science + policy + practice = development vol 00120 september 2019 news africa states ban exporting of live elephants sa varsity invites applications for master of philosophy (mphil) in cancer science health the african cancer institute at the faculty of medicine and sciences, stellenbosch university, south africa has invited applications for the postgraduate degree in cancer science for 2020. is the african cancer institute the coordinating and (aci) directive institution for research and training in the field of cancer at stellenbosch university and is dedicated to improving prevention, early detection and diagnosis, and management of cancer in africa. the saqa accredited master of philosophy (mphil) in cancer science postgraduate training to all cadres of health personnel including those with a basic science background in africa and other countries who wish to broaden their understanding into the complexities around cancer and pursue cancer or cancer-related research. offers of 18) the parties at the 18th conference of the parties (cop cites (convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora) voted on sunday 17 august to end the trade in the live african elephant’s exports, a common practice in zimbabwe and botswana. to be hit hard are the zoo industry who will no longer be able to import wild-caught african elephants from africa to their facilities in the united states, china, and many other countries outside the natural habitat of the species. “people no longer want to see african elephants locked in up alone and depressed zoos,” says vera weber, president of foundation franz weber (ffw). “they want elephants to be protected in their natural environment. times have changed and zoos will have to adapt. the eu’s momentous change of heart means that more than 30 baby elephants in captivity in zimbabwe cannot now be exported to china. foundation franz weber (ffw), has been at the forefront of the protection of elephants for the past 40 years. the european union (eu), after voicing its rejection of the proposal, failed on sunday 17 august to cast its 28-member vote because not all its members had been credentialed. — cont page 3 intends the programme to deliver theoretical and practical insights needed to mould a skills set designed to advance current knowledge the address increasing burden of cancer. and bid to save white rhino veterinarians have successfully harvested eggs from the last two surviving northern white rhinos in kenya, thus taking one step closer to bringing the species back from the brink of extinction. two females, najin, 30, and daughter fatu, 19, are the only survivors of the subspecies of white rhino, and live under 24-hour armed guard at ol pejeta. “we were able to harvest a total of 10 oocytes -- five from najin and five from fatu -- showing that both females can still provide eggs and thus help to save these magnificent creatures,” said professor thomas hildebrandt from the leibniz institute for zoo & wildlife research (izw) in germany who helped carry out the procedure. “both the technique and the equipment had to be developed entirely from scratch,” he said.
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sept | 2019 asns news | 3 africa states ban live elephants exports new rice project launched from page 1 had they cast their bloc of 28 votes, the proposal would not have passed by the required two- thirds majority. under the rules of the convention, however, the eu was permitted to call for a re- vote in the cop plenary session. that re-vote took place against expectations, the eu reversed its original rejection of the proposal to ban trade in live african elephants. this occurred after a behind-the- scenes compromise was reached between the eu delegation and the african elephant coalition (aec), a group of 32 african elephant range states. following intense negotiation, the aec, in the spirit of diplomacy and cooperation, agreed to concede to a minor addition to the text – that elephant may be exported beyond their natural range only “…in exceptional circumstances”. even with this compromise, the outcome is a major step forward for the welfare of african elephants. widespread public opinion weighed heavily in determining the result. a letter sent by several public figures, including pamela anderson, brigitte bardot, and ricky gervais to eu commission president jean-claude juncker, called on the eu not to reopen the debate and change its position to accept the aec proposal. under mounting pressure, brussels reacted quickly and made contact with members of the aec to seek a solution to the situation. diplomacy at cites involves making compromises, but in this instance, it was the powerful eu bloc that conceded the most ground. a african research center has launched a new rice project to benefit 300,000 households in kenya, uganda and madagascar. the project which is expected to enhance income and food se- curity will adapt appropriate rice technologies and innovations to address emerging rice value chain constraints. “the project aims at contribut- ing to the development of the rice value chain in east africa with fo- cus to women and youths,” kiepe said during the launch in nairobi, kenya. he added that the project will involve multi stakeholders’ inno- vation platforms in strengthening functional linkages among rice value chain actors and to improve capacity of farmers. “the project will generate ample cross country learning cases, and indicate forms of col- laboration that will effectively and sustainably contribute to each country’s rice development in the region,” he added. the project is funded by the international fund for agricul- tural development and is meant at improving the local supply of rice since the east african region im- ports the commodity amounting to 500 million u.s. dollars annually. “the project will help kenya achieve 100 percent food and nu- trition security of populations, create employment and wealth to many stakeholders,” mwangi ki- unjuri, cabinet secretary for agri- culture, livestock and fisheries.
4 | asns news sept| 2019 agroforest: stronger policy needed a isn’t roles of fao promotes “agroforestry ‘no man’s land’ between forestry and agriculture and should receive specific policy support,” fao deputy director-general, climate and natural resources, maria helena semedo said today. “agroforestry can help diversify and sustain (food) production and provide vital social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all scales,” she said in opening remarks at the 4th world agroforestry congress in montpellier, france. agroforestry is a term used for land- use systems and technologies where woody perennials - trees, shrubs, palms, bamboos and such like - are deliberately used in the same plots as agricultural crops or livestock in a way that builds and channels ecological synergies. the approach is gaining in interest due to its ability to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change along with broadening the social, economic and environmental sustainability of rural development. the potential multiple agroforestry, semedo said, citing several examples including projects undertaken in lands facing outmigration in nepal; to boost soil health and water conservation in the drought-prone regions of guatemala and honduras; and to introduce fruit trees in timber plantations in the kyrgyz republic. the deliberate use of trees in mixed- use agricultural land systems can also make substantial contributions to the conservation of biodiversity. “traditional agroforestry systems contain between 50 and 80 percent of the plant species diversity found in comparable natural forests,” semedo told the congress, which is being attended by more than 1,200 practitioners, researchers, students and business and civic leaders than 100 countries. from more increased adoption best agroforestry practices is a goal of initiatives such as the un decade of family farming as well as of foster agroecological efforts to transitions, semedo said. as today is world bee day, she noted that trees also benefit pollinating insects, leading to farm productivity gains of as much as 24 percent. of and she “fao stands ready to support efforts by member states to guarantee the real integration of agroforestry in their agriculture policy frameworks with an eye to achieving the sustainable said. development goals,” trees tenure while the question of secure land tenure is important in all agricultural sectors around the world, it is of particular importance for agroforestry initiatives, since trees often take years to mature. “land tenure rights are vital,” semedo said pointing