Dreams, Optimism, Wisdom


Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang umaga! Good morning from Manila!

Africa seems to be the favorite destination today for aid funds from everywhere, most specially from European countries. We wonder whether this is Europe’s way of expiating its guilt over the European powers’ enslavement, plunder and colonization of Africa.

A recent issue concerning aid funds dovetails on agricultural research. While there are clear positive benefits to donated funds, there are gaps that must be addressed. This identification of a new problem is already a brightening news for the continent, as the problem can be addressed more squarely.

The news is contained below.

[Writ 05 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]


African agricultural research ‘neglected ‘ by donor policies

Christina Scott

24 September 2008 | EN


[CAPE TOWN] A lack of emphasis on agricultural research in development policy over the last quarter of a century is one of the main reasons for the deterioration of African farming, according to a UN report released this month (15 September).

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report on Africa’s economic development also cites the small size of each country’s research stations, isolated researchers and high staff turnover as other factors that helped “prevent the attainment of a critical mass of scientific and technical staff”.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa there are problems with agricultural research, which determines the rate of technological change,” Sam Gayi, lead researcher of the report told SciDev.Net.

As a result, except for maize and more recently cassava, “most of Sub-Saharan Africa has no immediately applicable crop technology that might, with adequate price incentives, substantially increase the profitability of investments in agriculture,” the report concludes.

“Only a quarter of the total crop area of Sub-Saharan Africa is planted with modern crop varieties,” says Gayi.

Credit provision for farmers, as well as investment in infrastructure and research, were abandoned by donor-dictated development policies in many parts of Africa, with long-lasting detrimental effects, the report says.

The authors also criticise many state agricultural budgets for being skewed towards administrative costs rather than research.

They say gaps in communicating research and policy developments, combined with shortages of credit — particularly the dissolution of marketing boards that often gave cash advances to small-scale farmers — have made it more difficult for improved government policies to be translated into improved yields in the fields.

The report singles out Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and South Africa as countries that have managed to improve their agricultural exports. Côte d’Ivoire continues to benefit from “huge investments”, including government funds for research, made in the 1960s in a diverse range of crops.

The authors also say that restrictive standards on exports are placing a burden on African nations, who struggle to meet them.

“Several African countries do not have the technical capacity or resources to comply with the required standards,” says Hezron Nyangito, former director of the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) and newly-appointed deputy governor of the Central Bank of Kenya.

KIPPRA research suggests that Kenyan farmers would have to increase agricultural spending tenfold and Uganda would need to spend about US$300 million to upgrade its honey-processing plants to comply with European Union standards.



Erle Frayne Argonza

It seems that under the leadership of the nationalists, Venezuela has been surging ahead in S&T. This situation just wasn’t there during the era of oligarchic rule, to the chagrin of the pro-West elites who wish to enchain the Venezuelans to ignorance and poverty.

From the world of oil companies comes a welcome news about Petrol’s magnanimous efforts to boost science research and development, particularly in the area of health research.

The news item is contained below.

Happy viewing!

[14 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Venezuela: petroleras aportan US$ 1,7 millón a ciencia

Marielba Núñez

3 julio 2008 | ES

La Unidad de Tecnología Nuclear del IVIC recibió los aportes de la empresa Shell

Cortesía IVIC

[CARACAS] Los consorcios energéticos Shell y Total Oil de Venezuela firmaron el 20 y el 25 de junio, respectivamente, convenios de cooperación con el Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC) para el financiamiento de fondos bibliográficos y proyectos de formación y dotación de equipos en el área de física médica y tecnología nuclear. Por medio de estos acuerdos, el IVIC recibirá el equivalente a US$1.746.000.

La compañía Shell otorgó a la institución más de US$1,5 millón para instalar a través del Plan Nacional de Oncología, equipos de radioterapia para el tratamiento de cáncer y apoyar la formación de postgrado en el área de protección radiológica, radiodiagnóstico, radioterapia y medicina nuclear.

Por su parte, la compañía Total Oil confirió al IVIC más de US$214 mil para apoyar el financiamiento de suscripciones a 103 publicaciones científicas internacionales.

Estas publicaciones son administradas por la Biblioteca Marcel Roche, que funciona en el IVIC, y pueden ser consultadas de forma gratuita por estudiantes e investigadores. El centro fue declarado por la Unesco biblioteca regional para América Latina y el Caribe.

Los acuerdos de cooperación se firmaron en el marco de la Ley Orgánica de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, que obliga a las empresas en Venezuela a otorgar un porcentaje que va entre 0,5 por ciento y 2 por ciento de sus ingresos brutos a proyectos de desarrollo científico.

Edwin Rodríguez, jefe de cooperación técnica del IVIC, declaró a SciDev.Net que estos convenios muestran que la ley ha servido “para establecer alianzas estratégicas entre el sector productivo y el sector científico”.



Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang hapon! Good afternoon!

From Africa comes a heartwarming news about boosting their respective capacities for clinical trials. The shot in the arm will be through grant funds provided by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCPT). Entry points for project engagements will be certain specific diseases.

Enjoy your read.

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

Clinical trials in Africa receive funding boost

Naomi Antony

6 June 2008 | EN | 中文

A malaria clinical trial investigator


The European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) announced this week (3 June) that it will inject over €80 million (around US$124 million) into African medical research.

Half of this sum has already been approved and will go towards malaria research and the development of tuberculosis (TB) vaccines. The remainder, expected later this year, has been earmarked for HIV and TB treatment and for the provision of vaccines and microbicides.

The combined sum will be the largest approved by the EDCTP since it was established in 2003, and should reinforce the European Union’s partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa.

The EDCTP links 14 member states of the European Union, as well as Norway and Switzerland, to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, largely by providing resources for joint clinical trials, capacity building and networking activities.

In particular, EDCTP funds projects to create and develop capacity for ethical review of clinical trials and to improve regulatory frameworks for drug approval.

Charles Mgone, executive director of EDCTP, told SciDev.Net that the new funding will go to help all these activities, with the “lion’s share” being given over to clinical trials.

“Quite often when there is North–South collaboration, the ideas come from the North, the money comes from the North, even the principal investigators come from the North,” says Mgone.

“These [EDCTP-funded] projects empower Africans, enabling them to take ownership over the projects and do the work. Looking at the 27 projects we have approved, around 24 of them have African principal investigators working in Africa.”

Victor Mwapasa from the Malawi College of Medicine is one such example. He and his colleagues are looking at whether antimalarial drugs, specifically artemisinin-based combinations, are safe to use in two particular groups — those who are HIV positive and children aged under six months.

“Most studies looking at the safe use of antimalarials have tended to omit very young children, those who weigh less than five kilograms or are under six months old,” Mwapasa told SciDev.Net. “But this is a high-risk malaria group.”

Mwapasa says he is excited to be part of such a large collaboration with African and European researchers.

His team’s research will also be carried out in Mozambique and Zambia. “We rarely do research together, despite sharing the same problems,” he adds.