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2013 Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival Programme full of New Highlights

Posted on 18 May 2013 by Africa Business

The programme for the 2013 Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival is growing, with new and exciting events joining the stable of old favourites. “Last year’s programme sported more than 100 events,” said Festival Manager Nicci Rousseau-Schmidt. “And it is already clear that we’ll top that number this year.”

The Pick n Pay Women’s Walk will take place on Sunday 7 July. The Women’s Walk is a popular event that takes place across South Africa. Bronwen Rohland Marketing Director Pick n Pay said, “This 5km event raises funds for PinkDrive, an organisation that provides free breast cancer screening and health education for women who cannot afford it.”

The Young Oyster Festival is gaining in popularity each year, providing an environment for kids to have a blast. Aside from the regular events such as cooking lessons, arts and crafts, movie screenings, sport clinics, and exciting competitions, this year will see a dedicated Kids Zone complete with popcorn, candy floss and all things necessary for exciting and entertaining kids.

“Older kids will enjoy an all-new fun fair as well as obstacle courses and exciting events and competitions at The Yard, our local skate park,” Rousseau-Schmidt said. “This age group and their parents will also enjoy an all new 10-day local food and craft market at the main venue on Waterfront Drive and details of how to enter the Miss Knysna Oyster Festival will be available soon.”

“Of course we wouldn’t have a festival if it weren’t for our oysters. This year’s Pick n Pay Flavours of Knysna will truly showcase Knysna’s restaurants as they once again prepare oysters according to their own, unique recipes, with other delectable treats prepared by Pick n Pay also available on the evening.

“The oyster shucking and oyster eating competitions are always very entertaining and well attended, and this year we will combine these two fun events to both take place at the main venue on Waterfront Drive,” Rousseau-Schmidt said.

The festival has a longstanding relationship with the South African Navy, especially the local Sea Cadet unit from the Training Ship Knysna. “The Admiral’s Ball is a firm favourite on the festival’s calendar with music provided by the incredibly talented SA Navy Dance Band. Presented in co-operation with the Knysna Featherbed Company, the 2013 ball promises to be an event not to be missed,” said Rousseau-Schmidt “We are hoping to welcome two naval ships through the Knysna Heads this year – weather permitting,” she said. “The Navy also presents other fantastic events on the festival calendar, including the Right of Entry Parade which incorporates precision drilling and music from the marching band, displays by the Knysna Sea Cadets and the ever popular concert by the SA Navy Band which unofficially closes the festival.”

“This year the Knysna Forest Marathon and Half Marathon have already sold out, and we anticipate that Knysna will be buzzing with excitement,” said Rohland, “the festival is a great opportunity for us to meet our customers and be part of an event that showcases the best the region has to offer.”

“We are looking forward to old favourites such the Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour and the Pick n Pay Cape Times Knysna Forest Marathon and Half Marathon, but we have many exciting developments on the programme to look forward to,” Rousseau-Schmidt concluded. “And what you’ve read about here is only a taste of what the 2013 Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival has on offer. Knysna is truly the place to be during the school holidays. So come along – I can guarantee that you’ll have the best ten days of your winter.”

Keep an eye on www.pnpoysterfestival.co.za for regular updates to the programme, or contact Knysna Tourism on 044 382 5510 for more information.

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Forest products critical to fight hunger – including insects / New study highlights role of insects for food and feed consumption

Posted on 13 May 2013 by Africa Business

ROME, Italy, May 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Forests, trees on farms and agroforestry are critical in the fight against hunger and should be better integrated into food security and land use policies, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition in Rome (13-15 May).

 

“Forests contribute to the livelihoods of more than a billion people, including many of the world’s neediest. Forests provide food, fuel for cooking, fodder for animals and income to buy food,” Graziano da Silva said.

 

“Wild animals and insects are often the main protein source for people in forest areas, while leaves, seeds, mushrooms, honey and fruits provide minerals and vitamins, thus ensuring a nutritious diet.”

 

“But forests and agroforestry systems are rarely considered in food security and land use policies. Often, rural people do not have secure access rights to forests and trees, putting their food security in danger. The important contributions forests can make to the food security and nutrition of rural people should be better recognized,” Graziano da Silva said.

 

Frittered critters – wild and farm-raised insects

 

One major and readily available source of nutritious and protein-rich food that comes from forests are insects, according to a new study FAO launched at the forests for food security and nutrition conference. It is estimated that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people. Insect gathering and farming can offer employment and cash income, for now mostly at the household level but also potentially in industrial operations.

 

An astounding array of creatures

 

With about 1 million known species, insects account for more than half of all living organisms classified so far on the planet.

 

According to FAO’s research, done in partnership with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, more than 1900 insect species are consumed by humans worldwide. Globally, the most consumed insects are: beetles (31 percent); caterpillars (18 percent); bees, wasps and ants (14 percent); and grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13 percent). Many insects are rich in protein and good fats and high in calcium, iron and zinc. Beef has an iron content of 6 mg per 100 g of dry weight, while the iron content of locusts varies between 8 and 20 mg per 100 g of dry weight, depending on the species and the kind of food they themselves consume.

 

First steps for the squeamish

 

“We are not saying that people should be eating bugs,” said Eva Muller, Director of FAO’s Forest Economic Policy and Products Division, which co-authored “Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security”.

 

“We are saying that insects are just one resource provided by forests, and insects are pretty much untapped for their potential for food, and especially for feed,” Muller explained.

 

Farming insects sustainably could help avoid over-harvesting, which could affect more prized species. Some species, such as meal worms, are already produced at commercial levels, since they are used in niche markets such as pet food, for zoos and in recreational fishing.

 

If production were to be further automated, this would eventually bring costs down to a level where industry would profit from substituting fishmeal, for example, with insect meal in livestock feed. The advantage would be an increase in fish supplies available for human consumption.

 

Bugs get bigger on less

 

Because they are cold-blooded, insects don’t use energy from feed to maintain body temperature. On average, insects use just 2 kg of feed to produce 1 kilo of insect meat. Cattle, at the other end of the spectrum, require 8 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of beef.

 

In addition, insects produce a fraction of emissions such as methane, ammonia, climate-warming greenhouse gases and manure, all of which contaminate the environment. In fact, insects can be used to break down waste, assisting in the composting processes that deliver nutrients back to the soil while also diminishing foul odours.

 

Enabling policies lacking

 

However, legislation in most industrialized nations forbids the actual feeding of waste materials and slurry or swill to animals, even though this would be the material that insects normally feed on. Further research would be necessary, especially as regards the raising of insects on waste streams. But it is widely understood by scientists that insects are so biologically different from mammals that it is highly unlikely that insect diseases could be transmitted to humans.

 

Regulations often also bar using insects in food for human consumption, although with a growing number of novel food stores and restaurants cropping up in developed countries, it seems to be largely tolerated.

 

As with other types of food, hygienic production, processing and food preparation will be important to avoid the growth of bacteria and other micro-organisms that could affect human health. Food safety standards can be expanded to include insects and insect-based products, and quality control standards along the production chain will be key to creating consumer confidence in feed and food containing insects or derived from insects.

 

“The private sector is ready to invest in insect farming. We have huge opportunities before us,” said Paul Vantomme, one of the authors of the report. “But until there is clarity in the legal sphere, no major business is going to take the risk to invest funds when the laws remains unclear or actually hinders development of this new sector,” he explained.

