BrightWorld

Dreams, Optimism, Wisdom

ENERGY & ECOSYSTEM RESILIENCE August 20, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Climate change is reshaping human engagements the world over. In Africa, observations have already been made before regarding vulnerabilities to climate change and related attendant ecological concerns.

 

Below is a report regarding energy interventions that could re-adjust the livelihood/economic engagements of peoples of Africa.

 

[09 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to eldis.org database news.]

 

 

 

A preliminary assessment of energy and ecosystem resilience in ten African countries

Authors: Connor,H.; Mqadi,L.; Mukheibir,P.
Produced by: HELIO International (2007)

Africa is vulnerable to climate change on two fronts: firstly, because of existing vulnerabilities and secondly, due to capacity limitations for disaster mitigation and inability to adapt to climate change. There is an urgent need to ensure that activities centring on adaptation to climate change and sustainable energy development are increased and maintained so as to generate sustainable livelihoods.

This paper is a preliminary attempt to identify points of vulnerability as they relate to climate change-related events and sketch out what changes are needed – both politically and programmatically – to increase resilience. It explores the current state of vulnerability and details potential for adaptation. Results are presented summarising the key vulnerabilities for eight sub-Saharan countries: Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

It is argued that energy development for Africa in a changing climate will require greater emphasis on small-scale, decentralised and diversified supply and increased distribution to households and enterprises alike. A diversified and distributed energy mix is identified as the best insurance policy against climate change. However, it is argued that adaptation of energy policies and systems is only part of the solution; building up the resiliency of local populations and energy systems is equally important.

Key priorities identified for policy are:

  1.  
    • harness the value of indigenous knowledge to plan and achieve resilience
    • mobilise adequate and stable financial resources
    • mainstream adaptation and resilience in the development process
    • develop policies to institutionalise and mobilise “social capital”

The authors conclude that, despite the obstacles facing Africa, hope is not lost. They identify a number of positive characteristics upon which successful programmes can and should be built, including:

  1.  
    • culturally, Africa has strong social networks, which serve an important function in educating communities, disseminating information and serving as substitutes for collateral in micro-loans
    • as primary collectors and users of biomass and water, women are well-placed to monitor and manage resources, spur innovation on adaptive techniques and experiment with new management approaches
    • Africa’s decades-long experience coping with poverty that may be its strongest resource. By its collective survival, the region has shown itself to be adaptive and resilient despite enormous obstacles.

Available online at: http://www.eldis.org/cf/rdr/?doc=38442&em=310708&sub=enviro 

 

PHILIPPINES, INDONESIA, CHINA LEAD MAIZE DROUGHT-RESISTANCE August 19, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

We peoples of Southeast Asia have been caught up in the cycles of droughts and heavy rains for as long as our memories can recall. The El Nino comes every now and then, bringing either a rainy season or too dry a spell for an entire crop season, thus endangering our own agricultural production.

Biotechnology innovations incidentally are very dynamic in the region, or in East Asia as a whole. The breeding of maize varieties that are resistant to drought has been among the forefront of research & development. Below is a news caption of the R&D efforts in maize by exemplar countries Philippines, Indonesia, and China.

Happy reading!

[31 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

A-maizing: Asia’s drought-resistant maize varieties

Source: CIMMYT

16 June 2008 | EN | 中文

Flickr/thisfrenchlife

Maize is a staple crop in South-East Asia, both as a food and animal feed. But the farmers that grow the crop often live in drought-prone areas, where poor soil and disease exacerbate poor harvests.

To counter this, the Asian Maize Network was created, funded by the Asian Development Bank and led by CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre).

The network, running from 2005–2008, brings together scientists from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to develop drought-tolerant maize varieties — and deliver them to farmers.

Genetic material from drought-tolerant varieties was supplied by CIMMYT and funds put into setting up testing programmes in all five countries.

The first varieties have already been released for further testing in individual countries, and many more are in the pipeline, with the eventual aim of providing them to poor farmers at affordable prices.

The scientists involved say the project has helped them both in terms of capacity and partnership building. Many agree that the training and working with researchers from other countries has given them a new perspective on their work.

“I’m motivated to see that what I’m doing will really help farmers,” says one.

 

AGRI-INFRASTRUCTURE UPSCALE IN GHANA, MALI, MADAGASCAR August 18, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Consistently following ‘physical economy’ practices would mean a sustained construction and renovation of agricultural infrastructures. Conversely, the sustained destruction of such infrastructures will lead to rapid agricultural decay, such as what’s happening in the USA.

