University for Women Key to African Agriculture

“ARU was incubated by the Uganda Rural Development and Training Program (URDT), a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1987. It is the first African university dedicated to training women.  It is one of the first African universities to be incubated by a rural NGO and show great promise in the potential for growth among local organizations. ARU is one the first universities to focus on rural development and entrepreneurship considering that Africa is largely rural.”


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Feeding Africa: Why Biotechnology Sceptics are Wrong to Dismiss GM

“Genetically-modified (GM) crops or any other breeding methods on their own cannot solve the challenges related to food quality, access to food, nutrition or stability of food systems. But their role cannot be dismissed for ideological reasons.”


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Technological Leapfrogging in Agriculture

“To harness the globally available technologies, African leaders will need to take into account the multisectoral dimension of African agriculture and pay particular attention to the urgency of investing in rural infrastructure, higher agricultural training and creation of regional markets.”


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Innovation Capabilities for Sustainable Development in Africa

A sustainable pathway for Africa in the twenty-first century is laid out in the setting of the development of innovation capabilities and the capture of latecomer advantages. Africa has missed out on these possibilities in the twentieth century while seeing the East Asian countries advance. There are now abundant examples and cases to draw on, in the new setting where industrial development has to have green tinges to be effective.


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Nanotechnology in agriculture: prospects and constraints.

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Nanotechnology in agriculture: prospects and constraints.

Nanotechnol Sci Appl. 2014;7:63-71

Authors: Mukhopadhyay SS

Abstract

Attempts to apply nanotechnology in agriculture began with the growing realization that conventional farming technologies would neither be able to increase productivity any further nor restore ecosystems damaged by existing technologies back to their pristine state; in particular because the long-term effects of farming with “miracle seeds”, in conjunction with irrigation, fertilizers, and pesticides, have been questioned both at the scientific and policy levels, and must be gradually phased out. Nanotechnology in agriculture has gained momentum in the last decade with an abundance of public funding, but the pace of development is modest, even though many disciplines come under the umbrella of agriculture. This could be attributed to: a unique nature of farm production, which functions as an open system whereby energy and matter are exchanged freely; the scale of demand of input materials always being gigantic in contrast with industrial nanoproducts; an absence of control over the input nanomaterials in contrast with industrial nanoproducts (eg, the cell phone) and because their fate has to be conceived on the geosphere (pedosphere)-biosphere-hydrosphere-atmosphere continuum; the time lag of emerging technologies reaching the farmers’ field, especially given that many emerging economies are unwilling to spend on innovation; and the lack of foresight resulting from agricultural education not having attracted a sufficient number of brilliant minds the world over, while personnel from kindred disciplines might lack an understanding of agricultural production systems. If these issues are taken care of, nanotechnologic intervention in farming has bright prospects for improving the efficiency of nutrient use through nanoformulations of fertilizers, breaking yield barriers through bionanotechnology, surveillance and control of pests and diseases, understanding mechanisms of host-parasite interactions at the molecular level, development of new-generation pesticides and their carriers, preservation and packaging of food and food additives, strengthening of natural fibers, removal of contaminants from soil and water, improving the shelf-life of vegetables and flowers, clay-based nanoresources for precision water management, reclamation of salt-affected soils, and stabilization of erosion-prone surfaces, to name a few.

PMID: 25187699 [PubMed]

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Coffee genome sheds light on the evolution of caffeine

Enzymes that help produce caffeine evolved independently in coffee, tea and chocolate, say scientists who have newly sequenced the coffee plant genome

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The newly sequenced genome of the coffee plant reveals secrets about the evolution of man’s best chemical friend: caffeine.

The scientists who completed the project say the sequences and positions of genes in the coffee plant show that they evolved independently from genes with similar functions in tea and chocolate, which also make caffeine.

In other words, coffee did not inherit caffeine-linked genes from a common ancestor, but instead developed the genes on its own.

The findings will appear on Sept. 5 in the journal Science. Read more

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Rising risk of failed seasons as climate change puts pressure on Africa’s farmers

With countries pushing agriculture to center stage, comprehensive report seeks ‘climate-smart’ approaches for vulnerable small-scale farms that produce most of Africa’s food

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (2 September 2014)—Small-scale family farmers across Africa— already struggling to adapt to rapidly rising temperatures and more erratic rains—risk being overwhelmed by the pace and severity of climate change, according to the 2014 African Agriculture Status Report (AASR).The analysis, prepared by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), with contributions from several African scholars, provides the most comprehensive review to date of how climate change will affect Africa’s smallholder farmers and highlights the most promising paths to producing more food, even in the midst of very challenging growing environments.

“Smallholder farmers are the mainstay of food production across sub-Saharan Africa,” said Ms. Jane Karuku, president of AGRA. “As climate change turns up the heat, the continent’s food security and its ability to generate economic growth that benefits poor Africans—most of whom are farmers—depends on our ability to adapt to more stressful conditions.” Read more

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