Aug 3, 2015

Mauritian Soil Scientist Dr B.Lalljee elected in FAO Intergovernmental Techincal Panel on Soils (ITPS)

Dr Lalljee of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius has been appointed by the FAO Global Soil Partnership Plenary Assembly as one of the 5 members from the AFRICA region on the ITPS panel. The ITPS is composed of 27 top soil experts representing all the regions of the world. The main function of the ITPS is to provide scientific and technical advice and guidance on global soil issues to the Global Soil Partnership primarily and to specific requests submitted by global or regional institutions. The ITPS will advocate for addressing sustainable soil management in the different sustainable development agendas. Congratulations to Prof B. Lalljee.

Prof Vinod Lalljee, Soil scientist at the Faculty explains the cracks in Vedun link road 

News on Sunday wants to know the reasons behind the cracks and breakup of the recently built Terre Rouge\Verdun link road at a cost of more than a billion rupees and which caused much concern to the general public. In this context, Dr Bhanooduth Lalljee, who holds a PhD in Soil Science, explains the causes. He was previously the Director of Consultancy and Contract Research at the University of Mauritius. He has more than 30 years of experience in teaching, research and consultancy in soil and environmental issues. He is currently the Head of the Department of Agriculture and Food Science at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius.

We have seen a number of press reports these days about collapses and cracks in roads and buildings. What are the reasons?
It is important to note that most of these infrastructural damages are occurring on mountain slopes and in valleys. The explanation behind such events is quite technical and complex. I will try to simplify them as much as possible. In those regions, where the newly built roads are opening up, the top soils are of a very specific nature. They are known as Smectite clays. Smectite clays have very peculiar properties – one unit of this clay consists of a natural silica sheet between two natural alumina sheets. Such a structure attracts and retains water, which then causes the clay material to expand. There are various types of Smectite clays, some of which can expand up to a certain limit only (technically called Vermiculite clays), while others can undergo almost unlimited expansion (technically called Montmorillonite clays). Both these groups of clay exist in several regions of Mauritius, like in Vallee des Pretres, Vallee Pitot, Baie du Cap, Quatre Soeurs, Deux Freres, Champ de Mars, Montagne Longue, Valton….The soils are also known as Dark Magnesium Clays (DMC). They have a very large surface area and are highly plastic, for example, one gram of such a clay may occupy 800 m2! In addition, these clays have a very high charge, are very sticky when wet, and have an immense capacity to hold water. Anyone who has been to the Champs de Mars on a rainy day must have experienced the stickiness of the soil. That is why, when they are dry, they are shrunken and cracked, but when they get wet, they expand hugely, generating massive forces that can crack the most solid foundation of bridges, roads, buildings and other infrastructures.

Jul 30, 2015

Aquatic Animal Disease Workshop in Mauritius

​GIS - 29 July 2015: A ten-day training programme in Aquatic Animal Disease and Food Safety, organised by the Competent Authority – Seafood and the Agence Francaise de Développement, kickstarted yesterday at the Mauritius Maritime Training Academy in Pointe aux Sables.

The training is meant for the officers of the Competent Authority – Seafood and the aquatic division of the Albion Fisheries and Research Centre as well as for operators in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. The course is being dispensed by Dr Laurent Pasco, Veterinary Officer and Head of the Board Inspection Post in Vannes (France).

Participants will gain knowledge in aquatic animal diseases specific to Mauritius and how to curb the risk of proliferation of aquatic animal diseases to species endemic in Mauritius. They will also acquire enhanced knowledge and skills in verifying whether shellfish, crustaceans, and other aquatic animals meant for export are fit for human consumption. After the training, they will be able to establish a food safety management plan that will ensure compliance to the requirements of importing countries. Moreover, the training will contribute in equipping officers with the necessary skills to enable them to effect appropriate verification and control within the national and international Regulatory Frameworks. In so doing, Mauritius can have access to several other markets while consolidating our presence in traditional markets.

The training comes at an opportune time, says Minister The Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands, M. Premdut Koonjoo, was present for the opening. In his address, he highlighted that the training has come at an opportune time since the Ministry is working on the expansion of the aquaculture sector in Mauritius. He recalled that the vision of the Government is to make the ocean economy an important industry to sustain economic diversification, job creation and wealth generation. In this respect, the fisheries and aquaculture industry will play an important role in developing the ocean economy, he said. The training programme, the Minister said, will contribute in developing the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in a sustainable manner and allow operators in fish and fish products sector to develop their business free from diseases.

