All posts by Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu

An Industrial Chemist- heading for a PhD. A self-trained Science Communicator. Huge interest in Food Chemistry and Technology, and Information Technology....a social entrepreneur...

Combating Good Seed-Yam Shortage in Nigeria with Aeroponics

In Nigeria yam is ‘gold

Yam is central to the culture of many Nigerian societies. Yam is so important that it has its own festival – the New Yam Festival. It is used as marriage dowries and a measure of a household’s social standing, Recently, Nigeria officially started exporting yam.

Yam is Nigeria’s most important cash crop worth nearly $14 billion annually; one-third of Nigerians, nearly 60 million people depend on yams as a main source of income; Yam is Nigeria’s no. 1 source of dietary calories, according to Tim McDonnell, a Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow and multimedia journalist covering environmental issues in sub-Saharan Africa, in an article published in NPR

But according to the United Nations, Nigeria’s yam yield has dropping in the past few years and has presently dropped to its lowest level in two decades, even though the area of land under cultivation is rapidly rising.

What could be the cause?

“For a large number of farmers, seed yam is a big problem,” said Robert Aseidu, West Africa research director for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a non-profit research organization based in Nigeria. “It’s only now that we’re seeing how big a problem this could become.”

A “seed yam” is yam meant to be planted and not eaten. Tim McDonnell explained that due to genetic factors and many years of a flawed farm practice, most of these seed yams have disease. Yam farmers traditionally keep back the measlier yams and about a third of their harvest for planting the following season, and since yams are clonal, meaning each tuber is genetically identical to its ‘parent’, farmers are essentially planting the same yam over and over again, with none of the routine genetic mutation that typically occurs between generations to help ward off pests and diseases.

“When you have this recycling over so many years, then they keep accumulating pests and diseases, and then productivity keeps reducing until you get to a stage where it’s no [longer] economical to plant anything,” says Beatrice Aighewi, a yam specialist at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

The need for disease free seed yams

The Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, tweeted, “On June 29, 2017, a total of 72 metric tons of yam will leave the shores of Nigeria to Europe/US, heralding a new dawn in our food exports.” And added that “according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Nigeria accounts for 61% of yam production in the world.” This government’s yam export promotion will certainly lead to more exportation and domestic scarcity if supply is not increase accordingly.

Seed yams from Aeroponics

Some scientists have seen the urgent need and high demand for seed yams in the country and are using the technology called Aeroponics to meet this need. Beatrice Aighewi and Ogbole Samson are some of IITA trained specialists who are taking advantage of the emerging market.

Beatrice opened an Agritech business a few years ago. She sources good seed yams from around the country and reproduces them in her field using aeroponics. She also produces high-yielding and disease-resistant yam variety, while Samson trains farmers, set-up and help them maintain aeroponics systems for yam production on a small and large-scale.

Business opportunity

Aighewi says the solution to Nigeria’s seed yam crisis is large-scale Aeroponic farms for seed yam production adding that, there is not a single commercial producer of seed yam in the whole country.

Nigerian entrepreneurs should take advantage of Aeroponics technology and the increasing demand for disease-free seed yams by farmers. This is a business opportunity with a big Return on investment potential.

How Entrepreneurs Can Pioneer a Sustainable Electric Car Industry in Africa

While Africa is still struggling to have stable electricity, build crude oil refineries and build Assembling-plants for petrol-powered cars, a Tesla electric car recently made a record 1078 km distance on a single charge. Some people still think Electric cars are the future but the truth is that we are already in the era of electric cars. Petrol powered cars are already becoming obsolete.

Electric Car Revolution

There is an electric-car revolution currently going on in the Scandinavian. Norway which is blessed with an enormous oil reserve, has over 100,000 electric cars, while Sweden has over 10,000. Finland’s 1,039-number even comes in below Estonia, where there are already about 1,200 electric cars and vans on the road. Finland has posted a goal: to have 250,000 electric vehicles on the road by the year 2030.

In November of 2016, there were 540,000 electric cars on the road in the USA. According to Forbes, in 2016 alone, 507,000 electric cars were sold in China, a 53% increase from 2015. Meanwhile, 222,200 units were sold in Europe, a 14% increase; and 157,130 units were sold in the United States, a 36% increase from the prior year.

Knowing all these: that Electric vehicles could represent 40% of auto sales and 30% of the global car parc in 20 years, knowing this could be disruptive to petroleum demand — a main source of revenue of African power houses like Nigeria and Angola, by 2030. I am forced to ask “How can Africa countries be part of this development?”

Electric Cars in Africa

In Africa, according to IEA publication South Africa is the only county that has made a significant advancement in the use of electric cars. The stock of electric cars in the country climbed from 30 all-electric cars in 2013 to about 50 in 2013, and as of December 2015, there were about 290 plug-in electric cars registered, consisting of 170 all-electric cars and 120 plug-in hybrids. All the plug-in hybrids were registered in 2015 and according to EVsales, BMW South Africa has plans to introduce electric car sales totaled 80 units during the first three months of 2016.

It’s obvious Africa is being left behind again due to lack of foresight of its governments. Most countries if not all have government incentives or subsidies to promote electric cars but Africa countries do not. African entrepreneurs have to come to the rescue – incentive or no incentive. Most of them have succeeded in business without any help from the government and can pioneer a rapid growth electric car industry in Africa.

The Concept is Simple

Two major trends in energy usage that are expected for future smart grids are: Large-scale decentralized renewable energy production through solar energy system. Emergence of battery electric vehicles as the future mode of transport.

