Investing in science (

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Investing in science: a cautionary tale

Science for development will require more than just financial investment

22 February 2007

“A growing consensus on the need for more science and technology in development policies must not lead to excessive expectations.

Last week (13–15 February), a meeting hosted by the World Bank in Washington gathered over 300 government ministers, policy advisers, scientists and representatives of nongovernmental organisations from developing countries. They were there to discuss how science, technology and innovation can best be harnessed to support sustainable growth and reduce global poverty.

The meeting represented an important shift in the World Bank’s lending priorities. For more than two decades, the need for developing countries to build their scientific and technological capacity remained overshadowed by other goals, including more direct attacks on poverty. But science is now returning to the fore.

The bank’s new president, Paul Wolfowitz, said that science and technology (S&T) are essential to the UN Millennium Development Goals. He urged developing countries to include support for science, however modest, in their spending plans (see Invest in science, says World Bank president).

Wolfowitz’s support for science is welcome. But his caution is also justified. For it would be dangerous to place expectations too high.

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IFAD in Morocco (dgAlert)

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IFAD in Morocco

“Since 1979, IFAD has financed nine rural development projects in Morocco, for a total of US$146.3 million. Four of the projects are ongoing. The first generation of projects, over the period 1979 to 1986, focused mainly on increasing rainfed and irrigated agricultural production on a nationwide basis, developing opportunities for short-term and medium-term credit for poor farmers. The second generation of projects, focused mainly on marginal areas and included many types of activities such as soil and water conservation, upgrading rural roads and infrastructure — particularly water supplies— and institution-building and support. Third-generation projects are built around the objective of socioeconomic development in poor regions where rainfed agriculture is the main source of income. Design and implementation focus on active participation by rural poor people in rural investment projects, and on accountability for implementing and maintaining planned activities, to ensure their sustainability. IFAD’s 1999 strategy in Morocco consolidates and supports the government’s work in combating rural poverty. IFAD supports efforts to: give priority to communities’ development needs and strengthen poor people’s participation in decision-making; promote food security nationally and among poor households by diversifying production and promoting products that have a comparative advantage in national and international markets; strengthen decentralized planning and implementation, by supporting local and civil society institutions; improve rural poor people’s access to productive resources such as land, water, technical expertise and financial services; IFAD projects and programmes target areas with poor agricultural potential in mountainous zones, rangelands and arid zones in the south. Participation by communities, particularly women and young people, is central to the strategy.”

Bottle gardening – some experiments

In Februari 2007 I started some small experiments with what I call “bottle gardening“. I try to show that plastic bottles can be used as containers (see also “container gardening” informer messages on this blog).

The main objective is to use plastic bottles for vegetable production in the drylands in order to save a maximum of water for irrigation. Within the framework of the combat of desertification, it is important to get a maximum of agricultural or horticultural production with a minimum of irrigation water. Moreover, enhancement of food production should also be realized in the drylands and on relatively poor soils.

Should these experiments be successful, a myriad of bottles, otherwise littered and dramatically degrading the environment, could play a very interesting role in sustainable food production for the rural people.

Each bottle can easily be decapitated with scissors or a knife. Then, the top can be slipped inside the bottle and put as a conical cover over the perforated bottom. The bottle is now filled with a substrate. At home in Belgium, I did it with a nice potting mix to which some TerraCottem soil conditioner was added. TerraCottem is a waters stocking and fertilizing mixture (see It offers the supplementary advantage to stock a large quantity of water and thus, keeps the substrate in the bottle moistened for a longer time (less direct drainage, less need to water the bottle regularly), resulting in a significant safe of water.

Five weeks after the start of the experiments, I feel quite happy with the results. I used different vegetable seedlings as test material : lettuce, cauliflower, parsley, lemon thyme and, later on, strawberry. I also used small, medium and big bottles. I watered the plants every 3-4 days with a very small quantity of water. No single plant died up to now.

My prognosis is that these plastic bottles can be used as “free” containers (no costs). In the drylands I would prepare a substrate with the local, mostly sandy soil, enriched with a bit of animal manure or compost and abit of TerraCottem.

I would also bury the bottles in a vertical position in the soil in order to avoid UV-degradation of the plastic, so that the same bottles can be used for a number of years.