 

SOURCE

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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POPSCI NEWS

Posted on 17 April 2013 by Africa Business

  • 5 Ways Drones Could Help In A Disaster Like The Boston Marathon Bombing
    Plus three robots that are already saving lives.

    Yesterday, the President of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Michael Toscano told U.S. News: “Whether it is in response to a natural disaster or a tragedy like we saw in Boston, [unmanned aerial systems] can be quickly deployed to provide first responders with critical situational awareness in areas too dangerous or difficult for manned aircraft to reach.”

    Is he right? Well, he’s not entirely wrong. Drones, like manned helicopters used by police and emergency responders, can hover, provide a great overall picture of action on the ground, and direct aid to where it’s needed. The trick is that, right now, drones don’t do that uniquely, which is what a sales pitch on their special capacity demands. Boston did in fact have a police helicopter flying overhead, and the problem of low fuel reportedly overheard on the police scanner is a problem that another helicopter could have solved just as easily. Drones aren’t particularly special in disaster relief-yet.

    As drone tech advances, we could soon see remotely piloted vehicles joining the ranks of police departments and emergency response organizations. Here are five drones that might save a life in a future disaster.

    1. The MQ-8C Fire Scout: This full-size, unmanned helicopter could ultimately replace police or medical evacuation helicopters. The crew compartment can, among other things, be converted to hold an EMS team for medical airlift, or extra fuel to stay aloft longer.

    2. Quadrotors: Drones like the Aeryon Scout provide a wealth of video coverage, spying on rooftops and moving in fearlessly to document a blast zone. (Of course, civilian smartphones did much of that work in Boston.)

    3. Swarm of Swiss robots: By emulating the patterns ants use to hunt for food, these swarming drones can efficiently scan a large area and then converge where they are needed-a strategy that requires an awful lot of manpower when it’s used by human search-and-rescue workers.

    4. Incredible HLQ: This quadrotor is designed to carry relief supplies to places people can’t access, or can’t access fast enough, during an emergency. It’s in development now after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

    5. The Pars Aerial Rescue Bot: While not strictly applicable to Boston, this Iranian lifeguard quadrotor could aid in disasters along coastal areas, flying through severe weather to rescue people from drowning.

    Flying machines aren’t the only rescue robots we can expect in the future. Unmanned ground machines also have a lot to offer. CHIMP, a monkey-tank-robot created by Carnegie Melon, is designed specifically to climb over rubble or up ladders to save people in collapsed buildings. DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, in which CHIMP is an entrant, has inspired several robots designed to take the place of humans in emergency situations.

    Three types of ground robots are already saving lives around the world:

    1. A whole fleet of earthquake-response rescue robots: These are currently at work in Japan, and they include the RoboCue victim-recovery bot.

    2. Talon: QinetiQ’s bomb-disposal robot made a name for itself fighting IEDs in the Iraq War. There’s also a police version available.

    3. The Land Shark EODS: This remotely controlled robot is used to detonate explosives safely away from people. Massachusetts State Police have at least one on hand.

    The future will certainly see more robots rushing to save lives, and undoubtedly some of those will be flying. The future promise of flying rescuers, however, should not distract us from the actual ground robots that are being used in Boston presently.

        

  • FYI: Can Humans Get High On Catnip?
    Samantha J. Kitty fiending for some catnip Evan Kafka via Suzanne LaBarre
    Related: Can cats get high on marijuana?

    While cats may feel effects from marijuana-no word on whether Sir Harry Paus actually likes the experience-”kitty pot” does not have a reciprocal effect on humans.

    In the late 1960s, some researchers reported catnip gave people a marijuana-like high, but it turned out they had simply mixed up the two plants. As veterinarian Arnold Plotnick of Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York wrote to me in an email, “Think about it… catnip is cheap and legal. If it had a significant effect on people, everyone would be smoking it.”

    Meanwhile, cats do feel effects from marijuana, but it may be scary for them. “Animals can’t understand they’re being intoxicated, therefore it can cause considerable anxiety,” says Bruce Kornreich, associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center in upstate New York.

    It’s not clear why the active chemical in catnip, nepetalactone, doesn’t affect humans, Kornreich says. Pot affects cats because like many mammals, including humans and dogs, cats have receptors in their brains for pot’s active chemicals, cannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors make pets susceptible to feeling symptoms when they inhale secondhand smoke or, more commonly, accidentally eat their owners’ stashes. (It’s actually a bigger problem with dogs, he says, because dogs eat everything.)

    Kornreich has seen pets come into veterinary emergency rooms after marijuana exposure. “The pets are presented for anxiety, active heart rate, acting a little unusual,” he says. “They may react differently to sound and to being touched” perhaps because, like humans, drugs alter their perception.

    Kornreich urges pet owners to take their pets to a vet if this happens, adding that vets are not required by law to report marijuana they run into during their practice. Most veterinarians care more about making pets better, he says. “It’s more just focused on the well-being of the patient.”

    He also strongly discourages purposefully exposing a pet to marijuana. Fido and Kitty can’t consent to getting high. “I don’t think it’s right or fair to make that decision for an animal,” he says.

    If pot affects cats because they have cannabinoid receptors, does that mean people aren’t affected by catnip because they don’t have nepetalactone receptors? Scientists aren’t sure. “While it seems that this is a reasonable hypothesis to explain why humans don’t respond to catnip like cats do, I cannot find any studies that rigorously test it,” Kornreich says. While many brain receptors are common across different animals, many receptors also differ, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented for humans to lack a receptor present in cat brains.

    In cats, inhaled nepetalactone stimulates the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that processes odors. The olfactory bulb then interacts with the amygdala, the brain region associated with emotion and decision-making, and hypothalamus, which controls a variety of bodily functions. From the hypothalamus, nepetalactone stimulates a sexual response in cats that are genetically predisposed to sensitivity to catnip. (About 20 to 30 percent of cats don’t seem to react to the plant.)

    Some insects seem to react to nepetalactone, too. Strangely enough, chemical companies are studying nepetalactone because it seems to repel mosquitoes, ticks and mites, like a kind of natural DEET. For the insects to change their behavior around nepetalactone, even if negatively, suggests that they have nepetalactone receptors.

    As for smoking catnip: not only does it fail to get people high, it can make them feel pretty awful. Too much catnip, whether smoked or drunk as a tea, could cause headaches and vomiting.

    Have a burning science question you’d like to see answered in our FYI section? Email it to fyi@popsci.com.

        

  • Audi Wants Its Cars To Predict Where Traffic Will Be
    Traffic Jam epSos.de
    Side-stepping traffic by mining data

    At the GPU Technology Conference 2013 show in San Jose, Audi announced some of its plans for its Cars of the Future, The Register reports. One of the coolest ideas: cars that can predict where traffic will be, so drivers can avoid it.

    The amply named Predictive Traffic function would mine traffic records and current reports, including social media, as well as scheduled events like sports games that could bring cars to a standstill. The system, under Audi’s plan, could also predict a driver’s most likely destination based on their traffic history.

    Pretty neat! Along with that, Audi announced a concept for a reworked directions system that would operate in a “human-like” way, giving directions based on landmarks instead of streets. A Smart Parking feature would work similarly to the traffic-predicting system, but do it for parking spots: mapping out available spots and prices for those spots, rather than making you drive around in circles hunting one down.