Africans know their physical economy principles well, and practice them precisely by boosting agricultural infrastructures. Below is a news item that captures relevant efforts in Ghana, Mali and Madagascar.

Enjoy your read!

[30 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Ghana, Madagascar, Mali get agricultural revamp

Bandé Moussa Sissoko & Rivonala Razafison

19 June 2008 | EN

USAID

Small-scale farmers in Ghana, Madagascar and Mali are the first beneficiaries of a multi-billion dollar project to rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure.

The project, part of the efforts to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals tackling poverty, will later be expanded to other developing countries.

Kofi Annan, of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), signed a memorandum of understanding this month (11 June) with the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Under the agreement, infrastructure will be established or improved, agricultural research will be strengthened, and seeds and other technologies will be distributed to small-scale farmers.

Mosa Justin of Madagascar’s Millennium Challenge Account, which distributes MCC money, says the joint project will work with researchers to better distribute seeds in three different zones: maize in Antsiranana, rice and butter beans in Menabe, and maize and rice in Boeny.

The Malagasy agriculture ministry has also signed a partnership with private fertiliser companies to increase production. “There is a need to create a fertiliser map according to the type and variety of soils, and then a blending plant to make the most appropriate fertiliser,” says Justin. Fertiliser use in Madagascar is currently one twelfth of the African average.

In landlocked Mali, the Millennium Challenge Account has begun a large rice irrigation project in the central Alatona region, which relies on water from the Niger river delta.

Project director Tidiani Traoré says work will begin on extending the Sahel Canal by 23 kilometres, building a new 63 kilometre canal and boosting the banks of the Malado Fala — an ancient dry stream bed used as a natural canal — by December this year.

About 16,000 hectares of farmland — roughly half the Alatona region — will receive improved irrigation, Traoré told SciDev.Net.

Traoré says plans also include formalising land titles, education about land tenure rights, increasing farmers’ access to agricultural advice and training in fish, livestock and financial management.

The Mali project also aims to construct a bridge and tar the first 81 kilometres of road from the rice paddies in the Niono inland delta, which floods annually, by October 2008.

Ghanaian plans include starting a dialogue between the private and public sector on how best to work together in getting seeds of new crop varieties to farmers fields.

Link to Memorandum of Understanding between MCC and AGRA [16.5kB]

 

BOOSTING SCIENCE FOR YOUNG: MERCOSUR’S LEAD

Erle Frayne Argonza

Boosting science and technology among the young has been the dream of many countries across the centuries. In the United States, this dream is being rekindled after studies show that its kids lag behind those of other countries’ in science and math tests.

To be lackadaisical on the quality of science instruction to youth have dire repercussions in the economy in the long run. A growing emerging market can crash back to Stone Age if it does so for a period of two (2) decades straight.

Incidentally, the Mercosur experts know the lessons well regarding S&T and the physical economy, and so they are taking the lead in boosting S&T education. Read the news caption below for the report.

Enjoy your read!

[31 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Ministros del Mercosur promueven ciencia en la escuela

Fuente: La Prensa

18 junio 2008 | ES

Ministro Juan Carlos Tedesco, durante la 34º Reunión de Ministros de Educación del Mercosur

Ministerio de Educación de Argentina

La matemática y las ciencias exactas deben enseñarse desde los primeros años de la infancia, pues está comprobado que eso favorece el posterior desarrollo de estos conocimientos, fundamentales para formar ciudadanos más calificados.

Así lo aseguró el ministro de Educación de Argentina, Juan Carlos Tedesco, durante la 34º Reunión de Ministros de Educación del Mercosur (Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay y Uruguay) realizada en Buenos Aires la semana pasada, según informó el diario argentino La Prensa el sábado 14 de junio.  

En este encuentro, las autoridades educativas del Mercosur debatieron sobre la enseñanza de las ciencias y discutieron sobre la necesidad de una mejor capacitación y acreditación docente y de las carreras científicas. 

“La salud, los alimentos, el consumo de transgénicos o el problema de la energía no son objeto del debate democrático. Es más, forman parte de las decisiones de empresas multinacionales y creo que a muchas de ellas no les viene nada mal el analfabetismo científico de las personas”, opinó la ministra de Educación uruguaya, María Simón, durante el debate. 

“Las mujeres en Uruguay representan 60 por ciento del alumnado en la universidad, pero sólo ocupan 25 por ciento en carreras de ingeniería”, detalló Simón, quien fue decana de la Facultad de Ingeniería estatal.

“Se asume prejuiciosamente que las ciencias son para los varones”, agregó.

