The project to convert the juice from the sweet sorghum stalk into bio-ethanol, which was initiated by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and Rusni Distillery, was inaugurated recently. ICRISAT Director General William Dar commissioned the 40,000-liter per day fuel ethanol and extra-neutral alcohol re-distillation plant at Mohammed Shahpur village in Medak district, Andhra Pradesh, India.
With the commissioning of the distillery costing US$ 7 million, ICRISAT will become among the first institutes in the world that has facilitated a project that links a distillery producing ethanol from sweet sorghum to the poor and the marginal farmers of the semi-arid tropics.
With the fuel prices skyrocketing, there is increasing demand for bio-fuels like ethanol, an alternative fuel for blending with petroleum products in many countries. Sweet sorghum being a water-efficient crop grown in the semi-arid tropics, can serve as an excellent source for ethanol while still meeting the food, feed and fodder needs of the small farmers.
According to Dr Dar, the project succeeds in using ICRISAT's ability in breeding varieties of sorghum that have a higher content of sugar in their stalk. Through the Agri-Business Incubator (ABI), the technology commercialization arm of ICRISAT, the institute built a successful partnership with Rusni Distillery, a private-sector partner, to produce ethanol from sweet sorghum.
"By linking the distillery with the sorghum farmers we have helped empower small farmers to realize an additional end use and thereby increase their income and improve livelihood security," Dr Dar said.
Dr Dar added that the news of ICRISAT's breakthrough on producing ethanol from sweet sorghum is creating ripples internationally being a pioneering venture. "Soon this ethanol from sweet sorghum project will benefit not only the 3,000 farmers of Medak district who grow the crop, but also generate employment for many more farm families.
Mr A R Palaniswamy, Managing Director of Rusni Distilleries thanked ICRISAT for developing sweet sorghum varieties with higher juice content and also for building bridges with the private sector through the ABI at ICRISAT. The project has become a commercial reality because of this end-to-end planning and implementation.
Mr Palaniswamy holds the patent for the technology for producing ethanol from sweet sorghum stalk. This technology is being used for the Rusni plant.
The success of the ICRISAT-facilitated project in India has encouraged delegations from other countries to study and evaluate it for replication. Two Filipino delegations were recently at ICRISAT to understand and study the successful model in India so as to replicate it in the Philippines.
A team led by Hon Benedicto V Yujuico, Special Envoy of the President of the Philippines for Trade Relations visited ICRISAT to understand the model. An impressed Hon Yujuico said that he would recommend the replication of the model in the Philippines.
Another Filipino delegation, jointly led by Mr Nicomedes P Eleazer, Director, Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), and Dr Roberto F RaÃ±ola, Vice-Chancellor for Administration of the University of the Philippines Los BaÃ±os (UPLB) was at ICRISAT to study in depth the Indian model and the feasibility of developing it for replication in the Philippines.
The delegation has been tasked by the Government of Philippines to develop a road map and a feasibility plan for promoting ethanol as a biofuel in the Philippines.
A project has also been initated in Kampala, Uganda, by a private sector company, J N Agritech International Ltd. The partnership with the Ugandan company was built by Rusni Distillery with support of ABI at ICRISAT.
For further information, contact Dr Belum V Subba Reddy at b.reddy@cgiar. org
The European research funding organisations, under the umbrella of the
European Heads of Research Councils (EUROHORCS), have issued a second
call for proposals for the European Young Investigator (EURYI) Award.
The German Research Foundation (DFG) is responsible for the programme
administration in Germany. The aim of the EURYI Award is to effectively
enable and encourage outstanding young researchers from all over the
world to work in one of the participating European countries in the
programme for a five-year period. This is intended to support the
development of the next generation of leading researchers and, at the
same time, to increase the attractiveness of the European Research Area
on an international level.
This programme of excellence, which is committed to the idea of early
scientific independence, is based upon the "Memorandum of
Understanding", currently signed by 18 scientific organisations from 15
Proposals for the 2006 EURYI Award programme may be submitted to the
from 1 September through 30 November 2006.
Details are available at
Malawi formulates national biotechnology policy
By Rebecca Chimjeka
August 16, 2006
The government of Malawi is in the process of formulating a National Biotechnology Policy that aims to strengthen existing research institutions and improve the country's legal and regulatory framework.