Firstly, the use of renewable energy sources such as solar energy is accessible to a wider audience because of the falling cost of solar energy panels. Industrial sites and office buildings harbour a great potential for solar energy panels with their large surface on flat roofs. Examples include warehouses, industrial buildings, universities, factories, etc. This potential when exploited will enable African countries bypass their inefficient national grid and develop a future smart grid system of renewable energy.

Africa experience good amount of sun shine throughout the year, meaning we can generate enough solar power to charge the batteries of an electric car throughout the year so two sustainable business types can be built around this natural resource: the business of installation of solar-powered charging ports in the home of electric cars owners as they buy their car, and the business of building and running car parks with charging pots powered by solar panels around factories and office building where owners of electric cars can park and charge their cars while at work. An entrepreneur can also install charging ports in the car parks of public, government or private building too. All that is needed is a good deal with the owners of the properties.

So entrepreneurs, Africa needs you to lead this ‘leapfrogging’ or ‘disrupting’ or whatever you want to call it. Africa needs an ‘Elon Musk’ kind of entrepreneur right now to start building the company that will transport Africa for the future.

It is simple: you can easily calculate how much extra solar electricity you’ll need to charge your car. Here’s an example: the 2014 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle, has a combined fuel economy rating of 30 kWh/100 miles – this means the Leaf requires 30 kWh of electricity to drive 100 miles. If you drive 25 miles on an average day, that means you’re using approximately 7.5 kWh of electricity per day – or just over 2,700 kWh of electricity in a given year.

How Nigerian Doctor Discovered Concussion Trauma in American Football Players

“There are times I wish I never looked at Mike Webster’s brain. It has dragged me into worldly affairs I do not want to be associated with – human meanness, wickedness and selfishness. People trying to cover up, to control how information is released. I started this not knowing I was walking into a minefield. That is my only regret.”

These are the words of Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, a Nigerian physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who first discover and publish a link between American football and the brain damage – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), in former players.

Omalu’s work has changed a sport, and helped provoke a billion-dollar lawsuit and inspired a Hollywood film, Concussion (in which Will Smith played the role of Omelu) that was nominated for a Golden Globe.

But Omalu who knew little about American football attracted many enemies. American Football club owners and fans love their game very much that they saw Omalu as a threat to the game. They rejected his findings and questioned his right as a Nigerian to link their beloved American football to a brain trauma.

“I really wish I wasn’t brought into this…Lead a quiet life, enjoy my life, die a simple death. But now I have no choice. My life has been impacted in the most negative way. People are reacting very emotionally to me. They don’t like me. Call me all types of names but I am simply speaking to the truth,”

he said.

The Discovery of CTE

Omalu first discovered the CTE when examining the body of Mike Webster, a former pro football player with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers while working at the coroner’s office in September 2002.

Webster had displayed patterns of distressing behavior before his death from a heart attack at age 50, and Omalu was curious as to what clues the former player’s brain would reveal.

After careful examination of the brain, Omalu discovered clumps of tau proteins, which impair function upon accumulation. It was similar to “dementia pugilista,” a degenerative disease documented decades earlier in boxers, though it had yet to be connected to football players.

After confirming his findings with top faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh, Omalu named the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and submitted a paper titled “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a National Football League Player” to the Medical journal Neurosurgery.

Omalu’s discovery was discredited by the mouthpiece of the National Football League (NFL) and the Mild Traumatic Brian Injury (MTBI) Committee discredited Omalu’s research as “flawed” and refused to acknowledge a link between the sport and the brain damage in former players.

However, Omalu gained an important supporter in Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of neurosurgery at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and a former team physician for the Steelers. With Bailes and lawyer Bob Fitzsimmons, Omalu founded the Sports Legacy Institute (later renamed the Concussion Legacy Foundation) to continue studies of CTE.

Omalu pressed forward with his examination of Terry Long, another former football player who had committed suicide at age 45, and discovered the same buildup of tau proteins. His follow-up paper to Neurosurgery was published in November 2006.

Despite the NFL’s public evasiveness, Omalu and his supporters scored a victory when Mike Webster’s family was awarded a significant settlement in December 2006.

Omalu’s Nigerian and Academic Background

Omalu was born in Nigeria during the civil war of 1968 in Idemili South, a small town in eastern part of Nigeria. The sixth of seven children of a civil engineer and a seamstress, Omalu was admitted to the Federal Government College in Enugu at age 12 and at age 15 he began medical school at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

After earning his first of 10 degrees or board certifications in 1990, Omalu interned at University of Jos Teaching Hospital (UJTH), before being accepted to a visiting scholar program at the University of Washington in 1994 at the age of 25. He then served his residency at Harlem Hospital Center, where he developed his interest in pathology.

In 1999, Omalu moved to Pittsburgh to train under noted pathologist Cyril Wecht at the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office. Omalu holds eight advanced degrees and board certifications, later receiving fellowships in pathology and neuropathology through the University of Pittsburgh in 2000 and 2002 respectively, a Master of Public Health (MPH) in epidemiology in 2004 from University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University in 2008.

Movie and Book

Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu and actor Will Smith CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Will Smith was one NFL fan who allowed Omalu’s findings to challenge his thinking and, in preparing to play Omalu in the 2015 film Concussion, he watched him perform four autopsies and saw first-hand how he would play music and talk to the deceased person.

Will Smith said, “I was inspired by Bennet’s courage and faith…He combines that into one gorgeous human being. I was ecstatic to find that depth of character. I love that guy.”

Omalu released his book, Truth Doesn’t Have a Side on the 9th of this month with the forward written by Will Smith.

Omalu is currently chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, California and is a professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Omalu who only became an US citizen in February 2015 is married to Prema Mutiso, originally from Kenya. They live in Lodi, California and have two children, Ashly and Mark.

Sources: Wikipedia, Telegraph, Biography.com