Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SciDevNET

Rainfall's link to carbon emissions quantified

Source: NatureNews / New Scientist

17 February 2011 | EN

Scientists compared rainfall predictions from climate models with data from weather stations

Flickr/Light Knight

Two studies published in Nature this week have demonstrated a direct link between rising greenhouse gas levels and severe rainfall events.

Scientists compared rainfall predictions from eight climate models with data from weather stations around the Northern Hemisphere. Gabriele Hegerl, a climate researcher at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, told NatureNews:

"We can now say with some confidence that the increased rainfall intensity in the latter half of the 20th century cannot be explained by our estimates of internal climate variability."

In the second study, scientists found that human greenhouse gas emissions "significantly increased" the likelihood of severe floods that caused £1.3 billion (US$2 million) of damage in England and Wales in 2000.

They showed, with a 66 per cent confidence level, that the emissions nearly doubled the risk of the 2000 floods. For comparison, the chances that emissions raised the risk of flooding by only a fifth are just 10 per cent.

"This has immense importance not just as a further justification for emissions reduction but also for adaptation planning," said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate policy researcher at Princeton University in the United States.

Similar attribution studies are underway for flood and drought risk in Europe; meltwater availability in the western United States; and drought in southern Africa, said NatureNews.

Link to full article in NatureNews

Link to full article in New Scientist

Link to full paper in Nature (1)

Link to full paper in Nature (2)

References

(1) Nature doi:10.1038/nature09763 (2011)
(2) Nature doi:10.1038/nature09762 (2011)

Comments (1)

Dr.A.Jagadeesh ( Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives | India )

1 March 2011

Yes. There is a link between rainfall and extreme weather conditions due to climate change.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP), India

Biowaste briquettes fuel drive to save trees

Hope Mafaranga

22 February 2011 | EN

A lack of modern and affordable fuels makes wood charcoal and firewood the preferred sources of domestic cooking fuel

Flickr/Dionysus63

[KAMPALA] Banana stems, maize and other crop waste will be turned into charcoal briquettes in Uganda in an effort to reduce the number of trees chopped down for cooking fires.

The project, funded by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), will train 600 farmers across the country to make briquettes using portable metal kilns that can be moved between farms, according to Maxwell Onapa, deputy executive secretary of the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST).

A lack of modern and affordable fuels, such as gas, electricity and solar power, makes wood charcoal and firewood the preferred sources of domestic cooking fuel, but this is damaging the environment through deforestation and soil degradation, said Onapa.

The kiln, which requires two people to operate it, takes about 20 minutes to convert 6–8 kilogrammes of biomass into 2–3 kg of char powder.

This is mixed with a binder in the form of starch paste to make briquettes, using a screw extruder, which can either be hand-operated or powered by a diesel engine or electric motor.

UNCST is implementing the project in collaboration with the Uganda National Farmers Federation and the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute, Uganda.

"The interest the technology generated among [the] 90 participants of the pilot training, and the lessons learned, shaped the design of this project," said Onapa. The project team aims to reach 600 participants in 20 of Uganda's 112 districts.

The IDB will fund 80 per cent of the training cost and supply of equipment, monitoring and evaluation, along with a share of the cost of research into developing charcoal manufacturing technologies, with the Ugandan government providing the remaining 20 per cent.

Frank Muramuzi, executive director of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists, warned: "The project may not be sustainable because if they run out of the agricultural waste to manufacture the charcoal briquette, people will go back to cutting trees."

But Jane Nalunga, a senior training officer at the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda, said that removing agricultural waste and turning it into energy will reduce soil nutrition. The project, she said, should focus more on training farmers to plant trees such as Pisonia which could increase nutrients in the soil and be used as firewood as well.

The project will begin once the Ugandan Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development signs a technical assistance project grant agreement with the IDB.

Comments (2)

Dr.A.Jagadeesh ( Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives | India )

28 February 2011

This process already in use in some countries.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Researchers boost protein content of GM cassava

Zoraida Portillo

21 February 2011 | EN | ES | 中文

Cassava's nutrient content could be increased by traditional breeding or GM methods

Flickr/Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

[LIMA] The transformation of cassava from a starchy staple lacking in protein to a cheap supply of protein for food, feed and industry, may have come a step closer now that scientists have boosted the crop's protein content.

