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Uganda leads rice research

first_imgA rice farmer in his field near Lira, Uganda.(Image: Eyeing Africa, flickr) A representative of the AgriculturalProductivity Enhancement Program inUganda explains how to care for uplandrice.(Image: US Department of State)Janine ErasmusUganda is to open a world-class research centre for rice. The country received a R56-million ($6-million) grant from Japan, one of the world’s leading rice growers, to establish the facility, which will be based at the Namulonge Crops Research Institute in the southern district of Wakiso.Research will focus on the New Rice for Africa (Nerica) variety, a crop that showed much potential when it was first introduced in Guinea in 1997 and is increasingly being hailed as a miracle product.The deal was signed on 22 March 2009 in Kampala by Ugandan finance minister Syda Bbumba and Seki Tetsuo of the Japan International Co-operation Agency. Bbumba, who is also chair of the East African Development Bank‘s governing council, said that the Ugandan government is promoting rice as part of its Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture initiative.This programme is one of Uganda’s key strategies in the fight against poverty. “Uganda is centrally positioned to produce food for the region, and rice is one of the crops sorely needed,” said Bbumba, adding that agricultural produce as a driver of regional trade would stimulate economic growth.Africa’s staple cropRice is a staple crop in much of Africa, but embattled farmers on the continent struggle daily with challenges such as drought, competition with animals, and pests. Nerica has changed their fortunes – according to the United Nations, farmers in African countries where Nerica is currently grown are now achieving plentiful harvests.Not only are the farmers able to support their families, but there is enough left over to sell in the markets  and earn a profit.The reason that Nerica grows well in the unforgiving African soil is because it is a hybrid, a cross between the hardy African variety Oryza glaberrima, and the high-yielding Asian variety O. sativa. It exhibits the best features of both – resistance to drought and pests, early maturing, higher yields even when irrigation or fertiliser are lacking, and more protein content than other types of rice.For his work in helping to develop the hardy strain, Sierra Leonian scientist Dr Monty Jones was a co-recipient of the prestigious World Food Prize in 2004. Jones was also named as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2007.Ugandans consume about 160 000 tons of rice per year. To address this need, the Ugandan government is vigorously promoting upland rice, which is grown in dry soil, as opposed to the traditional method of growing the crop in a flooded paddy field.The new research facility is expected to increase productivity and improve the quality of rice cultivated in East Africa. Japanese ambassador to Uganda Kato Keiichi said that research into rice was a key sector of co-operation between his country and Uganda.Japanese-African co-operationThe Far East country is also investing into areas such as infrastructure development in Uganda. Currently the Japanese government is carrying out a feasibility study on the construction of the Nile Bridge in Jinja and one on the proposed Ayago North hydropower dam.In 2008 Japan pledged to help Uganda financially to build a bridge over the Nile River at Jinja to replace the 54-year-old bridge at the Owen Falls dam, which has developed serious structural faults and is in imminent danger of collapsing.Uganda, a land-locked country, relies on the bridge as it connects the south-western part of the country with the eastern and central portions and is vital for trade. The White Nile flows out of Lake Victoria in the south-east and bisects the country as it heads northward to merge with the Blue Nile in Khartoum, Sudan, forming the Nile proper. Uganda’s land-locked neighbours Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo also need the bridge as it is the only link to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa.Japan is also assisting in preparations for the construction of the proposed 500 MW Ayago hydropower project. The development will be situated near Ayago village in the Murchison Falls National Park in the north-west, at the confluence of the Ayago and Victoria Nile Rivers. Installed electricity-generating capacity in Uganda is only 300 MW, and it is estimated that by 2025 the country will need 2 000 MW to run homes and industries.Other areas of co-operation include the extraction of phosphates fertilisers, the production of biofuel using oil from the Jatropha curcas plant, said to be one of the best candidates for biofuel manufacture, and further infrastructure development in northern Uganda.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Contact Janine Erasmus at [email protected] stories“Miracle” rice fights African hungerSurplus food for the starvingUseful linksAfrica Rice CentreNational Crops Resources Research Institute (Uganda)Africancrops.netPlan for Modernisation of AgricultureInternational Rice Research InstituteJapan International Co-operation Agencylast_img read more

