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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Falling Walls Conference 2014: Scientists heads to Berlin

Over 20 renowned scientists have confirmed participation in the forthcoming Falling Walls Conference 2014, slated for November 9 in Berlin, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Most of the speakers, organisers say already confirmed their participation.

One of the scientists, NaijaAgroNet was told expected to thrill the conference is the bioengineer and psychiatrist Karl Deisseroth (Stanford University) who is one of the founders of optogenetics, a method through which genetically modified cells, which could be selectively activated and deactivated using light signals.

“Applied to neuroscientific research, Deisseroth’s process provides a new and highly detailed view of brain activity and a valuable insight into neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and depression,” the organisers said in a press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet by Lucie Menz of Falling Walls Foundation gGmbH.

After promising developments in recent years, immunotherapy is offering new hope in the fight against cancer. Novel approaches successfully stimulate the body’s own immune system in such a way that it can break through a tumour’s local protective barrier, detect cancer cells and finally destroy them. Suzanne Topalian from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is one of the leaders in this field of research and will be speaking at the Falling Walls Conference about her studies, which have substantially contributed to the development of new therapeutic applications.

Christof Koch, Chief Scientific Officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle is world-renowned for researching one of the most controversial problems in neuroscience – the question of the physical basis of human consciousness. Based on information theory – and using new techniques and imaging technologies to track the activity of individual brain cells – Koch is attempting to unveil the mystery of consciousness by scientific explanation and measurement.

The Falling Walls Conference was first held in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and has now developed into a highly acclaimed platform for international research. The conference is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Helmholtz Association, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and numerous other academic institutions, foundations and companies.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Non-Smoking in Public: Lagos hosts advocacy meeting for stakeholders

The Lagos State government and partners Tuesday hosted a one-day advocacy and sensitization campaign for stakeholders at a meeting in Ikeja-Lagos, reports NaijaAgroNet.

This, NaijaAgroNet also gathered was in compliance to the recently introduced non-smoking law in public places in the state.

Some of the speakers include Dr Yewande Adesina, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Public Health, Engr. Rasheed Shabi, General Manager/CEO, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) and Mr Sola Dosunmu, Head, Regulatory Affairs, British American Tobacco (BAT), West Africa.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE 

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L-R: Dr Yewande Adesina, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Public Health, Engr. Rasheed Shabi, General Manager/CEO, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) and Mr Sola Dosunmu, Head, Regulatory Affairs, British American Tobacco (BAT), West Africa at a One-Day Advocacy and Sensitization Campaign/Stakeholders' Meeting on Lagos State Non-Smoking in Public Places Law, in Ikeja, Lagos on Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fear in Owerri over Lion’s escape from Zoo


Fear may have become another name for the capital of Imo State, Owerri, following the announcement that a Lion has escaped from the Zoo on Monday, reports NaijaAgroNet.

NaijaAgroNet reports that the Imo State Police Command was quoted by sources as saying there is fear among the citizens in the state, mostly within the Umuoma, Umualum, and Umudibia rural communities as the lion escaped from a zoo situated along Nekede road in Owerri.

Also, NaijaAgroNet gathered that the zoo management confirmed the incident but warned on vigilance of the citizens, even as they promised to arrest the situation.

In a related development, the Police has withdrawn earlier announcement on the missing Lion, saying it was a false alarm.

Daily Sun quoted the Police spokesperson, Mr. Andrew Enwerem as having withdrawn the earlier announcement.
“We heard about the escape of the Lion and quickly sent a patrol team to the Zoo but on getting there it was discovered that the said Lion did not escape but it was just a false alarm from one of the staff who had been arrested,” Enwerem said.
The General Manager of the Zoo, Mr. Francis Abioye was also said to have reconfirmed that it was false alarm.
“It was a false alarm raised by one of the security men at night, no Lion has escaped. It is unfortunate people have been calling me from everywhere, we are deeply sorry for the panic it has caused,” Mr. Abioye was also quoted as saying.
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Earth Observations Group want data into decisions, launches worldwide competition

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) has launched its ‘Appathon 2014,’ a global competition to develop mobile “apps” to help people make smarter decisions about the environment, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Competitors from over 15 countries NaijaAgroNet gathered are competing for $20,000 in prizes being offered by the United States (US) Agency for International Development (USAID) in support of the contest.

NaijaAgroNet recalls that GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and organizations that envisions “a future wherein decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained earth observations and information.”