to a fao publication launched at the congress to provide guidance to policy makers, programme managers and farmers seeking to promote adoption of agroforestry. according to the guide: “there are few agroforestry success stories in an uncertain land tenure context.” the publication, produced with the collaboration of world agroforestry (icraf), reviews a number of case studies of how programmes can be designed, including one in uganda where farmers were paid the value of timber for not felling timber trees, leading to a decline in local deforestation rates. frequently, though, tenure ambiguities impede progress. for example, in some customary systems in sub-saharan up to 70 percent of the land in many developing countries is not covered by a land administration system tree inappropriate africa, planting trees can serve as a means to claim land - which can lead to abuses of power and also spur some to refrain from planting trees to avoid conflict. sometimes rights to a tree’s output are differentiated, with bark, fruit and timber apportioned to different parties, which can restrain investment by smallholders who won’t reap the benefit of their work, or prompt planting of species. up to 70 percent of the land in many developing countries is not covered by a land administration system, instead operating through complex customary systems that need to be understood in local contexts. such local rules often adversely impact women, who may face cultural taboos from cultivating certain types of trees or be banned from planting any if doing so entails claim. fao has offered robust insights and recommendations over tenure rights in general with voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security and a host of derivative publications. ownership an
sept | 2019 asns news | 5 chinese expert support green energy a chinese energy expert on the saturday challenged global community to ac- celerate green and low carbon de- velopment. cheng zhiqiang, deputy sec- retary general of global energy interconnection development and cooperation organization (gei- dco), said that sustainable urban development is faced with climate change, environmental pollution, health and poverty challenges. “the root cause of these chal- lenges is the over-reliance of cit- ies on fossil fuels for energy production and consumption,” cheng said while address- ing delegates attending a side event on the global stake- holders forum ahead of the un-habitat as- sembly which in will open nairobi on monday. cheng noted that at present ur- ban population accounts for 55 percent of the global population, and greenhouse gas emissions account for 70 percent of global emissions. he added that air pollution kills seven million people every year and over 100 million people have no access to electricity in cities around the world. “we must make a move that is aimed at reducing the energy chal- lenges that is currently facing the world since energy is important for urban economic and social devel- of fossil fuels with clean alterna- tives such as hydro, solar and wind energy, and replacing coal, oil, gas and firewood with clean electric- ity in an effort to achieve green and sustainable development,” he added. cheng observed that by adopting gei, the world stands to fundamentally change the pattern of energy development and utiliza- tion as it will help solve problems associated with climate, environ- ment and health that are caused by over reliance on fossil fuels in cities. “it also ensure safe, clean, and efficient energy supply with eco- opment,” he warned. the official told the delegates that the global energy interconnection (gei) ini- tiative is providing china’s solu- tion on world energy transition, climate change and sustainable development. important he said that gei that was pro- posed in september 2015 serves as an infrastructure platform for large-scale develop- ment, transmission and utilization of clean energy resources world- wide. “gei promotes the replacement gei promotes the replacement of fossil fuels with clean alter- natives such as hydro, solar and wind energy, and replac- ing coal, oil, gas and firewood with clean electricity in an ef- fort to achieve green and sus- tainable development,”. nomic competitiveness, and real- ize the coordinated and sustainable development of energy and cities,” he said. cheng revealed that about 40 percent of electricity in shang- hai city is currently supplied by hydropower, which helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 million tonnes and air pollutants by over 700,000 tonnes annually, effectively improving shanghai’s environmental quality. the initia- tive, cheng noted, also promotes the development of urban smart power grids by applying advanced t e c h n o l o g i e s such as big data, the internet and artificial intelli- gence. “it makes the utilization of distributed wind, solar and storage energy to make urban life better than before,” he said. the official noted that the initiative is in- tended to reduce the cost of en- ergy, ensure urban power supply, and realize affordable and sustain- able modern energy for all, so as to solve the issues of health and poverty. “china has more than 500 million smart meters that have been installed to enable compre- hensive automatic collection of power consumption information,” he added. cheng promised to part- ner with all parties to build gei, promote sustainable urban devel- opment, and contribute to a better earth. un urges africa to prioritize forests in development the united nations has called on african governments to prioritize forests in their development agenda to realize benefits of forestry. peter gondo, inter-regional advisor at the united nations forum on forests secretariat said on friday that low pri- oritization of the sector has led to slow growth has led to low revenue generation. “there is urgent need to increase domestic public financing through taxes, fees and royalties besides seeking for international financing,” gondo told delegates attending a regional workshop on sharing of in- formation, knowledge and experiences in african forestry. “it is unfortunate that despite the availability of funding at the international level, few countries from africa are ben- efiting while majority are yet to benefit,” he added. gondo attributed the low uptake of funding to lack of capacity from national experts to design projects to meet the requirements and lack of information on which funds are earmarked for forests. he urged governments to present multi-sectoral project proposals instead of presenting sepa- rate ones for water, energy, agriculture and tourism. “single proposals are weak and does not attract ready funding unless the requests are linked to conservation of biodiversity, climate change and land degradation,” he add- ed. the official noted that forests are capable of improving national economies but only if they are recognized. “there is need to develop effective and efficient forest financing strategies for mobilizing resources from all sourc- es,” gondo said. alternatively, gondo urged governments to involve the private sector to access appropriate financial instruments and give them enabling environment. the un official said that alternative sources of funding such as from tourism levy are capable of helping transform the forestry sector into serious revenue generation base for the coun- tries. scientists decry africa’s slow pace of adoption of new hybrid seeds international maize scientists have decried slow pace in releasing new hybrid drought and disease tolerant seeds by african governments. boddupalli prasanna, director of international maize and wheat improvement centre global maize program, said it’s unfortunate that farmers are still making losses due to diseases. “our researchers have done a good job in containing the spread of maize lethal necrosis (mln) disease and fall armyworm (faw) through the development of resistant hybrids,” prasanna told journalists during a field visit in naivasha. prasanna noted that whereas the mln and faw resistant varieties have been developed in kenya, it is unfortunate that countries like uganda and other regions have already commercialized varieties while kenya has not. moses siambi, international crops research institute for the semi-arid tropics director for eastern and southern africa said that the delay to approve the new seed varieties is to blame for food insecurity in most countries in eastern and southern africa regions. “we have quality varieties that we have developed in collaborations with the national research organizations but rarely do we see them in the market,” he noted.
