OPTIMIZING WATER FOR AGRICULTURE USING REMOTE SENSING/GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION SYSTEM- Meet Dr. Esther O. Makinde

Summary

Water and land productivity for agricultural purposes are essential in addressing food security in Nigeria owing to its population. This rapidly growing country is unique in its location on the West Africa region because it cuts across the Sahel, Sudan, Guinea and Tropical Rainforest agro-ecological zones. However, the availability of water for sustainable agriculture all year round is a major challenge. Although, the surface water found in lakes, rivers and stream; and the subsurface water (also referred to as groundwater) located underground in large aquifers [1] is available across Nigeria to combat these challenges, has not been utilized. Agricultural surface and subsurface water use is particularly important in regions with increasingly variable water supplies like Nigeria, acting as a natural insurance mechanism and powerful climate change adaptation option [3]. Geospatial techniques comprising of Remote Sensing (RS), Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) is been used to assess, delineate, map and identify the location of surface water and potential subsurface water targets in a  more convenient, cost effective than invasive methods and efficient way [2, 4]. In today’s world, the solution to sustainable agriculture lies in adopting these unique techniques.

References

[1] Huggett, J. (2005) Fundamentals of Geomorphology, Routeledge, Oxon

[2] Elbeih, S.F. (2015) An overview of integrated remote sensing and GIS for groundwater mapping in Egypt. Engineering Applications and Water Division, National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences, 23 Joseph Tito st., El-Nozha El-Gedida, Cairo, Egypt. Ain Shams Engineering Journal, Elsevier 6, 1–15 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.asej.2014.08.008

[3] CGIAR: Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (2017) Agriculture and groundwater: feeding billions from the ground Up. https://wle.cgiar.org/event/agriculture-and-groundwater-feeding-billions-ground

  • Makinde, E.O. and Oyelade E. O. (2019) Land cover mapping using Sentinel-1 SAR and Landsat 8 imageries of Lagos State for 2017.Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Springer 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05589-x
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COMMUNICATING BIO-ROLE RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES IN PLASTIC WASTES MANAGEMENT THROUGH SOAPBOX SCIENCE 2020 EVENTS- Meet Dr. Omotola Esther Dada

Introduction

I am Dr. Omotola Esther Dada. I am Omotola Esther Dada, a Senior Lecturer and Acting Head of Department of Biological Sciences, Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State. A Fellow of the

Association of Commonwealth University (ACU), United Kingdom.

Preamble

As one of the First Cohort of 38 Scientist across the globe that was sponsored by Association of Commonwealth University (ACU), United Kingdom; I had the privilege to carry out my post-doctoral research in the year 2019 at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Pretoria, South Africa. The Post-doctoral research focused on microbial biodegradation of plastic wastes both in soil and marine environments using the American standard Testing Methods (ASTM).

Bio-role in Plastic Waste Management Research

Plastic or polymer pollution is a challenging issues across the globe. Due to their extensive industrial and domestic applications, there is an ever-increasing trend towards the production and consumption of plastics. A wide spectrum of these polymers is non-biodegradable with few exceptions. However, the use of bioplastics have been suggested as a feasible solution to problem of petro-based plastics. Many countries of the world have used various methods such as recycling to reduce the debacle of plastic pollution. Some methods may be successful, however, the use of biocontrol to handle bioplastic wastes is a green and affordable method which can be employed by identifying potential microbes that are responsible for the biodegradation of plastic wastes.

In carrying out the microbial biodegradation of plastic wastes in vitro, the soil or aquatic burial degradation test is important. The rate of microbial degradation of plastic wastes samples such as renewable resource-based bioplastics polybutylene succinate (PBS) blended with starch films could be compared to non-biodegradable petroleum-based Polyethylene films. In addition, a biodegradable material cellulose such as microcrystalline cellulose powder can be used as positive reference material and Blank.

The test material of 0.5 g were cut into 2 cm by 2 cm sizes and sandwiched respectively in between the mixture of the compost soil and perlite in sterilized respirometric jar with 1000 ml capacity.  Every 2-3 days incubation time, the amount of carbon dioxide evolved and percentage rate of biodegradation were assessed using titration method. During the biodegradation test, to analyze the behaviors of the materials before and after incubation, the test samples were characterized by DSC, TGA, FT-IR and SEM. Consequently, the mineralization study for plastics should be designed to achieve an ideal extent of biodegradation by providing sufficient aeration and humidity to the soil environment.