    We don’t have too many details yet on exactly how these systems would work, but since Audi did make a self-driving car, hopefully we’ll see these projects come to life soon, too.

    [The Register]

        

  • Magnetic Brain Stimulation Removes Craving For Cigarettes
    Smoking Kills Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin via Wikimedia
    Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt!

    Scientists at Medical University of South Carolina temporarily blunted cigarette cravings among smokers by magnetically stimulating nerve cells in their brains. The procedure, called transcranial magnetic stimulation, is already approved by the FDA to treat depression, though its efficacy is controversial (it’s also been prescribed to stop people from lying and treat adult ADHD.)

    In the experiment, researchers randomly assigned 16 smokers to either a 15-minute session of high-frequency transcranial magnetic stimulation (in which coils placed over the forehead send magnetic pulses into the prefrontal cortex), or 15 minutes of sham treatment. The magnetic stimulation isn’t painful and doesn’t require sedation or anesthesia. The scientists told the volunteers not to smoke for two hours prior to the experiment.

    Before the treatment, the researchers showed the smokers both neutral images (such as mountain scenes) and images intended to provoke nicotine cravings (such as a person lightning a cigarette.) Then they asked the volunteers to rate how they felt about statements like “I would do almost anything for a cigarette now” and “I am going to smoke as soon as possible.” After the magnetic stimulation, the participants saw similar images and again rated how much they craved a cigarette.

    The researchers found that the participants who got the real magnet treatment expressed significantly less desire to smoke at the end of the experiment compared with those who got the fake treatment. In fact, the craving reduction was positively correlated with how nicotine-dependent the volunteer was, meaning that those who smoked the most saw the greatest decrease in cigarette craving after the magnetic stimulation.

    The authors of the study note that people trying to quit smoking would need several sessions of transcranial magnetic stimulation per day in order to see longer-lasting reductions in cravings. The paper appears in Biological Psychiatry.

        

  • Everything You Need To Know About Ricin, The Poison Mailed To President Obama
    Ricin (on Breaking Bad) via Breaking Bad Wiki
    Ricin is one of the most poisonous substances on Earth, it’s scarily easy to make, and somebody is mailing it to the President and at least one U.S. senator. What it is, how it works, and more, inside.

    Yesterday, an envelope addressed to Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, was found to contain a white granular substance that was identified as ricin. Today, a similar letter addressed to President Obama was found. These envelopes were intercepted off-site–they never got anywhere near their targets–but as a precaution, Capitol Police have shut down mail service until they can figure out what’s going on.

    In the meantime, let’s talk about ricin!

    How poisonous is it?
    Oh, man. Very. It’s dangerous in just about any way it gets into your system, though ingesting (eating) it is about the least dangerous way. Injecting or inhaling requires about a thousand times less ricin to kill a human than ingesting, and that’s a very small amount indeed. An average adult needs only 1.78mg of ricin injected or inhaled to die; that’s about the size of a few grains of table salt–which ricin resembles visually.

    How does it work?
    Ricin, a toxic protein, infects cells, blocking their ability to synthesize their own protein. Without cells making protein, key functions in the body shut down; even in survivors, permanent organ damage is often the result of ricin poisoning. It’s a highly unpleasant way to be poisoned: within six hours, according to the Center for Disease Control, victims who have ingested ricin will feel gastrointestinal effects like severe vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to serious dehydration. Then the ricin infects the cells of the vital gastrointestinal organs as they pass through the body, leading to the failure of the kidneys, liver, and pancreas.

    Inhalation of ricin has a different effect, since the ricin proteins aren’t interacting with the same parts of the body. Instead of gastrointestinal problems, you’ll develop a vicious, bloody cough, your lungs will fill with fluid, and eventually you’ll lose your ability to breathe, causing death. Injection, too, is different, depending on where you’ve been injected, but will generally result in vomiting and flu-like symptoms, swelling around the place of injection, and eventually organ failure as your circulatory system passes the protein around the body. Death from inhalation or injection usually occurs about three to five miserable, agonizing days after contact.

    Interestingly, there aren’t any immediate symptoms, and indeed there can be a significant delay before symptoms show themselves, up to a day or two.

    Exposure on the skin is generally not fatal, though it may cause a reaction that can range from irritation to blistering.

    That sounds…horrible. Is there an antidote, at least?
    Haha. No. The US and UK governments have been working on an antidote for decades–here’s a nice article describing the progression of one such antidote–but there isn’t one available to the public. The CDC’s website states bluntly, “There is no antidote for ricin toxicity.” There are some steps you can take if you get to a hospital immediately; for ingestion, a stomach pump can sometimes prevent the ricin from reaching the rest of the gastrointestinal system at its full force. But…that’s about it, really.

    How does it stack up against other poisons?
    Well, that depends on what your aim is. Ricin is much easier to produce than other popular biological weapons like botulinum, sarin, and anthrax, but it is not as potent as any of those, which limits its effectiveness as a weapon. It also is not very long-lived; the protein can age and become inactive fairly quickly compared to, say, anthrax, which can remain dangerous for decades. There were experiments back around World War I attempting to make wide-scale ricin weapons, packaging it into bombs and coating bullets in it, but these proved not particularly effective and also violate the Hague Convention’s agreements on war crimes, so the US discarded ricin.

    It’s much more effective, weapon-wise, as a close-contact, small-target weapon–by injecting, as with Georgi Markov, or by putting small particles into an aerosol spray and blasting a target. It’s also not contagious, which limits its effectiveness as a tool of biological warfare. But it’s considered highly dangerous partly because it’s still outrageously toxic and partly because it takes no great skill to produce.

    So it’s not hard to make?
    Well…no. Like, not at all. It’s made from the byproduct of the castor oil manufacturing process. You take the “mash” of the castor oil seeds, which contain around 5-10 percent ricin, and perform a process called chromatography. Chromatography is a blanket term for a set of techniques used to separate mixtures, usually by dissolving in liquid or gas. The US government has done its best to eradicate recipes for ricin from the internet, sort of; a patent was filed back in 1962 for ricin extraction, and the Patent Office took it off the publicly available server in 2004 for safety reasons. That said, the recipe is super easy to find; here at the PopSci offices, I’m blocked from listening to Rdio on my work computer, but I found a recipe to make an outrageously deadly poison in about a minute.

    The techniques involved are undergraduate-level chemistry, creating a slurry with the castor bean mash and filtering with water and then a few easily-found substances like hydrochloric acid.

    It comes from castor beans?
    Ricin is a highly toxic protein that’s extracted from the seed of the castor plant, often called a “castor bean” or “castor oil bean,” despite not technically being a bean. The castor plant is extremely common; it’s used as an ornamental plant throughout the western world, prized for its ability to grow basically anywhere as well as its pretty, spiky leaves and weird spiny fruits. It’s also an important crop; the seeds are full of oil, and castor oil is used for lots of legitimate purposes. It’s a common laxative, for one thing, and since it’s more resistant to high temperatures than other kinds of vegetable oils, it’s a nice alternative to petroleum oil in engines.

    Wait, but you can eat it? So how is this a poison?
    Ah, yes. Castor oil is perfectly safe, according to the FDA and your grandma, but ricin is not castor oil. Castor seeds are still poisonous; this study says that a lethal dose of castor seeds for adults is about four to eight seeds. But the oil itself does not contain ricin; the ricin protein is left behind in the “castor bean mash” after the oil is extracted from the seed. Poisoning from eating the seed itself is rare.