6 | asns news sept | 2019 africa builds resilience to climate shocks, impacts accelerating global fund’s promise to 7-year-olds sir elton ahead of its sixth replenishment in october, the global fund to fight aids, tuberculosis and malaria has penned an open letter to 7-year-olds worldwide as part of its #stepupthefight campaign, promising to end the three deadly diseases by 2030 — the year the children become adults. the letter and follow-on petition have garnered star- studded attention from the likes of artists and entertainers from around the world, including sir elton john, charlize theron, trevor noah and many others. “we hope people take notice and sign the petition to let all the wealthy countries and donors know that these epidemics are still crises that kill millions of people each year,” said aids healthcare foundation (ahf) chief of global advocacy and policy terri ford. “ahf has worked for years to ensure the global fund has the resources it needs to continue its vital work through our fund the fund campaign—and this replenishment will be critical to the fund’s impact over the next three years.” join over 31,000 people who are fighting against aids, tb and malaria by sharing this on your social media and signing the global fund’s petition by clicking the graphic below – together we can create a healthy future for the youth of today! president addo: digitalisation can change africa’s agriculture ghana president nana addo dankwa akufo- addo, said at the recent agrf2019 meeting in accra that the digital revolution will deliver re- sults in agriculture. in 2018, following a bumper harvest, ghana did not import a single grain of maize, but instead exported food to its neighbours.“but we believe we can do more. the 21st century provides us with an enormous op- portunity to harness the benefits of the digital revolution to develop our nation’s agriculture , also acknowledged the vigorous conversations taking place at agrf 2019 and the “collective attachment to agricultural transfor- mation” that continues to define this event. after a climate shock? accord- ing to dr lindiwe sibanda, managing director of linds agricultural services and co- chair gacsa, we need more “bankable solutions and we need the private sector to lead in this area; the technocrats need to come in and support.” increased private investment in resilience was a key recom- mendation from many speak- ers. but as mr dominique burgeon, resilience direc- tor and strategic programme leader at fao, remarked, “we need to know what to invest in and to make a strong business case for those investments.” using a resilience index, fao works to ensure it makes the right invest- ments in the right places, while shar- knowl- ing edge and e x p e r i e n c e to help farm- ers, com- munities and governments the address climate challenges they face. but much remains to be done. so far in africa, resil- ience has not yet achieved the desired results because initia- tives are short term and ad hoc, lacking a clear systemic approach. adaptation is also a moving target surrounded by uncertainty, while silos are hindering coherent and unified action on the ground. is for principal actors in the sec- public tor together. as dr béavogui remarked, “the key word is solidar- ity – working together, un- derstanding and sharing to- gether through partnership.” hopefully then we can begin to truly strengthen adaptation and resilience in african agri- culture and build sustainable food systems for the future. what’s needed now and private to work so, the cost of climate disasters is ris- ing,” said béavogui. “we need to man- age and finance the impact of disasters. we need to assess specific country risk, then develop climate modelling to understand the risk and prepare.” adapta- tion and resilience in agriculture in the face of climate change is a major developmental priority, david nabarro, strategic di- rector of skills, systems and synergies at 4sd said recently. according to nabarro, cli- mate change is now an is- sue that at the centre of policy concerns and prac- tice all over the world. today, 80% of natural di- sasters are climate related, and 23% of the total cost of disasters is absorbed by the agriculture sector. it’s also led to the creation of new global initiatives and institutions. one example is the global center on ad- aptation (gca), goal, whose as explained by ceo prof. dr patrick v. ve r k o o i j j e n , “is to catalyze concrete politi- cal action, and to create new mindsets by focusing not on the costs but the op- portunities of adaptation.” “adaptation,” said dr verk- ooijjen, “was the orphan child of the paris agreement,” meaning it’s important to el- evate it now at the global level and mobilize political atten- tion. and with powerful sup- port from ban ki-moon and bill gates, that’s exactly what the gca is trying to achieve. the global commission on the economy and climate is focused on how to grow economies in a sustainable way. accord- ing to ngozi okonjo-iweala, co-chair of the commission and former finance minis- ter of nigeria, this area of work is all about developing climate-friendly infrastruc- ture, cities, finance, energy systems. and risk is another key focus agricultural elsewhere, area. but as okonjo-iweala observed, “many countries don’t yet have risk man- agement systems in place.” to address this issue, a new organization called af- rican risk capacity (arc) has been formed to help af- rican countries develop risk and insurance mechanisms at national level. a special- ized agency of the african union, arc is designed to help governments across af- rica improve their capacities to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters. dr mohamed béavogui, general manager at arc, some provided additional context. in the 1980s, he said, the cost of natural catastro- phes was $us 30 billion. at the end of the 1990s, it was $us 100 billion. today, it’s over $us 300 billion. “so, the cost of climate disasters is rising,” said bé- avogui. “we need to manage and finance the impact of di- sasters. we need to assess specific country risk, then de- velop climate modelling to un- derstand the risk and prepare.” and preparation is essen- tial, as several of the speak- ers acknowledged, as it’s much more expensive and complex to respond once a disaster has struck. “delay and pay or plan or prosper” was a key message emerging from the panel discussion. but how do we ensure our food systems can bounce back
septs | 2019 asns news | 7 africa to launch forestry management plan africa’s sustainable forestry management framework will be launched in early 2020 to guide the continent in sustainable exploitation of forest resources, an african union (au) official disclosed recently. almami dampha, senior policy officer at au commission, said that the framework has been developed to help countries meet the au agenda 2063 and the un sustainable development goals. “the framework will act as a guide to assist au member states and regional bodies in promoting sustainable management and policies development of forest,” dampha told over 100 delegates attending a forestry conference in nairobi. he said that africa’s forest declined by 2.8 million hectares in 2010-2015 due to poor forestry and land use policies, competition from other sectors such agriculture and mining, and cassava farmers receiving advisory services from an expert. conflicts and instability. in help “we hope that the framework will the deforestation, forest degradation, land degradation, desertification, mitigate and adapt to climate reversing change and make the continent prosperous,” said dampha. the au official told forestry experts and governments to prioritize forestry in their national plans and resource allocation. he that observed the framework that will be ratified by the heads of state and governments early nsext year is due for validation in july. e. africa launches infectious disease plan the east african community launched a the to in response (eac) cross- border disease preparedness exercise in namanga, a border town between kenya and tanzania in june. eac said that cross-border field simulation exercise (fsx) will enhance the status of preparedness infectious and disease outbreaks region. “we want to make the region safe for the people and businesses in the region by addressing the challenge of cross-border disease outbreaks using the ‘one health approach’,” the bloc said in a statement issued in nairobi. the eac conducted the process following a during directive by the eac sectoral council of ministers of health in 2015. the eac region has experienced cases of ebola, rift valley fever, marburg and crimean-congo hemorrhagic fever, cholera, polio and plague in recent past. the current ebola virus disease outbreak in the democratic republic of congo (drc), which has so far caused june 11-14 “we need in place efforts national and plans,” the over 1,600 human cases and more than 1,000 deaths, remains a major threat to the health and socio-economic wellbeing of the people in east africa. to prepare and put to operationalize regional contingency said. according to the eac, 75 percent of infectious diseases are transmitted between animals and humans and affect tourism the people. and the “one health” disease management approach is aimed at involving these sectors in prevention, response and mitigation. livelihoods of statement agriculture, it said trade, that check africa science news service https://africasciencenews.com/
