First Announcement: Fifth RUFORUM Biennial Conference, 2016

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5th RUFORUM Biennial Conference

RUFORUM

3. 851 X 315 BannerDates: 17 – 21 October 2016 | Venue: Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town, South Africa

It gives us great pleasure as the Organising Committee, to invite you to the FIFTH RUFORUM BIENNIAL CONFERENCE 2016 also known as the ‘African Higher Education Week’ to take place 17 – 21 October 2016 at the Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town, South Africa under the Theme Linking Agricultural Universities with Civil Society, the Private Sector, Governments and other Stakeholders in support of Agricultural Development in Africa’.

The main objective of the Conference is to discuss strategies for strengthening the African higher agricultural education sector and linking them more closely with economic development by actively sharing lessons and experiences as well as research findings. The overall goal is to improve the performance of the agricultural sector in Africa by engaging all partners, particularly the private sector and ultimately people’s livelihoods.

The…

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ROLE OF AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY IN DEVELOPING ECONOMIES 2

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According to Wikipedia (2006) a developing society is one with relatively low standard of living, undeveloped industrial base and moderate to low human development index (HDI)

Chassy (2003) reported that 800 – 850 million people are malnourished, more than 200million of these are children, many of whom will never reach their full intellectual and physical potential, another 1-1.5 billion humans have only marginally better access to food and often do not consume balanced diet containing sufficient quantities of all required nutrients and majority of this nutritionally at risk population live in developing countries and this number will grow as human population growth is  ever on the increase. The question now is how will Agriculture carter for this pending problem of food shortage and the expected increase in nutritionally at risk people while maintaining a healthy environment and biodiversity? Will it be by expanding cultivated land area? Or by increasing the use of inputs? How friendly are these practices to the environment? It can only be achieved through crop and livestock improvements (Biotechnology) as stated by an international conference of experts convened World by the Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the food and agriculture organization (FAO) in 1992.

Biotechnology has prospects to remedy the problem of food shortage as research in this field aims to develop plant varieties that provide reliable high yield, at the same or lower costs by breeding in qualities such as resistance to diseases, pest and stress factors which will contribute gainfully to food production while maintaining a healthy environment by reducing the amount of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides used in farming. These shows clearly that biotechnology seeks to improve Agricultural practices by making it cost effective, increase productivity and bridging other gaps which pose serious challenges to Agriculture. These gains will lead to capacity building, create numerous jobs, and reduce poverty as well as ending malnutrition. Annon (2002) reported that the United Nations Economic and Social commission for western Asia Cooperation with International Labour Organization (ILO) sought to identify the best approach for regional capacity building in new  technology to improve employment rate, sustainable development and poverty alleviation in developing Arab Nations came to a conclusion that identifying new technologies, adopting, regulating and implementing them will serve the purpose for national economic and social development. In the report, it was emphasized that countries that adopt a better approach to the four novel technologies of biotechnology, genetic engineering, biomaterials and informatics will develop a better capacity for economic and social development than their counterparts.

It becomes very pertinent in this era of dwindling oil prices and mass unemployment that Nigeria incorporates biotechnology into its agricultural programme as the Present administration seeks to savor the economy by diversifying it to Agriculture which promises to be the best substitute. It should however be noted that for Agriculture to be worthwhile, appropriate technologies (Biotechnology) must be employed rather than relying on the very crude techniques that will not carter for the present day challenges posed to Agriculture e.g. Climate change, erosion and leaching of farm lands, arid and unfertile lands etc.

LIMITATIONS/PUBLIC PERCEPTION

It is obvious that to meet the food demand in a developing economy like ours using a novel technology like biotechnology requires meeting a number of social, political, economic and technical challenges.

We are thankful to the Nigerian Government for passing the biosafety bill into law, establishing the National Biosafety Management Agency; however we still experience a major problem of social acceptability, which I know is a misconception a majority of the Nigerian populace holds about biotechnology and GM products. In a survey carried out in my 4thyear in 2012, it showed that 85% of Nigerians don’t know what biotechnology entails but have their own personal philosophies in the best ways it appeals to their knowledge, and their knowledge is only associated with the negatives of biotechnology . It should however be stressed that biotechnology is a household name for everything  that has to do with manipulation of living things ranging from the very simple process of alcohol fermentation to cloning of plants and animals. It should also be known that genetic engineering; transgenic organisms are quite different from cloning and cloned organisms. It should also be known that they is no innovation that lacks disadvantages, just like cars, airplanes, electricity had  their advantages and disadvantages so also is biotechnology. Owing to the fact that the advantages of this innovations outweighs the disadvantages, policies, regulatory bodies are constituted to regulate this innovation within the confines of its advantages while on the other hand greatly reducing the disadvantages, this is no exception with biotechnology as the National Biotechnology Management Agency (NBMA) was constituted to regulate the activities of biotechnology, and they will deliver on this core objective. In criticizing biotechnology and its products, we should offer a hard-look rather than our personal philosophies as the problem of social acceptance is a major setback to the proliferation of this technology in Nigeria.

