Category Archives: Science

Prizes to Encourage African Farmer


How prizes can encourage African farmers to embrace innovation

July 7, 2016 12.49am AEST


Some farmers are suspicious of technological innovation. But technology can really help them. Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Africa must transform agriculture to meet its food security needs and contribute to economic transformation. But change in this sector is usually slow. It is often bedevilled by popular opposition to the use of new technologies.

In my new book, “Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies”, I argue that the idea of agricultural transformation often creates perceptions about the potential loss of income and cultural identity among Africa’s farming communities.

These perceptions could lead to people opposing new technologies and ultimately undermine farming communities’ abilities to improve their well-being through agricultural innovation. In Kenya some farmers have, over the past decade, opposed the introduction of mechanical tea harvesters because of the potential impact on jobs.

Such perceptions aren’t new. Agricultural mechanisation, for instance, has been marked by long periods of opposition, largely by advocates of farm animals and human labour worldwide. American farmers objected to the introduction of tractors. They argued that horses could reproduce themselves while tractors depreciated. Anxiety about the loss of incumbent farming systems lay at the heart of this controversy.

Agricultural transformation requires both courage and sensitivity to social effects. This is why Africa needs a variety of incentives – particularly prizes for excellence – that promote agricultural innovation in ways that benefit farming communities. Research has proved how much prestigious prizes can boost cultural innovation. Why shouldn’t the same be true for agricultural innovation?

The prestige of prizes

One of the initiatives that’s trying to change people’s attitudes to agricultural innovation is the Africa Food Prize. It styles itself as “the preeminent award recognising an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa”.

The prize, founded by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa and the Yara Corporation, is worth much more than its monetary value of US$100,000. It “celebrates Africans who are taking control of Africa’s agriculture agenda.” It highlights “bold initiatives and technical innovations that can be replicated across the continent to create a new era of food security and economic opportunity for all Africans”.

More importantly, it aims to change African agriculture “from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives”. This involves pursuing agricultural excellence that isn’t usually associated with traditional farming systems whose emblem is an African woman oppressed by the inefficiency of the hand hoe.

Prizes aren’t without their detractors, of course. Their role in promoting excellence is one of the most hotly debated areas of social innovation in Africa. Each year, for instance, there is much discussion about the award or non-award of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

In his pioneering book, “The Economy of Prestige”, James English points out that prizes have been critical in promoting advances in literature and the arts. He argues that they’ve helped to create the “cultural capital” that’s needed to propel creativity and excellence in these areas. English shows how cultural innovation benefits from improvements in the prize sponsorship, nomination and judging procedures; presentation and acceptance; and publicity and even controversy. These lessons can all be applied to the world of agricultural innovation.

Today a number of prizes globally seek to foster innovation. A study by consulting giant McKinsey found that such prizes are most effective when there is:

a clear objective (for example, one that is measurable and achievable within a reasonable time frame), the availability of a relatively large population of potential problem solvers, and a willingness on the part of participants to bear some of the costs and risks.

More prizes needed

Hopefully, the Africa Food Prize will foster the creation of similar and complementary prizes. This is important. There’s a tendency for society to shun excellence prizes if they appear to serve only a small group of people. In social settings where patronage and entitlement are the default criteria for awards, resentment toward these prizes is particularly strong.

So what might new prizes in the field of agricultural innovation look like? They could have very specific objectives – rewarding young agricultural entrepreneurs, especially those who succeed across the full agricultural value chain. They could focus on newer agricultural fields like data processing. They could reward those who are innovative in production, processing and packaging, retailing, recycling and environmental management.

They could also provide more than a monetary reward. One of the factors that keeps young people from going into agribusiness is a lack of mentors. New prizes could incorporate mentoring functions, as is the case with the Africa Prize for Engineering and Innovationthat’s managed by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering.

The diversity of agricultural activities calls for more prizes. As “The Economy of Prestige” suggests, society can rapidly accumulate cultural capital if there are as many prizes as they are winners. The Africa Food Prize should be the first seed in a broader effort to cultivate a culture of agricultural excellence on the continent.

 

OTHER READINGS:

Agricultural Innovations can Help African Farmers Compete, Boost Food Security

Agricultural innovations can help African farmers compete, boost food security, says new report

Smallholder African Farmers Embrace Innovative Planting

The Toxic Consequences of the Green Revolution

Effects of the Green Revolution on Rural, Small-Scale Farmers and Relevant Case Studies

DOWNLAOD PDF’s:


 

Who Pays for Think Tanks?


Who Pays for Think Tanks?

Corporate and foundation money often comes with an agenda


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Think tanks are important institutions that provide information and analysis to both policy-makers and the public. But when they court donations, it can become unclear whether that analysis is tainted by donor agendas.