Jul 27, 2015

Some Snapshots of Industrial Chicken Production in Mauritius

La compagnie Innodis investira 3 millions de dollars soit près de 90 millions de roupies pour la mise sur pied d'une unité de production d'électricité a partir de déchets de poulaillers. L'unité de 'biogas' sera opérationnelle en 2016.

Jul 25, 2015

Mauritius endorses the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Compact

GIS – 24 July 2015: The signature ceremony of the Mauritius Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Compact, intended to assist the Government in defining and accelerating implementation of its agricultural development agenda, was held yesterday at Westin Turtle Bay Resort and Spa, Balaclava. 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Etienne Sinatambou; the Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security, Mr Mahen Kumar Seeruttun, and other personalities were present at the function.
CAADP is a commitment of African countries to pursue a higher path of economic growth through agriculture-led development in order to reduce poverty and hunger in the continent. CAADP countries are expected to achieve 6 percent growth in the agricultural sector of their economies and allocate at least 10 percent of the national budget to agriculture. 

The Compact validates the consensus on the goals and priorities that Mauritius has set for the sector and the partnerships and assistance that are required to achieve these goals. Its ultimate purpose is to increase the effectiveness of planning and execution of Government’s efforts as well as of the delivery of external assistance in the agricultural sector as well as provide a solid framework under which assistance can be scaled up to help meet the short and long term investment needs in the sector. 
In his address, Minister Sinatambou recalled that Mauritius, being a small island developing state is limited by its physical size to expand the agricultural sector.  Therefore, Mauritius is positioning itself to be more self-reliant through increase in agricultural productivity, creating more opportunities for innovation and value addition and intra-industry linkages, he underlined.  
According to him, it is important for Mauritius to develop its National Agriculture Investment Plan and an action plan for implementation.  These are important to enable us to benefit from financial support from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme Fund, totalling US$ 253.8 million, to finance our national projects, Mr Sinatambou said.

For his part, Minister Seeruttun stated that to modernise the agriculture sector and address the threat of food crisis, the Government of Mauritius through the Government Programme 2015 -2019 is proposing a series of measures to boost up the production of strategic crops for food security, encourage cross-border initiatives, empower farmers and attract young entrepreneurs to engage in agriculture.
He also announced the finalisation of a Strategic Plan for the agricultural sector.  Our aim is the promotion of an agri-business approach to farming, with the adoption of appropriate technology and sound management practices in order to achieve sustainable agricultural production, and to contribute significantly to social and economic development and food security, as well as to the effective and judicious use of the natural resource base of the country, he stressed.
Source: Government Information Service. 

CAADP WEBSITE Mauritius, July 23 2015 – Mauritius has become  the 15th member country in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to sign its national Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Compact. 

“CAADP responds to the aspirations of Africa by placing agriculture as the engine of social and economic growth,” said Mr. Mahen Kumar Seerutun, Mauritian Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security.

Speaking on behalf of the NEPAD Agency and the African Union Commission, Dr. Janet Edeme, Head of Rural Economy and Agriculture Division, expressed gratitude to Mauritius for building consensus among partners on necessary solutions to meet the challenges in agricultural development.  Dr. Edeme also remarked that it is important that Africa commit its own resources towards the continent’s development. 

The signing of a CAADP Compact symbolises a commitment to investment in consensually agreed key priority areas, and an overall vision for agricultural transformation.  According to CAADP principles, these agricultural priorities are arrived at through an inclusive national roundtable process. The priorities are by nature, results-based and reflect the views of all stakeholders in the country’s agriculture sector.

The signing ceremony of the CAADP Compact was led by the Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security, Mahen Kumar Seerutun, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Etienne Sinatambou and COMESA’s Assistant Secretary-General for Programmes, Dr. Kipyego Cheluget.

“Africa boasts huge resources and economic potential, and therefore the role of both public and private sector in agriculture cannot be overemphasized,” Dr. Cheluget said. He added, “The Mauritius CAADP Compact will give impetus to other countries that have not already done so to sign their compacts and implement their National Agriculture Investment plan.“

The national CAADP Compact was also signed by representatives of the African Union Commission, the NEPAD Agency, Small Farmers Welfare Fund, the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, Ministry of Ocean Economy, the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Etienne Sinatambou stressed that the CAADP process is in line with the Mauritian development priorities, with particular emphasis on biotechnology.

Although continental in scope, the CAADP agenda is an integral part of national efforts to promote agricultural sector growth and economic transformation. In the case of Mauritius, the focus of the CAADP process is to strengthen and add value to the strategy for agricultural transformation under the ongoing Economic Development Strategy of the country as outlined in the Government Programme (2015-19). 