Cassava is a staple food in many developing countries but has little protein and micronutrients. But although cassava is rich in energy, only 2–3 per cent of its tubers (the edible roots) are made up of protein, giving it one of the lowest protein-to-energy ratios of any staple. Cereals, for example contain 7–14 per cent of protein.

But new research shows that cassava can be genetically modified to contain zeolin protein — increasing its protein levels to 12.5 per cent. The findings were published in PLoS ONE last month (25 January) by a team of US and Puerto Rican scientists.

According to the authors, a two-year-old child that gets half of their energy from cassava could increase their protein intake from 35 per cent of their daily requirement to more than 100 per cent by switching to the GM crop.

"This illustrates that genetic modification of cassava could be a potentially important component of delivering enhanced nutrition to at-risk populations in the tropics," the paper says.

The research is part of ongoing efforts to improve cassava's nutritional quality.

"The goal is to stack several traits such as vitamin A, protein, iron and zinc," Claude Fauquet, lead author and the director of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center's International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology, United States, told SciDev.Net. "For now we have stacked vitamin A and protein and it is possible to get yellow roots with 40 parts per million carotene [about 11 times the normal level in cassava roots] and ten per cent dry weight protein," he said, adding that the plants are being assessed in the field.

But Nagib Nassar, a professor emeritus and well-known cassava breeder, said that the crop suffered from the same problem as all GM crops in that it has "a new genetic structure — not natural — that has not passed through natural selection, so we don't know how this genotype adapts to the environment".

He added that the paper had not provided information about the productivity or palatability of the new cassava strain.

Rodomiro Ortiz, an advisor leading international institutes on crop breeding, said transgenic biofortification was just one of many options for improving cassava, and added that wild and indigenous cassava varieties "are an important source of genes" to improve cassava's micronutrient levels.

Both Ortiz and Nassar referred to the success of a variety of cassava root obtained by conventional breeding and released in Brazil, which tastes good and contains more than 50 times the amount of beta carotene than common varieties.

Comments (10)

Dr.A.Jagadeesh ( Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives | India )

28 February 2011

Cassava is a staple food in Africa. Any increase in protein content will help the people who consume cassava.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Tailor renewable energies to local culture

Benjamin K. Sovacool

23 February 2011 | EN

People in some remote areas have unusual expectations of renewable energy technologies

Benjamin K. Sovacool

To make an impact, small-scale renewable energy systems must fit social expectations and cultural norms, argues Benjamin K. Sovacool.

In 2009, 1.4 billion people lacked access to electricity — 85 per cent of them in rural areas. By 2030, 1.2 billion are set to remain off-grid, while 2.8 billion will rely on traditional biomass.

The health consequences of this are monumental. Indoor air pollution kills 1.5 million people a year, more than malaria or tuberculosis. And by 2030, biomass smoke will be responsible for more than 4,000 premature deaths a day.

A suite of off-grid renewable energy technologies — solar home systems, biogas cookstoves and small hydropower units — can deliver energy services to rural households more cost-effectively than national grids, without relying on expensive and polluting fuels.

These systems are making inroads in some regions. But assessments of how they perform often neglect local realities that can determine whether they succeed or fail.

An expanding field

Solar home systems consist of a solar panel, battery, inverter, charge controller and usually two or three lamps with an extension cord to power a small radio or television.

Biogas cookstoves capture methane from the anaerobic digestion of waste and convert it into fuel. And 'pico-hydro units' consist of miniature dams and powerhouses that use natural river flow to generate electricity for a communal mini-grid.

In the past ten years, millions of these systems have been deployed around the world. A rich literature has emerged as well, discussing common barriers to adoption that include high up-front costs, poor access to financing and substandard equipment.

But these assessments often miss a key part of the adoption puzzle: culture.

In some cases, well-designed, high-quality technology-transfer programmes backed by sufficient financial incentives have failed to convince households to adopt the technology, often because of cultural reasons.

These are far from one-off events. As technologies get rolled out to more remote areas, they invariably encounter more isolated local cultures.

Cultural complications

In Bangladesh, an aversion to pigs has prevented predominantly Muslim households from adopting biogas units that would run on pig waste, a much more efficient fuel than cow dung. Others simply refuse to purchase cookstoves, because using gas from excrement is seen as impure.

In Nepal, many believe that hydroelectric facilities should serve the community for free. Because of this cultural stigma, there is little money to be made in charging rural households for pico-hydro electricity.