Read MORE:
Wealthy Donors and Corporations Set Think Tanks’ Agendas

Just what is a think tank?

Revealed: who pays for the corporate lobbyist Think Tanks?

Ken Silverstein in the Nation (5/21/13) recently exposed the extent to which positions at the center-left Center for American Progress (CAP) and other think tanks were shaped by the interests of donors. “Staffers were very clearly instructed to check with the think tank’s development team before writing anything that might upset contributors,” Silverstein reported.

The 25 institutions in FAIR’s study of think tank citations have gotten money from corporations, foundations, governments and individual donors. The law does not require public disclosure of who the donors are, though donations above $5,000 are reported to the IRS. Many think tanks thank their donors in their annual reports, while others list donors on their websites. Sometimes the trawling of tax documents is required to figure out who is giving—and what they’re getting in return.

The sobering news about atmospheric carbon dioxide passing 400 parts per million (Guardian, 5/10/13) is another reminder that the global community needs to quickly take serious steps to avert looming ecological catastrophe, but with world leaders relying on research funded by the energy industry, it is unlikely the drastic measures required will be considered.

Pete Peterson (cc photo: Lingjing Bao/Talk Radio News Service)

Billionaire Pete Peterson has ties to five top think tanks (cc photo: Lingjing Bao/Talk Radio News Service)

Almost two-thirds of the think tanks studied (16 out of 25) took money from at least one oil company. Thirteen—more than half—were funded by ExxonMobil, while more than a third, nine, were funded by Chevron; the Koch brothers contributed to seven. Shell gave to four think tanks, and Conoco-Phillips and BP each funded three.

Reflecting the clout that big donations bring, various think tanks have Big Energy sitting on their boards. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has Rex W. Tillerson, chair and CEO of ExxonMobil, on its board of trustees, along with John Hess of Hess Oil. Duke Energy chief Jim Rogers sits on the boards of the Brookings Institution and the Aspen Institute. Aspen also has David Koch of Koch Industries, who’s on the board of the Cato Institute as well. The board of trustees of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) features the “Honorable Richard B. Cheney.”

Lockheed Martin's SR-71 Blackbird

War-related issues are also of vital public concern—and the companies that most profit from war are using their wealth to shape the discussion in ways that benefit them. Just under half (12 of 25) of the most-cited think tanks take money from weapons manufacturers; General Electric bankrolls 11 of them, while Boeing and Lockheed Martin each contributed to six. Four got donations from Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon financed three.

Ten of the 25 think tanks received donations from finance corporations. Five have finance executives on their boards; Brookings has three different Goldman Sachs–linked individuals, while Aspen has two. The board of the Institute for International Economics (IIE) has three members linked to Citigroup, and the Carnegie Endowment has one.

Thirteen of the think tanks had connections to the for-profit healthcare industry, either by donation or by board members. Nine received donations from pharmaceutical interests like Pfizer, Merck and the lobbying group PhRMA, while three have accepted money from health insurance companies like MetLife. AEI’s board has Wilson Taylor, chair emeritus of Cigna, while Brookings’ contains former Cigna chair Ralph Saul. IIE’s board holds Karen Katen, former vice chair of Pfizer, and Ronald Williams, retired chair and CEO of Aetna.

Think tanks are also funded by charitable foundations, often channeling the fortunes of wealthy families of individuals, many of which have an ideological agenda that can be seen clearly in their choice of beneficiaries. Foundations tied to Richard Mellon Scaife, the Mellon banking heir who has helped to “fund the creation of the modern conservative movement in America” (Washington Post, 5/2/99), have bank-rolled the Manhattan Institute, AEI, Heritage, Hoover, Cato and CSIS. Scaife sits on the boards of Heritage and the Hoover Institution.

The Koch brothers foundations support Cato (where David Koch is on the board), Heritage, AEI, Manhattan and the Woodrow Wilson Center. The DeVos family, whose fortune derives from Amway, fund through various foundations AEI, Heritage and Cato. The Gilder Foundation funds the Manhattan Institute (where its founder is chair emeritus), Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), Cato and Heritage. The Bradley Foundation donates to AEI, Heritage, Manhattan, Hoover and Cato.

The Walton Family Foundation, created by the family of billionaires who own Walmart, have given money to conservative groups like AEI, Heritage, Manhattan, Hoover and Cato. They’ve also given money to the centrist Brookings and the center-left CAP, which backs President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a program that may drive up costs for Walmart’s small business competitors (Business Insider6/30/09).

Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, who has relentlessly campaigned against retirement benefits through programs he helped launch like the Concord Coalition and the Fix the Debt campaign (Extra!3-4/976/10CounterSpin3/15/1311/16/12), is the former chair of the Council on Foreign Relations (and is still on CFR s board) and the founding chair of the IIE. His entities have bankrolled the Atlantic Council, Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and New America Foundation (NAF).

