Sarah Lubanga Mubiru from Uganda, the winner of the 1st prize Women in science competition 2010

Sarah L. Mubiru is the Programme Assistant at Livestock and Fisheries Programme, Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA). She win the first prize of Women in science competition 2010 with her research “ Development of ‘ENDIISA” Decision Support Tool for Improved Feeding of Dairy Cattle in Uganda”. In the video, she  appreciate this competition.

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Abstract of her study

Efforts for improvement of livestock feeding in Uganda have achieved great strides in identification of nutritious feed resources for cattle (Kabirizi, 2006; Nakiganda 2004; Mwebaze, http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/AGPC/doc/Counprof/uganda.htm; Stobbs, 1969). The feed resources include pasture grasses and legumes, leguminous shrubs or multi-purpose trees, crop residues and agro-industrial by-products. Despite, knowledge and in some instances utilisation of the appropriate feed resources, milk production on dairy farms has remained low in the ranges of 2–5 Lcow-1day-1 (Mubiru, 2006; Mubiru et al., 2007). This poor performance is clear indication of a gap in the knowledge disseminated to farmers with regards to cattle feeding. One major knowledge gap that was identified in studies done in Uganda was the inability by farmers to know the quantities Lire la suite

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La biodiversité agricole est essentielle à la survie des humains sur la planète dixit Emile Frison

Par Roukiattou Ouédraogo
A l’occasion de la 5ème semaine des sciences agricoles africaines et de l’assemblée générale du FARA qui s’est tenu du 19 au 24 juillet 2010, en collaboration avec Bioversity International, CTA, SDC, ICRISAT, ICRAF et d’autres acteurs ont organisé une conférence sur la biodiversité agricole en Afrique. Cette rencontre s’inscrit dans la commémoration de l’année 2010, déclarée par les Nations Unies Année internationale de la biodiversité.

Pendant deux jours (19 et 20 juillet), les acteurs clés de la question ont planché sur l’attractivité et le potentiel de la biodiversité agricole pour l’Afrique: état, tendances et perspectives pour l’avenir.

Dans cet entretien, Émile Frison, directeur général de Bioversity International, nous éclaire sur la notion de biodiversité agricole et l’approche promue par son organisation pour la conservation de la biodiversité agricole en Afrique.

Monsieur Frison, qu’est ce que la Biodiversité?
La biodiversité c’est l’ensemble de la diversité des êtres vivants. Nous nous occupons particulièrement de la biodiversité agricole. C’est-à-dire la biodiversité qui est essentielle à la survie des humains sur la planète. Celle qui fournit notre nourriture et survient à tous nos autres besoins. Nous cherchons donc à valoriser les différentes variétés et espèces de plantes mais aussi des différentes races d’animaux qui sont utilisées par les agriculteurs.

Quelle est l’importance aujourd’hui de la biodiversité dans la sécurité alimentaire en Afrique?
Traditionnellement on considère la biodiversité agricole comme une ressource génétique qui est utilisée pour l’amélioration génétique et pour produire de nouvelles variétés. Les agriculteurs ont toujours utilisé cette biodiversité pour Lire la suite

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Improving existing animal genetic resources for enhanced food security while conserving diversity – The dilemma!

By Brenda Zulu
Current attempts at breed improvement in Africa aim to understand livestock genetic and phenotypic diversity within and across existing African livestock populations in order to identify genotypes best fitted for production. This is a challenging task given the extremely diverse and rapidly changing production systems that make careful tailoring of genotypes and genotype combinations to production systems critical. This approach explicitly ignores conservation issues, and properly so; poor African farmers should not be asked to compromise productivity in order to preserve diversity. The farmers of the West did not.
In an abstract on improving existing animal genetic resources for enhanced food security while conserving diversity-the dilemma Steve Kemp from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) showed that however, African farmers should not be exposed to additional risk that may result from discarding the existing genotypes, which frequently carry adaptation to a range of biotic and abiotic threats.

Such adapted genotypes may have productivity advantages over non-adapted genotypes or even crossbreeds and this is especially true among small ruminants. Other highly adapted ‘local’ genotypes may have little apparent role in emerging farming systems. However, both of these categories represent a critical resource that is available for future demands worldwide.