This is to facilitate the safe application of biotechnology and the structured generation of innovation and intellectual property and rights.
"The National Biotechnology Policy would address socio-economic needs and utilisation of the country's natural resources and existing conservation rights," said Patrick Kachimera secretary for science and technology at a stake holders meeting on the National Biotechnology Policy held in the capital.
He also said the meeting would also help to address socio-economic needs and utilisation of the country's natural resources and existing conservation rights and help the country to combat disease and nutritional disorders brought about by genetically modified organism foods and increase agricultural productivity and trade.
He said that it was imperative for Malawi as a developing nation to put much emphasis on biotechnology research and development because it can enhance food security, nutritional status, health and well being, create jobs by stimulating economic growth and supporting environmental sustainability.
Kachimera said while there is little controversy about many aspects of biotechnology and its application, GMOs have the potential to increase productivity in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
"GMOs could lead to higher yields in marginal lands. There are already examples of genetic modification helping to reduce the transmission of human and animal diseases through new vaccines and diagonostic tests.
Rice and maize have been genetically modified to contain pro-vitamin A and Iron which could improve the nutritional status of many in the rurual areas," he said.
He said biotechnology, as with all technologies has risks that fall into two groups namely; the effects on human and animal health and the effects on crops and environment.
On human and animal health risk, he said the policy wants to ensure that caution is exercised to reduce the risk of transfering toxins or of transfering allergenic compounds from one species to another or causing resistance to drugs for treating certain diseases.
As a number of countries continue to produce food from GMO, Malawi has had experience of being supplied with GM maize to address the food shortage in 2001/2002, a situation which created problems since the country had no guidelines on how to handle GMO foods.
Solutions ranged from total denial to milling maize before disribution and prohibiting use of GM maize for seed. However, the latter two solutions were adopted.
New weapons for old enemies
FAO NEWS ROOM ONLINE
31 July 2006
During the 1988 desert locust plague, swarms crossed the Atlantic from Mauritania to the Caribbean, flying 5 000 kilometres in 10 days.
Scientists were stumped because migrating swarms normally come down to rest every night. But locusts canâ€™t swim, so how could it be?
It turned out that the swarms were coming down at sea â€“ on any ships they could find, but also in the water itself. The first ones in all drowned but their corpses made rafts for the other ones to rest on.
Since the dawn of agriculture more than 10 000 years ago mankind has had to deal with a resourceful and fearless enemy, Schistocerca gregaria, the desert locust. Normally loners, every so often these natives of the deserts from West Africa to India turn into vast, voracious swarms that leave hunger and poverty behind them wherever they go.
Throughout history, farmers and governments have made attempts to repel the bands and swarms of locusts by collecting insects, creating noise, making smoke and burying and burning the insects. But all of this had little effect. With swarms sometimes extending for hundreds of kilometres, and containing billions of individuals, they conquered by sheer force of numbers.
It has long puzzled humans where these animals came from and where they survived. Only in the mid-20th century was it realized that the light brown solitary desert-dwelling insect was the same species as the red and yellow locusts of the plagues. Only when its biology was understood and chemical pesticides and aerial spraying became available a few decades ago, could efforts be made to control the insect. But large-scale pesticide use also raised real concerns for human health and the environment.
On the seventh-floor Emergency Centre for Locust Operations (ECLO) at FAO Headquarters in Rome, Keith Cressman, FAO's locust forecaster, checks current environmental conditions and locust population data from the three computer screens on his desk. The last big locust upsurge ended early in 2005 and the current alert level is green or calm.
The experts at FAOâ€™s ECLO are readying to fight the next round in the age-old battle against locusts â€“ wherever and whenever that may be.
â€œThe next time,â€ says Cressman, â€œweâ€™ll fight with new toolsâ€.
New bio-control agents
Recent advances in biological control research, coupled with improved surveillance and intelligence, could make a big difference when the next round in the battle is fought. Such products could make it possible to sharply reduce the amount of chemical pesticides used.
One promising avenue is research currently under way at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi. An ICIPE team headed by a Zanzibar-born chemical ecologist, Ahmed Hassanali, has identified and synthesized a specific locust pheromone, or chemical signal, that can be used against young locusts with devastating effect.