Currently, NaijaAgroNet reports that GEO membership includes 89 nations and the European Commission, and 77 participating organizations comprised of international bodies with a mandate in earth observations.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE
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Thursday, May 8, 2014

‘Perceived alcohol adverts breach regulatory code’

Majority of the United Kingdom (UK) public perceive alcohol adverts to breach the Advertising Standards Authority's Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) Code suggesting that the current regulatory system for UK television is inadequate, research from The University of Manchester shows, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Researchers from TUM also informed NaijaAgroNet that they surveyed 373 adults, aged 18-74 years, showing them one of seven adverts that had been broadcast in the previous month on leading commercial television channels.

Among them, about 75 per cent of the participants rated the adverts as breaching at least one rule from the BCAP Code rules in all seven adverts, the study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism. 

NaijaAgroNet gathered that rules about alcohol being presented as contributing to popularity or confidence, and implying that alcohol is capable of changing mood, physical condition or as nourishment were seen as being breached by over 50 per cent.

The team led by Professor David French, noted that previously, research in the United States (US) and Australia have found non-industry experts perceive television adverts to be in breach of their country’s code.

“We wanted to find out whether this was also the case in the UK. Overall, we found three in four participants perceived the adverts to breach at least one alcohol-specific rule in the BCAP Code,” he declared.

Equally the research discovered that about £100million is spent on television adverts for alcohol each year with advertisers arguing these promote brand loyalty but don't influence the amount of alcohol that people drink.

Previous studies, NaijaAgroNet was told, have found that the greater volume of alcohol advertising that young people are exposed to, the earlier they start drinking and the more frequently and heavily too.

“Over half of participants perceived breaches of the rules which prohibit advertisements from implying that alcohol can contribute to popularity or confidence or that it was capable or changing mood, physical condition or behavior,” part of the executive summary stated.

The Manchester team further told NaijaAgroNet that the sample of people questioned, at the city's main railway station, was representative of the adult population (aged 18-74 years) in terms of age and gender, but might have under-represented people from rural locations, low socio-economic groups and ethnic minorities.

“Despite these limitations, which the team argues future research should address, the results suggested a need to review the current code,” he said, stressing that their results suggested that the UK alcohol and advertising industries design advertisements do not appear to comply with the letter or the spirit of the BCAP code.

"Many adverts allude to themes such as youth culture, immoderation and social and sexual success, although many may not explicitly show them. The results of the present analysis, along with the comparatively small number of breaches judged by the ASA, indicate that co-regulation of UK television alcohol adverts is ineffective and requires further consideration.

"It also suggests that only a minuscule proportion of members of the public who perceive adverts as containing elements that breach the BCAP Code actually report them," he submitted.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE 
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Monday, May 5, 2014