8 | asns news sept | 2019 firm plots for african nutrition fifteen african countries en- compassing 315 million peo- ple and with average child malnutrition rates of 38 per cent could significantly improve food security and nutrition by developing their seed industries, according to a new report from the nairobi-based seed systems group (ssg). ssg analysis reveals that even if only one-third of the farmers in the 15 countries* are able to obtain improved seed, they could generate an additional 25 million metric tons of food worth us$4 billion. cur- rently, the standard reuse of seed for the same low-yielding and often disease-ridden crop varieties makes it impossible for poor, smallholder farmers to improve their yield or the nutritional quality of their crops. the result is stalled economic growth and widespread hunger and mal- nutrition, made more acute by the increasing extremes of climate that grip many farming communities. “improved seeds improve lives,” said dr. namanga ngongi, board chairperson of the ssg. “now, countries that were by-passed dur- ing africa’s first 10 years of local seed industry growth can learn from their neighbors. they can leapfrog development of their seed systems to bring their farmers quality seeds that yield more and stand up to cli- mate change.” the report is based on the expe- rience of 15 african countries that partnered with agra (alliance for a green revolution in africa) in 2009 to drive a first wave of growth for african seed industries. the au- thors anticipate that a similar ap- proach will transform food produc- tion and economic fortunes in some of the continent’s poorest countries. locally owned seed companies that a child enjoys some meal emerged from the first wave are now producing 150,000 metric tons of seed annually. that’s enough to plant seven million hectares and provide food and income for 20 million african farm families. they are drawing from nearly 700 newly-bred, government-approved crop varieties representing 14 dif- ferent food crops that include both staples like maize and rice, and nutri- tious leafy green vegetables, beans and other legumes.most of these varieties were developed by breeders working with africa’s national agricultural re- search systems and with international agricultural research centers, often in collaboration with agra’s program for africa’s seed systems, led by dr. joseph devries, who now heads the in- dependent seed systems group. in chad, crop yields are about a third that in countries with better- developed seed systems “the 700 new, improved varieties are an incredibly valuable asset for combatting hunger and jump-starting rural economies across africa,” said devries. “our approach harnesses the leadership of the private sector— private seed companies and agro- dealers—that can deliver new seed to farmers just about anywhere. we now have the seed, and we know how to de- liver it. the farmers have consistently shown they will buy it. conditions are ripe. we have to act on this.” the report highlights the impacts of new seed sectors in several individual countries during africa’s first wave of seed industry development. for example, in burkina faso, lo- cal companies supplied farmers with just about 279 metric tons per year. by 2017, rapid progress with four local startups increased that amount 25-fold, to 7,000 tons. one of these companies, nafaso seed company, has begun exporting seed to other countries. in ghana, since 2008, the country ina has grown from just three companies pro- ducing about 128 tons of seed to eight companies producing about 6,000 tons. much of that is seed for “hybrids”— conventionally bred (non-gmo) va- rieties that offer superior yields and better disease resistance because they naturally carry the best traits from both “parent” plants. before these compa- nies arrived on the scene, farmers in ghana had very little access to any kind of hybrid crops. local seed companies were practically nonexistent in uganda in 2007. now there are about two dozen. the amount of high-qual- ity seed produced has more than tripled, from approximately 8,000 metric tons in 2010 to 26,700 metric tons in 2017. at the same time, the amount of maize harvested per hect- are of land has increased from 1.5 metric tons to 2.5 metric tons, with many farmers reaching as much as five tons per hectare. rice, bean and cowpea yields have followed a simi- lar trajectory. “without high-quality seed, farm- ers can never expect to get ahead,” said ssg president dr. devries. “this is clear in our 15 focus coun- tries. their farmers produce about a ton less food per hectare than farm- ers in first-wave countries. ”the next wave of countries likely to benefit from the growth of new seed industries includes chad, benin, and togo — all highlighted in the report. 15 million people live across chad, a country more than twice the size of france—with large areas suitable for food production. however, chad ranks 118 out of 119 countries in terms of food secu- rity. in rural areas, up to 44 per cent of people suffer from undernutrition. crop yields are about a third that in countries with better-developed seed systems.
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sept| 2019 asns news | 11 china-africa ties in biodiversity conservation editorial suicide: one person dies every 40 seconds the number of countries with national suicide prevention strategies has increased in the five years since the publication of who’s first global report on suicide, said the world health orga- nization in the lead-up to world suicide prevention day on 10 september. but the total number of coun- tries with strategies, at just 38, is still far too few and governments need to commit to establishing them. “despite progress, one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide,” said who director-gener- al, dr tedros adhanom ghebreyesus. “every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues. yet suicides are preventable. we call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programmes in a sus- tainable way.” suicide rate highest in high-income countries; sec- ond leading cause of death among young people the global age-standardized suicide rate for 2016 was 10.5 per 100 000. rates varied widely, however, between countries, from 5 suicide deaths per 100 000, to more than 30 per 100 000. while 79% of the world’s suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries, high-income countries had the highest rate, at 11.5 per 100 000. nearly three times as many men as women die by suicide in high- income countries, in contrast to low- and middle-in- come countries, where the rate is more equal. suicide was the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years, after road in- jury. among teenagers aged 15-19 years, suicide was the second leading cause of death among girls (af- ter maternal conditions) and the third leading cause of death in boys (after road injury and interpersonal violence). the most common methods of suicide are hanging, pesticide self-poisoning, and firearms. key interventions that have shown success in reducing suicides are restricting access to means; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide; imple- menting programmes among young people to build life skills that enable them to cope with life stresses; and early identification, management and follow-up of people at risk of suicide. the intervention that has the most imminent poten- tial to bring down the number of suicides is restricting access to pesticides that are used for self-poisoning. the high toxicity of many pesticides means that such suicide attempts often lead to death, particularly in situations where there is no antidote or where there are no medical facilities nearby. as indicated in the who publication; preventing suicide: a resource for pesticide registrars and regulators, there is now a growing body of international evidence indicating that regulations to prohibit the use of highly haz- ardous pesticides can lead to reductions in national suicide rates. the best-studied country is sri lanka, where a series of bans led to a 70% fall in suicides and an estimated 93 000 lives saved between 1995 and 2015. in the republic of korea – where the herbicide paraquat accounted for the majority of pesticide sui- cide deaths in the 2000s – a ban on paraquat in 2011- 2012 was followed by a halving of suicide deaths from pesticide poisoning between 2011 and 2013. a major asset for the african continent but it is being destroyed due to climate change and rap- id desertification. i hope both the chinese and african scientists will come up with solutions to reverse loss of habitats,” said dakora. the chinese and african academies of sci- ences early this week signed a memorandum of understanding to boost collaboration in diverse areas like natural resources management, pub- lic health, food security and climate change. dakora said that collaborative research, technology transfer and skills development that underpins sino-africa scientific collaboration, will aid conservation of the continent’s vital ecosystems. kenyan officials hailed the biodiversity sum- mit running until friday saying it will provide a platform for chinese and african scientists to share knowledge and best practices that can strengthen protection of rare species. mohamed elmi, chief administrative secre- tary in the ministry of environment and forestry, said that china has become a dependable ally in africa’s quest to promote ecological renewal. “this week’s conference symbolizes our true friendship and cooperation with china to help conserve our biodiversity, drylands and wet- lands,” said elmi. he said that kenya has elevated its coop- eration with china in the field of environment through joint research and capacity develop- ment aimed at strengthening protection of habi- tats. african scientists are keen to har- ness cutting edge technologies from china to support community led biodiversity con- servation initia- tives joint “we are collabo- rating with china on research in bamboo to help restore our de- graded landscapes,” said elmi, adding that research between chinese and african scientists is key to halt loss of critical species like pollinators. robert gituro, kenyan founding di- rector of sajorec, said that beijing has provided material and technical support to help revolutionize the international biodiversity conference taking place in kenya’s maasai mara university has shed light on the growing contribution of china towards conservation of rare species in africa. policymakers and scientists attending the conference co-organized by alliance of in- ternational science organizations (anso) and sino-africa joint research centre (sa- jorec), noted that biodiversity conservation has become a critical feature of china-africa bilateral cooperation. bai chunli, president of chinese academy of sciences (cas), said at the opening ceremo- ny of biodiversity forum on wednesday that it was timely as beijing forges strategic alliances with african insti- tutions to promote conservation of rare species. “by holding forum, we this to provide wish for a platform academic institu- tions from china, african and other parts of the world to share the expe- riences and show- case the best prac- tices in conserving biodiversity,” said bai. he had earlier witnessed the handing over of modern labora- tory equipment to maasai mara university, lo- cated in kenya’s south eastern county of narok, to aid research on conservation of indigenous plant species that have immense medicinal and nutritional value. besides donating the state of the art lab equipment, cas has through sajorec sup- ported establishment of a medicinal plants garden at maasai mara university as part of collaborative venture to enhance biodiversity conservation in kenya and beyond. felix dakora, president of the african acad- emy of sciences, said that african countries have leveraged on china’s competitive edge in scientific research, technology, innovations and skilled manpower to enhance protection of the continent’s natural capital.“biodiversity is management of africa’s biodiversity. “our partnership with china has focused on training of next generation of scientists who are coming back to the content to transfer skills re- quired to boost sustainable management of our biodiversity,” said gituro. he said that african scientists are keen to harness cutting edge technologies from china to support community led biodiversity conser- vation initiatives. bulitia godrick, deputy vice chancellor in charge of academic and student affairs at maa- sai mara university, said that african scientists have drawn inspiration from china’s advanced technologies and innovations that are providing solution to water scarcity, food insecurity and ecological depletion.