In Papua New Guinea, solar home systems have been hit by unusually high rates of vandalism, sabotage and theft. Clans there share resources under a wantok system (where people are connected by strong social bonds) rooted in tribal traditions. Solar panels, which benefit particular households or individuals instead of the community, assault this wantok system.

I have also met people with odd expectations about the limits of renewable energy technologies, and what they need to function.

In Papua New Guinea a school principal believed that a small solar home system could produce enough energy to power a computer lab, a copy machine, lights in every classroom and a range of appliances — when in fact it could only light four lamps.

In Bangladesh, one family I worked with thought they needed to dismount their solar home system and take it "for a walk" every day so it "wouldn't get tired". Another family thought they had to "add soap" to their waste to "make it clean" before it would work in a biogas digester.

In Mongolia, one household thought their solar system would work indoors and had positioned it inside their ger (a portable home structure) as a coffee table.

In Nepal one Buddhist mother thought she needed to cover her solar home system with leaves to make it "part of nature"; another thought it would "dry laundry", and placed socks and underwear on it.

Better designs

These examples show that decision-makers and planners sometimes fail to give enough support to the people they intend to benefit with these technologies.

They also reveal that cultural attitudes and social expectations can prevent the use of off-grid renewable energy applications just as significantly as price, poorly designed programmes and flawed regulations.

And they offer insight into how energy development assistance programmes, operated by organisations such as the World Bank and Global Environment Facility, can be improved.

For example, designers should genuinely consult with community members and leaders about their energy needs before implementation begins — not just seek input after programmes are in place.

And instead of focusing on lowering costs and improving technology, planners should consider strengthening the institutional capacity of local governments, and training end users to maintain the technology.

Development programmes should provide incentives for systems that are designed, manufactured and distributed by local contractors who intimately understand the cultural dynamics of the people they aim to serve.

Ultimately, small-scale renewable energy systems can save millions of lives. But their true potential will remain a mirage without sensitive and appropriately designed programmes that heed the importance of local culture.

Benjamin K. Sovacool is an assistant professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Comments (1)

Dr.A.Jagadeesh ( Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives | India ) 25 February 2011.

Yes. Technology is culture specific. Why such simple solar cookers (Box Type) are not popular in South India? In South India no meal is served without fried curries. There is no provision for frying in Box Type Solar Cookers.. Also Solar Water Heaters are popular in Japan even though Japan's ambient temperature hardly crosses 30 degrees Celsius even in summer. In South India the minimum temperature (even in December) is about 30 degrees Celsius. Japanese have the habit of taking a bath in the evening and as such whatever temperature rise is there in the Solar Water Heaters that is enough. On the other hand Indians take bath in the morning and as such there must be overnight storage.

Apart from Technology, Renewables should take cultural and social factors also should take into consideration for their success in Developing countries especially rural areas.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India.

Q&A: Calestous Juma and African innovation

Mićo Tatalović

10 February 2011 | EN

Calestous Juma

Harvard University

Harvard globalisation professor Calestous Juma talks to SciDev.Net about how to get Africa's wealth of innovation making an impact

Calestous Juma, director of the Science, Technology and Globalization Project at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, has attracted plenty of attention for his recent book, The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, which sets out a vision of an Africa that can feed itself by 2050.

The book exudes the same optimism that emanated from his 2005 book on science for the Millennium Development Goals. Juma argues in both that a mix of existing knowledge and innovation could lead Africa out of poverty and hunger.

SciDev.Net caught up with him on a recent visit to London where he promoted his book.

Why are you so optimistic about African innovation?

I have worked on another project with colleagues at the University of Toronto, Canada, that looked at medical technologies. They were able to identify 25 very promising medical innovations that have been developed in Africa but were not reaching the market place, including drugs for malaria and other diseases, mostly extracted from indigenous plants.

So we see innovations emerging in the medical arena, which is fairly complex if it needs large investments.

We've seen innovation developing in the agricultural arena and some really interesting developments in the area of telecommunications, in unexpected ways — including the emergence of new industries like mobile money transfer.

That is an African invention, responding to poor banking services. And we've seen in the past some innovations in land use, particularly in the arena of soil conservation.

So if you look at different sectors you find really significant advances. What hasn't been happening, in my view, is a clear recognition on the part of leaders that major institutional reforms are needed to promote the diffusion of new technologies into the economy.

So what's holding back all these African innovations?