Phenylacetonitrile, or PAN for short, normally governs swarming behaviour in adult males who also use it to warn other males to leave them in peace while they mate. But, Hassanali found it has startlingly different results on juvenile wingless locusts, known as hoppers.
Just as adult locusts form swarms, hoppers will, given the right conditions, stop behaving as individuals and line up in marauding bands up to 5 kilometres wide. They are only slightly less voracious than adults, who eat their own weight of food every day.
In three separate field trials â€“ the most recent in Sudan last year â€“ Hassanaliâ€™s team showed that even minute doses of PAN could stop hopper bands dead in their tracks and make them break ranks.
PAN caused the insects to resume solitary behaviour. Confused and disoriented, some lost their appetite altogether, while others turned cannibal and ate one other. Any survivors were easy prey for predators.
What makes PAN particularly attractive is that the dose needed is only a fraction â€“ typically less than 10 millilitres per hectare â€“ of the quantities of chemical or biological pesticides. This translates into substantially lower costs â€“ 50 cents per hectare as opposed to US$12 for chemical pesticides and $15-20 for other bio-control agents.
That is clearly a major consideration in the countries in the front line â€“ many of them among the worldâ€™s poorest.
A different, but also highly effective biological approach is Green Muscle Â®, a bio-pesticide developed by the International Institute for Tropical Agricultureâ€™s biological control centre in Cotonou, Benin, and manufactured in South Africa.
Green Muscle Â® contains spores of the naturally occurring fungus Metarhizium anisopliae var. acridum, which germinate on the skin of locusts and penetrate through their exoskeletons. The fungus then destroys the locust's tissues from the inside. This is definitely not good news for locusts, but the fungus has no effect on other life forms.
Although Green Muscle Â® is already successfully used in Australia, its introduction in Africa and Asia is being slowed by several factors. These include a need for further large-scale trials, official approval of the product in several countries, and a relatively short shelf-life in its normal ready-to-spray liquid form. One drawback is that it takes days to kill the locusts. It is also relatively expensive and large-scale production would need to be organized.
A solution would be to store the product in powder form and dilute it just before use. Hassanaliâ€™s team has also shown that, if used in combination with a small amount of PAN, only a quarter of the normal dose of Green Muscle Â® is needed.
Insect Growth Regulators
Also being readied for the modern locust fighterâ€™s armoury is a class of products known as Insect Growth Regulators, or IGRs, which influence the ability of hoppers to moult and grow properly. They have no direct toxic effects on vertebrates.
IGRs are effective for several weeks after application and can be used in so-called barrier treatments. In this method only narrow swathes of the product are applied, perpendicular to the direction of the marching hopper bands. Only 10 percent of the amount used in blanket treatment is needed. After marching over one or two barriers the hoppers absorb enough product to die while moulting.
As with PAN and Green Muscle Â®, however, IGRs need to be aimed at locusts at an early stage in their lives, before they take to the air. That, in turn, requires an advanced level of surveillance and intelligence-gathering to make sure that any locust concentrations are nipped in the bud.
Although back at ECLO Keith Cressman has satellites, computers and mathematical models at his disposal, the weak link in the chain has been the time it takes to get good information from the field.
The mobile ground teams whose job it is to keep tabs on locust populations have to work in some of the worldâ€™s remotest, hottest and sometimes (for environmental and security reasons) most hostile places. A week or more might go by before a report from, say, the central Sahara, reached Cressmanâ€™s desk. By that time the locusts â€“ â€œThey donâ€™t need visas,â€ he says â€“ would quite likely have moved to another country or continent altogether.
This will soon change however. Field teams are now being issued with special hand-held devices to record vital locust and environmental data and relay them back to their own headquarters and on to Rome in real time.
Developed by the French Space Agency CNES, the eLocust2 device is able to bounce the information off communications satellites and have the data arrive in the National Locust Control Centre in the affected country a few minutes later, from where they are passed on to Cressman for analysis. In case of unusually heavy hopper concentrations, immediate action can be taken to make sure that the locusts never grow old enough to swarm.
Back to the field
Writing in Science magazine, locust expert Martin Enserink gave the following graphic description of a locust population gone out of control:
â€œOn a beautiful November morning (in Morocco) itâ€™s clear, even from afar, that somethingâ€™s terribly wrong with the trees around this tiny village. They are covered with a pinkish-red gloss, as if their leaves were changing colour...