Besides, this test requires that the carbon dioxide output from the reference material should be more than 70% and for blank this should be 20% during both the plateau phase and at end of the test. Fragments of the test bioplastic samples were withdrawn and subjected to analytical characterization. The weight loss, changes in chemical structure, microbial degradation on the bioplastic film surfaces are revealed after the biodegradation testing procedures.

SUMMARY OF BIO-ROLE IN IN PLASTIC WASTES MANAGEMENT

The test is designed as a respirometric biodegradation test method using biometer flask.

The criteria and the requirement above are necessary to assess the validity of any biodegradability test. Hence, deviations from these criteria shall be regarded as a null or invalid test. The standard test method is reliable and can be used to test all polymers from natural and synthetic origin, copolymers or mixtures that contain additives such as plasticizers, colorants or water-soluble polymers. Consequently, this test method is designed to achieve an ideal extent of biodegradation by providing sufficient aeration and humidity to the environment.

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FROM IMAGERY TO ACTUALITY: INTERROGATING AFRICAN VIRGINITY DISCOURSE IN TUNDE KELANI’S MOVIES- Ojemola, Adeyoola Mercy

In African culture generally, virginity is associated with innocence from sexuality; it is ascribed the position of the pride of every woman and considered never to be trivialised. It is a symbol of communal glory and pride as it is usually related to marriage. In some African settings, any woman who marries a virgin gets to enjoy social benefits of reward from the husband, his family and sometimes, the bride’s family also gets rewarded for proper child upbringing. Among the Yorubas in Nigeria, the joy of the husband is publicly displayed by presenting the blood stained white cloth that proves the virginity status of the new bride. The bride is given payment for her virginity through money, clothing and accessories or even a specially made food delicacy for the bride. Any bride whose husband cannot show a proof of his bride’s virginity becomes a laughing stock in the community. Sometimes, at the absence of blood-proof as a virgin upon marriage, the husband is free to return the bride to her father’s house and also allowed to express his anger and disappointment along with his family. Should she not be returned, she is left to a marriage absent of joy. To avoid this, the entire community will join hands in ensuring that their daughters were not ‘spoilt’ (deflowered) as only damaged (spoilt) goods are returned to the seller.

However, there is a digression from this collective view on virginity protection in the present day Nigeria and extensively Africa, as the reputational value in virginity has gone through a decline. A common factor to this revealed that this retrogression in value among Africans is as a result of the various changes occurring in social practices such that virginity became a considered stigma of backwardness and being antisocial. Various studies in this regard pointed that virginity has lost its significance due to sexual revolution, technology and cogent changes in social-cultural relations. One of such changes is attributed to education, the prevalence of civilisation through exposure to the television and films, increases in adolescent sexuality and a generally slacked sexual behaviour in the society. Hence, there is an emerged redefining of virginity as a shift from its original interpretation and the cultural purpose of its existence.

In the film Narrow Path by Tunde Kelani, an auteur indigenous filmmaker in Nigeria, virginity was depicted as a priceless pride belonging to the female gender which should only be given out on a marital bed. Awero, the heroine of the story was tantalised by the various gifts she got from Dauda, a city boy. Awero was robbed of her irreplaceable gift (virginity) to her would-be husband, Odejimi, as a result of meeting Dauda in the dark to collect a city gift. She didn’t inform anyone of this predicament as it was a shameful thing to her, her family and their entire community. On the night of marital consummation, the expectant Odejimi had no blood stained cloth to proof his bride’s chastity. Awero was returned to her father’s house while the unmarried ladies in her village lamented at their misfortune of probably not getting a husband because of Awero’s shame. This shame was Awero’s because of her desire to cultivate the lifestyle of ‘city/modern girls’ and Dauda treated her just as a ‘city/modern girl’ would have been treated. According to Nnazor & Robinson (2016) in ‘Virginity Rituals and National Development: Harnessing a Traditional Virtue to Address Modern Challenges in Africa’, this interchange is said to be influenced among the Yorubas by the infiltration of the British colonisation that introduced western liberalism, individualism and sexual freedom. This invariably reduced the pride attached to virginity, as pre-marital sex and pregnancy during courtship became the order of the day.