Billionaire financier George Soros is an outlier among wealthy givers, contributing through multiple foundations and corporations to a variety of institutions ranging from center-right to progressive: the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Woodrow Wilson Center, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Carnegie, Aspen, Brookings, Cato, CFR, EPI, NAF and CAP.

Think Tank Ties to Media


 

Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization


We are the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization (STIPRO), formerly ATPS-Tanzania.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization (STIPRO) is an NGO that is conducting independent policy research on science, technology and innovation (STI) in Tanzania with a view to contributing to the resolution of the contemporary, complex and inter-related issues in STI for the purpose of informing STI policies.

Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization

In its inception, the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization (STIPRO) by then ATPS-Tanzania was a chapter of the pan African ATPS; and therefore, its history is traced back to the history of African Technology policy Studies (ATPS) Network. ATPS’s history dates back to early 1980s when IDRC supported Technology Policy Workshop series organized in three African countries.

These workshops were followed by the establishment of two regional networks – one for Eastern African countries (EATPS) where Tanzania was one of the founding members, and the network was coordinated from Tanzania. The other was for the Western African (WTPS) countries.

These networks provided competitive research grants, together with mechanisms to strengthen capacity for research and to link researchers to each other and policy makers in the area of science and technology. The two networks were brought into a single network (ATPS) in 1994 which was located within IDRC as a semi-independent secretariat.

In 2000, ATPS became an independent organization with objectives, among others, to build individual and institutional capacity in the Sub-Saharan African region. As ATPS became independent from IDRC, it advised its national chapters to register as autonomous non-governmental organizations in their own countries.

Consequently, ATPS-Tanzania was registered as an NGO in Tanzania in December 2001. In 2012, it changes its name to STIPRO (Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization) so as to increase the visibility of this policy research organization by including the word “innovation” in the name itself, among other reasons.

Before TTI support in 2009, STIPRO by then ATPS-Tanzania was – for almost 10 years had been operating on ad hoc basis, relying on and-off research projects, which were also very rare and lacked systematic linkage to the policy process..

In terms of size and organizational structure, it had only one full time employee at the level of Administrative Assistant, and totally relying on network of interested researchers from other organizations to carry out research in the field.

With innovative support from TTI in 2009, STIPRO drew its first comprehensive four years strategic plan that included research programs, research capacity building and policy linkage activities, and started engaging researchers on full time basis.

As a result of this organizational innovation, STIPRO is now a well-recognized and valued organization in the Tanzanian National Systems of Science, Technology and Innovation.


Vertical Farming the Answer to Hunger In Africa


Could Vertical Farming Be The Answer To Hunger In Africa?

AFRICAN TECH INDUSTRY | GOVERNMENT | SCIENCE

, JULY 6, 2016


According to the World Food Programme (WFP),  Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished. This means that new ways are required to increase food production and with technologies that now permit all year round farming, it’s still not enough to feed the over 1 billion people on the continent. The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) says  today in sub-Sahara Africa, 550 million people are still living in extreme poverty, on less than $1 a day! Of this number, 180 million are the breadwinners for the other 370 million (children, elderly & the sick). There are no jobs, so most of these motivated parents established their own micro enterprises and tiny farms. But due to low capital, they are not earning enough profits to get their families out of poverty.

Skyscraper-Farming

It’s no longer enough to just employ traditional methods of agriculture to adequately feed the hundreds of millions of people who need food. Other methods are therefore necessary and in the article from Gizmodo which you’ll see below, a state in the US is already building the biggest vertical farm in the world whose output is in excess of 907,000 Kilograms worth of vegetables a year. But first what’s vertical farming? Find out below;

A huge vertical farm—where crops are planted, grown, and harvested all with neither sun nor soil—is being built in New Jersey. When it’s finished, it will be the largest one in the world.

You can see one of the (smaller) existing factories from AeroFarm, on which the new one will be modeled, above in this video from Seeker Stories. Nothing they are doing or planning is really new—people have been growing vegetables indoors under LED lights, minus the soil, for a very long time now. Even the factory spin is nothing new. Japan’s Mirai factory has been doing something similar on a slightly smaller scale for years now. What is interesting here, though, is just how big this place is.

AeroFarm is now constructing a 70,000-square-foot farm in an old steel mill. When it’s finished, AeroFarm claims the farm will yield 2 million pounds of lettuce and other greens yearly.

But despite occasional proclamations from fans that vertical farming is the future of food, it’s so far remained pretty niche. For vertical farming to really take off, we’ll need to see several of these kinds of successful, large-scale operations able to turn out what they promise—and we’ll need to see them keep doing it on a regular basis. Until then, we’re nowhere near ready to take the fields out of farming.


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