    Have there been cases of ricin poisoning in the past?
    You mean, beyond the several times it’s been featured as a major plot point in Breaking Bad? Sure! The most famous is probably the assassination of Georgi Markov in 1978. Markov was a Bulgarian novelist, playwright, journalist, and dissident, and was murdered by the Bulgarian secret service, with assistance from the KGB, by ricin injection. He was crossing a bridge when he was jabbed in the leg with an umbrella, which delivered a ricin pellet into his bloodstream. He died three days later of ricin poisoning.

    There are plenty of incidents of people arrested for attempting (or, more often, succeeding) to make ricin; it’s a pretty easy poison to make. In fact, there was even another ricin-in-the-envelope attempt made back in 2003–a person identifying as “Fallen Angel” sent letters filled with ricin to the White House, apparently as a result of some new trucking regulations (seriously). “Fallen Angel” was never found, but the letters were intercepted and did not cause any injury.

    How dangerous are these envelopes filled with ricin?
    The envelope strategy has more to do with potential ease of getting the poison close to targets than its strength as a delivery system. If you’re targeting the President of the United States, it’s easier and more anonymous to mail a letter than to try to get close to him with an umbrella modified for ricin-stabbing. But it’s not a great way to poison someone with ricin. Assuming the letter actually got into the target’s hands, of the three ways ricin can get into a person’s system (inhalation, injection, ingestion), only one–inhalation–is really possible, and it’s not that likely.

    Inhalation as a weapon is best accomplished through a mist, ideally delivered through an aerosol. But that’s not possible in a letter full of powder. It’s possible that small granules of ricin could be released into the air and inhaled when handling the letter, but it is not an effective way to poison someone. And whoever’s sending these letters evidently doesn’t know that the government set up an elaborate mail-screening system after the 2001 Anthrax scare.

        

  • Mystery Animal Contest: Who Is This Fuzzy Sniffler?
    Guess the species (either common or Linnaean) by tweeting at us–we’re @PopSci–and get your name listed right here! Plus eternal glory, obviously. Update: We have a winner!

    So, here are the rules: To answer, follow us on Twitter and tweet at us with the hashtag #mysteryanimal. For example:

    Hey @PopSci, is the #mysteryanimal a baboon?

    And then I might say “if you think that’s a baboon, perhaps you are the baboon!” But probably not, because this is a positive environment and all guesses are welcome and also this is not a very common animal so guess whatever you want!

    The first person to get it right wins! We’ll retweet the answer from @PopSci, and also update this post so your amazing animal knowledge will be permanently etched onto the internet. Show your kids! Your dumb kids who thought that was a baboon!

    Update: And the winner is…Logan Copeman, who correctly guessed that this is a viscacha (Lagidium viscacia, also spelled vizcacha)! Specifically, this is a southern or mountain viscacha, a rodent found in South America. Yep, rodent: the viscacha is not related to the rabbit family, though it looks similar; the rabbit belongs to an entirely different branch of the evolutionary tree, and the fact that the viscacha looks so much like a rabbit is an example of convergent evolution. Convergent evolution describes when two species not closely related end up adapting to their environments in the same way.

    The viscacha lives in the southern Andes mountains, and is closely related to the chinchilla. It’s sometimes known as a long-tailed rabbit, thanks to its long ears and fluffy coat. It moves similarly to a rabbit, on very strong hind legs, hopping around its mountain home to eat a variety of grasses, mosses, and lichens. It lives in colonies, like all members of the chinchilla family, which can widely range in size. It’s not particularly rare; it is sometimes hunted for its meat and fur, but is believed to be holding steady, population-wise. Hi viscacha!

        

  • EuropaCity Is The Ultra-Green Mall Of The Future
    EuropaCity BIG
    Imagine a mall. Now imagine a mall in the year 2150.

    The design firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), along with a few added team members (Tess, Transsolar, Base, Transitec, and Michel Forgue) have won first place in a competition to design an experimental “urban center” in France called EuropaCity. Located in Île-de-France, the wealthiest and most populous region in France, EuropaCity is intended to be a center of culture and retail, combining all sorts of experimental sustainable technologies.

    But as a design–and a pretty spectacular one at that–it’s best experienced through images. Click through to the gallery to see and read more about the proposal!

    Click to launch the gallery.

        

  • Nanosponges In Your Blood Could Soak Up Infections And Poison
    Nanosponge Engineers at the University of California, San Diego have invented a “nanosponge” capable of safely removing a broad class of toxins from the bloodstream, including toxins produced by MRSA, E. Coli, poisonous snakes and bees. The nanosponges are made of a biocompatible polymer core wrapped in a natural red blood cell membrane. Zhang Research Lab
    Mice who got nanosponge injections survived lethal doses of toxins.

    A newly invented “nanosponge,” sheathed in armor made of red blood cells, can safely remove a wide range of toxins from the bloodstream. Scientists at the University of California-San Diego inoculated some mice with their nanosponge, and then gave the animals otherwise lethal doses of a toxin–and the mice survived.

    This is especially interesting because a nanosponge can work on entire classes of toxins. Most antidotes or treatments against venom, bioweapons or bacteria are targeted to counteract a specific molecular structure, so they can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution; this nanosponge can.

    Scientists led by Liangfang Zhang, a nanoengineering professor at UCSD, worked with a class of proteins known as pore-forming toxins, which work just the way they sound: By ripping a hole in a cell membrane. These toxins are found in snake venom, sea anemones, and even bacteria like the dreaded drug-resistant Staph aureus. The proteins come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all work in a similar way.

    They designed a nanosponge to soak up any type of pore-forming toxins. It consists of a tiny (85-nanometer) plastic ball wrapped in red blood cell membranes, which basically serve as a decoy and soak up the poison. The plastic ball holds everything together, and keeps the protein away from its real cellular targets. The entire nanosponge is 3,000 times smaller than a full red blood cell. The devices had a half-life of about 40 hours when the team tested them on lab mice, according to a release from UCSD.

    They injected mice with 70 times as many toxic proteins as nanosponges, and the sponges still neutralized the poison and caused no visible damage to the animals, the team reports. Next up are clinical trials in animals, to verify that it works safely in a wide range of cases.

    The paper is in this week’s issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

        

  • Wearing A Kilt Could Make Your Sperm Stronger
    Temperature regulation is the key to fertility.

    Temperature affects how much sperm a man makes, so there’s been speculation that the freedom offered by a kilt can increase production. Turns out that that at least could be right: a new metastudy says wearing a kilt “likely produces an ideal physiological scrotal environment, which in turn helps maintain normal scrotal temperature, which is known to be beneficial for robust spermatogenesis and good sperm quality.”

    The study (PDF), published in the Scottish Medical Journal, reviewed the literature on the link between scrotal temperature and reproduction. We know sperm fares better in lower temperatures, and some researchers have suggested that restrictive clothing could negatively affect sperm production. Enter: the kilt, which author Erwin J.O. Kompanje describes thusly: “The Scottish kilt is a male garment that resembles (but is not!) a knee-length, pleated skirt.”

