Dec 14, 2008

Nigeria has potential to be self-reliant in food production

By Seye Adeniyi
Nigerian Tribune - Ibadan,Nigeria

Dr. Alfred Dixon "I feel sad anytime I see people complaining about food shortage or lamenting about increasing food prices. But the truth is that the nation has one of the best agro-ecology in the entire globe to grow any crop in almost every part of the country.”These were the words of Dr. Alfred Dixon, a senior researcher in agriculture who recently disengaged from the services of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan after many years of meritorious service and research work in the country.

According to the cassava geneticist, Nigeria is one nation in Africa that should not be complaining of food shortage when considering the agriculture–friendly weather in every part of the nation, as well as the array of agriculture experts that are contributing to the development of agricultural sector of the country.

The cassava expert said he was very happy that the country is still occupying the number one position on global agricultural map especially in the area of cassava production, adding that this is a reflection of good things, hard work, comprehensive research work and the commitment of the government to the development of the agricultural sector.

He also gave kudos to farmers, especially those are at the rural area for their efforts at making food surplus and cheap despite neglect by the government, and when considering the insensitivity of many local government administration to the plight of farmers even though the local government area councils are close to majority of peasant farmers.

On what make cassava prominent and popular in Nigeria when compared to some other countries in the African continent, as well as rest of the world, Dr. Dixon who has been called upon by Sierra-Leone government to come and serve his fatherland, explained that cassava is basically grown in every part of Nigeria and the tuber crop is not a sub-regional crop like some other crops.

Apart from this fact, cassava plant can be said to be in love with Nigeria weather and the large production of the tuber crop in every nooks and cranny of the country is also the unique likeness of Nigerian farmers for the crop because it is one of the crops suppling the masses of this country their staple foods.

On how the country can maintain its number one position in cassava production globally, he advised both states and local governments leaders or administrators to help farmers by highly subsidising farm-inputs because greater percentage of Nigerian farmers are into cassava production, an attestation to the fact that the crop is even number one crop in the country.

He however declared that one of the reasons why agricultural sector has not regained its rightful position as a major source of income for the country’s economy is because many states and local governments are only paying lip service to agricultural development, deceiving people that they are helping farmers whereas, majority of farmers are living in abject poverty, while some are existing merely on bank loans with “cut-your-throat” interest.

Dr. Dixon however advocated for a reasonable subsidy for farm inputs and working tools, adding that the question they need to ask some governors and local government chairmen is that: What has farm implements or inputs got to do in government house and offices, and even in many states of assemblies? He also stressed that these are implements and farm inputs that needs to be distributed to farmers during the planting season to increase food production, but which has now become one of the major political weapons to silence the opposition and to woo people who are not even practising farmers into their political parties.

The researcher further appealed to the Federal government to call local government chairmen to order in the way and manner they waste their monthly allocations on unprofitable ventures. “Rather they should invest heavily on agriculture in order to make food not only surplus, but also cheap in the country.

Nigeria: Cassava earns global awards

Kent Mensah, AfricaNews editor in Accra, Ghana
AfricaNews - Netherlands

A major break though in cassava processing has earned global awards for a Nigerian institution. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture won two awards for in-depth researches into cassava and cocoa that helped in fighting hunger and poverty in Africa. A statement to the Ghana Office of AfricaNews from Godwin Atser, Corporate Communications Officer (West Africa) of IITA said the awards included “Outstanding Agricultural Technology in sub-Saharan Africa and Outstanding Communications.” The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research instituted the award.

Dr Lateef Sanni Oladimeji of the University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria, who is also IITA’s Postharvest Specialist received the 2008 CGIAR Regional Award for Outstanding Agricultural Technology in sub-Saharan Africa, the statement said.

The CGIAR is a strategic alliance of members, partners and international agricultural centers that mobilizes science to benefit the poor. According to CGIAR at its annual conference in Maputo, Sanni’s expertise in drying technologies has contributed to considerable income and employment gains for numerous small and medium scale enterprises in Nigeria and several other West African countries.

The statement added: “Sanni initially designed a rotary dryer that increased production of cassava flour to 300 kilograms (kg) every 8 hours. It was then disseminated to cassava processing facilities in southwest and southeast Nigeria. More recently, within IITA’s Integrated Cassava Project, he assembled a team of engineers that has designed a “flash” dryer capable of drying 250 kg of cassava flour per hour.”

“His work has helped to increase the use of locally-manufactured flash dryers in Nigeria from two units before 2003, to over 60 units today. Sanni was presented the award after a short video showcasing his excellent work,” the statement said.

Communication category

On the other hand, Dr. Soniia David, IITA’s Technology Transfer Specialist, and her team at the Sustainable Tree Crops Program received the 2008 CGIAR Science Awards - Outstanding Communications Category for training farmers in West African countries to use digital video cameras as a way to share knowledge of sustainable cocoa production. By setting up Video Viewing Clubs (VVC), the team got together groups of farmers to watch and learn from the videos.

