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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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Trial opens for Philippine journalist critical of Duterte | News | World

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High-profile Philippine journalist Maria Ressa’s libel trial opened on Tuesday in a case that she and press freedom advocates see as government retaliation for her news site’s critical reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ressa, who leads online outlet Rappler and was named a Time Magazine “Person of the Year” in 2018 for her journalism, is out on bail and faces years in prison if convicted under the criminal cyber-libel law.

The news portal has written extensively and often critically on Duterte’s policies, including his deadly drugs war that rights groups say may be a crime against humanity.

Besides the libel case, Ressa and Rappler have been hit with 10 other criminal charges over the past year, prompting allegations that authorities are targeting her and her team for their work.

“The government hopes to intimidate us by syphoning both my personal time, our resources,” Ressa, who was not in court, told AFP.

“I won’t be intimidated. We continue to do our jobs.
The mission of journalism has never been as important as it is today in the Philippines,” she added.

Tuesday’s brief hearing ended after testimony from one minor witness, with the case set to resume on July 30. 

The case centres on a Rappler report from 2012 about a businessman’s alleged ties to a then-judge of the nation’s top court.

Government investigators initially dismissed the businessman’s 2017 complaint about the article, but state prosecutors later decided to file charges.

The legal foundation of the case is a controversial “cybercrime law” aimed at online offences ranging from hacking and internet fraud to child pornography.

‘Not exempted from assassination’

Ressa, 55, argues the law did not take effect until months after the story was published.

Government lawyers say it is effectively a new article since Rappler had updated it in 2014 to fix a typographical error.

Because the law allows the filing of charges up to 12 years after libel is committed, Ressa said it will have far-ranging implications on constitutionally protected freedom of expression as well as the way Filipinos use social media.

Ressa, who has been arrested twice this year, also faces tax and corporate fraud cases, as does Rappler.

The libel case has drawn international attention, with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright expressing concern over democratic rights.

Prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who joined Ressa’s legal team this month, said the case echoed a recurring theme in her work, where “journalists who expose abuses face arrest while those who commit the abuses do so with impunity”.

Duterte, who denies being behind the case, has singled out Rappler for criticism, also banning it from covering his public events and forbidding government officials from talking to Rappler reporters.

Shortly before being sworn into office in 2016, then president-elect Duterte declared: “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”

Rights monitor Reporters Without Borders ranked the Philippines at 134 out of 178 countries on its annual “World Press Freedom” index this year, when at least three journalists were killed “most likely by agents working for local politicians”.

© Agence France-Presse

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Lakers gain rights to Kostas Antetokounmpo, brother of Bucks star Giannis – SABC Sport

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The Los Angeles Lakers confirmed Monday they have gained the rights to Kostas Antetokounmpo, younger brother of Milwaukee’s NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis.

Kostas Antetokounmpo, 21, was signed to a two-way contract by the Lakers. He appeared in two games for the Dallas Mavericks last season and played 40 games for the Texas Legends in the NBA’s developmental G League.

Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 60th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Antetokounmpo was acquired by the Mavericks in a draft-night trade.

Kostas is one of three Antetokounmpo brothers to play in the NBA. The eldest, 27-year-old Thanasis, has played in Greece, the G League and signed with the Bucks this off season.

That puts him on the team where Giannis has emerged as a superstar, leading Milwaukee to the best record in the NBA last season.

The Bucks fell to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals.

When Giannis collected his MVP award, he thanked his brothers and his parents – Nigerian immigrants to Greece – in his speech.

Giannis, Thanasis and Kostas have all been named in Greece’s squad for the basketball World Cup that tips off in China on August 31.

There’s one more Antetokounmpo brother in the NBA pipeline, with teenager Alex hoping to make it there one day.

The post Lakers gain rights to Kostas Antetokounmpo, brother of Bucks star Giannis appeared first on SABC News – Breaking news, special reports, world, business, sport coverage of all South African current events. Africa’s news leader..

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It’s cheap, and people are drinking it daily – but this doctor has sounded a warning on traditional beer

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People who overindulge in alcohol, make poor food choices and don’t exercise could end up obese and with damaged livers, warns Thohoyandou-based doctor, Lutendo Muremela.

“Chronic alcohol abuse causes destruction of liver cells, which results in scarring of the liver, alcohol hepatitis and cellular mutation that may lead to liver cancer,” Muremela says.

Unhealthy junk food

Alcohol abuse has many other health risks beyond possible weight gain and a damaged liver, such as high blood pressure, high triglycerides, heart disease and insulin resistance.

“Although most traditional African beers take time to damage one’s liver, most people who drink it excessively are more at risk of developing medical conditions, such as obesity, because alcohol abuse often stops one’s body from burning fat.

It can also lead to people choosing unhealthy junk food when they are drunk,” Muremela adds.

Alcohol abuse has also been named as one of the main culprits that lead to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), a 2019 study conducted by Lancet reveals. 

Another study published in the  Nature International Journal of Science earlier this year found that the global rates of obesity among people who live in the countryside are rising faster than those who live in the cities because there’s greater access to healthier foods and places to exercise in urban areas. 

Lack of recreational facilities

Mainganye Mathavha (35), of Lwamondo village outside Thohoyandou, has been drinking Tshivenda traditional beer since he was 16. He says the beer makes him full. 

“I cannot go a day without drinking it. A single bottle costs less than R10. I do not care what it does to my body and health, as long as I’m happy, I will keep on drinking it,” he says. 

Lufuno Mudau (38), from Tsianda village outside Thohoyandou, says he drinks a two-litre bottle of homemade traditional beer every day, and it has become part of his life. He blames his alcohol habit on a lack of recreational activities in the village.  

“The problem is that we have nothing better to do. We have plenty of time to indulge in alcohol and traditional beer is very cheap; one can drink for the entire month without spending more than R300,” he explains.  

Meanwhile, over the last few years, grannies in many rural villages within the Vhembe district have started to play soccer twice a week. They say the regular sport not only keeps them fit and healthy, but also prevents them from overindulging in traditional beer.

– Health-e News

Image credit: iStock







 







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