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  • Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 7–20 April 2011


Below is a roundup of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 7–20 April 2011

Solar powered farms on the way
Kenya is pioneering a solar powered 'green farm' — which would be the continent's first. Ephraim Mukisira, director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) said that all farm activities, including the growing of crops and the rearing of livestock, would be powered by solar energy. KARI is currently conducting trials on one hundred acres of land, with a new greenhouse technology imported from South Korea. "This is a new concept that demonstrates that research and science is moving away from traditional to more exciting settings like the green villages," Mukisira said. "The future of agriculture is to increase productivity and conserve the environment." More>>

Tanzanian government allocates US$20 million to research
A new fund worth nearly US$20 million will be available to scientists until June this year, Florens Turuka, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, announced at the close of the National Institute for Medical Research's annual scientific conference. "The money is there for experts who can convince relevant authorities on the significance of their research areas to our country," Turuka said. The fund has been deposited with the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology. Tanzania expects to increase funding for research in the next financial year, to at least one per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). More>>

Nigeria's 2020 hope 'may just be a pipe dream'
The former president of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Anya O. Anya, said that the country's grand ambitions of being among the world's top 20 world economies by 2020 may wind up a pipe dream because very little effort has been devoted to science and technology (S&T) development. "A look around shows that every country that has grown phenomenally has done so by developing … science and technology prowess," Anya said. The academy's current president, Oye Ibidapo-Obe, agreed: "I have … discovered with dismay that S&T is conspicuously the missing link". Umar Bindir, director-general of the National Office for Technology Acquisition & Promotion, called for the establishment of a S&T national council to foster collaboration and communication between scientists and innovators. More>>

Invest in agricultural research to develop, Gambia told
The Gambia must invest in agricultural research and development (R&D) if it is to make significant strides in socioeconomic growth, according to the agricultural director for the country's North Bank Region. Saikou E Sayang said that both developed and developing countries have depended heavily on agricultural R&D as the engine of economic prosperity. He said that the Gambia's National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) should incorporate strategic research through the provision of knowledge and techniques aimed at solving specific problems at the grassroots level. "Recently, in an appropriate and positive move, the government took a bold initiative to allocate six per cent of the national budget to agriculture," Sayang said. "The allocation of that percentage would really boost agricultural production and make food and seed security self-sufficient." More>>

Zambia needs early warning system for climate change
Zambia must set up a country-wide early warning system to monitor climate change and help mitigate its adverse effects. Noel Zimba, chairperson of the Zambia Climate Change Network, said during a climate change awareness workshop that this was an important element in the country's preparedness and that all stakeholders should be involved in setting it up. And Prem Jain, technology co-ordinator for the Ministry of Tourism's Climate Change Facilitation Unit, said it was important to develop resilience to climate variability and its effects on sectors such as agriculture and energy. More>>

Smallholder organic agriculture causing deforestation in West Africa
Widespread deforestation and degradation in West Africa's tropical forest is being caused by poor use of fertiliser among cocoa, cassava and palm oil farmers, according to a new study conducted by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and the Centre for International Forestry Research. The study found that cocoa production in West Africa's Guinean Rainforest region doubled between 1987 and 2007, and the countries there are now producing more than 70 per cent of the world's cocoa supply, but this increase was largely realised because of clearing forest areas — resulting in large losses of biodiversity and high carbon emissions. It suggested that the same outputs could have been achieved through intensified use of fertiliser and agrochemicals, together with improved crop husbandry. More>>

West African coast 'has high levels of toxic compounds'
Scientists have found high levels of toxic compounds along the West African coast, in a study based on several years of research and published in
Environmental Science & Technology. The production of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), identified as carcinogenic by some studies, has been banned in Europe and the United States for years. The compounds may have come from the dumping of illegal waste or from a ship breaking yard in Mauritania. "We were not expecting to find such high levels of PCBs, highly toxic compounds … in a region such as the western coast of Africa", said Ailette Prieto, a researcher at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU-Spain) and co-author of the study. More>>

Access to information will lead to Africa's technological progress and development
Africa's technological development will depend on access to information that can fundamentally improve the lives of its people, according to Collins Khumalo, president of media company MultiChoice Africa. Khumalo said the continent must select the best technology — for example by leapfrogging from analogue to digital broadcasting — to realise this. "Choosing anything less than the best would be like choosing old cellphone or computer technology over far better new alternatives," he said. There is now "a wonderful opportunity unfolding" for Africa, which is capable of producing and consuming the best technology being used elsewhere in the world, he said, adding that it is now up to the continent to choose these better options. More>>

Compiled by Ochieng' Ogodo. Additional reporting by Emeka Johnkingsley.

If you would like to suggest a story for this news in brief, please contact the Africa News Editor Ochieng' Ogodo ([email protected]).

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