12 | asns news advertorial sept | 2019 blockchain, enabling farmers to trade in trust blockchain technology is a game changer. it is transforming agricul- ture by enabling smallholder farm- ers in africa to improve their production and enhance their trade through a platform of trust. blockchain is a decentralised, digital led- ger which works through a series of digitally connected records where information can be shared openly and publicly verified through a cluster of computers. blockchains disintermediate transactions in agricultural supply chains as distributed ledger technologies (dkts) and smart con- tracts to provide similar outcomes for trade finance, and agricultural financial services such as payment services, agriculture insur- ance, credit and derivatives. the decentralised nature of blockchain means that information is not stored in one place but on many databases and is signed and time stamped. blockchain technology can be applied to facilitate clusters, food security, traceability, real estate, financial production, supply chains, insurance, better infrastructure and transactions. in agriculture, block chains have possi- ble uses in modernizing farm management software, optimizing agriculture technology internet of things (iot). furthermore, they can enable mobile remittance for small- holder farmers, greater accountability for multinationals, enhance agriculture supply chains, improve overseeing farm inventory and agricultural subsidies oversight, can en- sure fair pricing and incentivise sustainable practices. while blockchain is still a new technol- ogy across africa, it is transforming the way farmers produce food and earn income from selling to effective markets. however, there are prerequisites to enabling the use of block chains such as the use of smart phones, en- ergy and internet connectivity. in addition, skills, mistrust and relevance are needed, says henk van cann, co-founder, block- chain workspace. “mistrust is a good thing because our platform of trust which a truly innovative blockchain is, will solve to eliminate mis- trust so we need mistrust. we will grow dig- ital in the coming 20 years without block- chain, so we will use digital flow to work together and trust each other and if we don’t that is the moment blockchain comes in.” dorothy rambim, head of department computer science at the masinde muliro university of science and technology in experts assemble in a meeting in unnamed african country kenya says blockchain is an idea whose time has come because it works and can boost the agriculture value chain. her department have developed and tested a prototype application to help smallholder dairy farmers in kenya to securely sell their milk at a profit to secure markets where they can trace their deliveries, monitor the quality and quantity of their milk. in ghana, emmanuel noah, ceo of ben- ben, has developed a system to manage land tenure and transactions in uganda. the system based on blockchain gathers data on land and has allowed the derisking of land transactions in uganda, most of which is block chains have possible uses in modernizing farm management software, optimizing agricul- ture technology internet of things under customary and statutory ownership. in nigeria and kenya, cellullant, pro- vides a platform, agrikore which allows se- cure instant payments across platforms for service providers, aggregators and farm- ers. while nurvitria kristofikova, co-lead of ux design, developed a platform to help cocoa farmers improve the delivery of high quality cocoa through improved record keeping and data collection from produc- tion, processing and sale of their cocoa beans. in uganda, beer maker ab inbev, has developed a secure immutable distributor ledger that captures its financial transac- tions with farmers enabling them to create credit history with farmers which banks can verify to access them credit. through the platform, farmers own, access and can monetise their data. the platform being used with 4000 farmers in uganda and zambia, works on a basic mo- bile phone and enables farmers to have an electronic record of their purchases, they can see how much they sold to the beer company, of what quality and volumes. africa is still at infancy in terms of blockchain use but it is real and working for the agriculture sector and there is need to improve digital infrastructure and regu- lation issues to take advantage of this tech- nology, said ken lohento, program coor- dinator, ict4ag at the cta.