To date, 450 farmers in Ghana have participated in VVCs. Farmers who adopted the crop and pest management practices promoted by the YouTube videos are likely to increase yields by 20-40 per cent and decrease pesticide use by 10-20 per cent.
Dr Paula Bramel, IITA’s Deputy Director-General Research, received the award on behalf of David.

IITA's work on banana in Uganda was also extensively featured in the winning entry for the broadcast journalism category of the CGIAR-FARA 2008 Award for Excellence in Agricultural Science Journalism in Africa.

Patricia Oyella, editor and reporter at WBS TV in Uganda, received the award for her broadcast feature, “Saving the Cooking Banana,” shown on WBS TV and on Business Africa, a program broadcast on a network of more than 45 African and five European partner channels. The feature demonstrated the importance of this food crop in Africa, the problems faced by banana farmers, and the solutions offered by researchers.

Manary named Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics

By Beth Miller
News from Washington University in St. Louis - Saint Louis,MO,USA Dec. 10, 2008

Mark J. Manary, M.D., has been named the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "Mark Manary is an outstanding choice for the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics," said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. "Dr. Manary has developed innovative approaches to improving the lives of children in Africa. He is a credit to his field and most deserving of this generous honor supported by an endowment gift from Helene B. Roberson."

"Mark is an internationally recognized expert and advocate for severely malnourished children whose pioneering clinical studies reshape our approach to this profound health issue," said Alan L. Schwartz, Ph.D., M.D., the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and head of Pediatrics. "Further he is an outstanding clinician, educator, citizen of Washington University and colleague."

"I am very, very honored to receive the Roberson chair," said Manary, professor of pediatrics and a specialist in emergency medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital. "Mrs. Roberson's vision is about having a better future for children, which is coincident with what we have going on in our Department of Pediatrics as well as the kind of work that I embrace. We want to not only offer the very best to the kids with whom we have contact everyday, but to those who will never come to our facility or to St. Louis."

Manary has spent several years devoted to researching the effectiveness of a simple yet revolutionary peanut-butter mixture with severely and moderately malnourished young children in the sub-Saharan African country of Malawi, where malnutrition affects 70 percent of children. Several times a year, Manary visits the African nation, often accompanied by students from the School of Medicine.

After completing a Fulbright Scholarship in Africa, Manary developed improved, peanut-butter based foods to address the malnutrition epidemic in Malawi. The therapeutic feeding program uses the nutrient-rich mixture, called Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), which contains peanuts, powdered milk, oil, sugar, and added vitamins and minerals. It has been remarkably successful in promoting recovery among severely malnourished children in Malawian clinics in which Manary works.

Produced in a Malawian factory, the spoil-proof concoction is given to the mothers of the malnourished children to feed at home. In the last five years, Manary's feeding projects alone have directly helped an estimated 20,000 children. The project is looking toward significant growth as it is now in all 25 districts in Malawi.

The extraordinary recovery of malnourished children with RUTF has caught the attention of other organizations working to fight malnutrition across the globe. Thanks in part to Manary's work, UNICEF, the United Nations Systems Standing Committee on Nutrition, the World Health Organization and the World Food Program issued a joint statement last year endorsing RUTF as the standard of treatment for severely malnourished children worldwide. Manary has also designed curriculum for the University of Malawi College of Medicine and influenced the Malawi Ministry of Health to include RUTF in the national treatment protocol.

Manary was recognized for his work last year with the 2007 World of Children Health Award, which recognizes individuals who make a difference in the lives of children. He was also honored with the School of Medicine's Distinguished Alumni Faculty Award in 2007.

Manary is also working with plant scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to boost the nutrition in cassava, a starchy root that is a diet staple of 200 million of the poorest Africans and the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world. The scientists have improved the protein, iron and Vitamin A content in the cassava, which will soon be tested in fields in Nigeria and Kenya.

Manary earned a medical degree from the School of Medicine in 1982 and completed an internship and residency at St. Louis Children's Hospital. After spending four years as a medical officer in Tanzania and on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, he joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1989 as an instructor. Since 1994, he has also been a senior lecturer in pediatrics at the Medical College of Malawi, and in 2001 became an associate professor of pediatrics (voluntary faculty) at the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

A lifelong supporter of the arts, education and health care, Roberson established this professorship in 2000. A native St. Louisan, Roberson graduated from Mary Institute and attended Washington University's School of Art, now the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. During World War II she worked for the American Red Cross in the Motor Corps division and as a nurse's aide volunteering at Barnes and Jewish hospitals. Her desire to support research grew from these experiences.