It seems to me that this would be a good idea to get rid of all these littered plastic bottles. Maybe the same principle can be used with the classical plastic bags, which are now infesting nature all over the world.

Have a look at some pictures of my tests:

2007-03 Decapitated bottle
2007-03 : Decapitated bottle – Top of bottle slipped inside – Conical protection over perforated bottom.

2007-03 : Bouteille décapitée – Sommet de la bouteille poussé à l’intérieur – Protection conique au-dessus du fond perforé

2007-03 Bottle with parsley
2007-03 : Bottle filled with substrate (potting mix with TerraCottem) – Bottom remains free for drainage and aeration. Parsley growing.

2007-03 : Bouteille remplie avec le substrat (terreau avec TerraCottem) – Le fond reste libre pour le drainage et l’aération. Persille en plein développement.

2007-03 2 bottles
2007-03 : Lettuce and cauliflower develop well in a plastic bottle.

2007-03 : Une laitue et un choufleur se développent bien dans une bouteille en plastique. 

2007-03 : 4 bottles
2007-03 : Bottle size doesn’t seem to be that important for a good development.

2007-03 : La dimension de la bouteille ne semble pas être tellement important pour un bon développement. 

2007-03 Bottle collection
2007-03 : My full collection of plastic bottles, small and big ones, all doing well.

2007-03 : Ma collection de bouteilles en plastique, petites et grandes, toutes vont bien.

Central African Republic (CAR) and the EU

EU to help “open up” Central African Republic’s agricultural potential

I found this interesting information on the “African Agriculture” website:

“The European Commission has announced a programme to support governance and the opening-up of the Central African Republic (CAR), potentially a major biofuels producer. EC commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, recently visited the CAR and signed two financing agreements: a €55 million one for institutional support and measures to open up the country, including the construction of a section of a major road, and the other €13.6 million for a programme to reduce multilateral and domestic arrears.

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Organic farming in Africa : Which way to go?




Technorati Search : desertification

African Agriculture


*Keeping abreast of, analyzing news about African agriculture

*Critiquing competing agricultural paradigms

*Encouraging, motivating African agriculturalists

*Sharing experiences from outside Africa

*Contributing to debate on Africa’s food security needs

*Asking tough questions, expressing strong opinions




Organic farming in Africa : Which way to go?

by Josephat Juma

“Ethiopian environmentalist Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher calls on farmers worldwide to emulate forest dwellers and manage agricultural ecosystems organically. He cautioned that farming communities face the risk of disappearance and desertification if they increased their reliance on industrially manufactured chemical fertilizers. “Forest dwellers have lived for over 100,000 years interacting with forest ecosystem without needing to resort to industrially produced chemicals to maintain soil fertility in their ecosystems,” he says.

Continue reading “Organic farming in Africa : Which way to go?”

Could it all go down the drain? – 2

I have been reading with interest the text below on

“There are so many environmental concerns in the present. Problems range form erosion and desertification to air pollution, water pollution, solid wastes, hazardous wastes, depletion of the ozone layer, and global warming. All these problems emerged by the way humans lead their life. Maybe we ought to learn how to live like Ishmael once said. This could be done by just observing nature. Nature has been enacting for millions of year, and its method has proven to be flawless. I am not saying to go back to the trees, but to consider solutions and stop thinking about money and civilization, but useful knowledge and technology. In addition, by causing all those problems mentioned above, other questions rise. Close to 50% of the world’s flora and fauna could be on the path to extinction within the next 100 years. All this pollution and wastes are destroying habitats, and along its cataclysm, casualty also takes diversity out of this planet. Consequently, the world is less ready for a catastrophe and change in environment and thus more extinction will occur. Besides, population contributes to resource depletion of energy, raw materials, and manufactured goods though over-consumption and waste while depleting world resources by being forced to cut down forests, clear land, burn scarce wood, and so on. Therefore, homo sapiens sapiens could be saved, but the civilization as we know it today might not. We are manipulating a major ecological regulation, that of carrying capacity. We are increasing its value annually, just to feed populations that will expand their numbers if done so. As the environment is degraded, carrying capacity decreases, leaving the environment no longer able to support even the number of people who could formerly have lived in the area on a sustainable basis. No population can live beyond the environment’s carrying capacity for very long; that’s a law.”


