Tuesday, November 22, 2011
SANBIO Mauritius organised a training workshop on genome sequencing, assembly and annotation at the Bioinformatics Lab of the University of Mauritius on the 21-25 Nov 2011. It was attended by 14 participants from 6 SADC countries and local ones as well. Its aim is to enhance the use of bioinformatics tools and to strengthen links among the scientists. The resource persons were Dr P. Somervuo, Finland and Dr A. Gisel, Italy. Assoc Prof Y. Jaufeerally Fakim of the Faculty of Agriculture coordinated the organisation of this workshop. The support of NEPAD is fully acknowledged.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Dr Sunita Facknath of the Faculty of Agriculture - Interview on Alternatives to Pesticides
Are there really alternatives for pesticides in a tropical country like Mauritius?
Yes, indeed there are several alternatives for Mauritius, amongst them the use of natural enemies which eat or parasitise the pests and eventually kill them. This is known as Biological Control. In the developed countries, one can buy live natural enemies (most of them are themselves insects), just as we buy chemical pesticides. These living insects, which come in small bottles/envelopes, are released into the garden/field and they go around eating/killing the pests within a short time. However, there is no company in Mauritius that “manufactures” these natural enemies for sale. Yet it could represent a simple, highly lucrative business, perhaps as an SME. There are also commercially available pesticides which are not chemicals, but rather contain microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, virus, and fungus or nematode worms. Such pesticides are called Microbial Pesticides; they are sprayed just like conventional chemical pesticides but act differently on the pest. They are not harmful to humans, pets or other animals. However, they take a few days (sometimes up to 12 days) to kill the pest, and farmers are not happy to wait that long for the product to take effect. However, it must be understood that during this time, the pest does not feed and therefore does not cause any further damage to the crop. It is necessary to educate farmers about such products and to encourage them to use it.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), which is a specialized Agency of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in collaboration with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, will held a national consultative workshop on biosafety policies.
The objective of this workshop is to discuss the Draft Regional Biosafety Policies and Guidelines that have been developed over time through an initiative known as "“Regional Approach to Biotechnology and Biosafety policy in Eastern and Southern Africa (RABESA). This guidelines focus on three regional biosafety policies and guidelines namely; commercial planting of GMOs, trade in GMOs and emergency food aid with GM content
OBJECTIVES OF WORKSHOP
The objectives of the national consultative workshop are :
- To provide an opportunity for the local takeholders in Mauritius to understand the scope, objectives and key provisions of the proposed COMESA regional biosafety policies and guidelines.
- To obtain broader stakeholder input and feedback into the proposed biosafety policies and guidelines.
- To obtain recommendations from MAURITIUS that will inform the decisions of the COMESA policy organs on endorsement of the policies and guidelines.
Mauritius has a rich level of biodiversity which is in need of protection. About 670 native species of flowering plants are found in Mauritius and nearly half of these are endemic. Due to its isolation, it has a relatively low diversity of wildlife however a high proportion comprises endemic species occurring nowhere else in the world. Many of these are now threatened with extinction because of human activities including habitat destruction and the introduction of non-native species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has quoted Mauritius as the third most threatened island flora in the world after Hawaii and the Canary islands. The preservation of our biodiversity has become global concerns and requires well calibrated local initiatives and strategies. The issue of Green and Sustainable Development is indeed an important challenge. This event is a major step in the direction of creating a culture of endemic and medicinal plants for national development. There is thus an urgency to preserve and conserve our rich biological diversity.
Conservation work in Mauritius is being successfully carried out by institutions such as the National Parks and Conservation Service (NPCS) of the Ministry of Agro-industry and Food Security and by non-governmental organizations such as the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) amongst others.
In this context, the Faculty of Agriculture and the University of Mauritius has created the Endemic and Medicinal Plant Garden on the University Farm to contribute to these conservation activities.The Faculty launched the Endemic and Medicinal Plant Garden on 9 Nov 2011 at the University Farm. The plot of an acreage of 1500m2 will be extended to about 3250 m2 in the near future. Plants such as Bois de Clou, Café Marron, Bois d’Ebene Noir, Bois d’Olive, Baume de l’Ile Plate, Bois de Ronde, Pandanus spp are located in the garden. It represents a showcase and raises awareness among the public on the different endemic flora species that exist. It will also be a reference for Scientists, Researchers and students on endemic flora. The setting of the garden has as objectives:
- · To conserve traditional knowledge of endemic and medicinal plants.
- · To enhance our teaching and research activities.
- · To promote public awareness of environment issues and biodiversity conservation.
The latest edition of New Agriculturist (2011-6) is now online at www.new-ag.info. Whether on a small or large-scale, the motivation for social change and doing things differently is a strong thread throughout this edition. In an era of unprecedented food, water and energy shortages, how can we feed more, with less, in a warming world?