The economic and technical issues relate to funding of biotechnology researches, infrastructure for researches and manpower to put this technology into practice, since it is novel and the practice within the country is small scale. This however have discouraged individuals from venturing into this field of study as it is assumed to have very grim opportunities for its graduates and practitioners, but we have faith owing to the importance attached to this discipline that our well-meaning, experienced and exposed leaders will tap into the potentials of this discipline providing funding which will result in the training of personnel to adequately fit into this field.

CONCLUSION

Agricultural biotechnology will be a major part of the solution to the problem of increasing food demand while at the same time conserving biodiversity. It has been shown to improve yield around the world especially in developing countries and this increased yield will spare land for natural ecosystems to co-exist with agro ecosystems, improve GDP, generate income, create employments and consequently greatly reduce poverty and malnutrition which is the bane of developing countries. We implore Nigeria to join other developing and developed nations who have resorted to biotechnology on the basis of their needs and empirical based reports on biotechnology products by open minded, well-meaning scientist rather than taking queues behind developed countries who don’t have the need we have, who don’t suffer what we suffer, who have adopted the technology with respect to their own needs and claim the entire technology is not safe. We therefore call on individuals, opinion leaders, students, policy makers, authorities in the agriculture sector, private sector, sister and supporting MDAs like the ministry of information, national orientation agency, ministry of science and technology, ministry of finance, ministry of environment to partner with the National Biotechnology development agency to achieve its objectives of promoting and implementing evidence based science and technology of which agricultural biotechnology is cardinal.

You can read the part one here

Written by Opuah Abiekwen(abeikwen@yahoo.com) Graduate of Biotechnology and Genetics, University of Calabar

WHAT CAN AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY DO FOR A DEVELOPING ECONOMY?

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As a graduate of biotechnology and genetics I am poised to write to authorities in the agriculture sector, policy makers, sister and supporting Ministries departments and Agencies, opinion leaders, well spirited individuals, private sector and students to describe the usefulness and applications of this novel field of agricultural biotechnology and show how it can contribute to the agriculture sector as well as the economy of a developing country like Nigeria. I think these authorities will be interested to know the achievements of this field, the potential estimated market volume, the demand from agriculture and the role of Agricultural biotechnology in meeting this demand, and its impact on National development. Although some in-depth studies have been performed on this topic and literature documented, it is pertinent that I bring some salient features to light. Using information available from other findings, this write up is aimed at bringing the science of Agricultural biotechnology to the attention of busy stakeholders in the agriculture sector and other related sectors in the country and encourage them to understand the potentials that lie fallow in this novel science.

Briefly, agricultural biotechnology is the manipulation of Crops and Animals or their parts for the production of value added goods and services for man use.

APPLICATIONS/ ACHIEVEMENTS OF AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

Ever since the dawn of time, man kind has been in constant practice  of agriculture as the most fundamental means to satisfy the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. This need therefore calls for a proper understanding of the underlying principles of agriculture so as to exploit them for maximum productivity. Thus this field has been subjected to series of reassessment of its practices and innovations not only to achieve its immediate benefits but to carter for the rapidly growing population.

In the early years of agriculture, from 10th century BC man started exploiting crops and livestock using informal and crude practices which involve the reliance on the biological methods of pest and weed control, shifting cultivation, bush fallowing etc. down to the formal era of inputs such as herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and to the classical breeding era of hybridization, evaluation, and selection. These practices though helpful had shortcomings in terms of inadequate food production to meet the demands of the growing population and destruction of the natural ecosystem and biodiversity. In the quest to carter for these shortcomings came the birth of the science I describe as the best of the epoch, a science with impetus for more agriculture research and that which has all the potentials to unlock the mechanisms of living machines “Recombinant genetics and biotechnology”

A few of its applications and achievements are discussed below;

 Insect resistant crops: These crops have been engineered to express a self-defense for insect pest so as to enhance productivity and reduce crop losses for e.g. Bt cotton (Bacillus thuringienesis). This cotton has DNA (genetic material) from the soil microbe Bacillus thuringienesis incorporated into its genome (Entire genetic make up) which enables it to express resistance for insect pest. This cotton was adopted by Indian farmers and it increased their average yield by 70% between 2001 and 2008 and half of this increase is attributed to the Bt cotton adopted by Indian farmers (James 2009), this also suggest why India is presently the highest exporter of cotton. A decrease in cotton boll insecticide use by 56% between 1998 and 2006, which is cost saving for 6million Indian farmers who grew Bt cotton in 2009 (James 2009). In 2009, 7million Chinese farmers also grew Bt cotton and yield was increased by 10% and insecticide use decreased by 60% (James 2009) other engineered insect resistant crops include Bt corn, rice, etc.

