1.Africa YES! Flo NO!
2.Science & Africa: A message to the G8 summit
3.Africa Harvest consortium gets $16.9 million
4.GM & Africa resources
1.Africa YES! Flo NO!
Nothing could better symbolise the "GM to save the world" confidence trick than the rise and rise of Dr Florence Wambugu.
Item 1 below has the science journal Nature calling on G8 leaders to listen to Wambugu, among a number of other African scientists, so that they can learn the strategies that should shape the future of Africa.
In case you are in any doubt as to Flo's strategy for the future of the continent:
"We cannot develop Africa without biotechnology"
"genetically modified (GM) crops have a major role to play in Africa"
"biotechnology has huge potential"
But regardless of whatever the G8 decide to do, item 2 reports how the Gates Foundation is to pour $16.9 million into a consortium headed by Africa Harvest, of which Wambugu is the CEO. The consortium includes Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont.
In the press release Wambugu's Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (Africa Harvest) is described as "Africa's leading non-profit agricultural and scientific organization". If it is "leading" then its thanks to the likes of Croplife International which funds its "communication" activities. CropLife International is a global federation 'representing the plant science industry' and led by the following companies: BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.
Wambugu was picked and trained by Monsanto and came to fame via Monsanto's virus-resistant sweet potato project. She built her reputation on this project, capturing massive positive publicity for GM in the process. But Wambugu's reputation is built on a lie. The project in question has been far from the success that Wambugu has repeatedly claimed.
3 years of field trials showed the project, which cost over $6 million, to be a complete failure, delivering lower yields than conventional crops and no virus resistance. In contrast, conventional sweet potato breeding in Uganda was able to develop with a small budget a well-liked virus-resistant variety with yield gains of nearly 100%!
As Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies has noted, the tragedy is that this kind of "excitement over certain genetic engineering procedures can divert financial, human, and intellectual resources from focusing on productive research that meets the needs of poor farmers."
[Genetically Modified Crops and Sustainable Poverty Alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa
But the leaders of the industrialised nations are being told to listen to a voice from Africa that's been trained by Monsanto and which is being amplified by CropLife International.
The President of CropLife International, who is also the CEO of the world's biggest GM company, Syngenta, is on record as saying, "As we leverage the potential of our Crop Protection and Seeds capabilities in pursuit of market share gain, we are targeting steadily higher returns and value creation for our shareholders."
In other words, the real goal of GM seeds is to feed the corporations and their hungry shareholders. Now that's a message - relayed "from Africa" - that Bush and Blair may just be able to hear.
2.Science & Africa: A message to the G8 summit
Nature, 29 June 2005
Africa's scientists tell industrialized nations what they need to hear.
When the G8 leaders meet in Scotland next week to discuss how to help Africa's poorest nations, they are unlikely to hear the chants of the protestors - an 8-kilometre fence around their luxury hotel will see to that. But the activists have, to some extent, already been listened to: a debt-relief package has been signed by the group of eight industrialized countries and a hike in aid is also on the cards. But when it comes to spending this extra money, one question is whether the voices of Africa's scientists will be heeded.
On the following three pages, Nature presents those voices. They need to be heard, as science and technology are more of a priority for aid agencies than ever before. African universities, for example, are the subject of a new focus by the World Bank. Africa's leaders have also singled out science and technology in their continent-wide political strategy - the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
The comments that follow make for challenging reading. Every area seems to require immediate attention, from disease and climate change to a lack of access to education and sanitation. But themes emerge nonetheless. Solutions must factor in the needs of local communities and environments. Projects should be run as far as possible by Africans, not the donors. And Africa needs long-term backing from rich nations, not an uncertain future in which aid waxes and wanes.
If science and technology projects are to help shape Africa, these are the strategies that should shape them.
Kenya: Florence Wambugu
CEO of A Harvest Biotech Foundation International, a Kenyan organization dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture through the use of biotechnology.
We cannot develop Africa without biotechnology. Enormous numbers of people suffer from malnutrition in some regions, and this is where biotechnology has huge potential.
One example is NERICA (New Rice for Africa), a variety developed by the West Africa Rice Development Association in Bouake, Ivory Coast. The rice was created by conventional breeding and combines high-yield Asian strains with drought-resistant African ones. It is a good example of the research and development we can do when there is partnership between scientists in Africa and abroad.
But we have to take a holistic approach - we also need to address other issues such as soil fertility, water management, human infrastructure and capacity development.