    The author hypothesizes that, based on past findings about temperature and sperm production, a kilt, specifically one worn in the undergarment-free “regimental” style, would be an ideal environment for sperm production. Kompanje searched through related research, focusing on statistics in Scotland and noting along the way that 70 percent of kilt-wearers choose to go regimental. Kilts (at least in Scotland or other countries where they’re more commonly worn) might also be psychologically valuable, increasing feelings of masculinity when worn. Kompanje goes so far as to write that a downturn in Scottish fertility is correlated with the frequency of kilts being worn, although he admits it’s still somewhat speculative until a randomized trial happens. Gentlemen, put on your kilts for science.

        

  • We Could Eat Trees: Scientists Turn Inedible Plant Cellulose Into Starchy Snack
    Turning plant byproducts into digestible carbs could feed more people.

    Someday, it will be be summer again and it will be time for fresh sweet corn. In the future, you might be able to eat the whole thing, cob and all.

    This weird possibility is courtesy of some scientists at Virginia Tech, who have transformed cellulose, a mostly indigestible polymer, into helpful, indispensable starch.

    Plants produce cellulose and starch, which are chemically similar, for very different purposes. Cellulose forms the cell walls of most plants, algae and even some bacteria, and we use it for anything from clothing (cotton is almost all cellulose) to paper to ethanol. Starch is a plant’s energy source, and it’s ours, too, in the form of tasty things like potatoes, wheat and corn. The difference between the two is a simple change in the hydrogen bonds that form the molecules.

    Animals like cows and pigs can digest cellulose thanks to symbiotic bacteria in their digestive tracts, but humans can’t. It’s important in our diets as source of fiber, in that it binds together waste in our digestive tracts. Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech, set out to make it a food source.

    Since cellulose and amylose are both glucose chains, you would just have to rearrange their hydrogen bonds. This is anything but simple, although essentially Zhang and colleagues used chemistry. They worked with a series of synthetic enzymes to break down the hydrogen bonds in some plant material that would not otherwise be used for food, like corn cobs and leaves. The “enzyme cascade” enabled the cellulose molecules to reconfigure into amylose, which is a form of starch. A key ingredient in this process, a special polypeptide cap, is found in potatoes.

    The resulting product is not exactly the future of bread flour, but it can be used as a fiber source, or food-safe biodegradable packaging, perhaps. The remaining portion of the original material was treated with microbes to produce a form of glucose that can then be used for ethanol. The whole process didn’t require any unusual heat or chemical reagents, other than the enzymes themselves, so it would be easy to reproduce on larger scales, Zhang and his colleagues say.

    Cellulose is the most common carbohydrate–indeed the most common organic material–on the planet, so using it for food could be a superb way to feed millions of people, they argue.

    “There is an urgent need to use abundant and renewable nonfood agricultural and forest residues and dedicated bioenergy crops that can grow on marginal land and require low inputs,” they write. The paper appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

        

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Illegal Trade Robs Wild of Almost 3,000 Great Apes Annually, Threatening Populations / Released at CITES Meeting, New UNEP Report Links Ape Traffic to Organized Crime

Posted on 04 March 2013 by Africa Business

About GRASP

The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) is an innovative and ambitious partnership comprised of great ape range states with an immediate challenge: to lift the threat of imminent extinction faced by gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans across their ranges in equatorial Africa and Southeast Asia. Visit the GRASP website here: http://www.un-grasp.org/

 

BANGKOK, Thailand, March 4, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The illegal trade that sees almost 3,000 live great apes lost from the forests of Africa and Southeast Asia each year is increasingly impacting wild populations as links to organized crime grow stronger.

 

Stolen Apes: The Illicit Trade in Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bonobos and Orangutans is the first report to analyze the scale and scope of the illegal trade and highlights the growing links to sophisticated trans-boundary crime networks, which law enforcement networks are struggling to contain.

 

Stolen Apes, which was produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), estimates that a minimum of 22,218 great apes have been lost from the wild since 2005 – either sold, killed during the hunt, or dying in captivity – with chimpanzees comprising 64 per cent of that number.

 

The report examines confiscation records, international trade databases, law enforcement reports, and arrival rates from sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers between 2005 and 2011.

 

Stolen Apes says that each great ape confiscated or confirmed in the illegal trade represents many more that died either during the capture or the trafficking process.

Over the past seven years, a minimum of 643 chimpanzees, 48 bonobos, 98 gorillas and 1,019 orangutans are documented to have been captured from the wild for illegal trade. These figures are just the tip of the iceberg, and extrapolating from this research the report estimates that at least 2,972 great apes are lost from the wild each year.

 

“The taking of great apes from the wild is not new – it has gone on for well over a century,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. “But the current scale outlined in this report underlines how important it is that the international community and the organizations responsible for conserving endangered species remain vigilant, keeping a step ahead of those seeking to profit from such illegal activities.”

All great apes are endangered and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as Appendix I animals.

Yet Stolen Apes reveals that the illegal trade has shifted from being a by-product of traditional conservation threats such as deforestation, mining and bush-meat hunting to a more sophisticated business driven by demand from international markets.

These markets include the tourist entertainment industry, disreputable zoos, and wealthy individuals who want exotic pets as status symbols. Great apes are used to attract tourists to entertainment facilities such as amusement parks and circuses. They are even used in tourist photo sessions on Mediterranean beaches and boxing matches in Asian safari parks.

Since 2007, standing orders from zoos and private owners in Asia have spurred the export of over 130 chimpanzees and 10 gorillas under falsified permits from Guinea alone, an enterprise that requires a coordinated trading network through Central and West Africa. A safari park in Thailand admitted in 2006 that it acquired at least 54 orangutans from the forests of Borneo and Sumatra.

“It is important to establish baseline figures for the illegal trade in great apes, even if these numbers only hint at the devastation,” said Doug Cress, coordinator of GRASP. “Great apes are extremely important for the health of forests in Africa and Asia, and even the loss of 10 or 20 at a time can have a deep impact on biodiversity.”

The illicit trade is increasingly linked to organized crime, and sophisticated trans-boundary networks now move great apes along with other contraband such as ivory, arms, drugs, rhino horn and laundered money. A smuggler recently apprehended in Cameroon was transporting a live chimpanzee wedged between sacks of marijuana.

Profit margins are high for the criminal networks. The report found that a poacher may sell a live chimpanzee for US$50, whereas the middleman will resell that same chimpanzee at a mark-up of as much as 400 per cent.

Orangutans can fetch US$1,000 at re-sale, and gorillas illegally sold to a zoo in Malaysia in 2002 reportedly went for US$400,000 each.

“The illegal trade in apes has little to do with poverty,” said Ofir Drori, founder of the Last Great Ape Organization in Cameroon. “It is instead generated by the rich and powerful.”

Law enforcement efforts lag far behind the rates of illegal trade. Only 27 arrests were made in Africa and Asia in connection with great ape trade between 2005 and 2011, and one-fourth of the arrests were never prosecuted.

 

The report also found that the loss of natural great ape ranges in Africa and Asia helps drive the illegal trade, as it promotes contact and conflict between apes and humans. Great ape habitat is being lost at the rate of 2-5 per cent annually. By 2030 less than 10 per cent of the current range will remain on current trends.

In Southeast Asia, the conversion of rainforest for agro-industry is directly linked to the illegal trade, as orangutans are flushed from the forest and end up being captured, killed, or trafficked. Extractive industries such as logging, mining, and petroleum exploration create transportation and trade routes that facilitate the illicit traffic of great apes.