Por su parte, según detalló La Prensa, el ministro colombiano, Gabriel Burgos Mantilla, estimó que habría que evaluar a los docentes “que hacen que los niños aborrezcan las matemáticas” y capacitarlos. 

Asimismo, la viceministra de Paraguay, Marta Lafuente, dijo que hay que pensar cómo lograr un efectivo aporte de la universidad en la enseñanza de las ciencias básicas, una opción que sólo elige 30 por ciento de los que ingresan al nivel superior en ese país.

Enlace al artículo completo

 

MOLECULAR BIOLOGISTS RECEIVE SHOT IN THE ARM August 16, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Going back down southern Africa, here comes a welcome news about incentives for biotechnologists in the region. The governance innovation has to do with improving processes whereby biotechnologists can get employed and practice their profession accordingly.

Enjoy your read!

[30 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

African molecular biologists receive European boost

Carol Campbell

17 June 2008 | EN

USAID / R. Zurba

Updated [18 June 2008]

Molecular biologists in Africa will be able to tap into greater resources after South Africa signed a cooperation agreement with the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO).

The agreement, announced on 5 June, is the first for an African country and follows five years of discussions. 

South Africa will now have access to core EMBO activities and programmes, such as fellowships, courses and workshops.

Iqbal Parker, director of the Cape Town branch of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, told SciDev.Net that South Africa-based scientists can also apply for grants previously only available to scientists working in EMBO’s 27 European member countries. The closing date for this year’s applications is August.

Flexible long-term fellowships, most beginning in January 2009, “will allow South Africa-based scientists to apply to work at institutions in other EMBO countries”, said Parker, who was a major driver of the agreement.

“Short-term fellowships will enable masters, doctoral and post-doctoral students to learn new techniques at Europe’s top institutions,” he adds.

Some practical training courses organised locally, but funded by EMBO, have already been run in South Africa in anticipation of this month’s membership approval. Although no other African nation is in the pipeline for membership, the practical training courses in South Africa are open to scientists from across the African continent.

“For most African scientists, attending training courses in Europe is out of the question because of cost, time and visa administration hassles. Hosting these courses in South Africa encourages more scientists from throughout the continent to participate,” says Tsungai Jongwe, a molecular biology masters student at the University of Cape Town Medical School.

”And there are many scientists from other African nations studying and working in South Africa, so they will benefit as well,” Jongwe, a Zimbabwean, told SciDev.Net.

Hermann Bujard, executive director of EMBO, says that the agreement includes provision for European scientists to visit South Africa, to give them “insight into the magnitude of problems on the African continent”.

“South African scientists will be empowered to employ the latest scientific advances to benefit their own communities.”

 

ACCESS TO ENERGY INCREASED VIA RADICAL STOVE August 15, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

England has launched an award system recently to innovators around the world who can revolutionize stove technology. The purpose of stove innovation is to increase access of people and market end-users to energy by utilizing fuel resources available in the locality, such as coconut and wood wastes.

Below is a heartwarming news about a stove innovation from South Asia that won the award. As reported, it surely has made energy available to many people in India which lacks sufficient energy due to the rapidly rising demand for fuel.

Enjoy your read!

[29 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

Stove projects stir up energy award success

Katherine Nightingale

20 June 2008 | EN | ES | 中文

A TIDE cooking stove in use

Ashden Awards/TIDE

Innovators bringing sustainable energy to communities in developing countries were recognised last night (19 June) at an awards ceremony held in London, United Kingdom.

Projects from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Tanzania and Uganda were all awarded prizes of £20,000 (around US$40,000) at the annual Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy.

The Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE) project, which designs safer and more efficient wood-burning stoves, was crowned the overall Energy Champion, winning a £40,000 prize.

These TIDE stoves are a boon for an estimated eight million people working in small industries in southern India — for example, in textile dying, spice drying and street food vendors.

Svati Bhogle, chief executive of TIDE, said the award “gives us the motivation to venture into uncharted terrain, to first break new ground and then develop it into a beaten track”.

The stoves can use waste material such as coconut shells as well as wood. Improved heat transfer, insulation and combustion creates less heat and smoke, resulting in improved working conditions. They were designed with each industry specifically in mind, with users contributing to the development.

Bhogle said 10,500 stoves are now in use in 12 industry sectors, saving 140,000 tonnes of fuel and 200,000 tonnes of emitted carbon dioxide.

“There is a serious energy crisis in rural India, but access to energy and its efficient use, accompanied by well-conceived and well-implemented enabling mechanisms, has the potential to transform rural areas.”

Other stoves were prominent among this year’s winners. The Kisangani Smith Group in Tanzania designed a stove that uses compressed waste sawdust or rice husks, rather than expensive charcoal.