Addressing risk: A condition for African farmers' investment and growth

In Africa, various risks such as climate change threaten the livelihoods of millions of rural producers. This presents major impediments to increasing productivity and investment in the agriculture sector and the entire agri-value chain.
Yet the origin of the risk management is recorded in African history. More than ten centuries BCE, Egypt, according to the Bible, was aware of the need to create public stocks to face starvation. This is even how Joseph, a Jewish slave turned administrator assured his power from Pharaoh and secured the domination of Egypt on the neighbouring peoples. In Sub-Saharan Africa, according some traditions, the village chiefs in the twentieth century were responsible for maintaining two years of consumption before successive droughts which undermined this principle of insurance.
The most exposed rural populations include pastoralists, smallholder farmers and female farm owners. People are more exposed to production hazards in arid and semi-arid areas. When there is a crisis, they are often forced to decapitalise their assets to weather the storm, after which they find themselves even more vulnerable to other shocks. Increasing occurrences of abnormal or unusual weather conditions attributed to the effects of climate change, along with market instability, exacerbate risks for populations.
Usually, risks in agriculture are categorized in climate shocks such as drought and floods which are increasing in frequency and intensity under climate change trends, and related pest outbreak and crop disease on one hand, all these factors affecting production; price volatility, market and institution failure on the other hand knowing that such risks have escalated since the 2007-2008 food crises.
Compared to any other industry, market prices in agriculture are too volatile to be predictable and ensure visibility on income expectations. This   leads to under-investment from part of the farmers. Financial institutions may find extending credit to farmers, grain and livestock traders and millers or processers a risky venture if prices are volatile, and may therefore increase substantially the cost of borrowing. Spiking and excessive volatile food prices also create speculation and stock retention, leading to artificial scarcity in urban areas or total market disruption in rural areas. Nevertheless there are different options which can be combined in managing price risks, among which warehouse receipt systems, commodity exchanges, contract farming, grain stock management and price and tariff policies to name a few.
All types of risks have discouraged agricultural investment and technology adoption for decades, and they legitimately become a major concern. Thus, over the recent years, the importance of adopting a risk management approach for building resilience is rapidly rising to the top of the international development agenda.
Guided by the Sustaining CAADP Results Framework 2014-2024 for the agricultural transformation for the next decade, the AU declared  2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security. Five priority sub-themes were identified from which “Building resilience of Africa’s agriculture through integrated risk management” to place the foundation for building strong and resilient agri-food system..
Mainstreaming risk management tools and policy instruments in the implementation of CAADP is a long term strategy departing from short term humanitarian interventions which are usually undertaken to address agriculture and food crises. It intends to build resilience all along the agriculture value chain. FAO’s definition of resilience includes 3 components: 1) in the short term and at individual level, it questions the capacity to bounce back after a shock; 2) in the medium and long term and at individual and systemic level, it relates to the capacity to adapt to a changing environment; 3) at the policy level, it addresses the transformative capacity of an enabling institutional environment.
Cognizant of the importance of coordinated actions towards building resilience at household, community, national and regional level, various platforms have recently been initiated by Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and donor partners, among which the IGAD Regional Disaster Resilience and Sustainability Platform, the Global Alliance for Resilience for Sahel and West Africa (AGIR), the SADC Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis Programme, and the Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network, can be highlighted.  Even though these initiatives are providing valuable platforms to bring together partners and stakeholders including AU Member States, the AUC, NPCA, RECs and Development Partners in building resilience, it is of paramount importance that a voluntary common framework be agreed upon so that building resilience and capacity to reduce vulnerability to better withstand crises and shocks can be more effective.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD Agency has developed an initiative for supporting regional economic communities and countries in managing risk in Agriculture. This initiative is aimed at mainstreaming risk management strategies into CAADP implementation. It consists of a holistic approach considering increased resilience of rural producers and processors as the appropriate avenue for addressing risk factors and allowing them to increase their level of productive investment in a continuous and sustainable manner. 
Once fully developed at the regional and national level, the initiative will provide to rural producers and processors, the appropriate tools for preventing, mitigating, and transferring risk. It will therefore allow building assets, strengthening livelihoods hence contributing to agriculture transformation.
The expected significant outcomes of the Joint Conference of Ministers of Agriculture, Rural Development, Fisheries and Aquaculture about risk management and resilience building is a renewed commitment on two specific points: 
That countries and Regions formulate and implement policies and regulations to enhance risk management tools effectiveness focusing on creating a more predictable market environment and insurance mechanisms that may be adopted in particular by smallholder farmers and address climate change and gender challenges; and
That NEPAD ensures deeper policy coherence by mainstreaming climate change adaptation and risk management strategies into National and Regional Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans and promotes a Continental Framework on Integrated Risk Management in Agriculture.

*Contributed by Abiola Ajayi, communication officer with NEPAD
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

RedStar commits to ‘I Care’ project

RedStar Express plc, a leading logistics company in Nigeria has reiterated commitment to caring for the less privileged with a visit to the Red Cross Orphanage on Makoko Street and the Old peoples’ Home on Lancaster Road, both in Yaba Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Marketing Manager at RedStar Group, Ngozi Ochokwu disclosed to NaijaAgroNet that the visits saw officials of donating items, mostly food and kitchen appliances to improve the quality of life of the inmates.

She also told NaijaAgroNet that the company is executing this scheme as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative tagged ‘I-Care Project’ aimed at alleviating the plight of the less privileged in the community.

Ochokwu noted that every year, Red Star Group, uses the I-Care Project as a platform to reach out to communities with needs.

“It is the least we can do as a corporate organisation and we are committed to it. The project kicks off with a nationwide campaign in all our offices. Staff and customers are encouraged to drop items in the special I-Care boxes located in the offices over the collection period. These are then brought together and delivered to the selected homes. Our sincere desire is that our little gesture will help in no small measure in making life for the beneficiaries more comfortable” she said.

Responding, the Administrative Officer, Red Cross Orphanage Yaba, Gloria Chiekwe, appreciated the visit and commended RedStar for donating to humanity as some of the commodities given are used to assist unfortunate victims of natural disasters and accidents.