sept | 2019 asns news | 13 study to aid in the early detection and treatment of cancer a sudanese scientist, mo- hanad mohamed, has used next generation gene ex- pression data to aid in early detec- tion and classification of cancer outcomes in south africa. the im- plications for public health policy have been taken up by provincial health departments for early in- tervention and treatment of cancer cases. mohamed, who is a fellow of the sub-saharan african con- sortium for advanced biostatistics (ssacab), describes his research. cancer, a non-communicable dis- ease (ncd), is among the leading causes of death in both developed and developing countries. through gene expression profiling of tumors, the accuracy of cancer classifica- tion has been enhanced, leading to correct diagnoses and the ap- plication of effective therapies. we performed a comparative review of the binary class predictive abil- ity of seven classification methods (support vector machines, with the radial basis kernel (svm(rk)), linear kernel (svm(lk)) and the polynomial kernel (svm(pk)), artificial neural networks (ann), random forests (rf), k-nearest neighbor (knn), and naive bayes (nb)), using publicly-available gene expression data from cancer research. results indicated that nb outperformed the other methods in terms of the accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, kappa coefficient, area under the curve (auc), and bal- anced error rate (ber) of the bina- ry classifier. thus, the naïve bayes (nb) approach turned out to be the best classifier with our datasets. the study was done using ten mi- croarray gene expression datasets from the four most common cancer types among men and women, with a total sample size of 681. the datasets are publicly available from the gene expression omnibus (geo) repository. the main objec- tive was to identify the most opti- mal classification method, using gene expression data, which would be helpful in the development of targeted therapies. we did not use data from south africa but hope to mohanad mohammed is a phd fellow, university of kwazulu- natal (ukzn) translate this methodology on the south african cancer data when it becomes available. the work was completed as my master’s thesis at ukzn. thereafter, i extended this work using an ensemble approach, which is generally used for com- bining different methods in order to improve the performance, and published the results in a confer- ence paper entitled “using stack- ing ensemble for microarray-based cancer classification”. why is this study important? this study will enhance the ca- pacity of selecting useful biomark- ers needed for accurate cancer classification and prediction. it may help in the early detection of cancer and the application of stage- specific therapies to patients. ac- cording to the national institute for communicable diseases (nicd) of south africa 2014 report, breast cancer is the leading cancer type, with 8,230 cases (21%) in females, followed by basal cell carcinoma (bcc) with 7,030 cases (18.61%). in addition, bcc, with 9,322 cases in males (25.35%), was the leading cancer one among males, followed by prostate cancer with 7,057 cases (19.18%). these statistics under- score cancer burden in south af- rica and suggest the importance of studies that could reduce incidence and enhance patient prophylaxis. what were the key findings and why are the findings important? what are the implications of the finding in the intervention and treatment of cancer? the use of the high-dimensional microarray gene expression data has necessitated the development of powerful statistical classification methods such as support vector ma- chines (svm), artificial neural net- works (ann), random forests (rf), and linear discriminant analysis (lda), naive bayes (nb), k-nearest neighbor (knn) among others. in this work, we compared the per- formance of seven of such methods (svm (linear kernel), svm (poly- nomial kernel), svm (radial basis kernel), ann, rf, nb, and knn), using seven performance measures (accuracy, kappa, sensitivity, speci- ficity, area under the curve (auc), receiver operating curve (roc), balanced error rate (ber)). a key finding was that in seven of the ten datasets, nb performed the best, followed by svm (lk), ann, and rf. we therefore recommend the nb method to clinicians for classi- fying cancer patients into stages or tumor types, so that the right thera- pies can be administered based on the stage of the disease. what are the implications for public policy? the implications for public health policy are straight forward and clear. if individuals are diag- nosed early for any of the ncds us- ing the techniques to be developed, early intervention and treatment will be put in place and in turn, this will save and prolong lives. on the other hand, if the methods can help determine candidate genes for a disease, this is helpful because such information can be used to work out the risk probability of an individual and hence preventative statistics underscore the importance of studies that could reduce incidences methods can be put in place and accurate diagnosis and treatment for a given condition. what’s the next step after this study? the computational methods are still faced with methodological challenges, including how to deal with high dimensionality charac- terized by a large number of genes or probes and a much smaller number of samples requiring di- mension reduction. in addition, recent technological advances have also led to next-generation sequence data, which contains a large number of biomarkers and genes associated or not associ- ated with a given disease. thus, there is an urgent need to de- velop an integrated approach to gene selection in cancer survival studies that jointly utilize both sources of information, namely, microarray and sequence data. under the classification problem, several parametric, non-para- metric and semiparametric statis- tical methods have been proposed within the last decade, but none has been unanimously accepted as the gold standard. in my re- cent master’s research at ukzn, support vector machines (svm) proved superior to the k-nearest neighbor, random forests, naive bayes and artificial neural net- works methods but more research is still needed in this regard. are there any new findings? currently, i am using nega- tive binomial linear discriminant analysis (nblda) for analyz- ing rna-seq data, which is dis- crete in nature. i downloaded rna-seq data on breast cancer and liver hepatocellular carci- noma from the cancer genome atlas (tcga). this type of the data contains irrelevant or noisy genes to cancer distinction. therefore, prior to classification, pre-processing steps are fol- lowed to remove the noisy and ir- relevant genes. the data include early, late, and normal samples. the nblda achieved 71% clas- sification accuracy in this prob- lem. in addition, i have used the seven methods, which i used pre- viously and found that support vector machine with polynomial kernel (svm-pk) had 75% clas- sification accuracy, followed by support vector machine with linear kernel (svm –lk) at 73% accuracy. the work to improve methods for cancer classifica- tion is still in progress. we are to yet to develop a hybrid model, which can be used to integrate both type of data (rna-seq and microarray). — aas
14 | asns news sept| 2019 agroecology and climate change african farmers are and will be vic- tims of climate change, martin herren programme manager, po- litical dialogue and advocacy biovision foundation said recently in rwanda. in particular, said herren, small-scale farmers who account for around 75 percent of agricultural production in sub-saharan africa face tremendous challenges due to limited resilience and diversification op- portunities. he added that even the mid- and large-scale producers will also have to adapt their production systems – which at the same time offers the opportunity to re- duce greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions. in an interview excerpts published by the biovision, herren had these to say; question: what are the biggest chal- lenges small-scale farmers in east af- rica will face in the next 10 years with respect to climate change? mh: while farmers are used to adapt- ing to weather conditions, it will be the increased degree of changes that will be challenging: predictions mention shifts in rain patterns, the reduction of annual precipitation, flooding, fires and climate induced spread of pests. concurrently rain patterns and thus water availability tend to become less predictable. indirect threats include climate-induced shocks elsewhere that cause volatilities in the prices of in- puts or products. qn: how can agroecology help over- come these challenges? 1. agroecology is largely based on knowledge. thus it helps farmers to un- derstand how ecological systems work and how to react appropriately in the case of climate interference. 2. agroecology promotes a diversified production system. in the case of climatic extremes, one product might be affected while others could still be harvested. alter- native production like animal husbandry, honey production, soap making etc. helps compensate for losses in farming. 3. besides diversification, the use of synergies, an efficient resource use and re- cycling measures will also allow farmers to become more flexible to prepare for and react to climate variability. 