Key Recommendations from the Report

As well as highlighting the scale of the problem and the worrying trend of increasing organization of the trade, the report issues a series of recommendations aimed at reducing the startling rate of decline of ape populations, including:

• Establish an electronic database that includes the numbers, trends and tendencies of the illegal great ape trade, and monitor arrests, prosecutions and convictions as a means of assessing national commitment.

 

• Target organized crime by investigating traffickers and buyers, establishing trans-national criminal intelligence units targeting environmental crime to ensure that intelligence is compiled, analyzed and shared with national police forces, customs and INTERPOL, and prosecuting the accused to the fullest extent of the law.

 

• Utilize national and international multimedia campaigns to eliminate the trade/ownership/use of great apes and emphasize laws and deterrent punishment.

 

• DNA-test all confiscated great apes and return to country of origin – if discernible – within eight weeks of confiscation.

 

• Review national laws and penalties relating to the killing and trafficking of great apes and support efforts to forcefully implement and strengthen those laws.

 

• Increase enforcement of protected areas, to both reduce illegal trade in great apes and to protect their habitat.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Download the full report here: http://www.grida.no/publications/rr/apes/

SOURCE

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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Small farmers risk exclusion from biofuels certification schemes / FAO report warns that certification schemes could become indirect trade barriers if not properly managed

Posted on 26 February 2013 by The African Press Organization

ROME, Italy, February 26, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The way certification schemes for biofuels are structured makes it difficult for smallholder producers and many developing countries to participate in export markets, according to a new report from FAO.

 

The report, Biofuels and the Sustainability Challenge, finds that current certification schemes, which are voluntary and largely privately-operated, might exclude small-scale farmers because they are dominantly designed for large-scale agro-industry. Many certification schemes are data- or information-intensive and require costs and capacities that are often out of reach for most smallholders.

 

“As structured, these schemes would tend to favour big players and provide incentives for scaling up production to absorb certification costs,” the report says.

 

But certification can have some positive impacts on business, including “improved efficiency within a supply chain … decreased risk, higher transparency and increased awareness about problems in the supply chain.”

 

Market access

 

At the same time, however, the schemes, ” to the extent that they are established to control imports, can hinder trade and reduce market access – especially for developing countries with comparative advantages in business production, and which see in this industry a real opportunity for development and for overcoming rural poverty and high unemployment”.

 

“Many developing countries express concern that certification schemes can become indirect trade barriers when not managed properly,” the report continues.

 

For example, while it is easy for producers in industrialized countries to comply with the demand for education opportunities to be provided for employed farmers, it could be much more difficult for small-scale producers in developing countries.

 

Similarly, big companies routinely keep financial records needed for audits while smallholders tend to keep information in their heads on data such as yields, fertilizers and other inputs needed for Greenhouse Gas Emissions estimations.

 

“To increase certification uptake, governments and international organizations in consumer and producer countries should establish complementary mechanisms to create an enabling environment,” the report suggests.

 

National legislation

 

“Such mechanisms could include national legislation, public procurement policies, tax incentives and tax relief and start-up grants. Financial institutions also have an important role to play to support and enable schemes.”

 

One way to reduce costs for smallholders is to promote local inspection bodies, the report adds. “These involve lower costs for the producers, are better able to conduct spontaneous examinations and are generally better informed about on-site characteristics.

 

“There are positive, negative and mixed impacts of biofuel certification,” the report concludes. “Environmental impacts for certification can bring positive benefits if they facilitate forest planning and inventory, silviculture, biodiversity protection and monitoring and compliance.”

 

“Economic impacts can also be positive if certification can generate price premiums… for suppliers, ensure decent wages for workers and ensure market access. On the downside there are negative effects on smallholders who appear to be left out of the certification schemes.”

 

SOURCE

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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Dolat Ventures to Enter African Timber Sector

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Africa Business

* DOLV To Access an Exclusive Licence to Cut Timber and Export

 

NEW YORK, Feb., 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Dolat Ventures Inc. (OTC: DOLV) announced that its it is expected to enter into a timber operation located in the Kono district of Sierra Leone. The Company is currently investigating a 45k acre project which is expected to produce up to $150,000 to $200,000 a month once in operation. The license has already been issued and DOLV is currently in negotiations to begin operations upon complete due diligence.

The government of Sierra Leone is distributing a few exclusive licenses to cut timber for export. DOLV intends to have access for operations to a private forest of about 45,000 acres to utilize the license. The advantage of a private forest as opposed to a public forest is that DOLV will have direct access to a variety of African hardwood timber which are in high demand for export without the need for a government lease. DOLV is projecting that once underway, the project may generate up to $500,000 a month and progress to $2,000,000 a month. The projections depend on the size of the DOLV operation over the next three quarters. Additional information on the DOLV timber project will be released over the next month.

Sierra Leone is considered one of the most stable countries on the African continent. It has a thriving democracy along with a growing economy and the investment climate is booming. Sierra Leone’s coast has fertile seas, vast mineral resources and hard working people…a true land of opportunity.

Dovid Hauck , President of Dolat Ventures stated, “Our future continues to be very exciting with this additional revenue source. The Company remains focused on expanding its diamond resources at the Baimbawai Pool on the Sewa River. At current grades and diamond values, the Baimbawai Pool on the Sewa River potentially maybe one of the highest known value per ton kimberlites globally. Dolat is also in preliminary negotiations with other mines within 10 kilometers from Dolat’s mines that have an interest in being acquired. There is plenty of opportunity for expansion in diamonds and into gold, timber and other metals. We intend to be drilling and upgrading the resource statement during the fourth quarter of this year and I look forward to updating shareholders as we progress.”

About Dolat Ventures Inc. (OTC: DOLV) www.dove-diamonds.com: Dolat Ventures Inc. through its wholly owned subsidiary Dove Diamonds & Mining intends to sell, market, cut and distribute its diamonds and gems around the world. Dolat’s Millenium Mining is located in the Sewa River, located in the heart of Sierra Leone, West Africa formed by the junction of the Bagbe and Bafi rivers; it flows 150 mi (240 km) to join the Waanje River and form the Kittam, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The country’s most important commercial river, it has historically produced the bulk of Sierra Leone’s diamond exports. The company intends to wholesale its rough and uncut diamonds globally.

Forward-Looking Statements This press release may contain certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and such Forward Looking Statements are intended to be covered by the safe harbors created thereby. Investors are cautioned that all forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties. All statements other than statements of historical fact in this announcement are forward-looking statements, including but not limited to the viability of the company’s business plans, the effect of acquisitions on our profitability, the effectiveness, profitability, and the marketability of the Company’s products; the Company’s ability to protect its proprietary information; general economic and business conditions; the volatility of the company’s operating results and financial condition; and other risks detailed in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties and are based on current expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections about the company and the industry. The Company undertakes no obligation to update forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent occurring events or circumstances, or to changes in its expectations, except as may be required by law. Although the company believes that the expectations expressed in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, management cannot assure the public that their expectations will turn out to be correct, and investors are cautioned that actual results may differ materially from the anticipated results.

SOURCE Dolat Ventures Inc.

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Land wealth and administration to stimulate economic development in Africa

Posted on 01 February 2013 by Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

The securing of land titles will reduce poverty and enhance economic development on the African continent – experts declare.

In Kampala, Uganda recently, IGN France International, the leader of the international consortium engaged in the Design, Supply, Installation, Implementation of the Lands Information System and Securing of Land Records (DeSIILISoR) project in Uganda, organized a regional conference in Kampala, Uganda (January 17th and 18th) on the theme:

“Modernization of land administration and management systems Implementation of Land Information Systems (LIS): sharing experiences, innovations and good practices.”