In her part, the Matron, Old Peoples’ Home, Feyisayo Olaore, commended RedStar for the donations, urging other corporate business organisations to emulate the gesture.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE
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Maina lauds MTN over women empowerment

The Federal Minister in-charge of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Zainab Maina, has lauded MTN Foundation, the Corporate Social Responsibility initiative of MTN Nigeria, for empowerment of Nigerians, especially the widows, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Hajia Maina gave this commendation at the presentation of tools of trade to beneficiary widows, under the Foundation's new initiative for empowering widows tagged, MTNF Widows Empowerment Scheme, in Abuja.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that the Widows Empowerment Scheme by MTN Foundation is being managed by Growing Businesses Foundation and aimed at empowering widows who have existing businesses, across the six geo-political zones of the country.

Also, Hajia Maina urged that such positive intervention be emulated by other organisations, especially in telecommunications sector. Stressing that widows comprise a significant proportion of women, ranging from 7 to 16 per cent of all adult women, noting that it is regrettable that this significant section of the population is neglected in the society, especially due to their state of widowhood and the various traditional laws and customs which work against them, thus preventing them from gaining access to resources that will better their lot.

"Nigeria should abide by the United Nations' declaration during the 2013 International Widows Day which states that 'all widows should be protected by the rights established in the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and other international human rights treaties. Equal opportunity bill and violence against persons bill presently receiving attention at the National Assembly would greatly benefit widows, when passed into law," she said.

Equally speaking, a Director of MTN Foundation, Mr. Dennis Okoro, said the scheme was the result of a stakeholder's workshop held in October 2011, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

Pointing out that the workshop highlighted areas of need for widows in communities and discussed ways of empowering them to meet those needs, eventually an Expression of Interest (EoI) was declared and five states, including Imo, Taraba, Lagos, Rivers and Sokoto, in addition to the Federal Capital Territory, representing the six geo-political zones of the country, were selected.

“After an analysis of the needs assessment forms, 226 widows were selected to benefit from the scheme,” he asserted.

Okoro further disclosed that adopting a micro-finance model, the successful beneficiaries were trained on business management skills and to be mentored by two microfinance institutions, namely the Lift Above Poverty (LAPO) and Development Exchange Centre (DEC) to ensure sustainability of the project.

Additionally, he said, beneficiaries were later presented with tools of trade to boost their existing business ventures as interest-free loans, explaining that the loans were expected to be repaid over a 10 month period, with a two month moratorium.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE
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Photo: Hajia Zainab Maina

Obasanjo, Annan lead panelists to unveil Africa Progress Report 2014 on 'Grain, Fish, Money'


The former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, are expected to lead eight other panelists to unveil this week in Abuja, the Africa Progress Report 2014 on Grain, fish, money reveals NaijaAgroNet.

This NaijaAgroNet gathered forms part of the launch of the Financing Africa’s Green and Blue revolutions, at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja.

Last year, NaijaAgroNet also gathered that last year chaired by Kofi Annan, saw the launch of report on Equity in Extractives – Stewarding Africa’s Natural Resources for all, which made headlines with its analysis of the oil, gas, and minerals industries on the continent.

This year’s report NaijaAgroNet revealed would be argued that Africa could and must unleash green and blue revolutions in its agriculture and fisheries. It will highlight the opportunities for Africa of the world’s growing demand for food and the critical importance of agriculture and fisheries for two thirds of people in Africa engaged in these sectors.

Further, the report tend to recommend related policies, including scaling-up Africa’s infrastructure and extending its financial services, outlining the urgent need to stop the plunder of Africa’s timber and fisheries.

The following Panel Members and Members of the Secretariat will be attending WEF on Africa to outline findings shared in the report.

Other members of Africa Progress Panel, and former President of Nigeria;  Peter Eigen, Member, Africa Progress Panel, Founder of Transparency International, and Founding Chair and Special Representative of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI); Bob Geldof, Member, Africa Progress Panel, Musician, Businessman, Founder and Chair of Band Aid, Live Aid and live8, Co-Founder of DATA and ONE Advisor and Advocate; Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director, Africa Progress Panel as well as Max Bankole Jarrett, Deputy Executive Director, Africa Progress Panel

NaijaAgroNet recalls that the 10-member Africa Progress Panel advocates at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. The Panel releases its flagship publication, the Africa Progress Report, every year in May.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE

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