 Herbicide tolerant crops:  These are crops that have been engineered so that their growth and development is not significantly affected by herbicides used on the weeds growing around them. This will enhance crop yield, reduce wastage, reduce cost and as well help in maintaining biodiversity. Crops such as maize, wheat, sugar cane, rice, onions etc. have been genetically modified to express this trait.

 Protein enhanced sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes is known for its carbohydrate rich content, recently scientist have developed a protein rich sweet potatoes by isolating a gene AmA1 rich in lysine from the amaranth plant and incorporating it into the genome of sweet potatoes and it is well expressed. This protein AmA1 is not known to be an allergen.

 Cheese Making: Because of the insufficiency in rennet production from animals, and other natural sources, rennet which is an enzyme which produces chymosin which curdles milk in cheese production is now been mass produced by isolating the gene for rennet production from animal stomach and insert them into certain bacteria, fungi to make them produce chymosin during fermentation. The genetically modified microorganism is killed after fermentation and chymosin is removed from the fermentation broth so that the fermentation produced chymosin does not contain any GM component or ingredient.

ESTIMATED MARKET VOLUME

Due to empirical facts that biotechnology products are safe to use, and the promise biotechnology holds to bring more innovation to agriculture; producing more food to meet the growing demand while maintaining the biodiversity. The market potential is estimated with respect to the growing population, availability and acceptability of products. Presently some biotechnology products have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are on shelves, they experience a high demand and have not been reported to have any negative effect on consumers. It is anticipated that as more products receive approval of regulatory bodies and come into the market in the near future so, will the market demand increase, hence its volume. Recently Genetically Modified Salmon was approved in the US and is already being consumed by many people.

Why have some countries accepted GMO? Why the misconceptions? Is this technology truly beneficial and how? The next part of this article will tell us

Written by Opuah Abiekwen(abeikwen@yahoo.com) Graduate of Biotechnology and Genetics, University of Calabar

Youth Agripreneurs Project – Call for sponsors

 

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This blogpost originally appeared on the GFAR website

It is our firm belief that youth are pivotal for the future of agriculture and the world’s food security.

As such, we are committed to integrate, stimulate and mentor youth through any of our projects. In GCARD3, the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, we will take any opportunity to live up to that commitment.

We want to use the upcoming GCARD3 global event to pilot a number of innovative projects and approaches. One of these projects is “YAP”, the Youth Agripreneurs Project. “YAP” is a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”).

Within “YAP” we want to select ten young agripreneurs from all over the world, and provide a seed fund to facilitate the startup of their project. During one year, we want to mentor them within their project by linking the youth with seasoned researchers and practitioners and integrating them in the YPARD (Young Professionals for Agricultural Development) mentoring program. We also want to train them on new ways to advocate and network using innovative communication tools.

“YAP” is a pilot project, a proof of concept. If successful, we want to refine and expand the project, combining the seed funding and mentoring program, to give youth a chance to realize their projects, and to give them a platform to showcase their projects. It is our hope this will inspire other youth and prove that agriculture and all its value added services ARE a viable, respectable, profitable business and livelihood.

To fund the “YAP” project, we are looking for sponsors who will collectively contribute to the seed fund, for a total of US$75,000.
This will be used to fund US$5,000 to each of the 10 selected agripreneurs’ project. An additional US$2,500/person will be used for their participation at the GCARD3 global event (travel and accommodation) to kick-start their mentoring and training program.
There is NO administrative overhead in this entire project. All funds are directly allocated to the young agripreneurs.
Potential sponsors can be institutes, organizations, private donors or companies.

Here are the full details of the “YAP” project.

Interested? More information and expressions of interest can be sent to Fiona Chandler (GFAR Secretariat): f.chandler(at)fao.org
And… act fast! By Feb 15th we will evaluate if we have the needed funding quorum to launch the public appeal for youth project proposals!

Background:
CGIAR (the Global Agricultural Research Partnership) and GFAR (the Global Forum on Agricultural Research) co-organize the global event of GCARD3 (the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development) in April 2016. This event will be held in Johannesburg, co-hosted by the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa.
In cooperation with YPARD (the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development), we aim to fully integrate youth in the whole GCARD3 process and to showcase their crucial role in the future of agriculture.

Picture courtesy Vivian Atako (CCAFS)

THOUGHT FOR FOOD CHALLENGE- An enabler for sustainable food security

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More than ever before the issue of food security is a priority for us all. Day in day out around the world researchers, scientists, policy makers and stakeholder from various sectors even outside the agriculture sphere are working hard to proffer sustainable solution to the issue of food security. They are in labs, workshops, meetings to conceptualize solution and map out way forward. Many of these ones are old and are doing these activities not just because of the 10 -30 years or less they have to live but because they are also concerned about what becomes of the future generation( young people like myself and the child unborn). They have a lingering question at heart

BY 2050 WHAT WILL THE OVER 9BILLON PEOPLE FEED ON?