The ultimate goal of the CAADP process in Mauritius is to answer that call for the agricultural sector, by: 

(i)         Helping define a coherent long term framework to guide the planning and implementation of agricultural programmes; and

(ii)       Identifying strategic options and sources of economic empowerment and inclusive growth for the agricultural sector, and 

The CAADP Compact in Mauritius sets the parameters for long-term partnership in the agricultural sector.  It also specifies key commitments on the part of government and development partners.  Furthermore, the Compact clarifies expectations with respect to the agribusiness and farming communities in order to ensure successful implementation of the Government Programme 2015-2019.

Therefore the goals of CAADP are very much in harmony with Mauritius’ goals of creating a modern and sustainable agricultural sector that will contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction in the country. 

The Prison Farm

1958...c'est l’année que la prison de Richelieu a vu le jour. Cette 'open prison' accueille 120 détenus. Sa capacité maximum est de 200...Ici les détenus sont formés a la culture de légumes et a l’élevage des animaux. En décembre une 'open prison' pour femmes sera ouverte. Elle sera calquée sur celle de Richelieu. This prison farm is a showcase to demonstrate that where trained labour is available, animal farming is feasible.

Jul 23, 2015

International Symposium on Food Safety 16 July 2015

International Symposium on Food Safety
The Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Mauritius has hosted a one day International Symposium in Food Safety in collaboration with the SELAMAT (Safety enhancement of Edible products, Legislation, Analysis and Management) consortium on the 16 July 2015. The event was sponsored by SELAMAT, University of Mauritius, Tertiary Education Commission, SKC Foods Ltd, Food and Allied Group, Les Moulins de La Concorde, Change Act and Phoenix Beverages Ltd.
The SELAMAT coordinators for organising the workshop were Dr Hans Marvin and Mr Piet Stouten, RKILT, Netherlands. And the local organising committee consisted of staff of the Faculty and was chaired by the local SELAMAT coordinator, Assoc. Prof. D.Goburdhun.

Opening Ceremony 
The keynote address was given by Dr Masami Takeuchi from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Symposium was opened by the Chancellor of the University of Mauritius Dr Jean Claude Autrey. The Dean of the Faculty, Prof Sunita Facknath gave an overview of the role of the Faculty of Agriculture in Food Science and Technology. Dr Masami Takeuchiho made a presentation on the importance of knowing the provenance of our food. To ensure a healthy diet , the application of standards and regulations must be made at every stage of production by the authorities she said. According to Assoc Prof D.Goburdhun, there is really no cases of severe food poisoning in Mauritius, in comparison to other countries, but the consumers have a crucial role to play in maintaining food safety. Representatives of NGOs and professionals from public and private sectors also attended the symposium.

   The Faculty of Agriculture
The Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Mauritius has celebrated its centenary in 2014 and has always been proactive and strived to align its programmes of studies with the emerging needs of the Agricultural and Food sector in Mauritius. As early as 1997, the Faculty launched its full fledged undergraduate programmme in Food Science; thereafter B.Sc (Hons) in Food Science and Technology with different specializations such as Food Safety, Seafood Technology, B.Sc (Hons) in Food Safety and Quality, MSc Food Science, MSc Food Technology and PhD in Food Science programmes have been regularly offered. Several research projects pertaining to value addition, food safety, food and health and product development have been carried out by academic staff and students. The Faculty has also organized workshops in the area of Food Science and Technology such as Risk Analysis in food safety.

The SELAMAT consortium
The SELAMAT (Safety enhancement of Edible products, Legislation, Analysis and Management) consortium is a unique partnership of science-based organisations or other organisations established in Asia and the EU, and aims at working together in the area of food safety on activities of mutual benefit. The main partners are the Netherlands, Portugal, Malaysia, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, China, United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, South Africa. The University of Mauritius(Faculty of Agriculture) has been accepted as a member of the SELAMAT food safety consortium in 2014.

The Symposium
The symposium held on the 16th July 2015 brought together food safety experts to share the latest developments in the area. There were 19 international delegates from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Republic of China, Russia, Nigeria and South Africa and 113 local participants including the public and private sectors, academia, consumer organisation and independent consultants. It was also a good opportunity for participants and delegates to network and discuss with their peers n their topics of interest in food safety. The SELAMAT also held their annual meeting on the 17th July 2015 at Le Meridien Hotel, Mauritius.

8 topics were discussed by a host of international and local speakers on topics ranging from risk assessment and global best practices to emerging trends in managing food safety. The book of abstracts can be accessed here. There were 10 international speakers and moderators from the following institutions.