South Africa’s future renewable energy mecca

first_imgEmily van Rijswijck South Africa will soon be leading the continent in green energy, with 28 independent wind farms and solar power projects now on the drawing board and national electricity supplier Eskom coming to the party. (Image: Flickr) MEDIA CONTACTS • Thandiwe Maimane  Department of Energy  +27 12 444 4256 / +27 83 645 7837 RELATED ARTICLES • Call to action for a green economy • Dube solar project in time for COP17 • Kyoto Protocol extended at COP17 • New wind farm for SA • More wind power for SAThe majority of South Africa’s new renewable energy projects will be located in the greater Cape area with its abundant potential to tap into sun and wind energy.Of the 28 independent power producers of wind and solar energy who were successful in the first bidding process of the Department of Energy, 24 will be located in South Africa’s Northern, Eastern and Western Cape. The other four projects are earmarked for the Free State (1), the North-West (1) and two in Limpopo.The first preferred bidders for the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers programme (IPP) were announced by the Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters, on 7 December.The announcement was made during COP17, the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Durban over November and December. COP 17 was hailed as successful after developed and developing countries committed to a new legally binding deal to reduce emissions, with a date set for 2015.With the new green projects a total of 1415 MW clean energy could become available for South Africa’s growing energy demands by no later than 2016.The IPP programme has a further 2 209MW in renewable projects available in the second window of allocations which will be concluded in March 2012. The South African government has set itself an overall target of 3725 MW of energy generated from large-scale green technology by 2025.First phase onlyChosen out of a total group of 53 applicants, the successful bidders were evaluated on six factors and had to pass all six to go onto the next phase. Environmental, land, commercial legal, economic development, financial and technical factors were considered by a panel of international and local experts.But the process is by no means over and these 28 preferred bidders could still fall by the wayside with the next deadline looming. It is now up to them to successfully conclude their project arrangements, which include submitting completed environmental impact assessments for the financial close deadline of 30 June 2012.Construction of the actual projects will only commence thereafter but all projects have to be operational by 2016, at the latest.The department also plans to launch another programme for smaller projects of less than 5 MW. “This programme will benefit mainly small projects requiring limited capital and the qualification requirements will be less demanding on the developers,” the department has confirmed. An allocation of 100 MW has been set aside for the small-scale projects with the allocations process starting early in 2012.Sun and wind energyThe majority of the projects in the first batch of allocations aim to tap into the abundant sun energy available in South Africa with 18 photo-voltaic solar projects and two concentrating solar power projects scheduled to commence during the latter part of next year. This will bring in a total of 781 MW of solar energy to the power grid.The bid process also awarded eight new wind energy projects for South Africa. Not surprisingly, the Eastern Cape, notorious for its extremely windy conditions, will see the erection of five new wind farms in the very near future: this at Oyster Bay, Van Stadens and Jeffreysbay on the coast and two inland at Cookhouse and Molteno.Another two wind farms will be located in the Western Cape – at Dassiesklip and Hopefield and one will be erected at Noblesfontein in the Northern Cape.The first phase wind projects will on completion add a combined total of 634 MW of wind energy, with the 135 MW Cookhouse farm and the 133 MW Jeffreysbay farm the two biggest.Outside of the bidding process, national power supplier Eskom has confirmed that it is going ahead with the construction of the Sere wind farm in Vredendal, set for completion by the end of 2013 with a 1.5 MW capacity.South Africa’s first successful wind farm, located at Darling, started operating in 2008 and produces about 5.2 MW. Peters recently launched the South African wind energy awareness campaign, “Powered by Wind”, with Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building Martin Lidegaard. The campaign is focussing on creating awareness around wind energy and will be rolled out in 2012. As part of the project the International Energy Agency will assist in drawing up a resource map and establishing a wind atlas for Africa.Opening up the energy mixFor its part, the IPP programme stems from government’s desire to broaden the energy mix of the country. In May this year the Department of Energy promulgated the 2010 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the country’s blueprint on the energy mix for the power sector in the period running up to 2030.A critical part of the IRP is to bring private green energy producers into the fold, with the IPP programme aimed at doing just that and the bidding process forming part of this.At the moment state-owned Eskom is South Africa’s dominant supplier of coal-based energy, providing over 90% of the country’s energy needs. South Africa has just one nuclear plant, at Koeberg.With global sentiment moving ever more strongly towards renewable energy, the South African government has set out its green technology interventions through the New Growth Path framework. At the same time its Response on Climate Change white paper sets out its vision for an effective climate change response going into the future. The white paper has a long-term plan to change the reliance of the country’s economy from coal-based energy to more renewable energy sources.The white paper confirms that South Africa is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions as a result of its coal-based economy, as compared to that of other developing countries in Africa. The latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory (base year 2000) found that electricity generation contributed just under 40% of total emissions, while industrial process emissions constituted around 14% of total emissions in the country.At the recent COP17, President Jacob Zuma also spelled out South Africa’s mitigation approach:“At COP15 in Copenhagen, we announced our commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 34% in 2020 and by 42% in 2025, with support from developed countries with regards to finance, technology and capacity-building,” he confirmed to delegates at the opening.Leading up to COP17, a landmark Green Economy Accord was signed between government, trade unions, the community constituency and the business community in which everyone committed to a greener economy for South Africa. In the process, the partners envisage creating 300 000 green jobs by 2020 and promoting conditions for the poor in particular.last_img read more