"As you get closer, the hue becomes a wriggling mass; a giant cap of insects on every tree, devouring the tiny leaves. Get closer still and youâ€™ll hear a soft drizzle: the steady stream of locust droppings falling to the ground.â€
Such nightmare visions, and locust plagues with them, may one day be a thing of the past.
The Challenge Program on Water and Food , an international agricultural
research initiative, (www.waterandfood.org
Vientiane, Lao PDR, November 12 - 17, 2006 (see call for Abstracts
One of the sessions (#15) will specifically cover issues related to
Capacity Building for Water and Food Research in Africa, Asia, and
You have been identified as an expert on issues related to science and
technology development, education, training, and/or the role of
building in economic development. We are interested in your
contributions to these topics as they relate to agriculture, water, and
the environment and therefore, the CPWF encourages you to participate
this call for Abstracts.
The CPWF is particularly interested in hearing your views on the
1. Tertiary education policies and their alignment with global and
regional economic, agriculture and water sector goals
2. Capacity building along the research for development spectrum
3. Appropriate indicators for measuring capacity building impact,
success and or progress in the water and food research realm.
4 Performance/Effectiveness of regional capacity building networks
5. Performance / Effectiveness of North-South partnerships (research
and or education programs)
6. Brain drain and job markets for water and food professions
7. Capacity building in post - conflict settings
8. Any other topic of critical relevance to capacity building for
and food research
Please forward this email to other colleagues you feel would be good
contributors to this topic.
If you have any comments or questions about this call for
abstracts, would like more complete descriptions of the topics, or are
concerned with the tight deadline for submissions, please do not
hesitate to contact me.
Thank you for you consideration and we hope to hear from you.
Marcia F. Macomber
Capacity Building Officer
Challenge Program on Water and Food
P.O. Box 2075, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 - 11 - 278 -7404, ext 2302
Fax: +94 - 11 - 278 - 4083
Here are key dates for the submission.
Latest date for conveners to notify authors of whether or not their
abstracts have been accepted.
Latest date for which authors can submit draft papers, posters and
briefing notes to conveners
12 â€“ 17 November
Final papers submitted to conveners.
*Call for abstracts and posters*
The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) calls for
abstracts to contribute to a highly innovative, interactive
International Forum on Water and Food, to be hosted by the MekongRiver
The CPWF is an international research program focussing on the need
to produce more food with less water in the fields of crop-water
productivity improvement; water and people in catchments; aquatic
ecosystems and fisheries; integrated basin water management systems
and the global and national food and water system.
Abstracts should be restricted to 500 words and submitted on-line at
Authors should focus on innovative, plausible solutions to the
problems of water productivity with policy and development
relevance. All abstracts presented will be reviewed, and will
contribute to discussions and poster presented presentations at the
Forum. Selected abstracts will be asked to prepare full papers for
special issues of international, peer reviewed journals.
The International Forum on Water and Food will address a wide range
of topics and issues. For more details of these and the submission
process go to _http://www.waterandfood.org/index.php?id=408_
Environmental News Network
Millions of People Die Annually from Preventable Environmental Causes
June 16, 2006 â€” By Associated Press
GENEVA â€” Filthy drinking water, mosquitoes and other avoidable menaces kill 13 million people a year, the World Health Organization said Friday.
The threat from poorly controlled contact with surroundings is especially lethal to children, Geneva-based WHO said in a 104-page report called "Preventing Disease through Healthy Environments."
While 24 percent of the diseases affecting the general population result from exposure to threats in the environment, the figure rises to more than 33 percent for children, it said.
Children account for 94 percent of deaths from diarrhea, one of the biggest childhood killers, resulting largely from unsafe water, it said.
Forty percent of the people who die annually from malaria are children, the report said. It said the disease could be curbed by keeping housing away from mosquito breeding areas.
The U.N. agency said the study broke new ground because it developed a "hit list" of environmental causes of disease that could best be tackled by a coordinated approach to reduce threats.
"The four main diseases influenced by poor environments are diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, various forms of unintentional injuries and malaria," the report said.
It recommended promoting better management of water resources including safer household storage, the use of cleaner fuels, better built housing and more careful use of poisons in the home and workplace.