Regardless, it is to be noted that not all African women are victims of this infiltration scenario as some still jealously guard it regardless of being ‘city girls’. This is also adequately depicted in three of Tunde Kelani’s films, Arugba, Magun and Campus Queen with Adetutu, Ngozi and Bimpe playing the heroines respectively. As compared with Awero in Narrow Path, these other three women were such to keep their chastity even when in the midst of men who were willing to offer them ‘the whole world’. All they simply needed to do was receive the extended hands of these men. A king with many wives sought to make Adetutu his queen which she bluntly refused as she was the chosen purity symbol for the Osun River’s goddess amongst other girls in the entire town. Ngozi, though Igbo, got married to her Yoruba husband as a virgin in spite of having many suitors during her higher education days in school and her compulsory one year service to the country. Bimpe was a student-activist who sought to eradicate corruption in the society with other students. She was on an undercover mission to live with a corrupted military officer in his house as a pretend lover. She fulfilled and completed her mission with her virginity intact.

These three movies attest that despite the fact that African societies have embraced a way of life totally different from the indigenous cultural African systems, it is still possible to embrace westernisation and not stay aloof to the African indigenous way of life. Westernisation may be a lure from the cultural, spiritual and indigenous identity of the African woman and her virginity, it is still incapable of dislocating this identity in its entirety.

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WASTE TO WEALTH: IMPROVING QUALITY OF LIFE THROUGH WASTE MANAGEMENT, A MULTI -ACHIEVEMENT APPROACH- Meet Dr. Aderonke Adetutu OKOYA

Good day everyone. All protocols duly observed. I want to appreciate the organizers of this 2020 soapboxscience event for the opportunity to present our activities in our research group (SwWECh) despite the outgoing Pandemic experience. I really appreciate the doggedness of the organizers.

I will be speaking briefly on the title: WASTE TO WEALTH: IMPROVING QUALITY OF LIFE THROUGH WASTE MANAGEMENT, A MULTI -ACHIEVEMENT APPROACH.” . Yes, waste to wealth in the sense that our own raw materials are those things discarded as waste.   Therefore discarded bottled water Plastic bottles, cocoa husk wastes, Snail Shells, periwinkle shells are some of the waste to be turned to new products.

Also, this talk is multi- achievement because it involves conversion /management of discarded solid wastes to useful product such as adsorbents for the treatment of water and waste water. In other words our approach is solving the problem of solid waste management, wastewater treatment and water and sanitation issues.

 Plastic Wastes

The durability and comfort associated with plastic usage and handling has promoted its adoption for use, however, these usage has not come without its challenges, manifested as plastic pollution. Plastic pollution can afflict land, waterways and oceans. Living organisms, particularly marine animals can be harmed either by mechanical effects, such as entanglement in plastic objects, problems related to ingestion of plastic waste, or through exposure to chemicals within plastics that interfere with their physiology. Effects on humans include disruption of various hormonal mechanisms. Primary sources are the waste plastics from the manufacturing industry, and secondary sources are plastic litter – bottles (Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)), food packaging, polyester clothing, fishing line. An estimated amount of 1.1 to 8.8 million tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean from coastal communities each year (Jambeck et al., 2015). As of 2018, about 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide each year.

Environmental impacts of plastics

 Plastics causes nuisance in the environment and damage the aesthetics of the environment.

Burning plastics releases pollutants into the atmosphere that damages air quality, and releases oxides of carbon that in turn drives climate change upon reaction with free oxygen

Plastics blocks the waterways, and disallows free flows, thus causing stagnation of water, which can in turn become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and consequently malaria, and health impact on humans.

When plastics finds its way into our oceans, it causes impacts like entanglement and ingestion by wildlife in the environment. These plastics and associated chemicals therefore gets when ingested by marine organisms which then bioaccumulates in the food chain (Teuten et al., 2009), and consequently gets passed onto consumers in the higher food chain including humans when they consume these marine lives.

Also, there are several chemicals within plastic material itself that have been added to give it certain properties such as Bisphenol A, phthalates and flame retardants (Das and Kumar, 2015). These all have known negative effects on human and animal health, mainly affecting the endocrine system. There are also toxic monomers, which have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems (Koushal et al., 2014).

These unwanted realities suggest the need to manage plastic wastes in our environment. Eradicating the production and even single usage of plastic seems to be the best option to eliminate the menace of plastic in the environment. However, accepting this option is taking longer time for adoption, thus the need to find alternative usage for plastics, to reduce its environmental and health impacts, and we have identified activating it for use as adsorbent.

Production of PolyethyleneTerephthalate (PET):

This involves processes such as sorting, cutting, washing , drying, impregnation with alkali and washing to neutral off, oven drying and carbonization. The powder obtained from carbonization process can be used for adsorption purposes. This process is used to cleanse our water supply and wastewaters, by removing contaminants (organic and inorganic) from them even at low concentrations, before being discharged to our water bodies.

Production of PET based Activated Carbon

Cocoa Pod Husk

Nigeria is a major producer of cocoa. The husk is a major constituent of the cocoa pod and extracts from has numerous applications in textile manufacture, pulp and paper production, reclaiming of rubber, food production, detergents and soap production as well as laboratory reagents. Generally cocoa is processed by rural farmers, mainly women especially in soap production. The husks are heaped and allowed to undergo natural decay, constituting an environmental nuisance by impairing on the aesthetics of the environment and unpleasant to sight, serving as breeding ground for mosquitoes, contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases like methane, which is a major driver of global warming, with a heat trapping potential that is over 20 times more than carbon dioxide. Ash from cocoa pod has been the main source of alkali for the production of the local black soap in Nigeria. However, the black colour of the soap does not make it attractive and acceptable to all. This limits the sales of this product to the society who use imported products as alternatives. In our project, the cocoa pod husk has been processed to alkali quality with enhanced aesthetics that will not make the soap black. The equivalents of our product to the imported potassium and Sodium hydroxides are also known.  250g of sodium hydroxide costs 44.8 EuR and 500g costs 80.2 EuR.

Our alkali has been used successfully as activating / impregnating agent in the production of adsorbents for water and wastewater treatment. The environmental problem caused by the heaped decomposing cocoa husk can therefore be solved by extracting caustic alkali for industrial applications without the attendant black colour (Okoya (1987); Okoya and Ogunkoya, 2009)  

The production of caustic alkali involves collection and sorting out of the husk followed by processes such as drying, pulverizing, sieving, ashing, evaporation.

Production of Caustic Alkali from Cocoa

Periwinkle Shells Periwinkle shells are waste obtained from periwinkle. Periwinkles are marine mollusks (gastropods) with thick spiral shells. As they grow, gastropod shells follow a mathematically regular pattern. Thus, as they increase in size, they retain their basic form [Agbede and Manasseh, 2012]. Although, few people utilize the shell as coarse aggregate in concrete in areas where there are neither stones nor granite for purpose such as paving of water -logged areas [Olutoge et al. 2012]. The use of periwinkle shells will add economic value; provide a potentially inexpensive material that will be used for the removal of metal ions from aqueous media and help reduce the cost of waste disposal. Therefore, our research group has produced the expensive chitosan from both periwinkle and snail shells and used same as adsorbents and also as adsorbent modifier for water treatment (Okoya et al., 2016). Also periwinkle shells alone has been developed as  low-cost adsorbent for the recognition and removal of Cr (II) and Zn (II) ions from aqueous media. (Awokoya et al., 2016). The  production of chitosan encompasses the following processes: Grinding of the Periwinkle shell, Sieving, Deproteinisation, Demineralisation, Decolourisation, and Deacetylation. The Chitosan formed can be used for remediation of both organic contaminants and inorganic contaminants from waste water. They can be individually used as an adsorbent and can also be blended with other materials to form composites that enhance sorption properties.

Processes Involved in Chitosan Production

REFERENCES

Okoya, A.A. (1987): Extraction of Caustic Alkali from Cocoa-pod husk. B.Sc. Project.

Okoya, A. A. and Ogunkoya L. (2009): Environmental management and evaluation of Cocoa-pod husk waste. In: Proceedings of the Third World Organization for Women in Science. (TWOWS) African Regional  Conference. Theme: Gender and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (eds.) November 16th – 20th, 2009,   ECOWAS Commission, Asokoro, Abuja, 481-488, NIGERIA.

Agbede OI, Manasseh J. Suitability of periwinkle shell as partial replacement for river gravel in concrete. Leonardo Electronic Journal of Practices and Technologies. 2009; 15:59-66.