I do not believe in a doom scenario for at least hundreds of generations of human beings. In fact, I believe strongly that people will always adapt to new situations, even to catastrophies created by our societies.

We have enough examples of doom scenarios that never came true. On the contrary, there are enough indications that several of these “inevitable” doom scenarios have been developed for personal, national or international interests.

Let us simply stay vigilant and use all “best practices” known today to improve our world, even against all destructive initiatives taken in the name of …

Actually, we have today a number of technologies to combat the worst situations. Let’s join hands to use them at the largest scale and let’s do this together with our children, so that they will be prepared to defend their future.

Together we can make this world better !

International Women’s Day: What about women in the developing world?

United Nations Info

International Women’s Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

International Women’s Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men in order to end war; during the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for “liberty, equality, fraternity” marched on Versailles to demand women’s suffrage.

The Role of the United Nations

Few causes promoted by the United Nations have generated more intense and widespread support than the campaign to promote and protect the equal rights of women. The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right. Since then, the Organization has helped create a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide. Over the years, United Nations action for the advancement of women has taken four clear directions: promotion of legal measures; mobilization of public opinion and international action; training and research, including the compilation of gender desegregated statistics; and direct assistance to disadvantaged groups. Today a central organizing principle of the work of the United Nations is that no enduring solution to society’s most threatening social, economic and political problems can be found without the full participation, and the full empowerment, of the world’s women.

For more information, contact:

Development Section
Department of Public Information
Room S-1040, United Nations, New York, NY 10017

Getting a lot of interesting information through DEVELOPMENT GATEWAY (see the link under BLOGROLL in the right column of this blog), I found today a message from

9. Women and work: Jobs for the girls
“MAN may labour from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done, says the old proverb. To add insult to injury, she gets less out of her labours than he does. In both rich and poor countries, poverty most often has a feminine face. It is bad enough…
Contributed by Emmanuel Asomba on 05 Mar 2007

For the full text I went to:

Continue reading “International Women’s Day: What about women in the developing world?”

Communicating international development research (id21): Rural livelihoods

Natural Resource Highlights” are published annually by id21, which is hosted by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) of the University of Sussex in Brighton, BN1 9RE (UK). It is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

id21 publishes these highlights on agriculture, conservation, fisheries, forestry, land, rural livelihoods and water. On the website you will find the full range of over 2000 research highlights.

I read the 2006 issues on all the above fields of interest and found very interesting contributions:


1. Understanding rural telephone use.
2. Overcoming rural-urban divides.
3. Improving rural road networks.
4. The Mekong region’s rural water market
5. Networks to maintain crop diversity.
6. Reducing indoor air pollution.

A number of useful websites are mentioned. These offer new possibilities for collecting information:

Continue reading “Communicating international development research (id21): Rural livelihoods”

Communicating international development research (id21): Agriculture

Natural Resource Highlights” are published annually by id21, which is hosted by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) of the University of Sussex in Brighton, BN1 9RE (UK). It is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

id21 publishes these highlights on agriculture, conservation, fisheries, forestry, land, rural livelihoods and water. On the website you will find the full range of over 2000 research highlights.

I read the 2006 issues on all the above fields of interest and found very interesting contributions:


1. Can targeting family farms help to reduce poverty?
2. Agricultural extension: prioritising farmer’s needs.
3. Maize farming in Kenya.
4. Debating biotechnology in southern Africa.
5. Are fertiliser subsidies right for Africa?
6. Balancing indigenous crops and market demands in the Andes.

A number of useful websites are mentioned. These offer new possibilities for collecting information:

Continue reading “Communicating international development research (id21): Agriculture”

Going for Growth – Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa

I have read with interest the following text published in Development Gateway’s dgCommunities :

Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa


This collection of essays by key experts in the field of international development looks at the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa. This year has seen an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest. The report of the Commission for Africa, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Our Common Interest, set out the themes that dominated the G8’s discussions at Gleneagles over the summer, while a mass movement, in the form of the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, affirmed that the political agenda was matched by a widespread public demand for action. Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies.
Calestous Juma, ed. The Smith Institute, London, November 2005.
Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
ISBN: 1 902488 97 0
Document Length: 129 pp.

