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Archive for July 29th, 2012

International agric chiefs commend high quality of research at IITA

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2012

The Chair of the Consortium Board of CGIAR, Dr Carlos Pérez del Castillo has commended the high quality of research work being undertaken by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), emphasizing that this is needed now more than ever to tackle the challenges to food security of tropical nations not only in Africa but also the rest of the world.

Dr Pérez del Castillo was at the Ibadan campus of IITA last week for an official visit. He was accompanied by the Chief Executive Officer of the CGIAR Consortium, Dr Frank Rijsberman; IITA Board Chair, Dr Bruce Coulman; and the Directors General of two other CGIAR Consortium Centers: Dr Papa Seck of AfricaRice, and Dr Jimmy Smith of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Dr Pérez del Castillo said, “We are very impressed with our interactions with IITA scientists and the high quality of science they are doing in various fields. Their degree of commitment and passion to IITA’s mission of eradicating hunger and poverty through their science is nothing short of amazing. We are extremely happy with what we’ve seen during this visit.”

He particularly cited IITA’s “food production systems” approach to addressing agricultural constraints, stressing that such a strategy would greatly benefit farmers and help feed the world’s growing population.

Rather than addressing agricultural development bottlenecks on an individual commodity basis, the “production system” approach integrates the diverse options available such as crop improvement, markets, and natural resource management, among others. It is a holistic way of thinking that seeks to improve livelihoods, increase incomes, and promote sustainable development.

“In the past, most of the research was centered around either commodities or natural resource management, but the production system approach—which brings together all the components from different centers—will deliver better impact on the livelihoods of the poor in different ecosystems. This different way of doing things will certainly bring about solutions that couldn’t be achieved on an individual mandate,” Dr Pérez del Castillo explained.

The CGIAR chief said that he sees IITA playing a vital role in leading holistic global research initiatives to find workable solutions to the challenges of agricultural underdevelopment, food insecurity, and natural resource degradation, given its impressive track record of research-based achievements in sub-Saharan Africa.

A CGIAR-commissioned study showed that IITA research is responsible for 70 percent of the CGIAR’s impact in Africa.

“Probably not the whole solution, but I am sure that agricultural research is very much needed to meet these challenges whether it is climate change, food price volatility, energy—food crops being diverted to biofuels—and feeding the growing population,” Dr Pérez del Castillo added.

IITA Board Chair, Dr Bruce Coulman explained that under its new Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, the institute is embarking on a comprehensive 10-year strategy that outlines its bold plans of raising 20 million people out of poverty and also reclaiming 25 million hectares of degraded land in the tropics including Africa, Asia, and the Latin America by 2020.

In the last decade, the CGIAR has been undergoing a wide-ranging reform process to make it more responsive to the changing agricultural development landscape, positioning itself to offer greater impact and improve the livelihoods of millions of people. One important outcome of the reform is the agreement by international agricultural research centers to work closer together using a common strategy to ensure a food secure future for all while sustaining the natural resource base.

Dr Rijsberman said the reforms would ensure that centers offer “good value for money”, referring to investments by donors to agricultural research.

### L-R: Board Chair of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Bruce Coulman; Board Chair of the CGIAR Consortium, Dr Carlos Pérez del Castillo; Director General, IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga; Director General, International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI, Dr Jimmy Smith; Chief Executive Officer of CGIAR Consortium, Dr Frank Rijsberman; and Deputy Director General, Partnerships and Capacity Building, IITA, Dr Kenton Dashiell; during the visit of the CGIAR team in IITA Ibadan, Nigeria L-R: Board Chair of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Bruce Coulman; Board Chair of the CGIAR Consortium, Dr Carlos Pérez del Castillo; Director General, IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga; Director General, International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI, Dr Jimmy Smith; Chief Executive Officer of CGIAR Consortium, Dr Frank Rijsberman; and Deputy Director General, Partnerships and Capacity Building, IITA, Dr Kenton Dashiell; during the visit of the CGIAR team in IITA Ibadan, Nigeria

CGIAR ( is a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future. Its science is carried out by the 15 research centers who are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations. IITA is a member of the CGIAR Consortium.

IITA ( is an international non-profit research-for-development organization established in 1967 and governed by a Board of Trustees. We work with partners in Africa and beyond to enhance crop quality and productivity, reduce producer and consumer risks, and generate wealth from agriculture. Our award-winning research for development is anchored on the development needs of tropical countries.

IITA is a member of the CGIAR Consortium.




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South Africa’s mother-to-child HIV transmission rate

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2012

South Africa’s mother-to-child HIV transmission rate has dropped from 8 percent in 2008 to 2.7 percent today (file photo)

WASHINGTON DC,  – South Africa has charted a significant decline in mother-to-child HIV transmission for the second consecutive year, with new data showing that just 2.7 percent of babies born to HIV-positive mums contracted the virus by six weeks of age, compared to 8 percent in 2008.

The new figures – recently released by South Africa’s Medical Research Council (MRC), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the US Centres for Disease Control and others – represent a significant decrease from those presented in June 2011, when 3.5 percent of all babies born to women living with HIV had contracted the virus before, during or shortly after birth.

