GENET archive


2-Plants: Rockefeller Foundation in Kenya - GE or non-GE project?

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  NGOs Plan to Boost Region's Food Output
SOURCE: The Nation, Kenya
DATE:   20 Jul 2004

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NGOs Plan to Boost Region's Food Output

A US charity has pledged to collaborate with Bungoma non-governmental
organisations to increase food yields through the promotion of new
agricultural technologies. Rockefeller Foundation is to support
programmes that aimed at giving the farmers technologies that guaranteed
high returns to offset the cost of inputs. The foundation's food security
chief, Dr John Lyan, lamented that technologies developed through
research had not been adopted by the farmers, leading to poor yields and
food shortages. Rockefeller is also funding Sh18 million research in
western Kenya, spearheaded by the Sustainable Agriculture Centre for
Research Extension and Development (Sacred,
index.htm) and five other NGOs. It covers 140 farms with emphasis on
nutrient content, marketing and the control of the striga weed. Moi
University and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) are also
involved in the programme. "We want to support efforts to have farmers
adopt these new technologies. We have been involved in the development of
new crop varieties and marketing," Dr Lyan said. "Let us focus on new
technology. But what is disturbing is the failure by the farmers to take
it up to increase production." He was addressing farmers during a field-
day at Sacred's crop demonstration centre in Bungoma.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Africa Behind in Food Output
SOURCE: The Nation, Kenya, by Simbi Kusimba
DATE:   15 May 2004

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Africa Behind in Food Output

Adoption of biotechnology to create genetically modified crops could be
the ultimate answer to Africa's falling food yields. An estimated 200
million people on the continent are malnourished, and research findings
by the Rockefeller Foundation, an American charity organisation indicate
that average agricultural production is one tonne per hectare in Africa,
whereas in Asia it is three tonnes. The New York based organisation
cautions that without more and better trained local scientists, the cycle
of poverty caused by inadequate technologies, low yields and poor markets
was likely to continue being experienced. The charity now advocates
growing of tissue cultured bananas that are free of pests and diseases,
which yield over 50 tonnes per hectare, and the new rice varieties for
Africa that record yields of up to three tonnes per hectare with low
fertiliser use. The new rice was developed by researchers at the West
Africa Rice Development Association and is now widely grown in Uganda and
West Africa. In Western Kenya, the Sustainable Agricultural Centre for
Research Extension and Development Africa) has began trials of Nerica in
Bungoma. Sacred Africa's executive director, Dr Eusebius Mukhwana, told
the Nation that the crop would do well if the rainfall patterns did not
change drastically. "Biotechnology-genetic engineering-holds the
considerable promise in solving Africa's food production problems and new
technologies must be accessible to the poor in particular so we must
ensure that proprietary technologies are available to African plant
breeders," Rockefeller president Gordon Conway said. He observed that the
rise of a sophisticated global intellectual property system covering many
building block technologies locked out public researchers from accessing
new ideas and tools in their field of specialisation. Dr Conway said
Rockefeller helped set up the African Agricultural Technology Foundation
to gain access to new proprietary technologies and make them available to
plant breeders in Africa.

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Charity to Fund Further Research On Food Crops
SOURCE: The Nation, Kenya
DATE:   31 Mar 2004

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Charity to Fund Further Research On Food Crops

