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Africa: ‘Plant Biotech, Solution to Africa’s Socio-Economic Development Challenges’

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A professor of Biotechnology at Covenant University, Professor Olawole Obembe, has asserted that plant biotechnology offers Africa and the world significant opportunities to subdue the challenges of ever-growing demands for food, feeds and fibre production, as well as the need for good health and well-being.

While speaking at the 19th inaugural lecture of the university recently, the inaugural lecturer, who delivered a lecture on ‘Subdue and Dominate the Earth: Plant Biotechnology for Sustainable Development,’ said plant biotechnology would ensure more efficient use of the world’s limited resources and consequently contribute to sustainable development.

He said that with the world population projected to increase from the present 7.6 to 9.7 billion by the year 2050 and an estimated 50% of the growth to be contributed by Africa, Nigeria, the most populous African country, had been predicted to over double the present 191 million people to 411 million.

This development, he noted, had its effect on socio-economic development and the overall quality of life.

“Rapid population growth and over-population lead to poverty, low standard of living, ill-health, malnutrition and environmental degradation, high rate of unemployment and high rate of crime,” said Obembe.

He added that plants were pivotal to the existence of life on the earth and in situations whereby population growth was exceeding food production, agriculture is crucial to the economies and environments of the world.

Modern agriculture must meet the demands of the ever-increasing population and the expectations of improved living standards, in the presence of frightening harmful consequences of diminishing arable land and environmental pollution, he added.

Professor Obembe listed five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that directly addressed the three capabilities for human development in Africa, and Nigeria in particular as Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being; Quality Education; and Decent Work& Economic Growth.

He said for instance, plant biotechnology could assist to attain SDGs via the adoption of high-yielding genetically modified (GM) crop varieties that were resistant to pests and diseases, weeds and adverse environmental conditions such as drought.

He argued that the development and adoption of plant biotechnologies and products in African countries, including Nigeria, would go a long way in contributing to the achievement of the five SDGs under consideration.

He pointed out the need for curriculum development, starting from the secondary school level, as manpower development for biotechnology, should be based on long term training rather than through seminars and workshops.

According to the inaugural lecturer, the modest recommendation in achieving improved plant biotechnology development and adoption in Africa would be in the area of awareness campaigns about the new technologies, particularly as it concerns the potential benefits and public fear over its safety.

He argued that engaging innovative technologies became an imperative in an atmosphere where more food must be produced to feed a growing population while preserving the earth’s ecology.

Earlier in his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, Professor AAA. Atayero, said there were serious concerns about food security in the face of increased incidents of drought, desert encroachment, decreasing arable land for agriculture, and other environmental issues militating against increased agricultural productivity.

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African News

Botswana To Resume The Hunting Of Elephants : NPR

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Elephants eat foliage at Botswana’s Mashatu game reserve in 2010.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images


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Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Elephants eat foliage at Botswana’s Mashatu game reserve in 2010.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Botswana’s government is lifting a ban that protected its elephants from being hunted, part of a series of decisions that could have lasting impacts on the country’s conservation efforts.

In a letter to reporters, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism referred to elephants as predators and said their numbers “appear to have increased.” It said a subcommittee found that conflicts between humans and elephants had risen, harming livestock and the livelihoods of Botswana’s people.

The announcement marked a sharp departure from the policies of former President Ian Khama, who suspended elephant hunting after data showed the population in decline. The ban took effect in 2014 but did not stop hunting in registered game ranches.

In May, Botswana’s newly elected president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, made international headlines for giving three African leaders stools made of elephant feet.

In June, he requested a review of the ban on hunting elephants.

His study group recommended “regular but limited elephant culling,” in addition to establishing elephant meat canning for pet food and other products. Among other conclusions, it recommended the government expand Botswana’s safari hunting industry.

Authorities said Thursday that the government accepted all recommendations except the regular culling of elephants and the establishment of meat canning. “This was rejected because culling is not considered acceptable given the overall continental status of elephants. Rather, a more sustainable method such as selective cropping should be employed,” the government said.

Conservationists around the world took to social media to denounce the government’s reversal on elephant hunting.

“Horrific beyond imagination,” said Paula Kahumbu, CEO of the Kenya-based WildlifeDirect. She said hunting was an archaic way to address the problems of living with mega fauna. “Africa, we are better than this,” she tweeted.

German organization Pro Wildlife wrote that hunting was a bloody sport, “#cruel, outdated, unethical and often undermining” conservation.

Other groups celebrated Botswana’s announcement, including Safari Club International, a U.S.-based organization that supports regulated trophy hunting.

President Paul Babaz called it “heartening” in a statement. “These findings clearly show that hunting bans actually hurt wildlife conservation; hunting is the key to providing the necessary revenue to fund anti-poaching efforts and on-the-ground conservation research,” he said.

Fewer than 400 elephant licenses will be granted annually, the government of Botswana announced on Twitter Thursday. It said it was planning for “strategically placed human wildlife conflict fences” and compensation for damage caused by wildlife. All migratory routes for animals that are not considered “beneficial” to Botswana’s conservation efforts will be closed, including an antelope route to South Africa.

Northern Botswana is home to Africa’s largest elephant population, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The population grew steadily from 80,000 in 1996 to 129,000 in 2014.

It happened as habitat loss and poaching devastated elephant populations across Africa. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, poachers slaughtered 100,000 African elephants, National Geographic reported.

Last September, the carcasses of 87 elephants were found close to a protected sanctuary in Botswana. They had been killed for their tusks.

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With both Houses of Parliament in place, it’s all eye…

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