One thing is ideology. There is a general assumption, mostly informed by some economic theories, that, if the market is right, innovations will simply emerge and diffuse without requiring government support. And so the focus has been on liberalising economic systems and markets in the hope that innovations would just emerge on their own.

But we know, in fact, that innovations don't just emerge — they are a product of deliberate private and public support systems which help them to move from the lab to the market place. They include institutions such as venture capital, technology development agencies to improve the technologies, and institutions that guarantee that those innovations are safe.

There have been really interesting developments in the area of telecommunications, Juma says

Flickr/kiwanja

In the food and drug areas, for example, institutions that foster public trust among consumers are essential for getting new products to market.

Many of those institutions don't exist in Africa because the continent has predominantly relied on imported technologies from outside.

And that is really what is missing: it's not the absence of creativity on the part of the population.

Who should be creating those institutions?

That's something that has to be done by African governments themselves by legislation. For example, I went back to Kenya after finishing my PhD and helped to create a national intellectual property office. We wanted to promote a culture of creativity so young people could see what had been patented and be inspired to develop their own ideas.

But I couldn't have done that if the government hadn't been interested in taking the ideas and translating them into law. The patent office was created by the government.

The costs of creating these institutions are not very significant. Much of the cost involves putting up new buildings.

In Rwanda, for example, the government created the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology by converting military barracks to a learning institution. The National University of Namibia used former South African military facilities. The new Multimedia University of Kenya is located in what used to be the premises of the national agency for training telecoms regulators.

The cost of creating new technology-based firms is not that prohibitive either. Take Hehe as an example. This is a Rwanda start-up that provides mobile solutions to businesses, organisations and individuals. It took only US$30,000 to create this company — and a large part of that cost was to rent the server. That small company, created by recent graduates, is going to be a huge inspiration to other young people thinking about creating new technologies. In addition to local creativity, the other major input was collaboration with external universities such as MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Some institutions are being created now and interesting things are going on in the continent such as telecoms universities that are connected to the productive sector and embedded in the telecoms ministries.

They are functioning almost as technology development agencies — they do their own research and are also linked to the telecom suppliers — so when they develop a product they are able to commercialise it. Egypt, Ghana and Kenya have such universities and Tanzania and Nigeria are exploring the idea as well.

The Rwandan government created the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology by converting military barracks

Flickr/jon gos

So we're starting to see these uniquely African models emerge: universities that are embedded in the ministries; that combine research, commercialisation and education under one roof. The issue is to take these models and extend them to other sectors such as agriculture and health.

Is there enough expertise within Africa to make these quality institutions?

When we created a patent office in Kenya, there were very few patent lawyers there. Now Kenya is supplying patent lawyers to other countries and international organisations. You can't train people unless you've created an institution first, which sends a signal to the community that this field is important — then you see people studying in those areas.

The fate of the Nigerian sickle cell drug, Nicosan demonstrated that, even after a drug is developed, it may fail.

That's a very good example of the absence of the complementary institutions needed to get products to market. When Nigeria developed the drug it couldn't find venture capital to commercialise it or to invest in manufacturing or distribution. It's a good example of systems failure downstream.

Should African higher education change to foster innovation?

The three telecom universities are a good indicator of what could be done. Other technical ministries should create such universities. In Kenya, the ministries of energy and roads are in the process of considering similar institutions.

Graduates from these universities would have had exposure to practical activities and when they graduate they will go to work on practical issues — the link to the government department and the private sector will almost guarantee them a job.

Traditional universities don't have these connections, students don't even do practical internships. For example, agriculture graduates have little practical exposure so the agricultural sector could also benefit.

India found its higher education system to be too rigid for reform so it put forward a new law to create 'universities for innovation'. This is being done under the guidance of a new National Innovation Council advising the prime minister. This is a model that African countries should look at because reforming existing universities is much harder than creating new ones.

But first a new law, with separate incentive structures [that encourage innovation and the transmission of new knowledge] has to be created — otherwise even new universities will simply conform to the old law

Juma says his new book will explore green technologies for areas such as agriculture

Flickr/Peter Casier

Is there a danger in promoting innovation when basic standards, and infrastructures, are not in place?

Innovation is essential for meeting basic needs — and building infrastructure is essential for innovation. These institutions haven't been updated because we haven't paid sufficient attention to the importance of innovation. One of the earliest inventions coming out of Africa was in the 1980s when a Zimbabwean scientist developed a DNA diagnostic kit for detecting Salmonella. Because supporting institutions were not in place he could not commercialise it, although it had the potential to reach a global market.