An official conference report reveals that the the official opening of the conference was attended by the Vice-President of the Republic of Uganda Edward Sekandi; the Minister of the Land, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) Daudi Migereko, three Ministers of State (secretaries of state), the Ambassador of France, and representatives from the World Bank.

The report further shows that theparticipation of such prominent representatives clearly demonstrated the level of importance that Ugandan and the international authorities attribute to the issue of land in general and to the DeSILISoR project in particular.

Frank Byamugisha, the World Bank representative explained that the Bank had financed more than 60 land projects over the past 20 years to a total value of US$2.7 billion.

He discussed the development benefits of these cross-cutting projects and explored the economic (natural resources management, urban planning) and sociological (gender issues) benefits to countries that initiate them.

Byamugisha also highlighted the direct objectives of the World Banks interventions: improving tenure security over communal land, improving tenure security over individual land, increasing access and tenure for the poor and vulnerable, increasing efficiency and transparency in land administration services, developing capacity in land administration, resolving land disputes and managing expropriations,increasing scope and effectiveness of land use planning, improving public land management, developing post-conflict land administration and strengthening valuation functions and land tax policies.

In addition, more than 180 participants from over ten different African countries participated in the conference. Representatives from Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Togo, France, United Kingdom and the Netherlands attended the conference with full delegations from Ivory Coast, Chad and Libya.

The strong participation in this conference clearly reflects the strong interest in West Africa and East to secure land and developing the potential of land and natural resources.

And the consortium charged with the implementation of the DeSIILISoR project led by IGN France International brought together 10 companies involving 30 international experts to digitalize 16,000 cadastral maps and 500,000 and titles.

The conference also provided an opportunity for the people involved in the project to share experiences and the various components of the project including the establishment of a National Land Information Centre (NLIC), the design and implementation of a land information system (LIS) in Uganda, the conversion of land records, data integration, training and capacity building, and the implementation of a public information and awareness communication were all presented in detail.

Feedback from each member of the consortium on the different aspects and the main difficulties encountered during the 3 year project were an important element of the plenary session and presented a road map of the main issues to take into account when starting these ambitious and complex land projects.

A presentation of regional issues was made by the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) and country specific presentations were made by land specialists from Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi.

Throughout the two day conference, discussions focused on technical issues related to the choice of the solutions adopted, the methodologies to be implemented and the technical equipment installed.

Other topics included issues of protection against hacking, the importance of training local people, the communication targeting administrative staff and the public, and the importance of measuring concrete benefits of such projects and their returns on investment.

Several presentations had focused on the use of aerial photography or satellite imagery in cadaster projects. As the cost of a geographic dataset depends heavily on its accuracy, it is essential to define the data sources that will be used for the establishment of the cadastral reference from the start.

Picking up a key point of discussion on the theme of the added value of NSDI projects for developing countries at the regional conference IGN France International held in April 2012 in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) the link between land projects and National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) was also addressed. Land projects are sometimes considered the cornerstone of NSDI initiatives, the report added

However the situation varies considerably from one country to another. Clear links exist between LIS projects and NSDI initiatives; however, some countries initiated NSDI projects without systematic land initiatives, while others have taken advantage of LIS projects to develop national spatial data infrastructure.

Most agreed that the highest authorities must play a determining role in the definition of public policies legal frameworks and the way these projects move forward. Without this strategic vision, both LIS and NSDI projects encounter difficulties fail to get off the ground or are not become sustainable.

Also, the completion of a geographic data set appears to be an essential component for both LIS or NSDI projects and should be taken into account from the very beginning.

In her final intervention, the Minister of Lands insisted on the added value of the LI project led by IGN France International. Securing land titles will reduce poverty and enhance economic development in Uganda.

Land insecurity presents an obstacle to economic and social development. In Uganda, a World Bank study revealed that the average delay for the registration of titles was 270 days. It is in this context that the Ugandan Government wished to modernise its procedures. IGN France International won a tender for the securing of property titles through the development of an unique land information system for the 6 departmental offices of the districts of Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso, Jinja, Masaka and Mbarara, as well as the establishment of a national land information centre.

While, IGN France International was created in 1986 and is the international subsidiary of the French IGN (National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information). Over the years, the company has shown itself to be an indispensable player in both of its sectors of intervention: geographic information (acquisition, processing, modelling) and geographic information systems (implementation and integration). It works on all types of projects in the following fields: Cadastre and land administration, urban planning, energy, environment, risk management, water, security/precision work, agriculture.

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Land Administration: Success for the Regional Event in Kampala

Posted on 24 January 2013 by Africa Business

 

KAMPALA, Uganda, January, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ IGN France International (http://www.ignfi.com), the leader of the international consortium engaged in the Design, Supply, Installation, Implementation of the Lands Information System and Securing of Land Records (DeSIILISoR) project in Uganda organized a regional conference in Kampala, Uganda (January 17th and 18th) on the theme:

“Modernization of land administration and management systems Implementation of Land Information Systems (LIS): sharing experiences, innovations and good practices.”

The official opening of the conference was attended by the Vice-President of the Republic of Uganda Edward Sekandi; the Minister of the Land, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) Daudi Migereko, three Ministers of State (secretaries of state), the Ambassador of France, and representatives from the World Bank. The participation of such prominent representatives clearly demonstrated the level of importance that Ugandan and the international authorities attribute to the issue of land in general and to the DeSILISoR project in particular.

Frank Byamugisha, the World Bank representative explained that the Bank had financed more than 60 land projects over the past 20 years to a total value of US$2.7 billion. He discussed the development benefits of these cross-cutting projects and explored the economic (natural resources management, urban planning) and sociological (gender issues) benefits to countries that initiate them. Byamugisha also highlighted the direct objectives of the World Banks interventions: improving tenure security over communal land, improving tenure security over individual land, increasing access and tenure for the poor and vulnerable, increasing efficiency and transparency in land administration services, developing capacity in land administration, resolving land disputes and managing expropriations, increasing scope and effectiveness of land use planning, improving public land management, developing post-conflict land administration and strengthening valuation functions and land tax policies.

Desilisor KLA parcels

 

More than 180 participants from over ten different African countries participated in the conference. Representatives from Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Togo, France, United Kingdom and the Netherlands attended the conference with full delegations from Ivory Coast, Chad and Libya. The strong participation in this conference clearly reflects the strong interest in West Africa and East to secure land and developing the potential of land and natural resources.

The consortium charged with the implementation of the DeSIILISoR project led by IGN France International brought together 10 companies involving 30 international experts to digitalize 16,000 cadastral maps and 500,000 and titles. The conference provided an opportunity for the people involved in the project to share experiences and the various components of the project including the establishment of a National Land Information Centre (NLIC), the design and implementation of a land information system (LIS) in Uganda, the conversion of land records, data integration, training and capacity building, and the implementation of a public information and awareness communication were all presented in detail.

Feedback from each member of the consortium on the different aspects and the main difficulties encountered during the 3 year project were an important element of the plenary session and presented a road map of the main issues to take into account when starting these ambitious and complex land projects. A presentation of regional issues was made by the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) and country specific presentations were made by land specialists from Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi.