The GAIA association has opted to use ethanol fuel produced from the waste molasses of the sugar industry in their stoves, which they have distributed to Somalian refugees living in a large camp in eastern Ethiopia.

Elsewhere, both the Aryavart Gramin Bank in India and Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh — a 2006 winner and recipient of this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award — provide affordable loans for people without access to the electricity grid to install solar power in their homes.

The Ugandan project, Fruits of the Nile, harnesses the power of the sun to dry fruit.  Simple solar dryers, constructed from a wooden frame covered with plastic, let the light in, keep insects out and use natural convection.

Ashden also published a report, commissioned by the UK Department for International Development, analysing ten previous winners. More ways must be found to provide financial and human resources for innovative research and development, it concluded, with clear national energy policies to guide projects.

 

PHILIPPINES’ ORGANIC ISLAND SURGING AHEAD August 14, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

If there is any thought that the islanders of Negros would want themselves to be known the world over, it is their being dubbed as the “Philippines’ organic island.” And rightly so, for they have, under the initiative of the governors of the island, been moving heaven and earth to get the entire island towards that goal since 2005 yet.

The provinces of Negros Occidental (West) and Negros Oriental (West) concurred over the idea around three (3) years ago today, to transform the entire island into an organic paradise. The island used to be almost exclusively planted to sugar, a pattern that had since been modified towards multi-crop and biodiversity enterprises. For sure, the organic initiative will lead the entire island towards biodiversity, even as it has become common policy in the two provinces to see to it that both farms and backyards (including middle class village homes) should cultivate plants.

I was privileged to be invited as a major guess speaker by the province of Negros and partner NGOs in 2005 on the occasion of the launching of the organic island project. I just concluded a book on fair trade & food security then for the KAISAMPALAD, the national NGO council for fair trade & food security, when I got the invitation to share notes about food security to the people of Negros. I found the enthusiasm of the people for the project very high, it was indubitably a very popular movement since even the radical groups there were enthusiastically involved.

I couldn’t forget that event as the organizers timed it with the Mascara Festival of Bacolod City/Negros Occidental. The pageant night, when the Miss Bacolod was chosen, was truly an enchanting night of performances by artists who were wearing the classic mask designs for that occasion, coupled with pyrotechnics and band performances. The occasion catapulted the organic movement to euphoric heights!

The news item below indicates that the organic initiative has been surging ahead, as local counterpart funding for its growth phase has been moving up too. May this organic experience light up the other islands of the blessed Republic so as to make the archipelago green again.

[ 13 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

MANILA, Philippines – Negros Oriental province has earmarked an initial P3 million for popularization of the use of organic fertilizer in the province, an online news site reported.

 

Visayan Daily Star reported that NegOrganic NOW (Nutrients Of Worms) program is gaining headway through verme composting.

Provincial agriculturist Gregorio Paltinca also said the program is promoting the production of natural fermented solution.

He said trainings and seminars are being conducted for farmer beneficiaries before they are given 500 grams of worms.

But he stressed this is not a dole-out, as the recipient-farmer has to return what is given to him after six months, to be distributed to other farmers.

Government hopes to provide all farmers in the province with the needed worms and technology to produce organic fertilizer.

Paltinca said organic farming has been proven to increase the farmers’ yields, produce chemical-free vegetables and other farm products, as well as good for the environment.

Meanwhile, Gov. Emilio Macias II ordered Paltinca to come up with a time frame for the production of organic fertilizer. – GMANews.TV 

 

NEPAL JACKRABBITS S&T FUNDING

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang hapon! Good afternoon!

People around the world are still savoring today the euphoria of Nepal and South Asia over the victory of the nationalist forces there against the monarchy which they abolished recently. The hegemonic victory of the modernist-nationalist forces there signal the shift to a new order of things, which will be marked by the growth of S&T and its impact on the physical economy.

The good news for the people of Nepal and sympathizers across the globe is the decision of the state recently to jackrabbit S&T via massive funding. The news is contained in the summary below.

Enjoy your read!

[29 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Nepal planning 12-fold increase in science budget

Source: Science

16 June 2008 | EN | 中文

Maoist leader Prachandra

Wikipedia

Nepal’s new government is planning a US$125 million science budget for 2008 — a staggering 12-fold increase from last year.

The money will go to the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST), with the budget set to be approved next month.

Shortly before the country’s April elections, the Maoist party — which has the largest share of seats in Nepal’s assembly — released a manifesto declaring, “Without science a country cannot develop.” Prachanda, the party’s leader, has a degree in agricultural science and also taught science in a prep school.

