Nigeria’s forestry research wins a UNESCO prize

November 19, 2011

Clerodendrum globuliflorum: plenty to conserve in Nigerian forests (Flickr/Scamperdale)

The Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria was awarded the Sultan Quaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation 2011, administered through UNESCO,  at the World Science Forum in Budapest this week (17-20 November).

The award recognises contribution to the preservation of the environment, especially though scientific research, education, training and awareness-raising; as well as through establishing and managing protected nature areas.

The prize jury recommended the institute for its contributions to forest and environmental management, biodiversity conservation, sustainable food production for food security and provision of industrial raw materials and employment opportunities.

The institute, headquartered in Ibadan, is the only forestry research institute in the country. It has ten stations and four training colleges.

Through its research it has helped with the adoption of various indigenous and exotic tree species for planting them, for a variety of purposes, throughout the country, and it has helped discover how to regenerate exploited forests. Its research also helped develop processes for turning wood waste into useful products; jatropha seeds for biofuels; and technologies against desertification and soil erosion.

Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO, who awarded the prize, said that “our relationship with forests is essential and primordial”. She reminded the participants of the forum that the UN designated 2011 ‘year of the forests’.

Madhia Ahmed Al-Shaibani, Minister of Education of Oman and Chair of the Omani National Commission for Education, Culture and Science said: “We hope that the international experience and scientific knowledge attracted by this award contribute to providing an understanding of the environmental risks associated with development and to the adoption of successful practices to reduce the environmental challenges facing our world today, including those emanating from climatic changes.”

The prize is given at major scientific meetings every two years to individuals or institutes. Previous winners included the Ecology Institute A.C. of Mexico, the Center for Ecology in Venezuela, and the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation in Ethiopia.

Mićo Tatalović, deputy news editor, SciDev.Net


Bridging the “two worlds” of science

October 21, 2009
Gevers, photo by ASSAf
Gevers, photo by ASSAf

This morning, Wieland Gevers from the Academy of Science of South Africa painted a picture of the “two worlds” he has worked in as a biomedical scientist.

Gevers is one of three TWAS members to receive a “TWAS medal” in 2009. This is an accolade given to a selected few members each year in recognition of the research they have done in their field.

In the 1960s, Gevers got a Rhodes scholarship to study for a PhD in Oxford. Although the science he did there feels ancient by today’s standards, he says it was a privilege to be able to spend time at the very forefront of research and, as he puts it, “absorb the principle of doing science”.

When he returned to South Africa in the 1970s, by contrast, he was faced with the task of doing something with very little. Along with his research chair went only one assistant and two small pieces of scientific equipment.

This is a common problem across the developing world today, and one of the main reasons many emigrated scientists do not want to return. If they do, many—like Gevers in the 1970s—face the task of building up the institutions necessary to enable good science at the same time as pursuing their research.

Gevers’ picture of South Africa in the 70s may be at odds with the image the country enjoys today as the brightest jewel in Africa’s scientific crown. But the excellence the country has achieved over the past 40 years should encourage scientists in countries that currently struggle with their scientific capacity to feel hopeful about their own future.

Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net

Wanted: TB test for US$100mil

November 18, 2008

Create a quick, accurate test for tuberculosis (TB) that can be administered with minimal training and resources, and you might just win yourself US$100 million in prize money.

Of course, you would have to allow the test to be sold at cost – meaning no extra royalties from sales; and you’ll only get the money after it has been proven effective over a period of at least seven years.

This prize fund is one of the new ways of stimulating research and development in TB mentioned by speaker Tileman-Dothias von Schoen-Angerer of Doctors without Borders during the session on Tuberculosis Research.

If that amount of time seems too long even for US$100 million, fear not, there is also a suggestion that smaller sub-prizes of maybe US$10 million be given out for important developmental goalposts in the research for such a test with only a two-year proving period needed.

So, any bright ideas for a quick ID on Mycobacterium?

Shiow Chin Tan, SciDev.Net

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