Research output rises, papers double

first_imgProf Anastassios Pouris, director of the Institute for Technological Innovation at the University of Pretoria. (Image: University of Pretoria) Prof Doug Rawlings, acting vice-rector for research at Stellenbosch University. (Image: Stellenbosch University) MEDIA CONTACTS • Prof Anastassios Pouris  University of Pretoria  +27 12 420 3843 RELATED ARTICLES • New mining industry centre launched • SA academic gets top science award • Top award for local invasion biologist • SA academic elected to top councilWilma den HartighFindings of a recent analysis of South Africa’s scientific performance show that the country increased its research output between 2000 and 2010.South Africa has also more than doubled its publication numbers in this period, improved its international publications ranking by two positions, and was ranked 33rd in the world.These findings were published in a research paper by Professor Anastassios Pouris, director of the Institute for Technological Innovation at the University of Pretoria, in the South African Journal of Science.In his paper, Science in South Africa: The dawn of a new renaissance? figures for the 10-year period between 2000 and 2010 show that the country has more than doubled its paper publication numbers, from 3 617 in 2000, to 7 468 in 2010.However, publishing South Africa’s achievements in the area of research isn’t just about flaunting impressive numbers. Our growing publication profile has important implications and numerous benefits for the country.Many benefits“Rising research output is an indicator of economic growth and development of the country,” Pouris says.He explains that there is a relationship between the research output of academics and economic growth, which can influence policies aimed at improving a country’s research performance.In another study investigating this connection, also co-authored by Pouris, he points out that knowledge accumulation is considered one of the key factors affecting the productive capacity of a country, and its capacity for international competitiveness.This is where South Africans can benefit.The results of his study show that if research undertaken in a country can promote economic growth, it is an incentive for the science and technology community to motivate for more resources and funding.Increasing the country’s academic output means universities have more postgraduate students, and as these numbers grow tertiary institutions can employ more academics. He says it also indicates that the education level of employees in South Africa is improving.The role of government fundingGovernment-led interventions are one of the main reasons for the upward trend in South Africa’s published research figures.Pouris suggests that the Department of Education’s new funding formula, implemented in the 2004/05 financial year, has proved successful in encouraging South African academics to publish more research. The new formula has increased financial support to higher education institutions according to postgraduate numbers and publication output. For each peer reviewed article produced by a staff member, the university would receive about R120 000 (US$14 500).Prof Doug Rawlings, acting vice-rector for research at Stellenbosch University, agrees that research output has increased as a result of this incentive.“This is a huge incentive for universities,” Rawlings says. “It also makes a major contribution to our funding.”Although this particular funding model has its flaws, Pouris’s study notes that South African universities are transferring some of those financial incentives to individual researchers.His paper argues that while the funding formula fails to recognise differences in publication patterns among disciplines, it has the potential to become an effective funding method, if some changes can be made to the policy.He also recommends that the government relooks at the issue of possible disproportionate support to research-weak universities in the form of development grants.Other government interventions that were introduced during the decade under review, which are likely to have made a valuable contribution to research productivity, include the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) 10-year innovation plan in 2007 and the promulgation of intellectual property laws to encourage entrepreneurship and research activities in public universities.The DST also established the Technology Innovation Agency and the South African National Space Agency in 2008.Other funding sourcesAlthough corporate support for research is aimed primarily at targeted projects rather than an investment in science generally, it is an important source of funding nonetheless.Funding from international donors is also on the rise. “Funding to research global issues is growing,” says Rawlings.He explains that research priorities focussing on issues highlighted by the millennium development goals attract funding from organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation.Tweaking the country’s research focusPouris says there is a need to improve research in certain fields. “We argue that there are particular disciplines where we can do better – such as engineering and technology – which are still underemphasised research areas.”Research in these disciplines is often neglected and the entry barrier is high as researchers need more resources such as expensive technology and equipment.He added that to bolster research even further, it is important to increase the number of students who enrol for tertiary education. Internationally, 50% to 60% of all students between the ages of 18 and 24 complete higher education, whereas in South Africa this figure is only 18%.“We have to expand the number of students going to university,” he says.Research prioritiesRawlings says it is important to balance research priorities in South Africa to ensure that both local and international research is prioritised.In South Africa there is a pressing need to continue local research into issues that are unique to the country, such as the conservation of fynbos in the Cape regions, and HIV/Aids.“We are very strong in these areas,” he says.Research to support the country’s key industries such as mining or agriculture is also on-going.South Africa’s growing research output and participation in international research is also important to boost the country’s credibility as a participant in the global research arena.“If South Africa has credibility in multinational projects we can play a greater role,” he says.Rawlings anticipates that South Africa’s role in multinational research initiatives with global significance such as fresh water resources, global warming and energy will expand.Programmes such as the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, which was recently jointly awarded to South Africa and Australia, as well as the Southern African Large Telescope in Sutherland are both multinational projects where local research talent have a strong presence.What the research paper makes clear is the importance of funding to sustain the momentum behind the country’s research productivity.• Image courtesy of blogs.sun.ac.zalast_img read more