Biotechnology research will be a focus — primarily to exploit Nepal’s rich biological resources. A biotech lab in Kathmandu is due to be completed in 2009, while MEST plans to construct a national biotechnology research and development centre.

Nepal often experiences electricity and gasoline shortages, so the government will also devote a large part of the money to developing clean energy, including the use of a jatropha as a biofuel.

World Bank figures on science spending currently put Nepal behind Burundi, the country with the world’s lowest per capita gross domestic product.

 

COLOMBIA’S CHILDREN GET THOUSANDS OF COMPUTERS August 13, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Colombia has been wracked in internecine conflicts and drug wars for many decades now. This republic has to struggle hard to keep itself afloat, as the conflicts and the war against drug cartels has rendered it into a ‘failed state’ of the south.

The recent good news is that the war against drug cartels had seemed to turn around towards victory in the long run. Added to this good news is the recent move of relevant stakeholders to provide thousands of computers for children, thus boosting basic education in this country.

Happy reading!

[28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

Colombia: 65 mil escolares tendrán su propio computador

Lisbeth Fog

11 junio 2008 | ES

Colombia entregará 65 mil computadoras portátiles a escolares

Fundación OLPC

[BOGOTÁ] Como producto de la gestión del gobernador del departamento de Caldas, en Colombia, este año 15 mil estudiantes de primaria de las escuelas públicas recibirán computadores portátiles, como parte del programa educativo Una portátil por niño.

Mediante un convenio suscrito en Boston (Estados Unidos) entre el gobernador Mario Aristizábal Muñoz y la Fundación One Laptop Per Child (OLPC, en su sigla en inglés), en total los niños caldenses beneficiados llegarán a ser 65 mil en un período de tres años.

“De esta forma se garantiza una cobertura con el programa del 100 por ciento de los niños de básica primaria en el departamento de Caldas”, dijo el gobernador a SciDev.Net. “Este es un ejemplo del compromiso social y educativo del Plan de Gobierno de Caldas”.

De acuerdo con Aristizábal Muñoz, el fundador y presidente de OLPC Nicolás Negroponte visitará próximamente Caldas, departamento de aproximadamente 1.170.000 habitantes, para conocer de cerca el programa de TIC en educación primaria.

Además de entregar los computadores, se llevará a cabo un proceso de socialización de la propuesta con docentes, alumnos y padres de familia.

Según el portal de la Gobernación de Caldas, Aristizábal Muñoz explicó que Una portátil por niño es definitivamente la revolución de la educación en Caldas, que les brindará a los niños grandes posibilidades para expandir sus conocimientos.

El propio gobernador mostró el equipo a la prensa el pasado 27 de mayo. Se trata de un computador blanco con verde, y muy liviano. 

“En este computador”, afirmó Aristizábal, “están las bibliotecas necesarias a nivel mundial, cultural y académico. Aquí está el Skype, a través del cual los niños se pueden comunicar entre ellos a nivel nacional e internacional”.

Nicolás Bueno, asesor del proyecto OLPC, anunció que ya existe la infraestructura necesaria para ponerlos a funcionar, en tanto la cobertura conseguida hasta el momento es del 95 por ciento de las escuelas.

Las pruebas piloto se realizarán con 400 computadores. Con éste, y otros proyectos de TIC en el departamento, se busca aumentar la calidad en la formación de maestros y estudiantes, aseguró el gobernador Aristizábal, a través del uso pedagógico de las TIC.

Eso significa usarlos en ambientes de aprendizaje apropiados, que estimulen la creatividad, el autoaprendizaje y el desarrollo de competencias para fortalecer propuestas de desarrollo cultural, competencias laborales y el rescate de saberes tradicionales. Estaremos formando “mejores hombres para el mañana”, remató el gobernador.

 

ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, MEXICO: BIG SCIENCE PLAYERS August 12, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang umaga! Good morning!

Playing it big in science is a surefire formula for making it big economically. Conversely, downplaying scientific research & development is a hell-fire formula for bringing down the productive sectors of nation’s economy, and bring it back later to a 3rd world status.

Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, the three (3) mightiest economies of Latin America, had learned the developmental lessons well across their history. The said economies are today the leading ones in science, which partly explains their relatively robust economies, as observed in the news below.

Happy reading!