The abstract suggested that it was time to acknowledge that the demands of improved productivity were frequently incompatible with the desire to conserve diversity. In-situ conservation and conservation through use, do have roles in some circumstances. Such roles vary significantly between livestock species, but without additional measures, the bulk of African livestock diversity will be lost.
Part of the reason for the slowness to recognize this problem is, paradoxically, the use of a breed name as the unit of conservation. Present metrics depend almost entirely on breed names as proxy measures of diversity. This is a reasonable basis in Europe where there are a few very common breeds and a myriad of well-documented specialist breeds. However, it is very often of extremely limited value in Africa where diversity is vast but spread in a continuum across large areas with widely different selective pressures and is frequently the same population, but given different ‘breed names’. This means that the very term ‘breed’ is of very limited value as an estimate of diversity. At its simplest, this can be seen in the huge variation in intra-breed diversity between African and European livestock. And yet much effort has gone into characterizing the true diversity of Africa’s livestock and to understanding the origins of domestication. It is now time that the knowledge gained is used to make realistic conservation plans.

If it is acknowledged that critical diversity is being lost at an alarming and increasing rate, and that in-situ conservation is incapable of saving most of that diversity, then the only alternative today is to smartly plan and carry out ex-situ conservation. This conservation must centre on the appropriate ‘genetics’ rather than ‘breeds’, and can take the form of preservation of germplasm, somatic cells, and/or DNA, so long as such collections are accompanied by comprehensive descriptions of the phenotypes of the animals, the populations from which they were obtained, and the environments in which they were raised.

The crop community, who has a great deal more variation available to them through wild crop relatives, has already addressed this challenge. The technical difficulties faced by the livestock community are greater. However this does not result primarily from the difficulty of conservation per se, but rather from the dramatically higher costs and lengths of time required for phenotyping incurred by the demands a concerted programme of phenotyping and data management at the same time as ex-situ conservation. The need to systematically capture all available information and understanding about livestock traits (including indigenous knowledge) is the single requirement shared by the often-conflicting demands of improvement and conservation.

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Crop plants biodiversity and food security

By Brenda Zulu
Africa is renowned for its diversity of landscapes, wildlife, languages, cultures and crops. Unlike other continents where only one or two crops form the staple food, African people depend on a wide diversity of crops to ensure their food security: sorghum, millets, teff, bambara groundnuts, cassava, curcurbits, banana, wheat, maize, cowpea, yam, rice, sweet potato, beans, several leafy vegetables and many others.

A brief abstract on crop plants biodiversity and food security presented by the Senior Scientist of Bioversity International Ehsan Dulloo showed that there were many crops grown extensively in Africa which were major cash commodity crops as: coffee, cacao, cotton, tobacco, tea, cashew and others also grown by smallholder resource-poor farmers or, in some areas, by large agro-industrial companies.
The abstract explained that Africa was either the centre of origin or centre of diversity for many of these crops. The importance of these centres cannot be under-estimated as they can potentially provide new germplasm for crop adaptation to face the major challenges affecting Africa’s agriculture.

Such challenges include, among others: soil degradation, climate change and increased populations, and ultimately the need to ensure food security. In fact, the latter is one of the main challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and is primarily caused by insufficient food lacking both quantity and quality. This problem was further aggravated by the loss of plant diversity, traditional farming systems and associated indigenous knowledge. These were essential components in ensuring sustainable crop production, household income and nutrition for many of the poor farmers living in the fragile semi-arid ecosystems of the region. Farmers need as much crop diversity as possible be prepared for unpredictable climatic conditions, to optimise use of their resource base and to diversify their agricultural production for different uses.

Despite having extensive crop and intra-specific diversity, Africa has not been able to make the best use of this resource, mainly due to lack of awareness, financial resources and capacity building in germplasm conservation, development and use. The challenges of crop diversity utilization and how capacity can be strengthened are discussed, as is the potential to use African germplasm to provide options for adaptation to climate change plants biodiversity and food security.

