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Below is a round up of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 4–16 July 2008.

Local Nigerian drink 'damages heart and liver'
A local non-alcoholic drink and medication, Madaran sukudai, widely sold in northern Nigeria, is actually based on formaldehyde, the potent chemical used as a disinfectant and to preserve tissue, research reveals. Scientists from the University of Ilorin, writing in the African Journal of Pure and Applied Chemistry, call the drink 'a silent killer'. More>>[65kB]

Oil firms to be 'compelled' to employ scholarship graduates
Nigeria's Petroleum and Technology Development Fund (PTDF), intended to create a homegrown source of engineers, plans to compel oil firms to employ 40 per cent of graduates on its overseas scholarship scheme. PTDF's Alhalji Kabir Mohammed says £13 million (US$26 million) was spent on 682 students between 2002 and 2006, yet firms continue to go abroad for staff. More>>

Wind energy blowing into Africa, but needs a break
Weak winds, lack of a reliable, well-maintained power grid and a need for formal regulations are amongst the reasons holding back Africa's wind energy industry, according to a Danish expert. However, the Egyptian and Moroccan markets have grown rapidly, with further interest from Kenya and South Africa. More>>

African plant breeders collaborate on better pearl millet
Greater harvests of mildew-resistant pearl millet can be achieved as long as local traditional harvesting and marketing practices are not ignored, according to a study in the African Journal of Agricultural Research. The study was a collaboration between the — usually isolated — breeding programmes in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Zambia. More>>[94kB]

Exotic and local trees 'can restore Rwanda soil health'
A combination of fast-growing exotic trees with indigenous species can best restore soil quality in southern Rwanda, say researchers. Growing forests on abandoned or unproductive land can increase the amount of carbon stored in soils, playing a key role in climate change mitigation, according to research published in the African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. More>>[101kB]

African pear tree essence 'is food preservative'
The first study of antimicrobial activity in the essential oil from the resin of the African pear, or Safou, harvested in Gabon, suggests it may be a natural food preservative, researchers write in the African Journal of Microbiology Research. The tropical fruit tree has long been used as a traditional medicine. More>>[101kB]

The bacteria that eat oil
In Nigeria, where hundreds of crude oil spills have polluted the Niger Delta, a study [99kB] has found a common bacteria that 'eats' diesel-contaminated soil. Meanwhile, a separate study [130kB] in South Africa found that five indigenous bacteria degraded diesel by more than 85 per cent within two weeks, depending on the type of fertiliser used in the soil.

Co-infected parasite, not alcohol, behind adverse ivermectin reactions
Co-infection with the Loa loa parasite, transmitted by the bite of the horsefly, can trigger severe negative reactions to ivermectin, the treatment for river blindness, in Cameroon. Research in the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology has ruled out the traditional alcoholic drinks previously suspected of causing the severe reactions. More>> [152kB]

Canned ugba lasts longer
Canning shows 'remarkable results' in preserving ugba, the nutritious high-protein snack from fermented African oil bean seeds, consumed by more than 40 million people in West Africa. Normally lasting two weeks, canned ugba survived six months at tropical temperatures, according to Nigerian research in the African Journal of Food Science. More>> [87.1kB]

Snails: A future addition to the lab?
The giant African snails, which can be purchased cheaply at local markets, are an ideal source of enzymes in the laboratory, according to research in the African Journal of Biochemistry Research. The snail's fluids, rich with acid phosphatase and requiring little preparation, make it a good tool to teach biochemistry students about assays, say the researchers. More>> [102kB]

Compiled by Christina Scott. Additional reporting by Kimani Chege and Esther Tola.

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

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