[28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Tres países concentran ciencia de América Latina

Fuente: Clarín

10 junio 2008 | ES

Alberto Ricardo Dibern, secretario de Políticas Universitarias de Argentina, en la reunión de Cartagena

Galería Pública de CRES

Argentina, Brasil y México concentran más de la mitad de los universitarios de la región en carreras de grado y de posgrado y producen el 82 por ciento de la producción científica, de acuerdo con texto de Juan Pablo Casas, publicado en Clarín, la semana pasada (6 de junio).

Los datos fueron presentados durante la Conferencia Regional de Educación Superior (CRES) que congregó a casi 3.500 delegados, funcionarios y representantes de 37 países de América latina y el Caribe, del 4 al 6 de junio, en Cartagena, Colombia.

 
De acuerdo con
Clarín, los sistemas de educación superior de estos tres países son los más avanzados y complejos de la región, al concentrar, juntos, el 55 por ciento de los estudiantes de grado y posgrado.

Asimismo, los tres países concentran el 82 por ciento de la producción científica y el 78 por ciento de la solicitud de patentes.

Enlace al texto completo de Clarín

 

IRAQ’S S&T THRUST FOR HIGHER EDUCATION August 11, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Iraq is moving definitely moving forward. After the devastation wrought by the Anglo-American forces in the country, a devastation that continues as warring ethno-religious communities clash with one another for hegemony, Iraq has been saddled with gargantuan problems of rebuilding its S&T base as a prerequisite for reconstructing its economy.

The effort to move forward has been paying off. The thrust on S&T for higher education has been designed and put forward by the stakeholders, with foreign support for the next five (5) years. The ambitious $1 Billion project is reported in the news below.

Enjoy your read.

[27 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Iraq puts forward ambitious higher education plan

Wagdy Sawahel

10 June 2008 | EN | 中文

Iraqi students will benefit from the initiative

Flickr/lakerae

Iraqi officials have proposed a five-year, US$1 billion higher education plan to increase the science and technology workforce and promote science-based sustainable development.

The Iraqi Education Initiative, which would run from 2009–2013, was announced by Zuhair A. G. Humadi, senior advisor to Iraq’s vice president Adil Abdul Mahdi, at the NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference last month (25–30 May) in Washington DC, United States.

Under the plan, which will be financed by revenue generated by Iraq’s oil reserves, university infrastructure will be rebuilt, including new laboratories and establishing Internet connections.

Over the next five years, the plan would see 10,000 students sent abroad each year on full scholarships to earn two-year technical degrees as well as Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral degrees from world class universities in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The degrees would be in a variety of fields including engineering, health, science and technology — to increase the scientific capacity of the country — and education.

As a condition of the scholarship the students must either return to Iraq after completing their degree or repay the government.

The plan was first proposed to Iraq’s parliament on 11 May by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and is awaiting approval following parliamentary voting in the next three months. Upon final approval, an action plan will be prepared.

Fawzi Al Naima, former dean of the College of Engineering at Nahrain University in Baghdad, Iraq, told SciDev.Net the plan is “essential to put the higher education system in Iraq back on the right track, as it is in desperate need of rehabilitation of the existing universities and the building of new universities”.

Al Naima, who is now working in the Faculty of Telecommunication and Information Engineering at the University of Engineering and Technology Taxila in Pakistan, adds that the initiative should include plans to encourage university professors who have been forced to leave the country to return.

 

MALARIA CROSS-BORDER RESEARCH IN LATIN AMERICA August 9, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Cross-border malaria research is a new thing in health services and epidemiology. The conduct of this requires first of all an established people-to-people relationship in order to prosper, this relationship being the base for an expert-to-expert and state-to-state relationships.

Incidentally, cross-border relations are increasing in the South, a pattern that is observed likewise among Latin American states. Cross-border research in malaria is a representative instance of the multiplying cross-border relations, the good news being that it is even rewarded among certain countries, as reported in the news below.

Enjoy your read.

[26 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Cross-border malaria research rewarded in Africa

Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla, Esther Tola and Christina Scott

12 June 2008 | EN

The money will go into further research, including final-stage trials of a malaria vaccine for children

Flickr/aheavens

Four African institutions carrying out malaria research have won an international cooperation award from the Prince of Asturias charitable foundation in Spain for their joint efforts.

The award, announced last month (28 May) and worth €50,000 (around US$77,000), went to Ghana’s Kintampo Health Research Centre, Mali’s Malaria Research and Training Centre, Mozambique’s Manhica Centre of Health Research and the Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre in Tanzania. They are scheduled to receive their awards in October this year.

The centres carry out biomedical research, vaccine trials, demography research and local training of personnel.

Ogobara Doumbo, director of the Mali centre, told SciDev.Net the award would help expand successful strategies such as insect-repellent mosquito nets and occasional (intermittent) preventative drug treatment for children and pregnant women.