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And the winners of the Prizes Young Professionals in Science 2009/2010 are…

18 young professionals were invited to compete for the top 5 places in this category.  From July 19-20, 17 young professionals made their respective presentations and the winners are:

1st Prize: Ms. Sandrine Nguiakam of Cameroon for her paper on » ‘Cours des matières premières, recettes budgétaires et croissance économique: Cas de la Cote d’Ivoire’ ». She win 1st Prize – laptop, US$3,000 cash and CTA publications

2nd Prize: Mr. Kevin Zowe Mganga of Kenya for his work on the ‘Reseeding – a gateway to rehabilitation success, food security and sustainable rural livelihoods in drylands Africa. He win 2nd Prize – video camera, US $ 2,000 cash and CTA publications

3rd Prize: Dr. Aneeza Soobedar of Mauritius for her work on ‘Looking at wastes as valuable resources – an example from the sugarcane industry in Mauritius’. She win 3rd Prize – digital camera, US $1,500 cash and CTA publications

4th Prize: Dr. Robert Kajobe of Uganda for his work on the ‘Development of appropriate surveillance systems for honeybee pests and diseases for improved production of honey and other bee products in Uganda. He win –US $1,000  and CTA publications

There was a tie for the 5th place with:

Ms Wendkhoumi Sabine Marie Flore Doamba of  Burkina Faso pour sa contribution dans la ‘Variation de l’activité biologique dans les parcelles aménagées en cordons pierreux de la province du Kouritenga au Burkina Faso’. She win US $1,000 and CTA publications.

Mr Michael Kwabena Osei of Ghana for his work on the ‘Morphological characterisation of African egg plant (Solanum species) in some African countries. He win – US $1,000  and CTA publications.

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And the Winners of the 2009-2010 Women in Science competition are…

In Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is the major contributor to the continent’s GDP and women contribute 60% of the labour and food production both for the household consumption and for sale. Consequently any continent-wide effort to increase agricultural productivity, enhance household incomes and achieve food and nutrition security must recognise the particular circumstance of women and actively value their input.

The CTA/FARA/AGRA/RUFORUM/ANAFE/NPCA 2009-2010 Africa-wide science competitions sought to identify, recognise and reward the hard work and excellence of young professionals and women scientists who are engaged in innovative and pioneering research and communicating their outputs (knowledge, technologies, approaches) to improve agricultural productivity and the livelihoods of rural communities.

The 2009-2010 competitions were launched in August 2009. There were three stages of the evaluation process; extended abstracts were received and reviewed by the expert panel; followed by the submission of full scientific papers, which were also evaluated by the expert panel drawn from CTA,FARA,AGRA, ANAFE and RUFORUM and an external consultant – Dr. Fetien Abay Abera, Mekelle University. This was followed by the oral presentations which were evaluated by the panel of judges during the FARA GA. 9 women were invited to compete for the top 5 places in this category. And the winners are:

1st Prize: Dr. Sarah Lubanga Mubiru of Uganda for her work on the ‘Development of ‘ENDIISA’ decision support tool for improved feeding of dairy cattle in Uganda’. She win : 1st Prize – laptop, US$5,000 cash, trophy, and CTA publications.

2nd Prize: Dr. Theresia Luvuno Munga of Kenya for her work on ‘Breeding for Cassava brown streak disease resistance in coastal kenya’ . She win : 2nd prize – laptop, US$3,000 cash, trophy and CTA publications

3rd Prize: Ms Esperance Benedicte Zossou of Benin for her work on the ‘Technological and institutional innovations triggered by farmer-to-farmer rice parboiling video in Central Benin’ . She win: 3rd prize – laptop, US$2,500 cash, trophy, and CTA publications

4th Prize: Mrs Lalini Unmole of Mauritius for her work on ‘The sustainable approach for the management of the legume pod borer Maruca vitrata fabricius on bean in Mauritius’. She win: – US$1,500 cash and CTA publications

5th Prize: Ms Eunice Wamuyu Githae of Kenya for her work on ‘Genetic diversity of gum Arabic-producing Acacia Senegal varieties in Kenya using inter-simple sequence repeats (ISSR) and chloroplast simple-sequence repeat markers’. She win  US$1,500 cash and CTA publications

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Crop plants biodiversity and food security presented by the Senior Scientist of Bioversity International Ehsan Dulloo

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The abstract explained that Africa was either the centre of origin or centre of diversity for many of these crops. The importance of these centres cannot be under-estimated as they can potentially provide new germplasm for crop adaptation to face the major challenges affecting Africa’s agriculture.

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