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Tanzania Builds Centre of Excellence for Cardiovascular Sciences

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Neighbouring Tanzania is propping up a multimillion dollar Centre of Excellence for Cardiovascular Sciences (CoECS)- construction is scheduled for completion in 2021.

According to Prof. Gideon Kwesigabo the Project coordinator, the construction of this facility is about 75% complete. “We expect that by July 2021, construction work will be completed”.

The CoECS is part of the East African Centres of Excellence in Skills Development and Tertiary Education in Biomedical Sciences Project that aims at contributing to development of relevant and highly skilled workforce in Biomedical Sciences to meet the regions labour market needs.

Details also indicate that the main purpose for establishing this facility is to support prevention of cardiovascular diseases, offer treatment and save costs spent on sending patients abroad for heart diseases treatment.

Tanzania has been relying on Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) and it was not enough to serve the entire country and yet it was built to provide treatment only and not to prevent heart diseases.

This new facility is being funded by the government of Tanzania with a soft loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB). The first phase of this project will consume U$ 10.2million.

The first phase of this project will support the creation of a network of CoEs in biomedical sciences and engineering- Nephrology and Urology in Kenya, Oncology in Uganda, Cardiovascular in Tanzania and Biomedical Engineering and e-Health in Rwanda.

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Cattle in Tanzania Die After Vaccination Against Bovine Pleuropneumonia

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Tanzania’s Livestock and Fisheries Minister Mashimba Ndaki on Thursday ordered the veterinary council to investigate and hold accountable veterinarians who caused some livestock to die or get effects after vaccination in Dodoma region.

He issued a directive when he toured the Mlazo Village and received a report on the aftermath of the cattle vaccination against contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP).

“The Vaccination led to the death of over 25 cattle, 33 abortions, 58 got swellings on injected parts of skin,”Minister Mashimba noted.

He argued that the on-going countrywide vaccination exercise has good intentions, wondering how such an incident happened in Mlazo village.

“I am disappointed with how they executed it in Mlazo village. They did not follow the laid procedures and guidelines,” he stated.

The Minister also suspended Agristeps Limited, a company that entered a contract with Chamwino district council to oversee the immunization exercise, and also referred it to the Veterinary Council of Tanzania for further investigation.

“Thorough investigation must be conducted against the veterinarians who administered vaccination and measures taken against them. This company should also pay the costs for the menace it has caused,” he said.

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Another Human Species Discovered

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Scientists have found a large skull at the bottom of a well in northeastern China. The researchers have said this skull may belong to a new species of early human they have called “dragon man.”

The well-preserved skullcap, found in the Chinese city of Harbin, is between 138,000 and 309,000 years old, according to geochemical analysis, and it combines primitive features, such as a broad nose and low brow and braincase, with those that are more similar to Homo sapiens, including flat and delicate cheekbones.

The ancient hominin — which researchers said was “probably” a 50-year-old man — would have had an “extremely wide” face, deep eyes with large eye sockets, big teeth and a brain similar in size to modern humans.

Three papers detailing the find were published in the journal The Innovation on Friday.

“The Harbin skull is the most important fossil I’ve seen in 50 years. It shows how important East Asia and China is in telling the human story,” said Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at The Natural History Museum in London and coauthor of the research.

Researchers named the new hominin Homo longi, which is derived from Heilongjiang, or Black Dragon River, the province where the cranium was found.

The team plans to see if it’s possible to extract ancient proteins or DNA from the cranium, which included one tooth, and will begin a more detailed study of the skull’s interior, looking at sinuses and both ear and brain shape, using CT scans.

With these discoveries overtime, it means we weren’t the only humans on the block.

In the millennia since Homo sapiens first emerged in Africa about 300,000 years ago, we have shared the planet with Neanderthals, the enigmatic Denisovans, the “hobbit” Homo floresiensis, Homo luzonensis and Homo naledi, as well as several other ancient hominins.

This also means we had sex with some of them and produced babies. Some of these ancestors are well represented in the fossil record, but most of what we know about Denisovans comes from genetic information in our DNA.

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Is Rwanda Ready For GMO Cassava?

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In 2005, Felicien Simpunga cleared his 8 hectares of land and planted cassava in Ruhango district . The yields were always impressive year-in-year-out.

When Kinazi cassava processing plant was established in 2012, it became his main client. Simpunga decided to set up a small factory to process raw dried cassava into flour and sold it at a higher price than raw cassava.

However, in 2014 Simpunga nearly lost everything after an outbreak of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), known locally as Kabore.
All eight hectares of his cassava plants were infested and had to be uprooted.

“I had taken a bank loan of Rwf15 million that I haven’t been able to pay back. My four children could no longer go to school. All the workers on my farm lost their jobs and income too”, Simpunga said.

Cassava Brown Streak Disease spread to other cassava-producing districts including; Gisagara, Muhanga, Nyanza, Ruhango, Kamonyi and Bugesera. The loss was so huge.

Rwanda resorted to import a much resistant cassava variety in neighbouring Uganda.

Cassava is served as a staple food for 200 million people across the African continent. However, the crop has periodically suffered mysterious infestations of cassava mealybugs and brown streak virus.

Years later Kenya ordered its scientists to conduct research on a better cassava variety that would resist such attacks- and the answer was a genetically modified variety.

After seven years of intense research on controversial genetically modified cassava, Kenya government has finally approved open cultivation and consumption of this new species.

This latest development is expected to disrupt scientific research within the East African Community which has been resistant to adoption of Genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Kenya’s GM Cassava now becomes the first food crop to be approved for field cultivation. In 2019, Kenya approved GM cotton and farmers are already growing the first crop of this variety.

According to Rwanda’s Musoni Augustin a Pioneer Plant Breeder, embracing GMOs has its own advantages and shortcomings.

“There is little debate on adoption of GMOs in Rwanda. But we usually discuss about this subject inside our laboratories,” Musoni told Taarifa on Friday.

Musoni also says that many african countries have been hesitant to taking up such genetically modified organisms, however, he noted that many of these countries are importing GMOs and consuming them without their knowledge.

“Rwanda imports some Maize seeds from South Africa where such biotech science has been legally supported,” He said, adding that many other genetically modified foods are imported and consumed.

Cassava farmer in neighbouring Uganda shows off his GMO cassava

Kenya’s approval of genetically engineered cassava may trigger alot of scientific and policy alterations among member countries in the East African regional bloc.

Critiques argue that where biotech claims it has the solution to a life-threatening problem, the product is often in development for years after the press releases proclaim its life-saving properties. This often results in cuts in funding for more traditional and safer options such as biological control, which unlike GMOs, deal with the cause rather than the symptoms of the problem.

Dr. Hans Herren won the World Food Prize in 1995 for using biological controls to halt a mealybug infestation that threatened to destroy cassava crops across Africa.

By investing in co-creation of solutions in which farmers and scientists work together, embedded in the local ecological conditions. Cassava is a very resilient crop and, refering to the mealybug and green-spider-mites biological control, natural solutions do work and are supported by healthy soils and healthy plants.

The answer is not more technology to overcome nature, it is understanding nature and working with it to restore balance.

“Years of biotechnology research give you one genetically modified plant variety that does one thing. Tackling the cause of the problem beats symptom treatment, every time,” according to our source preferring anonymity.

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