Such examples of lack of capacity to detect emerging diseases reinforce the case for investing more in innovation rather than less.

What else blocks African innovation?

Incumbency. Legal incumbency. Existing government structures that focus on departmental mandates are not conducive to innovation. They are slow to reform because of vested interests.

For example, the separation between research and teaching is a major barrier to research in Africa. In many African countries research is carried out in national research institutes by people who do not teach so the knowledge is not being passed on. Then there are universities, which teach but don't do research, so they don't use new knowledge. Both of them degrade over time.

This separation is actually provided for in the laws of these countries, and reforming those laws is the most difficult challenge. Ministers see themselves as being there to implement the law, researchers are only interested in getting funding for their research — they don't want the burden of teaching. And so this barrier remains.

Presidents are starting to take an interest in this but no country has yet changed its laws. When you change the laws you also change the structure of incentives and political benefits and people oppose it. In Kenya, for example, the draft science law has been around for five years now.

Changing these laws needs acts of political leadership.

Are you working on any new projects?

Yes, I am working on a book about green technologies: how we can get a continent like Africa, which has not invested heavily in traditional technologies, to start thinking about leapfrogging into the world of new technologies in energy, agriculture, water use and cleaner manufacturing practices. I am also updating my thinking on innovation policy for Africa in a new book.

Comments (1)

Dr.A.Jagadeesh ( Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives | India )

11 February 2011

Yes. I agree with you Professor Calestous Juma. I worked in Denmark with students from Tanzania,Kenya, Ghana,Nigeria etc. at Energy Research Centre in Denmark. I find in them sharpness to grasp provided science and technology are conveyed in the proper perspective. I get a lot of replies from those who work in Energy and Environment from Africa suggesting modifications to the Renewable Devices which I designed . By more exchange programs between Scientific and Technological Institutions with those in Developing countries, Africa can become an Innovating continent sooner than expected.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Seaweed study boosts prospects for marine biofuels

James Dacey

3 February 2011 | EN | ES

Could seaweed one day be used to make biofuels?

Flickr/Bolt of Blue

Seaweed biofuel farms have come a step closer to reality with an improvement in the way seaweed sugars can be converted to ethanol.

Dried seaweed can be fermented to produce ethanol but breaking down galactose, the dominant sugar in seaweed, is a slow process.

Now, researchers have modified the expression of three genes of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is used in the fermentation process to break down sugars to ethanol. The improved strain creates more enzymes, leading to a 250 per cent increase in the rate of galactose sugar fermentation compared with a control strain, according to a paper in the current issue of Biotechnology and Biongineering (March).

Yong-Su Jin, one of the study's authors, and a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States, told SciDev.Net that his group will now explore the feasibility of harvesting and fermenting seaweed on large scales, which may involve cultivating plants along arrays of floats to ensure they receive enough sunlight.

Seaweed can produce biofuels in a more environmentally sustainable way than land-based crops, as it does not require fresh water or fertilisers, and it could potentially provide income for people in the small island nations of South-East Asia.

One problem facing land-based biofuel crops — such as rapeseed in Europe and palm oil in South–East Asia — is food security, as they may use land that could instead be used to grow food crops. They also require vast amounts of water at a time when water supply systems are becoming increasingly strained.

"The natural, obvious choice [for biofuels] is marine biomass," said Jin, adding that seaweed is abundant near shorelines and is already harvested by many nations for food and medicine.

It could also act as a sink for excess nutrients from nearby fish farms, according to Peter Schiener, who works on BioMara, a UK–Irish project seeking to demonstrate the feasibility of marine biofuels.

"Improvement of the conversion rate from galactose to ethanol certainly helps in increasing yields and making the whole process more economical," said Schiener.

Any country with a coastline could exploit marine biomass as a fuel resource, he added. "Nations such as Chile, Brazil, India and China certainly have something to offer here."

But Paul Dupree, a biofuels specialist at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, warned that practical challenges lie ahead.

"Sea-based farming may have the benefit of not competing for land and water supply with farming for food. [But] it has the disadvantage of being costly, due to the difficulty of maintaining and harvesting seaweed in ocean waters."