About 80 researchers have been working on clinical trials of malaria vaccines at four sites in Mali since 2003, including molecular biologist Abdoulaye Djimdé, who developed simple techniques to monitor drug resistant malaria parasites from a drop of blood on filter paper.

Doumbo says they are now working on candidate vaccines targeting the early phase in the parasite’s life cycle in the human bloodstream.

The money will be ploughed straight back into further research, says John Aponte, head of the statistics unit at the Barcelona Hospital Clinic and a member of the team at the Manhiça Centre of Health Research.

Aponte said final-stage (phase three) trials of the RTS,S malaria vaccine for children under five years should begin in late 2008 or early 2009 at 11 centres in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. 

Commentators say that the awards are a sign of Africa being at the forefront of solving African health problems.

“Mozambique and Africa are starting to lead the path toward solving their own health problems, and to deliver useful solutions to the rest of the world,” Graça Machel, president of nongovernmental organisation the Community Development Foundation in Maputo, who has worked with the Manhiça Centre for 12 years, said in a press statement.

”The work of the recipients reflects their respective commitment to cooperation across national and institutional boundaries — the type of cooperation that will be needed to effectively combat malaria at the global level,” said Christian Loucq, director of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, in a press statement.

 

BIOPIRACY CONTROL VIA UN ROADMAP August 8, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good afternoon from Manila!

Controlling or regulating biopiracy is among the toughest tasks regarding intellectual property. Currently, there is an ongoing research by a corporate group to map the genome of Indigenous Peoples or IPs in the Philippines, the results of which will redound to improving the survival chances of the human species in general. The research is so surreptitious, however, that nobody knows who are the data gatherers and how is data collected.

That behavior is tantamount to biopiracy. Incidentally, the United Nations released a roadmap recently, which has direct implications on improving regulatory aspects of biopiracy. The news is contained below.

Enjoy your read.

[27 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

UN roadmap paves way for curbing biopiracy

Hepeng Jia

13 June 2008 | EN | 中文

Yading Nature Reserve, China

USDA/pirateparrot

[BEIJING] Countries have agreed a roadmap for negotiating an agreement for the sharing of genetic resources, following a UN biodiversity conference.

The two-week conference in Bonn, Germany, ended last month (30 May) with renewed promises from countries to substantially reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

The conference set out a roadmap for negotiations on access and benefit sharing (ABS) of genetic resources to help curb biopiracy. Delegates discussed and tentatively agreed a variety of options on elements for the future agreement that could be legally binding, non-binding or a combination of the two.

Participants hope to reach a global agreement on ABS at the next UN biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010.

Xue Dayuan, director of the China Institute of Environment and Resources Protection for Minority Areas and a member of China’s delegation to the conference, says the roadmap anchors the diverse debates over the issues and narrows down action to a set of suitable options that could be further explored.

But environmental groups have expressed scepticism, saying developed nations have failed to offer enough financial aid to developing countries for biodiversity protection.

Xue says previous efforts for biodiversity protection focused too much on funding from the developed world, and that countries should develop their economy first in order to fund their own, more sustainable, protection measures. 

“China, together with other fast-developing countries like India, could offer an exemplar in realising economic growth with relatively less destruction of biodiversity.”

According to the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, China had established 2,531 natural reserves by the end of 2007, covering more than 15 per cent of its land.

China’s vice environment minister Wu Xiaoqing pledged a “strong commitment” at the conference to participating in global biodiversity protection.

Delegates at the conference also agreed action plans to expand nature reserves and launch the ‘Life Web Initiative,’ a network that aims to enhance partnerships to support the preserves. For example, an online database will help global funders match nature reserves to finance.

Germany pledged €500 million (US$775 million) over the next four years to aid global forest protection, particularly those in developing countries, and another €500 million each year after that.

Norway also announced plans to spend €600 million (US$936 million) on global forest conservation annually over the next three years.

 

ADJUSTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE: LESSONS FROM AFRICA’S PEOPLES August 7, 2008

ADJUSTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE: LESSONS FROM AFRICA’S PEOPLES

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning!

Climate change patterns are knocking at everybody’s doors, affecting all countries. Alarming news tell of rising sea waters that are forecast to inundate vast coastal areas, possibly rendering certain ocean island republics dead in the water.

Incidentally, people are showing their resiliency in the innovative way, by consequently adjusting to the climate changes occurring across the globe. Below is a news update about the said behavior innovations from Africa.

Enjoy your read.

