Ethiopia’s seed banks and the search for food security


The community seed bank in Chefe Donsa, a village two hours’ drive east of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, collects and preserves the seeds of local crops to ensure farmers have a steady supply of seeds to sow each year.

The Chefe Donsa seed bank is just one of 13 established in different climatic areas of the country. The nation’s central seed bank, which the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity set up in Addis Ababa, helps researchers and farmers retain agricultural biodiversity. By preserving this, researchers hope to strengthen food security in the country and mitigate the risk of famine, which is increasing due to climate change-related droughts.

This film was made with the support of the Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme, which is run by the European Journalism Centre and financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Call for ‘ecohealth’ approach to tackling climate change | Ecohealth #4

The EcoHealth conference has made a call to action on climate change. It urges researchers to link existing scientific knowledge with cultural wisdom. A study into mercury poisoning shows the benefit of cross-disciplinary work


[MONTREAL] If researchers are to effectively address the profound challenges that climate change will have on human health, they will have to work across disciplines and with local communities, says a declaration from the 5th Biennial Conference of the International Association For Ecology & Health held last week (11-15 August).


The declaration “is an endorsement and a call to action on climate change”, said Maya Gislason, a member of the conference’s international advisory committee from the University of Northern British Columbia, Canada.


“Ecohealth is a field of research, education and practice that integrates scientific evidence, professional expertise and community experience with a view to improving the health of humans, animals and ecosystems,” the declaration says. “A focus on health — across humans, animals and other species — offers new opportunities to harness synergies across disparate efforts to address climate change.”


It is not the first time a call has been made to break boundaries between disciplines but previously there has been little follow-up action, Jean Lebel, the president of the International Development Research Centre, a Canadian public corporation that supports research in developing nations and which co-organised the conference, told SciDev.Net.


One example of an ecohealth approach was Lebel’s biological work, alongside a neurophysiologist and an environmental chemist, to investigate Minamata disease, which is caused by mercury poisoning, in the Amazon in the 1980s. At the time, such collaboration was uncommon, but it was crucial to understand the disease, Lebel said.


“What we originally thought was the primary source for the mercury, gold mining, was just part of the problem,” Lebel added. Other factors — such as the presence of volcanic rocks and naturally high mercury levels in the area — made him realise the problem was much bigger.


The declaration says it is intended to push more researchers to address climate change issues through concrete actions such as working directly with communities most affected by climate change, for example, those on small island states.
And local communities can be key to research data collection, the conference heard repeatedly.


Howard Frumkin from Washington University, United States, said researchers should try to consider the perspective of those communities that are most likely to use research results.


But scientists “don’t have to become activists”, said Guéladio Cissé, a sanitary engineer from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. “We need to still be scientists, but [we need to] think globally and act locally.”
Ecohealth is still a small academic community, according to Jakob Zinsstag, the president of the International Association for Ecology & Health (IAEH), which co-organised the conference.


Yet he was confident that, in the future, the association will grow to 2,000 individual and 50 institutional members, forming a pool of expertise that governments and international organisations will treat similarly to an intergovernmental panel, such as the one on climate change.

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Zambia’s drive for no more malaria

So far this year, Zambia has spent US$24 million on malaria control. Because of its commitment to battling the disease, Zambia was chosen to host the pilot project of the Power of One campaign promoted by the NGO Malaria No More. The goal is to deliver three million malaria tests and treatments in the country for children under five by 2015.

For each dollar donated, the campaign will provide one malaria test and one set of treatment. Donors from all over the world are expected to contribute to the campaign, but, given the small sum required for each donation, Malaria No More anticipates that people from developing countries will take part too. The campaign accepts donations made through mobile phones and so hopes to benefit from the massive penetration of mobile technology in Africa.