Roberson owned and operated Daytona Budweiser Inc., an Anheuser-Busch wholesaler in Port Orange, Fla., where she served as its chief executive officer and president for more than 35 years before retiring.

Roberson has served on the Washington University Regional Cabinet for the Gold Coast of Florida. She has been a sponsor of the London Symphony's biennial appearance in Daytona and a former director of the Rehabilitation Center of Greater St. Louis. She is a past trustee of Florida Hospital Ormond Memorial in Ormond Beach, Fla., and of the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and is a member of the Museum of the Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Committed to "do something for the children," Roberson supports the Boggy Creek Gang in Eustis, Fla., one of the camps for seriously ill children co-founded by the late Paul Newman and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.


Washington University School of Medicine's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Plan B needs cassava initiative

by Linda Hutchinson-Jafar Special Correspondent
Trinidad News - Port of Spain,Trinidad and Tobago
Thursday, December 11 2008

The Caribbean desperately needs a food plan that must be able to produce 50 percent of its supplies by 2015, if it wants to reduce its US$3.5 billion annual import food bill, said Dr Chelston Brathwaite, director-general of Inter-American Institute for Cooperation and Agriculture (IICA), who observed that this figure is likely to increase if no sustained effort is made to increase food production.

Clearly the time has come for us to exploit the nutritional value of our own tropical crops such as cassava, sweet potato, bananas, yams and many others as a source of daily nutritional requirements,” he said.

He also stressed the need for the Caribbean to become food secure, citing one of the major problems as “food vulnerability” – since the region only produces 15 percent of what its population consumes.

“There should be no more delay, there should be no more talk without action, there should be no more dreams about reviving the old models of preferences for our products in international markets. The food and agricultural sector of our countries should become a development priority,” he told journalists in Trinidad during a seven-day visit last week.

“I refer to the Caribbean because I am convinced that no country in the region can obtain an acceptable level of food security on its own but together with the right policies, integration mechanisms and support facilities, a reasonable level of food security can be obtained.”

IICA is a specialised agency of the Inter-American System whose aim is to encourage and support the efforts of its member states to achieve agricultural development and well-being for rural populations. The Costa Rica-based institute is also responding to new mandates issued by the Heads of State and Government of the Americas, the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the ministers of agriculture of the Americas to reposition itself so that it can meet both the new challenges facing agriculture and the requests for support it receives from its member countries.

On his call for a Caribbean food plan, he said it must be developed and implemented within the context of the Caribbean Single Market (CSM) and must also build on the Jagdeo initiative by Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo, who has lead responsibility for agriculture in the region.

The Caribbean should also develop a Caribbean Agricultural Development Fund to finance the plan, he added.

Investment in agriculture

The Jagdeo Initiative — “Strengthening Agriculture for Sustainable Development” — is a strategy to alleviate some of the binding constraints to the development of the sector and to create the enabling environment which will encourage a resurgence of investment in agriculture thus facilitating the transformation process.

The plan seeks to promote joint actions to take advantage of national comparative advantages such as land, water and markets and based on a strategic partnership between the governments and the private sector. To achieve food security, Dr Brathwaithe said the region needs leaders who recognise that food and agricultural sector is a strategic sector of the economy and farmers who recognise their farm as a business enterprise. “We need the political will and leadership to make food security a priority in the development agenda of the country,” he asserted.

The IICA director-general said that by focussing on food security, countries produce more of the food consumed, create employment and opportunities in the food services sector and contribute to a reduction in unemployment and poverty.

“Isn’t it strange that here in the Caribbean, we have rejected the Privy Council and have developed our own legal/judicial system, we have established our own university and our own educational system, we have developed our own health system but we have left the production and supply of our food, the most basic of human needs in the hands of others,” he asked.

Sharing components of the proposed Caribbean food plan, Brathwaite said regional enterprises in livestock, poultry, cereals, legumes, tropical fruits, root crops and vegetables should be established within the content of a regional agricultural policy linked to the Caribbean economy.

“I am convinced that we need a new development model that can unleash the talent, the energy and the enterprise of the people of the Americas, so that the agricultural and rural sectors can compete internationally,” according to Dr Brathwaite. He also identified six major challenges to developing sustainable agri-food systems in the tropics. (See box)

One of those challenges is feeding a growing population in developing countries and increasing agricultural production, without destroying the natural resources or contaminating the environment.

In addition to food, agriculture is called upon to produce products for the supply of sustainable energy such as ethanol and bio-diesel from corn and sugarcane and other agricultural commodities, while poverty in the tropical world is increasing as a result of global increases in the price of food.

Additionally, Dr Brathwaite noted that while the hemisphere had 90,000 of the 250,000 species of plants in the world, the Americas depended only on five for its nutrition. The lack of attention to other crops with the potential to feed people may also result in their disappearance from the world’s biodiversity bank.

Cassava - Google News