An American charity will continue funding research in Kenyan institutions
to improve food yields. The president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr
Gordon Conway, promised that his organisation would fund the development
of maize varieties at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. Dr
Conway, who yesterday wound up his Kenyan tour with a visit to the
Sustainable Agriculture Centre for Research Extension and Development
(Sacred) Africa in Bungoma, said it was important to develop new
technologies in agriculture. Rockefeller is funding research institutions
in western Kenya to the tune of Sh18 million. The venture is coordinated
by Sacred Africa. Dr Conway emphasised the need to pool resources for
growth. He was accompanied by Sacred Africa's chief executive Eusebius
Mukhwana, Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange chief Adrian Mukhebi,
Rockefeller Foundation chairman Jim Orr, board member Strive Masiyiwa and
Rockefeller's Africa Regional Programme director Peter Matlon. Dr Conway
said his foundation was offering support for the treatment of Aids in
conjunction with Moi University Medical School in Eldoret. He announced
that funds for the maize marketing programme initiated by Sacred Africa
would be increased next years to cover maize producing districts in
Western Kenya. The programme will include other crops following the
success of community cereal banks in Bungoma that achieved maize sales of
Sh6 million in four months last year when they got better markets. Other
districts to be included next year are Mt Elgon, Trans Nzoia, Vihiga,
Siaya, Lugari and Teso.

                                  PART IV
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Gordon Conway on Striga-resistant maize - non-GE solutions and GE
        "From the Green Revolution to the Biotechnology Revolution:
        Food for Poor People in the 21st Century"
SOURCE: The Rockefeller Foundation, USA
DATE:   12 Mar 2003

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"From the Green Revolution to the Biotechnology Revolution: Food for Poor
People in the 21st Century"

Dr. Gordon Conway, President
The Rockefeller Foundation
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Director's Forum, March 12, 2003

Learning to Work with Farmers

Breeders from one International Agricultural Research Center working in
Zimbabwe have had notable success in introducing new [non-GE] varieties
of corn that are more resistant to the stresses of drought and low
nitrogen, success that was due in large part to the active participation
of local farmers in the breeding efforts. (17) In Kenya, a group of
researchers has helped organize farmers to plant trial plots on their
land, investigating varieties, spacing, fertilizer treatments,
intercropping, and erosion control, mixing treatments suggested by
scientists with those suggested by the farmers. A committee of farmer
researchers has overseen the experiments, and neighboring farmers are now
taking up the successful innovations. (18)

Using Resources Better

For instance, Striga is a nasty weed whose seeds cling to corn seeds, so
farmers actually plant the weeds that will attack their crops. Planting
corn together with the legume Desmodium uncinatum helps to control
Striga. (21)

Managing Biotechnology

Traditional plant-breeding sciences are crucial, and these have long
been, and will continue to be, our focus. Cassava resistant to viruses,
beans resistant to fungal diseases, and corn more tolerant of drought and
containing higher quality proteins are just a few of the products of
conventional breeding African farmers have readily adopted. (24) But we
would be irresponsible if we did not help Africans begin to build a
foundation from which to take advantage of the capabilities of new
techniques and products made possible by biotechnology, including
genetically modified, or GM, seeds. Biotech can help us improve pest
resistance while reducing reliance on chemical pesticides that are
expensive and damaging to the environment. It can help us to adapt plant
varieties to the different growing conditions of Africa's many different
ecosystems. To speak more specifically, it offers the promises of
creating millet and corn varieties that are resistant to Striga, cowpeas
that can resist pod borers, and bananas resistant to weevil and fungus.

17) Banziger, M., J. DeMeyer, 2002. Collaborative maize variety
development for stress-prone environments in southern Africa. In Farmers,
Scientists and Plant Breeding: Integrating Knowledge and Practice, D.A.
Cleveland and D. Soleri (eds.) CABI, Oxon, U.K., pp. 269-296.
18) Largat, M., E. Mukhwana, P.L. Woomer, MBLI Update: Testing an
innovative cropping arrangement. Sustainable Agriculture Centre for
Research and Development in Africa (SACRED Africa), Bungoma, Kenya.
21) Khan, Z.R., et al. 2002. Control of Witchweed Striga hermonthica by
intercropping with Desmodium spp. and the mechanism defined as
allelopathic. J. of Chemical Ecology 28: 1871-1885.
24) DeVries, J., G. Toenniessen, 2002. Securing the Harvest:
Biotechnology Breeding and Seed Systems for African Crops. CABI,
Wallingford, U.K.


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