For more information about this publication please contact:

Contributor: John Daly – Published Date: February 7, 2007

Going for Growth in Action: Smith Institute Report’s Ideas Applied to Africa’s Mining Industry

Science, Technology, and Globalization Project Director Calestous Juma has sparked a serious debate about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry in Dr. Chris Hinde’s “Comment” column which appears in Mining Magazine. Juma is the editor of Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa (.pdf), a collection of essays published by the Smith Institute, a British think tank. “Going for Growth” emphasizes building Africa’s capacity to solve its own problems.

Juma starts his essay with “Most African economies have historically been associated with natural resources and raw materials. There is growing recognition, however, that a transition into modern economies will involve considerable investment and use of new knowledge.” He has since called for the mining industry to fund and lend expertise to a school of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy — and be located in the African country that makes the best case for hosting it. The school would have places for approximately 100 students per year and would serve as a model for similar centers of learning all over Africa. See “African Lessons” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (February 2006) for the complete interview.

A later issue of Mining Magazine continued the discussion, focusing on the need for the proposed schools to teach how both the international risk-capital markets operate and mining ventures are financed. African mining operators and investors must be trained on how and where to obtain capital. See “Money Matters” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (June 2006).

On June 22, 2006, Professor Calestous Juma resumed the discussion by addressing the Human Rights & Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C. The Roundtable is comprised of representatives of the extractive industry (oil & mining companies), human rights organizations, and development agencies. They meet regularly in invitation-only, confidential sessions to discuss issues of common cause and concern — specifically the promotion of the rule of law and open societies. Over the last few years the group has focused increasingly on community and economic development projects and issues surrounding community engagement.

This session, entitled “Bain or Blessing: Can the Extractive Industry Help Reinvent African Economies?”, focused on how resources can be utilized to “extract growth” for Africa, as well as other developing countries. Professor Juma discussed how the extractive industry, which is becoming dominant in many African economies, can be used as an engine of sustainable growth, breaking the widely held view that natural resource extraction is associated with corruption and environmental non sustainability. The Roundtable explored the direct links between community/development activities, including corporate partnerships with international donor agencies and the larger strategy of economic development. As companies invest to increase the local content of their work and managerial force, they are promoting (and could further promote) higher technologies in the fields of business, communications, engineering, and the environment.



What an interesting text about “the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa”!. This is what we were since long looking for: “a problem solving approach development cooperation in Africa”, and all other developing regions of course, in particular when entering a period of “an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest” (Make Poverty History campaign).

It sounds like a dream-come-true when we read:

Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies”.

Let us go a bit deeper into the “serious debate” about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry, sparked by Director Calestous Juma (see above) when he starts his essay with …

Continue reading “Going for Growth – Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa”

Poverty reduction through group approach

I read this morning at the “Development Gateway” on poverty the following abstract :
1. NEW HIGHLIGHT: Group approach to poverty reduction

The poor (destitute, isolated, risk averters with low-income and poor infrastructure) can grow out of poverty provided their basic rights are re-stored and other civil society opportunities are made available to them. One successful approach to grow out of poverty is to organize poor into small groups, then organizations and finally federations or networks.

Why group approach to poverty reduction has been successful?
– Groups bring solidarity, strength, mutual help, pooling their resources, empowerment, emergency help, remove being helpless and takes them out of isolation
– Like minded people to share experiences, problems and successes
– Poor can learn from and adapt to their piers
– Seeing progress made by their piers make them progressive

The group approach also provides several benefits to the poverty reduction worker such as bring the poor together, pooling of learning resources, higher efficiency of training, more accessible, etc. So much so all successful poverty reduction initiatives are based on group principles.”

I couldn’t help thinking at our multiple initiatives with the Belgian TC-Dialogue Foundation, with which we organized humanitarian projects within the framework of combating desertification and alleviating poverty. First of all, it should be clear that desertification is strongly linked to poverty. Indeed, it are generally the poorest rural people in the drylands suffering the most of drought and desertification. That is why we have mostly been setting up community gardens for women and school gardens.

Continue reading “Poverty reduction through group approach”

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