Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Philanthropist questions America’s push of high-tech farming in Africa
By Philip Brasher
Argus Leader Washington Bureau
October 12, 2011
WASHINGTON - The genetically engineered seeds and high-tech farming methods that the United States is pushing poor countries to accept are no solution to hunger by themselves and actually might wind up harming small-scale farmers, philanthropist Howard Buffett said.
Buffett, the son of billionaire Warren Buffett, has worked with Microsoft founder Bill Gates to pay for the development of biotech seeds that could be used in Africa, including drought-tolerant corn.
“Seed is only part of the solution,” Buffett said Wednesday.
“Soil is more important,” he added, noting that African soils are widely degraded and that farmers don’t know how much fertilizer they need even if they can get it.
“Simply distributing seeds without a soil fertility plan will eventually be a disaster,” he told an audience at the annual World Food Prize conference that included scientists, officials from the U.S. government and many developing countries, and several agribusiness CEOs, including Hugh Grant of biotech seed giant Monsanto Co.
Buffett, who operates farms in Illinois and Nebraska, warned that encouraging poor African farmers to adopt U.S. farming methods could push them to abandon the crop diversity their families have long depended on and switch to growing just one crop, such as corn. That would leave the farmers’ families vulnerable if their crops failed or prices for the crop collapsed.
Friday, August 12, 2011
AATF Receives US$ 1 Million Boost for Agricultural Technology in Africa
African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)
August 12, 2011
Nairobi - The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has received a US$1 million support package from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to facilitate the organisation’s operations, which seek to boost agricultural output through greater use of science and technology.
The funds will mainly support general operations, resource mobilisation as well as monitoring and evaluation of various on-going projects, which aim at helping small holder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa improve their livelihoods and productivity through use of innovative technologies.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Kenya approves law to allow GM crops
By Mark Denge and Beatrice Gachenge
July 4, 2011
NAIROBI - Kenya has become the fourth country in Africa to open up to genetically modified (GM) crops after approving laws to allow their production and importation.
East Africa’s leading economy follows South Africa, a leader in the continent on biotechnology and a major exporter of GM maize, as well as Egypt and Burkina Faso, but it faces growing resistance from lobbyists against the move.
In a Legal Notice dated June 22, acting Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Hellen Sambili said the laws would come into effect on July 1, ending restrictions on GM maize and other various products in the country.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 1 of the Biosafety Act, 2009, the Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology appoints the first (of) July, 2011, as the date on which the act shall come into operation,” said the Legal Notice seen by Reuters on Monday.
Kenya’s state-run National Safety Authority last week said it was in the process of creating a legal framework to approve importation of GM maize into the country to mitigate a looming shortage.
The law will open the Kenyan market, which faces frequent grain deficits, to major suppliers such as South Africa whose exports were affected by the previous ban.
The Kenyan government is anticipating a shortfall in the supply of maize of 14.8 million 90-kg bags in the 2011/12 season due to drought.
But lobby groups opposed to gene alteration, noting health concerns such as development of mutations and allergic reactions in humans, said they plan to oppose the law.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Gates Foundation spends $1.7B on farming in Africa
By Donna Gordon Blankinship
June 01, 2011
SEATTLE — The world’s largest charitable foundation announced five years ago it would spend millions of dollars to fight poverty and hunger in Africa, largely by investing in agriculture. To date, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $1.7 billion, but its leaders say it could take 20 years to see the results of that work.
The foundation has focused on ways to bring to Africa the green revolution that swept Latin America and Asia in the mid-1900s, boosting productivity in those regions. Its hope has been that helping small farmers grow more would allow them to sell their surplus, boosting their income and putting more food in hungry mouths. More than 70 percent of the world’s poor depend on agriculture for both their food and income.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Legal lacuna while biotechnology is sneaked in
By David Njagi
May 16, 2011
NAIROBI - Farming with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is becoming more widespread in Kenya due the promotion of biotechnology through clever schemes, exacerbated by the lack of a legal framework for the commercialisation of these controversial products.
The Kilimo Salama (Safe Farming) insurance scheme not only compensates farmers for losses incurred due to prolonged drought but also for destruction by excessive rains, according to Rose Goslinga, insurance coordinator at the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.
The Syngenta Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation attached to the Syngenta Company that researches and produces GM seeds. The foundation is involved in the “Safe Biotechnology Management” (SABIMA) project aimed at promoting GM technology among small-scale farmers in Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi.