Published: Oct. 15, 2009

NEPAD-MSU land $10.4 million to improve African agricultural practices

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709 Kristen.Parker@cabs.msu.edu, Stephanie Motschenbacher International Studies and Programs cell: (517) 648-9945 motsche3@msu.edu

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The New Partnership for Africa’s Development and Michigan State University will use a five-year, $10.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to connect African biosafety regulators with advances in technology – an initiative aimed at reducing poverty through improved agricultural practices.

The foundation announced the grant in conjunction with Bill Gates’ keynote address today at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa. It is part of a package of nine agricultural development projects totaling $120 million to address long-term food security.

Four members of the African Biosafety Network of Expertise staff are currently taking classes and working with MSU faculty to learn about the biotechnology issues affecting small-holder farmers, such as cost to farmers and safety to the environment and to human health. They also will learn how to address and understand ethical concerns related to the use of biotechnology.

MSU and NEPAD – a socioeconomic development program of the African Union – will use grant money to convene workshops and provide regulators with the most current science-based information to regulate biotechnology while protecting farmers, consumers and the environment.

An African-based and African-led initiative, ABNE will draw upon existing expertise and resources, while forming connections with both African and global institutions to create a network of expertise. In February 2008, MSU and NEPAD received a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to establish the ABNE, a continent-wide, science-based biosafety resource for African regulators.

“Michigan State University has a long-standing tradition of working with countries in Africa. This initiative fits very well with MSU’s mission in terms of building two-way partnerships for creating an enabling environment for science and technology to flourish,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “MSU is privileged to partner with NEPAD to bring global biosafety and biotechnology resources to Africa.”

The first ABNE center will be based in Burkina Faso, in West Africa, and will be managed by an African staff that specializes in the environmental, health, legal and socioeconomic impacts of biotechnology.

“NEPAD recognizes the immense potential of life sciences and biotechnology in contributing to Africa’s development. This initiative reflects NEPAD’s commitment to the recommendation of the High-Level African Panel on Modern Biotechnology that Africa should adopt a ‘co-evolutionary’ approach by promoting innovation while safeguarding human health and the environment,” said Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, chief executive officer of NEPAD. “The partnership with MSU will build the necessary capacity in biosafety and biotechnology in Africa.”

The grant to NEPAD and MSU is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Agricultural Development initiative, which is working with a wide range of partners to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes and build better lives for themselves and their families. The foundation is working to strengthen the entire agricultural value chain – from seeds and soil to farm management and market access – so that progress against hunger and poverty is sustainable over the long term.

“Melinda and I believe that helping the poorest small-holder farmers grow more and get it to market is the world's single most powerful lever for reducing hunger and poverty,” Gates said.

To learn more about MSU’s engagement in Africa, visit http://africa.msu.edu/. To learn more about MSU's biotechnology capabilities, visit http://www.oid.msu.edu/capabilities/biotechnology.htm

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Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving. 

A $10.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help MSU and NEPAD train African regulators on biotechnology to help small farmers, like this one, improve agricultural practices and grow healthier, more sustainable food. Photo courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Richard Lunt, assistant professor in MSU's College of Engineering, is the recipient of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Award in Environmental Chemistry. The highly competitive $120,000 grant adds a postdoctoral researcher to Lunt’s research team for two years.
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