Comments (1)

Dr.A.Jagadeesh ( Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives | India )

8 February 2011

Biofuel from seaweeds has great potential.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

SciDev Net

Innovations can help us adapt to a new era — Anthropocene

Paul J. Crutzen and Christian Schwägerl

Source: Yale Environment 360

1 February 2011 | EN | 中文

By cutting down forests people are changing the climate and biology of the planet

Flickr/lawrence baulch

We must adapt to a new era in the Earth's history by adopting a novel model of economic growth and investing more in technological innovations for the poor, argue Paul J. Crutzen and Christian Schwägerl.

After 10,000 years of the Holocene, the arrival of the Anthropocene — the human era — is an undeniable reality that should be recognised formally, they say. Renaming our current geological epoch will stress humanity's responsibility as supervisors of the Earth, and highlight our immense intellectual power to shape our future.

This epoch describes humans' dominance of biological, chemical and geological processes on Earth. By cutting down rainforests, moving mountains to access coal and acidifying coral reefs, we are not just changing the climate but also the biology and geology of the planet "from climate to DNA", say the authors.

Investments in science and technology must increase significantly so we can replace fossil fuels and move towards a sustainable 'bio-economy' to prevent resource wars, they argue.

We need innovations tailored to the needs of the poor — climate-proof crops for small-scale farmers, for example — while global agriculture becomes organic and high-tech. And to maintain biodiversity, we need a 'green infrastructure' of large areas where organisms and genes can flow freely.

The strategic plans for global conservation and climate change mitigation agreed at the recent UN summits in Nagoya, Japan and Cancún, Mexico offered some hope, say the authors.

"After years of stalemate and the infamous Copenhagen collapse, there is now at least a glimmer of hope that humanity can act together. Between now and 2020, however, the commitments on paper must be turned into real action," they conclude.

Comments (2)

Dr.A.Jagadeesh ( Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives | India )

6 February 2011

Yes. Any country's progress depends on innovations and inventions. Today Innovation is a buzzword in industry. Often high-tech gets attention in innovations but not people's needs. We often think of modernizing the tractor but ignore the traditional plough used by millions of small farmers. PEOPLE’S INNOVATIONS should be a national and international movement. Innovations by MIT are a classic example of applying high-tech for grassroots problem solving. The rural people may be illiterate but not ill informed. It is the scientist and technologist who must see the problems of rural people as challenges and try to find innovative solutions. INNOVATE OR PERISH is the mantra in industry. I have over 25 Innovations in Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology. I have not taken any patents on them I can share my innovations for adoption and promotion.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh

Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives
NELLORE (AP), India
E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

NASA's NuSTAR telescope will be a great advancement in Space research.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),Indi
Managing limited water suppliesSource: The Economist10 June 2010 | EN


Water scarcity is set to become worse, affecting millions around the globe
Flickr\MikeBlyth
Balancing water supply and demand in the coming decades will be a "painful" process, but one that cannot be ignored.
"The proportion of people living in countries chronically short of water ... is set to rise to 45 per cent (four billion) by 2050." In many areas, the problem will only get worse.
The challenge in meeting people's demand for water is partly down to the resource's finite nature.
Underground reserves of water — known as groundwater — have proven particularly important for farming in arid regions and also for providing drinking water to many of the world's largest cities. But, in many places, including India and China, the water is being withdrawn faster than it is naturally replenished.
Agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of global water use, and industry for 22 per cent — both are constantly growing in water demand.
Water scarcity is also affected by the terminology we use: for example irrigation is considered efficient even if 85 per cent of the water evaporates without reaching the crops.
Water as a commodity is difficult to manage because its values vary locally, and it is not evenly distributed: "China and India, with over a third of the world's population between them, have less than ten per cent of [the world's] water."
Meeting water demand in the future will be challenging, especially considering that people around the world think of free and unlimited access to water as their natural, democratic right.
Comments
Anumakonda Jagadeesh ( Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives | India)
29 June 2010
According to World Bank E Water:
“Today, about 700 million people live in countries experiencing water stress or scarcity. By 2035, it is projected that 3 billion people will be living in conditions of severe water stress. Many countries with limited water availability depend on shared water resources, increasing the risk of conflict over these scarce resources.
Water resources management is the integrating concept for a number of water sub-sectors. Use of an integrated water resources perspective ensures that social, economic, environmental, and technical dimensions are taken into account in the management and development of surface waters (rivers, lakes, and wetlands) and groundwater.”
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Africa Analysis: Does Africa really need new idealism?
Linda Nordling
28 June 2010 | EN