Have you thought of this yourself? Have you got some ideas in your head on how things can be made better? Have you been discussing this with a group of friends a week or two back? Have you wondered about how you can contribute to this burning issue even though you are just a student? I HAVE GOODNEWS FOR YOU

For the past 2 years, young people, students from around the world have gathered to pitch ideas and solution to the issue of feeding the world in a sustainable and environmentally manner. They have met at what is known as the “Thought for Food” Summit. They meet here not to just pitch, they network, prize money is won and of course they party to their success. Watch this video that highlights last year’s event

This year will not be am exception as the THOUGHT FOR FOOD CHALLENGE is again open to student teams to sign up for this prestigious competition with over 10000 USD to be won. I personally have followed the #TFFChallenge for two years and I can tell you these three things

  • It is absolutely worth all the effort
  • I have not seen a team from West Africa or Nigeria qualified to the top ten teams that are able to pitch their ideas at the #TFFSummit.
  • This year provides an opportunity for teams of students in Nigeria and West Africa to show case their ideas and get the chance to pitch their idea

So what needs to be done?

The TFFChallenge allows for university students (Undergraduate-Phd) from all field of study to explore and generate sustainable ideas that can help feed the world. Take for example in 2014 the team FoPo Food Power from the Lund University Sweden came up with the idea to convert unsellable and almost expiring food into food powder with dozens of uses including space mission, humanitarian aids and lot more. The powder has a longer shelf life than fresh produce and preserves nutritional qualities, properties and taste. This team came out as runner up and went home with $5000.

I am absolutely certain that the teaming number of youth in universities in Nigeria can definitely come up with an idea worthwhile and the TFFChallenge gives you the place to showcase it.

Here is what is needed

  • Sign up on www.tffchallenge.com
  • Form your team of 3-5 students from different fields,
  • Begin the TFF Challenge and develop your Project.
  • All project development and submission is due by Dec 1 2015 as finalist will be announced on the 15th of December 2015.

We all have a role as young people to contribute to the kind of future we want for ourselves and the generation to come. And this competition is one avenue to do so.

Personally I encourage all Nigerian students who are innovative and have got great ideas to team up and sign up for the TFFChallenge.

For more guidance download the student info pack here

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GROWERS: Know your Nozzles.

More and more growers or farmers are beginning to adopt the use of Crop Protection Products (CPP) in their farming operations. These could include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides or even liquid fertilizers. To effectively use these farmers usually needs to have spraying equipment which could be a knapsack, a mechanized sprayer and for large farms boom sprayers attached to a tractor.

Sprayers have various parts and this I will discuss in another blog post. However, from my experience with farmers I have discovered that many a times the wrong kind of nozzle is used per time. What do I mean, for example a farmer is spraying an insecticide and he uses a nozzle fit for an herbicide. Let’s take a short ride to know a bit more about nozzle.  I really do hope this is helpful to one or two of my readers, if possible all of you.

ARE NOZZLES EVEN IMPORTANT?

Nozzles are critical in spraying. It is helps to control spray of liquid be it fertilizer or pesticides. It aids in atomization. Atomization involves the breakup of spray liquid into droplets. A nozzle also ensures that the spray liquid is dispersed in a specific pattern. Thus nozzles play a very important role in spray.

NOZZLE CLASSIFICATION

  1. Hydraulic : This basically uses water pressure as a means of transmission
  2. Gaseous : This uses air pressure
  3. Centrifugal : This uses gravitational pull
  4. Electrical : Uses electricity

NOZZLE TYPES

Flat Fan Nozzles

flat fanThis is the appropriate nose for herbicides. It usually found on tractors and has medium droplet size. It’s not fit for knapsacks.

 

 

 

 

Flood Jet Nozzle

flood jetThis kind of nozzle is appropriate for a knapsack. It releases droplet in big size. The flood jet nozzle is very fitting for fertilizer application.

 

 

 

Full Cone Nozzle

full coneThis nozzle type should be used for fungicide and insecticide. It provides fine droplet when spraying

 

 

 

 

 

Even Flat Fan Nozzle

This is very similar to the flat fan nozzle and is fitting for herbicide spray. It is suitable for a knapsack.

even flat fan

Hollow Cone Nozzle

hollow coneThis is also used for insecticide and fungicide applications. It has a hallow spray pattern

 

 

 

 

The next time you spray be sure to you the right nozzle. It goes a long way to ensure you efficiently use your CPP or fertilizer as the case may be.