4. local production and consumption systems e.g. based on traditional species, crowded ward at a health facility in africa. local markets and social safety nets are less prone to global climate impacts causing less market volatility. 5. the agroecology principles that aim to foster social cohesion and economic fair- ness help balance social discrepancies. this allows poor or fragile members of society to build some degree of resilience for their livelihoods. qn: how big is the impact of sub- saharan african farming on climate change? the impact from small-scale farms is virtually zero and mostly of biogenic origin. but emissions from the agriculture sector as a whole are considerable. they could be avoided or reduced by larger en- terprises for transport, storage and retail of their products. deforestation and land-use change are also key contributors to emis- sions in sub-saharan africa. however, the causes typically have a systemic character: the bulk of ghg emis- sions occur at pre- and post-production stages e.g. through energy intensive fer- tilizer production, and through excessive meat consumption. qn: can agroecology also help miti- gate climate change? in the first place agroecology can help farmers to adapt and build resilience to cli- mate change. however there are mitigation co-benefits such as avoiding open field burning of residues or reduced emissions from not applying synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. agroecology promotes funda- mental changes in the way we produce and consume food. it asks for fair economic conditions for all actors in the value chain and requires political governance that fosters the bal- ance between ecology, economic and so- cial food production. all together this will trigger avoidance of future emissions from the food system. a transition to an agroecology based food system could also help mitigate cli- mate change emissions on a large scale – but this will take time and requires eco- nomic and political backing by govern- ments. somali journalists launch environmental network somali journalists on thursday nalists covering environment and sustainable development issues. zeynab adan, a female journalist, said that most people in somalia do not know the extent of destruction caused by charcoal trade and other environmental degradation. “this media dialogue has opened our eyes on the role we can play to help in reversing the environmental degra- dation in our country,” she added. mohamed atani, head of communi- cation and outreach unit for africa at un environment, challenged journalists to dedicate their report- ing to help finding lasting stability to the environmental degradation in the country. launched the country’s first environmental network to help increase reporting on ecological chal- lenges and opportunities in the horn of africa nation. yahya mohamed, newly elected chair of the un-backed somali en- vironmental journalists network (sejn), said the association, which is the first of its kind in the country, will allow them to unite as media professionals to increase the cover- age of environmental issues such as land degradation, deforestation, pol- lution and climate change. ronmental challenges. we feel that me- dia has a key role to play in changing the situation in our country,” mohamed said in mogadishu on the sidelines of the dialogue on the charcoal reduction and alternative livelihood organized by the un environment. mohamed said that the network will work in collaboration with stakeholders including government, un agencies, communities, private sector and donors to report in a coherent and inclusive manner on the solutions to tackle en- vironmental issues that are facing the country and its sustainable develop- ment. “we have agreed to take the lead in helping to find a solution to the envi- he added that membership to the net- work will be open to all somali jour- sdgs: africa makes progress the africa regional science, tech- nology and innovation (sti) fo- rum was one of the pre-events of the fifth session of the africa regional forum on sustainable development (arfsd 5) that took place tuesday at the palais des congrès de la palmeraie in marrakech, morocco.“we need to sharpen our policies for inclusive edu- cation that can create real jobs that can drive growth at a much high rate than what we are currently experiencing; and we need partnerships with the private sector if we are to go to that next level,” said mr. mmboneni muofhe, deputy di- rector-general, technology innovation at south africa’s department of science and technology. poor seed threat to africa’s food security the poor performance of africa’s seed industry is threatening food security on the continent, warns a new re- port. “the overall picture is one of international and african seed companies falling short in deliv- ering quality seed and new va- rieties to smallholder farmers. this limits the potential to ad- dress food security, nutrition and climate resilience,” revealed the study by amsterdam-based ac- cess to seeds foundation on the performance of 23 major seed companies in 22 west and central african countries. un, au pact on climate change united nations secretary- general antonio guterres said monday that the un and the african union (au) will strengthen cooperation in tackling climate change and securing financ- ing for development. climate change and financing for development are the two battles, in which the au and the un “will work hand in hand in the months to come,” the secretary-general said at a joint press conference presided over by himself and moussa faki mahamat, chairperson of the au commission, held at the un headquarters in new york.
sept | 2019 asns news | 15 coalition reject china kenya coal plan greenpeace africa and members of the de- coalonize coalition are decided to stop the chinese interest in keny on coal. the coalition delivered a letter to the chinese embassador wu peng in june asking chinese cor- porations to stop investing in lamu and kitui coal projects and instead invest in renewable energy. among its demands, the group said no coal plant in kenya, china as a lender must reallocate funding towards renewable energy developments, and that the chinese embassy must follow up with icbc and other potential coal investors in kenya with the in- tention to halt any and all interventions and invest- ments in coal. “globally, climate crisis remains one of the big- gest challenges facing humankind. china which is di- rectly linked to these projects is divesting from coal. studies have shown that the social, environmental and economic costs of running coal-fired power plants far exceed the benefits. why should china invest in dirty coal and pollute lamu, a unesco world heritage site,” said greenpeace africa’s ex- ecutive director, njeri kabeberi. china is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emit- ter and consumer of coal and globally the largest solar technology manufacturer. although china has sur- passed its projected 2020 carbon targets, the global climate action tracker reports indicate that china’s national actions are not yet consistent with limiting warming to below 2°c, let alone 1.5°c. according to research carried out by greenpeace, if the lamu coal plant goes ahead, 10 different lo- scientists share ideas cations in kenya and tanzania; garissa, voi, makueni, moshi, lushoto, matuu, hedaru, mazindwe, korogwe and mombasa would be affected by extreme pollution. areas as far as garissa in the northwest and voi will be the most affected. “burning coal to produce electric- ity causes massive air pollution which can cause can- cer, stroke, heart disease and more than 8 million deaths worldwide per year. kenya cannot afford to ignore this anymore. the kenyan government must face the truth that we are no longer in the business of managing pollution. when it comes to the air that we breathe, we can’t afford to delay action. there is an urgent need to transition from pollut- ing fossil fuels and opt for clean energy solutions,” continued kabeberi. according to a study carried out by environmental groups, it is estimated that more than 2,000 south africans die prematurely in mpu- malanga and gauteng provinces as a result of coal- fired power plant pollution. kenya does not want to go down this route. “kenya offers rich resources for sustainable elec- tricity generation. kenya is endowed with enormous solar, wind and geothermal sources. the unexploited geothermal power potential is estimated to be in the range of 4000–8000 mw enough to power kenya’s economy. the kenyan government needs to facilitate renewable energy development instead of exploring dirty energy sources that are outdated and are quickly becoming obsolete,” said decoalonize campaign coordinator, omar elmawi. on wednesday 26 june 2019, the national envi- ronmental tribunal (net) canceled the environmen- tal impact assessment (eia) license that was issued by the national environmental management author- ity (nema) on the lamu coal plant, calling for a new eia exercise. this is a clear indication that public participa- tion (a right guaranteed under the kenya constitu- tion 2010) was not adequately conducted and that the project seeks to benefit a few individuals at the expense of the lamu community. greenpeace africa and decoalonize stand in solidarity with kenyan activists and the communities of lamu and kitui. we say no to coal and yes to investment in renewable energy.