Many road traffic injuries resulted largely from poor design of urban areas and transport systems, it said.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which leads to a gradual loss of lung function, often results from exposure to workplace dusts and fumes and other forms of indoor and outdoor air pollution, the report said.
"Preventing environmental risk could save as many as 4 million lives a year, mostly in developing countries," the report said.
"We call on ministries of health, environment and other partners to work together to ensure that these environmental and public health gains become a reality," said Dr. Maria Neira, director of WHO's Department for Public Health and Environment.
WHO said the report was based on systematic review of scientific literature as well as surveys of more than 100 experts worldwide.
Source: Associated Press
SOUTH AFRICA: June 16, 2006
CAPE TOWN - South Africa's use of controversial pesticide DDT has helped it achieve a huge reduction in malaria cases over the past five years, the health minister said on Thursday.
DDT is effective in killing malaria-spreading mosquitoes but is blamed for deaths, cancer and birth defects and is outlawed by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, except when used for disease control.
South Africa stopped using the insecticide in 1996 due to international pressure but re-introduced it four years later after other insecticides were found to be less effective due to drug resistance.
"This change in insecticide was one of the main contributing factors to the decline in malaria cases in the past five years in South Africa," Health Minister Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang said in written reply to a parliamentary question.
"South Africa has reduced malaria morbidity and mortality by approximately 88 percent and 86 percent, respectively, compared to the year 2000," she said.
Official data shows the country had 7,754 reported cases of malaria and 64 deaths from the disease in 2005 compared to 64,622 cases and 438 deaths in 2000.
Malaria, a parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes, is one of the biggest killers in sub-Saharan Africa, with the vast majority of the one million, mostly children, it kills a year living in that region.
Tshabalala-Msimang said South Africa was aware of the controversy around the use of DDT for malaria control and invested heavily in training staff to use the chemical safely.
"For this reason DDT is used judiciously strictly for public health reasons and its application is on the inside walls of houses and under the eaves of mud structures," she added.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
Waste not: ecological sanitation breaks new ground in Africa
In many African countries sanitation systems are in crisis, affecting the well-being of many. Over the years existing systems have come under increasing pressure through population growth. Conventional systems are not able to cope with rising demand. Ecological sanitation (EcoSan) could prove a viable alternative system. Research by the Water and Sanitation Program draws on the experience of various EcoSan projects in eastern and southern Africa. The study explores the progress and impact of selected projects, identifying different lessons that can be learnt. Several governments have begun to explore
the potential of EcoSan to improve the provision of sanitation
services. Well managed EcoSan can also provide much needed nutrients to support agricultural activity. Activities can range from simply planting trees and food plants on filled up toilet pits to composting human excreta and re-using the products for manure in agriculture. Research into existing projects found that: Heavily subsidised projects with a top-down approach were not sustainable in the long run and did not encourage ownership among users. Many families are unaware of the health and agricultural benefits. However, successful projects have led to increased demand in the community. Cultural norms can cause strong negative sentiments towards reusing excreta. Inappropriate technologies can result in poor handling of sanitation systems leading to hygiene problems. Sanitation systems in Africa face a big challenge of limited coverage and increasing demand. Under some circumstances ecological sanitation systems could prove to be a viable alternative approach. Pilot projects have realised only some of the potential benefits so far. Very few projects have reached the point where local communities copy EcoSan toilets using their own resources. Generally, projects need to be more carefully designed to fit the local context with regard to technology, culture and sense of ownership. To overcome some of these challenges the report recommends:
Projects need to be carefully and properly designed, including using subsidies sparingly. Because of cultural sentiments, the idea of EcoSan, particularly the reuse of excreta, requires sensitive promotion. Technologies need to be appropriate within the local context and should draw on locally available materials. User education needs explain the benefits of EcoSan as well as the correct use and risks of such systems.
â€˜A review of EcoSan Experience in Eastern and Southern Africaâ€™, Water and Sanitation Program â€“ Africa Field Note by Barry Jackson, January 2005
id21 Research Highlight: 2 December 2005
Water and Sanitation Program â€“ Africa
Hill Park Building
Upper Hill Road
PO Box 30577
Tel: +254 20 322 6306
Fax: +254 20 322 6386
Contact the contributor: wspaf(at)worldbank.org
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