[26 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

African farmers ‘adjusting to climate change’

David Njagi, Esther Tola and Christina Scott

5 June 2008 | EN | 中文

Malawian farmer

Flickr/beonkey

Rural African farmers are already adapting to climate change, according to case studies in Benin, Kenya and Malawi.

The studies, carried out by local environmental groups for the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), found that farmers are using locally-relevant methods to adjust to their unpredictable environments.

Almost all African agriculture relies on rainwater rather than irrigation, but all farmers interviewed said erratic rainfall patterns and less predictable growing seasons are triggering major changes in farming practices, such as a switch to faster-growing crops or varieties.

Increasing capacity to cope with change is also important. Some farmers are clubbing together to build rain-harvesting tanks and setting up joint savings clubs.

“All these communities have adjusted to an increasingly volatile environment with a two-pronged approach: using available natural resources more efficiently, and raising capacity to cope with unpredictable future changes,” the research team writes.

Farmers in all three countries said they have suffered from an increasing shortage of surface water. Wild swings in the weather, between persistent drought and torrential floods, have also been reported.

Everhart Nangoma, one of the case study researchers at the European Union offices in Blantyre, says farmers in Malawi now spend more on expensive, fast-growing varieties. They also plant a minimum of two crops in their gardens to ensure at least some harvest.

Krystel Dossou of the Organisation of Women’s Management of Energy, Environment and Integrated Development (OFEDI) in Benin, told SciDev.Net that gaps in expected rainfall patterns allow rats to unearth and consume seeds in the swamp forest of southeast Benin.

Farmers there are now planting fast-growing crops on areas of dried-out swamp forest to be certain of a harvest in the shorter growing season.

Dominic Walubengo of the Forest Action Network, did the Kenyan research in the semi-arid Njoro district, where rivers have become seasonal, boreholes have dried up or become salty, and residents have expanded agriculture into the nearby forest. Farmers here have always survived by using a variety of strategies, including saw-milling, farming and cattle.

“Now they have diversified into selling firewood, charcoal and water as well,” Walubengo said.

Kenyan farmers are switching from wheat and potatoes to quick-maturing crops such as beans and maize, which can be planted any time it rains to cope with the irregular growing season, the report says.

Link to full report [80kB]

 

SCIENTISTS’ RETIREMENT AGE RAISED: ZAMBIA’S EXAMPLE August 4, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Human resources are indubitably the greatest source for wealth-production and development. Necessarily, they are the greatest source for solving chronic R&D problems in the area of science and technology.

One remedy for chronic lack of scientists and researchers is the raising of retirement age. Zambia had just released officially the policy for age-raising, precisely to address the problem mentioned above.

Enjoy your read.

[25 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to the SciDev database news.]

Zambia considers raising scientists’ retirement age

Talent Ngandwe

4 June 2008 | EN

USDA/Scott Bauer

Zambia is considering excluding scientists from its current mandatory public sector retirement age of 55, in order to address its chronic skills shortage.

The country’s science and technology policy review, which started in 2007 and should finish before end of this year, will see enforced retirement of scientists in the public sector raised to more than 70 years of age, says science minister Peter Daka, according to a report in The Standard newspaper last month (May 7).

Emmanuel Hachipuka, deputy chairman of the public accounts committee and parliamentary opposition member, supports the reform, saying “it takes so many years for scientists to mature and get experience”.

But William Mumbi, director of science and technology at the Ministry of Science, says lifting the retirement age will not address the shortage of scientists, because the problem starts far earlier.

“The policy should instead make it mandatory for pupils to start science and maths lessons at kindergarten level”, says Mumbi.

Hachipuka says that a key reason for the shortage of scientists is that Zambian public sector scientists are poorly paid, receiving about US$300 a month.

Another important issue, he says, is that, in the last five years, the Ministry of Finance has allocated less than one per cent of the national budget to science — leading to poor research and equipment funds.

Peter Lawrence, a researcher at the Department of Zoology at Cambridge University, United Kingdom, writes in the current issue of Nature that compulsory retirement, as practiced in Europe and Japan, is discriminatory. He notes that Australia, Canada and the United States have done away with this practice.

“People should be valued for everything they contribute, not just the meeting of some measure”, Lawrence told SciDev.Net.

The policy review is also apparently examining the lack of cooperation between public research institutions like the University of Zambia and the National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research, and private organisations such as the Zambia Seed Company.

The office of the permanent secretary at the ministry repeatedly refused to say who was heading the review and declined to supply either the existing policy or the draft proposals. Mumbi said this was because the permanent secretary and the minister were out of the office.

Link to retirement policy article in Nature

 

 
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