The problem is that there is a disconnect between high-level international research and the perspectives and priorities of African leaders. Most research here is donor-funded. There is an urgent need for African countries to fund their own research so that they have a stake in the results. That way the results will be more relevant and can be linked to local communities.
Involving rural people is crucial. The poverty in Africa is in the villages. We need education and training for farmers so that they can make use of opportunities such as improved seed banks. That will empower them. You can't just give them an agricultural innovation and leave them to it. I believe in science and technology, but the way it is implemented is very important.
For example, genetically modified (GM) crops have a major role to play in Africa, especially in tackling problems such as pests, drought and malnutrition. To succeed, GM technology must be
implemented in a way that gives Africans true ownership. Although there is room for many different players, including the private sector, researchers and agricultural organizations, greater emphasis should be placed on collaborations with countries outside Africa. When it comes to staple crops, the possibility of royalty-free technologies must also be explored.
3.Africa Harvest Offered Grand Challenges in Global Health Grant to Improve Africa's Health Through a Full Range of Nutrients in Sorghum
Friday July 1, 6:00 am
Five-year $16.9 million project to develop more nutritious, easily digestible Sorghum with increased levels of pro-Vitamin A and E, Iron, Zinc, Essential Amino Acids and protein prototype with increased lysine
NAIROBI, July 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Africa's leading non-profit agricultural and scientific organization, Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (Africa Harvest), leads a nine-member consortium that has been offered a Grand Challenges in Global Health grant of US$16.9 million, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The consortium is called the African Biofortified Sorghum Project.
"This grant represents a major paradigm shift in agricultural research in Africa," stated Africa Harvest CEO, Dr. Florence Wambugu. "It is refreshing to note that the project proposal was put together by African scientists for the African continent."
The consortium will develop a new variety of sorghum for the more than 300 million people in arid regions of Africa who rely on this grain as their primary source of food. Sorghum is one of the few crops that grow well in arid climates, but it is deficient in most essential nutrients, and is difficult to digest when cooked.
The project seeks to develop a more nutritious and easily digestible sorghum that contains increased levels of pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, zinc, amino acids, and protein. A prototype, containing increased levels of the amino acid lysine, has already been successfully developed.
The African organization is partnering with scientific teams from agricultural company Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa. Other Consortium Members include the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Universities of Pretoria (South Africa) and Missouri-Columbia (USA).
"In the past, we have been told that there is no scientific or infrastructural capacity in Africa. This has always meant that Africa- targeted research was often done outside Africa, or with minimal African scientists' involvement," said Wambugu. "In our project design, we proceeded from the premise that Africa has scientific capacity -- human and infrastructural -- but this is limited to achieve desired goals. We then went in search of organizations that were genuinely interested in helping Africa and asked them to work with us."
The consortium has nine members, of these, seven are African. "Furthermore, 80% of the grant will be spent in Africa," says Dr. Wambugu. "Even the remaining 20%, spent outside Africa, will primarily be to build African capacity."
"Our Consortium is not looking at short-term solutions, we are harnessing Africa's, and the world's, best scientific brains and technologies to fight malnutrition, which is a major African health problem," Dr. Wambugu said.
"On behalf of the African people, we are grateful to the Grand Challenges initiative. We know that currently, less than 10% of health research funding is targeted to diseases that account for 90% of the global disease burden. Through this grant, we will begin to see a fresh focus on Africa and the developing world."
About Africa Harvest
Africa Harvest Biotechnology Foundation International (Africa Harvest) is incorporated in the USA as a non-profit foundation. Its headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya and it has regional offices in Johannesburg, South Africa and Washington D.C., USA.
The Foundation's mission is to promote the use of science and technology, including biotechnology, to fight hunger, malnutrition and poverty in Africa by increasing agricultural yields and incomes.
Although science is important, it isn't everything. Africa's agricultural development must be approached holistically, so that technological solutions are supported through appropriate policies and institutions. The Foundation believes that biotechnology is not a panacea for Africa's agricultural challenges, but it can act as a catalyst for much needed change, not only in agriculture, but many other areas.
For more information, please visit us at: http://www.ahbfi.org
Daniel Kamanga, Communications Director, Africa Harvest International: +27 82 787 4799
4.GM & Africa resources
*for more on the push to force GM into Africa:
*USAID in Africa - new report
*have you signed on to the "Africa and the G8" statement?
*check out some of the sites on GM in Africa:
Biowatch South Africa
Africa Centre for Biosafety