Throughout the two day conference, discussions focused on technical issues related to the choice of the solutions adopted, the methodologies to be implemented and the technical equipment installed. Other topics included issues of protection against hacking, the importance of training local people, the communication targeting administrative staff and the public, and the importance of measuring concrete benefits of such projects and their returns on investment. Several presentations focused on the use of aerial photography or satellite imagery in cadaster projects. As the cost of a geographic dataset depends heavily on its accuracy, it is essential to define the data sources that will be used for the establishment of the cadastral reference from the start.

Picking up a key point of discussion on the theme of the added value of NSDI projects for developing countries at the regional conference IGN France International held in April 2012 in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) the link between land projects and National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) was also addressed. Land projects are sometimes considered the cornerstone of NSDI initiatives. However the situation varies considerably from one country to another. Clear links exist between LIS projects and NSDI initiatives; however, some countries initiated NSDI projects without systematic land initiatives, while others have taken advantage of LIS projects to develop national spatial data infrastructure.

Most agreed that the highest authorities must play a determining role in the definition of public policies legal frameworks and the way these projects move forward. Without this strategic vision, both LIS and NSDI projects encounter difficulties fail to get off the ground or are not become sustainable. The completion of a geographic data set appears to be an essential component for both LIS or NSDI projects and should be taken into account from the very beginning.

In her final intervention, the Minister of Lands insisted on the added value of the LI project led by IGN France International. Securing land titles will reduce poverty and enhance economic development in Uganda.

Download “Implementation-land-information-system-Uganda-Land-Administration”: http://www.apo-mail.org/ignien.pdf

More details on the regional conference and the programmes will be available at:
http://www.lis-uganda.go.ug and at http://www.ignfi.com

About the DeSILISoR project – Land insecurity presents an obstacle to economic and social development. In Uganda, a World Bank study revealed that the average delay for the registration of titles was 270 days. It is in this context that the Ugandan Government wished to modernise its procedures. IGN France International won a tender for the securing of property titles through the development of an unique land information system for the 6 departmental offices of the districts of Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso, Jinja, Masaka and Mbarara, as well as the establishment of a national land information centre.

About IGN France International - IGN France International (http://www.ignfi.com) was created in 1986 and is the international subsidiary of the French IGN (National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information). Over the years, the company has shown itself to be an indispensable player in both of its sectors of intervention: geographic information (acquisition, processing, modelling) and geographic information systems (implementation and integration). It works on all types of projects in the following fields: Cadastre and land administration, urban planning, energy, environment, risk management, water, security/precision work, agriculture.

SOURCE

IGN France International

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Herakles Farms Appoints Dr. Atanga Ekobo As Vice President Of Conservation In Cameroon

Posted on 14 January 2013 by Africa Business

Former World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Program Coordinator to Lead Environmental Sustainability Efforts

 

LIMBE, Cameroon, Jan. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Herakles Farms (also known as SG-SOC), a New York-based agriculture company operating in Ghana and Cameroon, today announced the appointment of Dr. Atanga Ekobo to the position of Vice President of Conservation. Dr. Ekobo’s hire marks one of many steps that Herakles Farms is taking to strengthen its in-house environmental conservation capabilities as the company continues to pursue the highest environmental standards with respect to its commercial palm oil project in the South West Region of Cameroon.

Dr. Ekobo, a native of Cameroon, received his Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Yaounde in 1983 and went on to earn his Doctorate in Conservation Biology from the University of Kent, England in 1995.  Dr. Ekobo’s career includes more than 20 years working with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Cameroon, where for the past ten years he was the Program Coordinator for the WWF Coastal Forests Programme.  During his time working with WWF, Dr. Ekobo focused on programs and studies within the South West Region of Cameroon, the current location of Herakles Farm’s commercial oil palm project.  Dr. Ekobo began working in the Korup National Park as early as 1988, where he initiated a research project on forest elephants.  During his long career in Cameroon, Dr. Ekobo has been a staunch proponent of environmental conservation and was instrumental in many important conservation projects, including the creation of more than half of the national parks located in the Cameroon part of the Congo Basin, as well as the Bakossi Landscape Project and projects related to Korup National Park, Mt. Cameroon National Park and Banyang Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary.

“As with any commercial-scale agricultural project, there is a need to address the concerns of all of the stakeholders that might be impacted by it,” stated Bruce Wrobel , CEO of Herakles Farms. “We believe the addition of Dr. Ekobo to Herakles Farms’ expanding conservation team will go a long way in helping us address the concerns of those environmental organizations that have exhibited anxiety over the project.  Dr. Ekobo has an intimate knowledge of the region, a deep understanding of the concerns expressed and the expertise to strengthen our internal controls and procedures.  Hiring someone of this caliber illustrates the company’s commitment to responsible agricultural development and environmental stewardship.  I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Dr. Ekobo to the Herakles team.”

“I have been following with great interest Herakles Farms’ process of continual improvement and growth,” said Dr. Atanga Ekobo . “Herakles Farms respects the biodiversity in the region in which it operates and strives to preserve the surrounding ecosystem.  In my new role, I will further help Herakles Farms to ensure that palm oil is produced in an environmentally sustainable way.”

About Herakles Farms
Established in 2009, Herakles Farms is focused on identifying and implementing solutions to important food security issues in Africa. The management team has a track record of developing environmentally and socially sustainable projects that result in economic development in some of the least-developed African countries, and has received numerous awards for its work. Herakles Farms is guided by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards and Equator Principles. www.heraklesfarms.com

SOURCE Herakles Farms

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Smallholders to benefit from carbon finance: Fairtrade and Gold Standard collaboration opens up new opportunities for farming communities in developing countries

Posted on 03 December 2012 by Africa Business

Doha, Qatar

Fairtrade International and The Gold Standard Foundation have announced a ground-breaking agreement to incorporate Fairtrade principles into Gold Standard carbon projects, with the first credits expected by the end of 2013. Through Fairtrade’s extensive network of farmer communities, thousands more smallholders in developing countries will be able to access the carbon market and receive much needed finance to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

 

Announced at the climate change negotiations (COP18) in Doha, the move brings together two of the world’s leading voluntary standards, addressing a market and corporate need for clarity and simplicity in certification.

 

For farmers this means a welcome opportunity to receive financial support for their efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change on their farms and communities, such as tree planting, reducing use of fertilizers and improved soil management. Some Fairtrade farmers have seen yields decrease by up to 50 percent over the past year. Research suggests that, due to climate change, yields will continue to decrease, threatening farmers’ livelihoods, impacting food security and global supply chains.

 

“Rural communities and smallholders in developing countries contribute least to climate change yet are being affected the most and their efforts to mitigate are often not recognized,” says Andreas Kratz, Director of Strategy and Standards at Fairtrade International. “This new collaboration will deliver much needed finance, ensuring smallholders benefit from the carbon market and drive development that is fair to both people and planet.”

 

“The growing collaboration between ‘best-in-class’ standards represents what the market wants – streamlined and simplified processes and reduced transaction costs. This will scale up and fast-track sustainable resource management and low carbon development,” states Adrian Rimmer, CEO of The Gold Standard Foundation. “It’s the obvious choice for responsible corporates and project developers to make fair, transparent and credible environmental and social investments.”

 

The Fairtrade-Gold Standard collaboration marks a further cooperation between leading standards, following The Gold Standard’s collaboration with Forest Stewardship Council® on land use and forest carbon earlier this year.

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