The research, conducted between April 2011 and March 2012, shows there are also fewer disparities between the rates in South Africa’s nine provinces than those released in 2011, when they ranged from nearly 6 percent to about 2.5 percent.

Significant improvements were recorded in provinces where the provision of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services had been poor, such as rural areas in Mpumalanga and Free State provinces, as well as Western Cape, but less than 2 percent of babies born to women living with HIV in these regions now contract the virus.

Without treatment, up to 40 percent of babies born to HIV-positive women could become infected with the virus during pregnancy and delivery, but the risk drops below 5 percent when the women have access to PMTCT services.

Researchers estimate that about 120,000 infant HIV infections were averted as a result of expanded provision of PMTCT services.

South Africa’s Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, welcomed the results and said that if this success could be sustained, it would help curb high infant mortality rates fuelled by HIV – 42 out of every 1,000 babies born die before the age of one in South Africa.

Current PMTCT figures only tracked babies until they were six weeks old, but Motsoaledi said the government and its research partners are planning surveys to examine what percentage of mother-to-child transmission occurs after this point.

To further reduce the mother-to-child transmission risk, the country started promoting exclusive breastfeeding in April 2012.

“As we implement our exclusive breastfeeding policy, I would like us to ensure that all eligible HIV-positive mothers are on antiretroviral therapy for the duration of breastfeeding, so that there is no HIV transmission after six weeks of age,” said Motsoaledi. “It is imperative that infants born HIV negative remain HIV negative.”

After mixed feeding, in which mothers combine breast milk and solids, was found to increase the risk of infants contracting HIV through their mother’s milk, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) recommended exclusive breastfeeding for HIV-positive mothers on ARVs in the infant’s first six months of life to reduce the risk of transmission.



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Opium not a good livelihood

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2012

DAKAR,  – Upwards of 90 percent of the opium poppies in Myanmar’s northern region are grown in Shan State, even though farmers are aware that if they grow an illicit crop, it may be eradicated and they could lose everything Alternative livelihood support is needed if growers are to be weaned off this double-edged source of income.

“Farmers grow opium poppy to buy food, pay off debt and have a cash income to pay school fees and health expenses,” Gary Lewis, regional representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) told IRIN. “To be effective we need to give farming communities alternatives which can provide a sustainable basis for them to earn a livelihood.”

UNODC and NGOs have been working with local farmers for the past decade, trying to lure them away from poppy cultivation by providing alternative livelihood solutions, along with improved access to roads, waterways, irrigation, and community health services.

“Until recently, UNODC alternative development assistance, funded by the European Union and the governments of Germany and Japan, was limited to small development projects in just three south Shan townships – wholly inadequate to Shan State and Myanmar’s needs for improved infrastructure, markets, schools and sustainable livelihoods”, said Lewis.

More than half a century of internal conflict between government forces and various ethnic and political rebel groups tore the country apart, causing instability and poverty. Ceasefire treaties signed in early 2012 with groups in northern Myanmar, like the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), have allowed access to areas that were previously unreachable.

After the ceasefires, the government approved townships where the UN drug agency can work, including access to 25 additional townships in Shan State.

“We are encouraged by the recent ceasefire agreements and the fact that the national authorities have expanded the areas in Shan State in which UNODC is allowed to work,” Lewis said. “Solve the challenges of chronic poverty, decreasing rural food security, and armed conflict – and you can begin to draw farmers away from poppy.”

An opium survey by UNODC in 2011 points out that there has been a marked increase in the area under opium cultivation in Myanmar – from 38,100 hectares in 2010 to 43,600 hectares in 2011 – mostly in Shan State. Yet the government has significantly increased its eradication efforts and a total of 6,124 hectares of opium poppy were destroyed there in 2011, compared to 5,316 hectares eradicated in 2010, the survey noted.

“What happens in Myanmar’s Shan State affects the whole region’s security,” Lewis warned. “Now is the time for the international community to engage in alternative development in the poppy-growing regions… as a natural counterbalance to the increased enforcement being conducted.”

But political instability and poverty remain high in the area and there is a strong chance that farmers could return to poppy cultivation if there is no alternative. According to the annual opium survey, poppies can bring in nine to 15 times more money per hectare than rice. Crops like maize, tea and rice are more labour intensive than poppies, and require expensive inputs, such as fertilizers, to cultivate and transport to markets.

“Food shortages still exist and most households rely on purchasing food than on their own production,” said Ohnmar Khaing, coordinator of the Food Security Working group (FSWG) in Myanmar, an umbrella group of national and international NGOs.

“Today, poorest of the poor ex-poppy farmers need help to turn to other crops… The reality is that the internal push to reduce opium poppy is proceeding too quickly, and without adequate resources or examination of the implications for the forgotten, impoverished poppy farmers,” Khaing noted.

“The essential challenge is to create development initiatives and economic incentives that provide attractive and viable legal alternatives for farmers.”

fm/pt/he source


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