African innovation policy needs pragmatism and cooperation, not the wave of idealism sweeping through development science, argues Linda Nordling.
Perhaps it is a fear that aid from the financially-tumultuous North might be squeezed. Perhaps it is a growing frustration at rich countries' failure to keep their promises to the world's poor. Whatever the cause, a wave of idealism is sweeping through the innovation policy debate, accompanied by that idealist writ — the manifesto.
This month, the Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom published a manifesto seeking more equitable and sustainable outcomes from science and innovation in the developing world (see Manifesto calls for bottom-up science in poor countries).
It comes on the heels of the Indian 'Knowledge Swaraj' manifesto, published in December 2009 by the EU-funded Science, Ethics and Technological Responsibility in Developing and Emerging Countries project.
And in September, the Nairobi-based African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS) network will publish a third manifesto, making similar demands in Africa.
Revolutionary enough
'Manifesto' conjures images of revolutionaries in smoky bars plotting to overthrow their leaders. Today's manifestos are more peaceful, aiming to influence, rather than tear down, the powerful. But they still attack the motivations behind science and technology investments in developing countries.
The STEPS manifesto, published on 15 June, says that rising investments in research and development (R&D) have failed to benefit the poor. In India, for example, high-tech centres such as Bangalore exist alongside peasants still living as they did a century ago.
It blames a greedy focus on financial — rather than developmental — results from science investments; and the exclusion of poor people from science and innovation decision-making.
The STEPS manifesto's remedy is a 'new innovation politics'. Communal decision-making would allow a focus on outcomes, rather than inputs such as R&D spend.
The manifesto suggests countries establish 'innovation fora' to debate technology investments and choices more broadly. And it wants funding for scientific 'centres of excellence' to give way to support for science that addresses local needs.
Such research may not be published in top international journals, or come up with a money-spinning new drug, but it could have greater trickle-down potential, it argues.
A step further
The ATPS manifesto will go a step further in promoting the 'domestication' of science in Africa, says ATPS executive director, Kevin Urama.
He says that Africa's confidence in its own science — traditional knowledge — dropped with colonialism and the arrival of Western science traditions. He argues that this cultural loss underpins Western-sponsored science's inability to improve the lives of ordinary Africans.
Farmers who are used to getting their wisdom from elders may not heed the advice of educated youngsters from the cities. The knowledge systems simply do not match up, says Urama.
Science must be different in Africa, he says. The trappings of international, or Western, science¬ — the pressures to publish in top international journals and travel to international conferences — gets in the way of science that can contribute to development, he argues.
African science policy structures must also change to bring science closer to ordinary Africans, he adds. "At the moment, these are carried out by elites in the North talking to elites in the South — people who have been educated in the North," he says.
But is it useful?
Both STEPS and ATPS make valid points about the barriers preventing investments in science and technology from tackling poverty. But is idealism really what Africa needs?
Manifestos, by definition, offer radical fixes for ingrained and often systematic problems. They might lure politicians into believing in 'magic bullets' that will deliver immediate improvements.
Most importantly, they might inspire policy u-turns where smaller modifications, or a bit more patience, could yield better results. For example, the STEPS manifesto's condemnation of 'centres of excellence thinking' may tempt African ministers to withdraw support for those already set up under the continent's Consolidated Plan of Action in areas like biology and water science, so undoing years of investment and network-building.
African governments should read the manifestos pragmatically, not idealistically. They should not rush to create whole new structures for supporting this kind of innovation and science, but explore how existing policy channels can provide what the documents call for.
Getting connected
For example, a key stumbling block that must be addressed is isolation among African policymaking organs. The pan-African New Partnership for Africa's Development agency is being restructured to address this problem. Hopefully it will link science programmes more closely to related policy areas such as environment, health and resource management.
Similar consolidating efforts should be encouraged in organisations such as the Addis Ababa-based African Union. And the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) should be better connected to the ministerial councils for finance, education and agriculture, among others.
A good start for AMCOST would be to re-name its 'Decade for African Science', set to start next year, the 'Decade for African Science and Innovation'. And then get other ministries to join.
Comments
Anumakonda Jagadeesh (Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives | India)
29 June 2010
I have seen and known many African Technologists. What they need is basic structure of innovation. If we can kindle this, they are second to none in adopting it even improving on it. In this connection co-operation between West,USA and Africa will pave the way for innovating Africa both technically and economically.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

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