Alexandra pupils benefit from Urban Scholar Bicycle project

first_imgQhubeka is part of @PowerOfBicycles.Together,we help people access education & economic opportunity with bicycles. pic.twitter.com/hBmojrNrre—Qhubeka™ (@Qhubeka) June 28,2016Almost 360 Alexandra high school pupils recently received bicycles donated by AutoTrader, the Qhubeka NGO and the City of Johannesburg as part of the Urban Scholar Bicycle (USB) programme. Dimension Data is also a financial partner in the project.The project was set up to provide schoolchildren with improved mobility and a safe method of transport to and from school, which, in turn, boosts their academic performance.Alexandra township was identified for bicycle distribution because of the transport corridor that exists between it and Sandton. Pupils at Kwabhekilanga Secondary School were chosen to receive the donated bicycles following the school’s high matric pass rates in 2014 and 2015.Abicycle changes lives by increasing the distance a person can travel, what they cancarry, where they can go & how fast they can get there—Qhubeka™ (@Qhubeka) June 29,2016Each pupil who receives a bicycle commits to its safe use and storage and makes a nominal financial contribution that is used by the school to fund the training of a bicycle mechanic. The bicycles are owned by the school until the beneficiaries complete their schooling and all contract terms are met. The bicycles can then be used by a new class of achievers the following year.Qhubeka is part of the programme run in South African by the non-profit, non- governmental organisation World Bicycle Relief. It is dedicated to advancing education, health and economic opportunities by providing simple, sustainable transport. Qhubeka has delivered more than 60 000 specially designed, locally assembled bicycles to people across South Africa since it was set up in 2005.Qhubeka and Dimension Data are sponsors of the South African road and track cycling team and partners in developing the sport among the youth.The Qhubeka 5000In July, Qhubeka will hold its 5000 charity drive. Riders, both novice and professional, are urged to ride a distance that will contribute to the group’s #BicyclesChangeLives campaign. For every kilometre covered, sponsors will contribute to funding 5 000 bicycles for pupils around South Africa. The drive will be held on 15 and 16 July, and will coincide with Team Dimension Data’s participation in the 2016 Tour de France.Source: Qhubekalast_img read more

Termination of Deccan Chargers franchise stands: BCCI

first_imgAfter a month long legal battle, the cash-strapped Deccan Chargers on Saturday lost its status as an IPL team after the Bombay High Court stayed the order of Arbitrator for maintaining status quo on the matter till further hearing.The beleaguered owners of Deccan Chargers had on Friday failed to produce a Rs 100-crore bank guarantee before the Bombay High Court, a condition that had been set for the struggling team’s survival in the league. They later approached the Court-appointed Arbitrator who had passed the order of status quo.BCCI chief N Srinivasan”BCCI moved an appeal against the Order of Arbitrator and the same was heard today morning. The Honourable High Court was pleased to stay the Order of Arbitrator after hearing both the parties”, the BCCI said in a statement.”Thus, the termination of Deccan Chargers franchise stands”, the BCCI said, ending the uncertainty on the fate of the team which has run into huge financial problems.Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited’s failure to furnish the guarantee money before the 5pm deadline yesterday effectively meant that the BCCI’s termination of the team stood and the Board was free to float the tender for a new franchise. But the Arbitrator’s order prvented BCCI from going ahead with its termination process.DC logo”The termination of Deccan Chargers franchise was challenged in the Hon’ble Bombay High Court by the DCHL pending the arbitration. A Conditional Order of stay was granted by the Hon’ble High Court pending arbitration on 1st October 2012″.”The condition to give BCCI a Bank Guarantee of a Nationalized Bank for Rs 100 Crores by 5.00 p.m. on 12.10.2012 to cover expenses of IPL 6, was breached by DCHL”, the BCCI statement said.advertisementlast_img read more