Monthly Archives: August 2010

African Business: Special Report on Agriculture

This Special Report in the August/September issue will be of great interest to anyone working in African agricultural development.  You can access the first few paragraphs of the story at: http://www.africasia.com/africanbusiness/ab.php?ID=2969, but will need to purchase the magazine to read the entire report.  There are several sections as follows:

Agriculture moves centre stage looks at the big picture:  falling investments in research; the huge returns on the research that has been conducted (an FAO study concluded that for every dollar invested in ag research there has been a 37% return); the need for a focus on market-driven policies and interventions; the need to look at entire value chains and not focus on individual links; and concludes that “…decades of neglect…that are only now beginning to be reversed, have made it difficult for the (ag) sector to unlock the (potential) social benefits…”

Add value to harvest profits discusses cassava and cacao value chains and how “value-adds” (e.g., Fair Trade premiums, new cassava based products, production of finished cocoa products, etc.) have boosted local economies and increased incomes.

‘Land grab’ – boon or curse? visits a subject we have commented on before and discusses how leasing land to foreign investors can be of benefit to African economies even if outputs are all exported.  It warns, however, of the increasing amount of agricultural land that is being used to grow crops to satisfy EU legislation on biofuels.

Turning poachers into farmers.  Malnutrition has driven the market demand for bush meat to the point at which an increasing number of species are now endangered.  Teaching poachers how to farm and providing them with quality seed and output markets is paying off.

Growth corridors to agric profits profiles Yara, a Norwegian conglomerate that is best known in Africa for its aggressive marketing of mineral fertilizers.  Yara believes that the key to success is “to align resources in order to make the entire value chain function efficiently.”  Seed + fertilizer + irrigation + storage + transport + private sector investment, etc.  can lead to sustainable growth.

Some donors and international organizations have already got the message about value chain development, regional export markets and the need to grow African owned businesses.  The focus for the next generation of development will be on technical and business training and support, and on “connecting the dots” so that surpluses in one country or region can reach other regions where there are shortages.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Database of IP Practitioners in emerging and developing economies

As you may already know, CAS-IP facilitates a community of IP practitioners called the National Partners Initiative, the NPI.  Started in May 2007, the community consists of approximately 45 IP/TT practitioners, across many countries and regions, working together in a sustained manner to improve their individual skills and institutional capacities. The result is recognition and confidence that developing country IP professionals can serve the needs of agricultural institutions. This initiative provides a forum for exchange of IP practices, and stimulates the essential on-the-ground capacity and knowledge of Intellectual Property Management, Technology Transfer and IP issues. 

One of early start initiatives of the NPI was to create a database of IP practitioners in each of the NPI countries. The objective was to develop a consolidated resource of all the component parties of IP practice. This would include researchers, legal personnel, tech transfer and technology managers, farmers’ groups and civil organizations involved in innovation cycles.  Examples of contacts on the lists would be persons with expertise in contract drafting and negotiation, experience in application for trademarks in India, experience with Plant Variety Protection in Tanzania, etc. 

On an ongoing basis all members are encouraged to prepare and continually update this list.  The exercise has proved very useful, not only as a shared resource but also to those who have now taken the time to compile the list for their own country. 

photo by Shawn Landersz for CAS-IP
Dr Kalpana Sastry (NAARM) & Dr. Marilyn M. Belarmino (AVRDC) at NPI Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., June 2010

 The experience of one of the NPI partners, Dr Kalpana Sastry of NAARM, India indicates the utility of this tool in her office. Since its creation in 2007 she has used this ready reckoner database of practitioners of IP and technology management to:

  1.  identify relevant faculty and clientele for awareness programmes
  2. identify the specific areas for capacity building programmes
  3. engage the faculty in IP education programmes
  4. identify summer internship locations for students
  5. locate probable employers for graduating students
  6. collaborate in research proposals

The members of the NPI have unique networks of IP practitioners in developing or emerging economies.  The lists so far compiled are available for use by all the NPI members on our shared space.  Possible extended users of the data could include organisations seeking to commercialise an agricultural product in one of the participating countries, or donors/project managers seeking partners for advocacy to explore the use of IP tools such as trademarks, market segmentation, branding, as a means of creating more value for producers, especially small holder farmers and those that farm marginal areas.  For privacy reasons we cannot share the lists with external parties, however, we could arrange for information to be disseminated on a case-by-case basis.   

(Co-written by Kalpana Sastry, NAARM)    

The new face of author lists?

Interesting article on predictions regarding the future of multiple authorship.  NYTimes article entitled “In a Video Game, Tackling the Complexities of Protein Folding

Victoria Henson-Apollonio,who sent me the link summarised:

“57,000 game players contributed to the development of an understanding of how 10 different proteins, “self” fold.  In the cell, the 3-dimensional shape of a molecule seems to be a most important attribute as many things “work” on the basis of “fit”.  (Think how important it is for your shoes to “fit” your feet, if you are going to try to walk and run…)”

The article quotes “Zoran Popovic, a computer scientist at the University of Washington who was a lead author of the paper” as saying:

“If things go according to plan, not too long from now, such massive author lists should be commonplace.”

Whenever we talk about authorship I remember the NPI meeting in Mombasa when we had an entire roomful of IP practitioners discuss (loudly) author and co-authorship. (follow link for write-up of this in the CGIAR e-news)  I wonder what discussions led to the inclusion of 57,000 contributors.  Well done to whoever pushed for this inclusive recognition!

“Highlights of CAS-IP” by Victoria Henson-Apollonio

Victoria wants to know if you are curious as to what she’s been up to for the past 10.5 years.  If so, take a look at her final seminar before she stepped down as the Manager of CAS-IP.  Warning:  It’s an hour in length!  You’ll need the following password to view the video clip.  “casip10yrs

 “Highlights of CAS-IP” by Victoria Henson-Apollonio
http://vimeo.com/13696468

Password: casip10yrs

MASA Brand Launch

On Thursday last week ICRISAT and its partners launched MASA, the Malawi Seed Alliance.  For the last year I have been representing CAS in developing the alliance and the brand for ICRISAT. For background on this initiative see http://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/ip-issues-in-the-launch-of-masa-–-the-malawi-seed-alliance/   

Six months ago, we left ICRISAT and its partners with an alliance, a brand, a logo and a general plan.  Since then, the partners have – as we had hoped they would – taken ownership of the project, and have determined that the brand and associated trade mark should be held in trust for the benefit of the Malawian agricultural sector and, more specifically, small holder farmers and seedcos. The umbrella brand will be available to any seed company that meets ethical guidelines and is distributing certified seed. This is an exciting evolution, and may well be a “first”.   

Agro dealers and seed companies have been consulted as the project gained momentum, and the launch was focused on small holder farmers who will benefit from the increased availability of high quality, certified legume seed.  Benefits include raising nutritional standards within Malawi (the basic diet of maize has led to high rates of malnutrition) and a ground nut crop that NASFAM is selling to European buyers as Fair Trade products at $1,100/ton.   

The membership has expanded, and now includes:   

  • ICRISAT
  • National Smallholder farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM)
  • Association of Seed Multiplication Action Group (ASSMAG)
  • Agri-Inputs Suppliers Association of Malawi (AISAM)
  • Rural Market (RUMARK) Agro-dealers
  • Key entrepreneurs (provides seed marketing links to retail multiples, e.g. Peacock)
  • Seed Trade Association of Malawi (STAM)
  • Seed Services Unit (Government Seed Quality Regulatory body)

These bags show the MASA logo (top), the ICRISAT logo (bottom right) and the logo of the seed company that is distributing the seed (in this case, Peacock). Planting instructions are provided on the back of the bag, and participating dealers have received training so that they can help farmers get the most out of the seeds.

 Agro dealers who have participated in one of the sub-projects[1] (small-scale, localized seed multiplication) are about to harvest their first crop of certified ground nut seed and are excited about the MASA seed bags that have been distributed.   

 The launch event was well attended;  in addition to many of the partners (see photo below) we had an audience consisting of the press (newspapers and TV) and about 75 farmers and agro dealers from the Mchingi district.  The Irish Ambassador was extremely supportive of the project; he observed that there was little point in funding research without a market outreach component to ensure that innovations reach those who need them.   

MASA launch event. From left to right: Moses Siambi (ICRISAT Country Director), Blessings Botha (Agricultural Advisor, Irish Aid), Liam MacGabhann (Irish Ambassador), Felix Sichali (ICRISAT Project Manager), Fred Kwawalewale (Executive Director, AISAM), Felix Jumbe (Secretary-General, STAM)

 

The Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Andrew Daudi, addressed the gathering and a spirited dialog ensued in which many of the farmers aired their grievances.  But two comedians, Chindime and Samalani, acted out a satiric skit involving farmers, agriculture and MASA which was highly entertaining, and the event wound up on a high note.   

 Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP   


[1] For other spinoff projects, see: http://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/seed-infotech-critical-data-on-seed-soon-to-be-available-in-malawi/ and http://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/genetic-markers-for-seed-purity/

Open Rights Group Workshop; 24th July 2010

Saturday 24th July, (despite being my sixth wedding anniversary!), I attended a workshop on the current challenges of Copyright and Digital Rights. The workshop was organised by the Open Rights Group, a non-for-profit organisation which promotes and defends freedom of expression, privacy, innovation, consumers’ rights, and creativity on the net. You can read more about them here: http://www.openrightsgroup.org/about

The day was structured between a series of presentations and small group discussions. Topics of debate included the new English Digital Economy Act, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and the movement of Open Access Data.

From the programme I believe that our readers will be mostly interested in Professor Boyle’s presentation on the shrinking of the public domain, and the discussion on open data and access to information led by the Open Knowledge Foundation Network (OKFN).  I think the discussion on ACTA could have been very interesting if more information and facts had been given – a lot of discussion was around the fact that the Act needs to be changed even though nobody is fully certain about its precise content which is still (more or less) secret!

Professor Boyle rightly argued that we currently live in a paradox: despite the fact that we generate more and more information and knowledge that enables us to be more creative and innovative, we are moving towards stricter controls to protect such information and knowledge.  Instead of letting it free, we are locking it away. Most jurisdictions have seen an ongoing stretch of the duration of copyright, from 28 years (renewable possibly for another 28 years’ period) to author’s life + 70 years, which seems to go against the original principle of promoting culture through innovation.

The decision of not dealing seriously and practically with the problem of “orphan works” is another symptom of this general over-protection of authors to the detriment of users. In this atmosphere of vagueness and uncertainty, Professor Boyle praised Creative Commons for providing a simple solution to the complexities of copyright, and urged for a real harmonisation of the exceptions, namely the situations which would not amount to breach of copyright (e.g. fair-use)

Professor Boyle gave a very similar presentation at UC Davies and which can seen on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OInGKMc1Wo

The Open Data discussion focused on the importance of keeping data freely and easily accessible and usable. Some reasons given included: such data is most of the time generated through public funding, that information which is already available in the first place cannot be locked away, and that the more openly and freely information circulates, the more additional information and knowledge is generated.

I felt that the session was quite good but that a lot of collateral issues ought to have discussed, or at least touched on if time was a constraint. For example, what happens if data has been generated using funding from the private sector as well? Is it really easy to distinguish it from confidential and/or sensitive data? Should a debate on releasing as opposed to sharing data also be tabled? What is the reality as to what data releasers want users to be able to do? (Copying in part? In full? Download and modify?).  Perhaps the OKFN does not have enough experience within the area of genetic material and access & benefit sharing, as there are a lot of concerns (possibly unfounded) like biopiracy which can be a real obstacles to the openness and sharing of data. I hope there will be other occasions in the future to address all these questions with the OKFN.

Many thanks to Joe (McNamee, Advisor to the European Digital Rights) who invited me to the event!

Post written by Francesca Re         Manning of CAS-IP

Exciting newsflash from CAS-IP!!!

We are delighted to announce that the new Manager of CAS-IP is Ms. Elise Perset.  Elise will have this role for one year. 

Ms. Perset comes to the CGIAR System from CIRAD where she has been since 2004.  Ms. Perset is currently CIRAD’s Legal Counsel for Contracts and Intellectual Property.  (CIRAD is the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development, whose mandate is to conduct research and development in the life and earth sciences, social sciences, and engineering sciences applied to agriculture, food and rural territories, in support developing countries, with a staff of 1800, including 800 researchers, an annual budget of >200 M € and operations in >100 countries.)

Elise has experience working in commercial law and she is a member of the New York Bar (U.S.) and the Paris Bar (Fr.), which means that Ms. Perset is a practitioner of both common law and civil law, a great expertise for the CGIAR, where we have a need for experience in both types of legal systems.

Ms. Perset has worked in the areas of technology transfer, partnership support, IP and genetic resources policy development, support to business development teams, and genetic resources.  With other CIRAD staff, she has developed tools in the area of IP and genetic resources (GENE-PI), which was further developed by FAO under the name GENE-IT for use in implementation of the multilateral system (MLS).

In addition to her duties at CIRAD, Elise is currently a lecturer in IP and Contract law at the Law School of the University of Montpellier, France.

Elise will start with the CGIAR System on the 6th of September.

We are so very pleased that we have such a skilled and experienced individual to lead the CAS-IP team and Office during the next year!