16 | asns news sept | 2019 tdr, who vouch for ethical research tdr and who in june launched a trainer workshops to help disseminate this training course.” committees are familiar with the specific ethical issues of ir. the need was therefore identified to develop guidance for research- ers and research ethics committees on the ethical implications of ir. the training course is being launched at the global conference on implementation science and scale-up, which is co-hosted by the centre of excellence for science of implementation and scale-up (coe-sisu), brac james p grant school of public health at brac university and unicef bangladesh, and co-sponsored by tdr. the regional training centres support- ed by tdr (one in each of the six who regions) will help disseminate this new ethics training course (along with other im- plementation research training materials) and facilitate train-the-trainer workshops. “we are proud to launch this new train- ing course that adds to our growing suite of implementation research training mate- rials, including the ir toolkit and massive open online course on ir,” said tdr di- rector john reeder. new training course on ethics in implementation research to ensure appropriate engagement with research sub- jects and relevant communities and to safe- guard against any potential harm. team, both part of who’s new science division, have jointly developed a training course for researchers and research ethics committees on the important ethical con- siderations in ir. the course comprises implementation research (ir) contributes to understanding and addressing barriers to implementation and scale-up of effective and quality health interventions, strategies and policies. ir is thus essential for accel- erating progress toward universal health coverage. tdr undertakes a range of activities aiming to strengthen ir capacity in low- and middle-income countries, including the development of training tools such as the ir toolkit. as with all research involving human subjects, ir protocols must be reviewed by research ethics committees. however, given the “real life” context of ir, it is im- portant that researchers and research ethics this training course meets an important need to ad- dress ethical considerations in implementation re- search conducted in real-life settings,” said who chief scientist soumya swaminathan. “implementation research is key to im- proving programmes for children in ‘real world’ settings, but must be done while protecting communities and children. as a tdr co-sponsor, unicef therefore welcomes this new training course on eth- ics in implementation research,” said ste- fan peterson, chief of health at unicef. tdr and who’s global health ethics six interactive modules interspersed with activities including country case studies, role-play and quizzes. “this training course meets an impor- tant need to address ethical considerations in implementation research conducted in real-life settings,” said who chief sci- entist soumya swaminathan. “tdr and who will facilitate country-led train-the- firm plots to bring nutritious, high-yielding crop varieties to farmers kenya: government commits to support research orectal cancer (crc) mortality rates. colonoscopy is a widely performed procedure for patients with lower gastrointestinal symptoms, conduct- ed to aid crc detection and explore causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits. an integral element of crc screening programmes, it is fundamental that colonoscopy procedures are of the highest possi- ble quality to maximise early cancer detection and ensure patient comfort and wellbeing. increased funding. speaking during the third re- gional centre for mapping of re- for development sources (rc- mrd) international conference and the 4th afrigeo symposium, dr ruto noted that the move would boost the quality of information and ultimately inform proper planning. he said through applications devel- oped at rcmrd, in collaboration with partners, “we can now moni- tor crop conditions from planting to harvesting, and thus help the coun- try plan well on food security for its people.” kenya’s deputy president dr william ruto said tuesday that the government is com- mitted to supporting research through leading gastroenterologists are calling for widespread improvements in the quality of colonoscopies to help reduce col- roche expands its global access programme roche announced on tues- day that the global access program is expanding be- yond hiv, to include mycobacte- rium tuberculosis (mtb), hepati- tis b and c (hbv and hcv), and human papillomavirus (hpv) for low- and middle-income country programs where the disease bur- den is the highest. the expansion of the glob- al access program highlights roche’s commitment to improve access to cost-effective resourc- es, implement scale-up programs, and contribute to the elimination of diseases in the regions with the greatest need.
africa science news covering science with an african eye | september 2019 published by ssa (services in scientific work in africa) p. o. box 2141, 00100, nairobi, kenya tel: +2540202051330 : email: email@example.com www.africasciencenews.org digital tech transforming agriculture the use of digital technology coupled with to the study, with the right policies, innovation and investment, africa’s agriculture could be transformed into a powerhouse. “in agriculture, digitalization can be a game changer in boosting productivity, profitability and resilience to climate change,” he added. innovations and data can help transform business models and practices across the agricultural value chain in sub-saharan africa, according to a study released recently in nairobi. the study by the technical centre for agricultural and rural cooperation (cta) says digital technology opens vast untapped potential for farmers, investors, and entrepreneurs to improve the efficiency of food production and consumption in the region. production from agriculture can not only feed a growing population but also create decent employment for millions of young people, says the report titled digitalization of african agriculture for the years 2018-2019. according the study, which was conducted in ethiopia, ghana, nigeria, senegal, kenya, rwanda and the sahel, finds that more than 90 percent of the market for digital services that support african smallholders remains untapped, yet they could be worth more than 2.26 billion u.s. dollars. however, with the fast growing trend of digitalization, “digital technologies market in africa is likely to reach the majority of the region’s farmers by 2030,” the study says. michael hailu, director of cta said that digitalization is attracting young people to farming and allowing farmers to optimize production while also making them more resilient to climate change. hailu called on african governments to develop guiding policies and investment decisions to ensure that farmers benefit through innovation and technology. he also observed that despite growth, progress towards the application of technologies and innovations has been somewhat slow to serve the smallholders that produce 80 percent of africa’s agricultural output. “agriculture in sub-saharan africa is ripe for innovation that will drive greater efficiency, sustainable increases in productivity, yield and income,” he added. scientists close in why lean people get fatty liver disease researchers from the westmead institute for medical research (wimr) have discovered how fatty liver disease develops in lean people, aiding the development of potential treatments for these patients. fatty liver disease – a condition characterised by a build-up of fat in the liver – affects a quarter of the world’s population. although it commonly develops in overweight and obese people, many individuals with a body- mass index of less than 25kg/m2 will develop the disease, and tend to have worse outcomes compared to obese patients. lean professor jacob george, co-lead researcher of the study said, “cases of lean fatty liver disease are considered a bit of a mystery, as we don’t know how and why the disease develops and progresses. interestingly, fatty liver patients have a very distinct metabolism com- pared to non-lean ones, which can explain some of the differences we see in disease progression. research the team metabolism, gut bacteria and genetic profiles of patients with lean and non-lean fatty liver disease to determine factors that contribute to disease development and progression.“interestingly, lean fatty liver patients have a very distinct metabolism compared to non-lean ones, which can explain some of the differences we see in disease progression. compared “our “compared to non-lean patients, lean patients had higher levels of bile acids, which play a role in the digestion of fats, and a protein called fibroblast growth factor 19 (fgf19). bile acids and fgf19 increase energy expenditure, which can explain why lean individuals with fatty liver disease stay lean. this suggests that lean patients with a fatty liver may have an ‘obesity-resistant’ profile, and better adaptation to an excess intake of calories.” associate professor mohammed eslam, co-lead researcher added, “importantly, the favourable profile of lean patients did not protect them from liver fat accumulation. “we also identified changes in particular gut bacteria and novel genes that can influence the development of fatty liver disease in lean patients. for example, we identified that a variant in the gene tm6sf2, previously linked to fatty liver disease, is more common in lean patients.” climate change: many exposed to malaria warmer climates will likely mean more malaria in more areas of the world, a new study suggests. at lower temperatures, the malaria parasite (plasmodium) develops faster in mosquitoes than previous research indicated, based on a study done by a team at penn state and the university of exeter. their results suggest that even slight climate shifts could increase the malaria risk for hundreds of thousands to millions of people, both locals and travelers, in areas where the disease currently isn’t present. “the rate of malaria transmission to humans is strongly determined by the time it takes for the parasites to develop in the mosquito,” said thomas, matthew professor and huck scholar in ecological entomology, penn state, and the paper’s corresponding author. “the quicker the parasites develop, the greater the chance that the mosquito will survive long enough for the parasites to complete their development and be transmitted to humans.” suggested the team explains that previous work that malaria parasites simply can’t develop fast enough in cool climates to be able to infect people — in essence, they took longer to mature than the host mosquito’s lifespan. however, that research was carried out almost a century ago using a russian species of mosquito. even slight climate shifts could increase the malaria risk for hundreds of thousands to millions of people