we were served wonderful locally produced food.

The day after the congress a national seminar for leaders of cooperatives and initiatives for new cooperatives took place at the center – with Elisabeth Atangana as the facilitator! She had been working day and night the last three weeks to organize the congress, and the first morning and the full day she headed the work of about 40 farmers from Cameroun. “We had planned this meeting before we planned the congress,” told Elisabeth, “I could not turn these people down and cancel the meeting because I had worked hard for the congress.”

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Transfer Innovations From Research Labs to Farmers Fields

From left: minister of agriculture and 
rural development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina; 
Permanent Secretary, Mrs Fatima Bamidele, 
and president IFAD, Dr Kanayo Nwanze at a dinner 
in honour of IFAD president in Abuja
21 August. Ibadan, Nigeria. Kanayo F. Nwanze, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) delivered a keynote speech at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) about the critical role of research in obtaining food security for the country and beyond.
"No one is better placed to know conditions on the ground in Nigeria, and to discover solutions to the country's challenges, than Nigerian scientists themselves. We cannot and should not rely exclusively on research done in developed countries to address the needs of developing countries." 
Nwanze, a scientist by training, was previously Director-General of the Africa Rice Center for a decade.

As the largest producer of cassava, Nwanze said the country's agricultural sector has immense potential, and that research and development of rural areas are vital to its development. He said that scientists must understand the environment where their innovations and breakthroughs will be used, and the needs of the people who live there. If they don't, their research will never get beyond the lab.
"For research to move from the lab to the field, it needs to be supported by a strong extension system and enabling policies that link research to products and markets so that the applications benefit both the public and private sectors."

From left: vice chancellor, university of Ibadan, 
prof Isaac Adewole; president IFAD, Dr Kanayo Nwanze and 
the director general, IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, 
at a lecture on investing in agriculture for 
the future of Nigeria in Ibadan on Tuesday (21/8/12)
IFAD has worked in Nigeria since 1985, and today is partnering with the government on three programmes to strengthen the country's rural sector, with a special focus on women and young people. The new Value Chain Development Programme, which was approved by IFAD's Executive Board in April 2012, will help strengthen the existing extension system in Nigeria.

A strong extension system ensures the link between research and farmers, taking new technology from the lab to the farm. Through its interaction with small farmers, extension feeds back information to the scientists to adapt research results to the farmers' needs. The programme will take a holistic approach, driven by demand, to address constraints along cassava and rice value chains. Through an inclusive strategy, it will strengthen the capacity of producers and processors as well as public and private institutions, service providers, policy-makers and regulators.