 Olutoge FA, Okeyinka OM, Olaniyan OS. Assessment of the suitability of periwinkle shell ash (PSA) as partial replacement for ordinary portland cement (OPC) in concrete. International Journal of Research and Reviews in Applied Sciences. 2012; 10:428-433,

Okoya, A. A. , Akinyele, A. B., Amuda, O. S. and Ofoezie, I. E. Chitosan-Grafted Carbon for the Sequestration of Heavy Metals in Aqueous Solution American Chemical Science Journal 11(3): 1-14.

Awokoya, K.N.,  Sanusi R. O. and Oninla  V. O. and Olumuyiwa M. Ajibade (2016) Activated Periwinkle Shells for the Binding and Recognition of Heavy Metal Ions from Aqueous Media International Research Journal of Pure &Applied Chemistry 13(4): 1-10.

Jambeck, Jenna R., Geyer, Rowland, and Wilcox, Chris (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science. 347 (6223):768-771.

Das, M. P., and Kumar, S. (2015). An approach to low-density polyethylene biodegradation by Bacillus amyloliquefeciens.  Biotech 5, 81-86.

Kousal, V., Sharma R., Sharma M., and Sharma V. (2014). Plastics: Issues, Challenges and Remediation. Inter. J. of Waste Resources 4:134. Teuten, E. L., Saquing, J. M., Knappe, D. R., Barlaz, M. A., Jonsson, S., Björn, A., Rowland, S. J., Thompson, R. C., Galloway, T. S., Yamashita R., Ochi, D., Watanuki, Y., Moore, C., Viet PH, Tana TS, Prudente M, Boonyatumanond R, Zakaria MP, Akkhavong K, Ogata Y, Hirai H, Iwasa, S., Mizukawa, K., Hagino, Y., Imamura, A., Saha, M., Takada, H., Philos Trans, R. Soc Lond, B. (2009). Transport and release of chemicals from plastics to the environment and to wildlife. Biol Sci., 364(1526):2027-45.

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INSECTS AS ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF FOOD AND FEEDS- Meet Dr. Alafia Azeezat Oyindamola

Not everybody can afford to eat healthy diet all the time, some cannot even get sufficient nutrient in their only meal. With the world population increasing at an exponential rate, it is expected that by 2050, human population will be about 9 billion, thereby increasing the rate of food insecurity. Food is an important determinant of mental health.  Studies have shown that one major nutrient lacking in the diet of people in developing countries is protein.

Insects to the rescue

Why suffer in the mist of plenty. You can get a good source of protein from those yucky insects.

Insects are known for many things, generally, as agents that cause diseases and should be avoided at all cost, these has made them undesirable even from their beneficial values. But do you know that feeding on insects can serve as a very good source of protein.        

The practice of eating insects is known as ENTOMOPHAGY. Approximately 2000 species of insects are consumed globally and serves as a good source of lipids, proteins, amino acids and minerals (Dickie, et al, 2019).

A lot of benefit accrue from consumption of insects as food and feeds, most importantly it increases food opportunity for consumers, while having low environmental impact due to the limited requirements for arable land and water (Madau, et al, 2020). Feeding on insects will help to achieve the sustainable development goals, SDG 2 (Zero hunger), 3 (good health and wellbeing), and 11(sustainable cities and community),

Insects such as crickets, cockroach, grasshoppers, beetles and ants has found their way into our plates and they are not there to contaminate the food. The major species of insects commonly eaten in Nigeria, includes; Palm beetle, Termites, Grasshoppers, Crickets and Locust. Palm beetle Rhynchophorus phoenics larvae known as Kokoro muni muni or Ogongo in Yoruba has a high protein, Iron and Zinc content. Palm beetle protein contain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 which are recommended for diabetic and hypertensive patients with heart disorders (Finke, 2002). Black soldier fly larvae Hermetia illucens has also been used as feeds for poultry reducing the need for other food substitutes. Cricket farming is another big business idea which can generate good income, this delicious delicacy can be made into Cricket bread, Liquorice,and  Cricket chocolate (Mikkola, 2019).

Farming this insects in small and large scale is easy, they can be reared on honey, banana and vegetables and leafy greens. If you are looking for a way to increase your monthly income, insect farming is the way to go. Cost of production is low and income generated can be as high. Turn over time is also fast, laboratory reared palm beetles mature within three to six months depending on the species and the diet. 

Although it is generally acceptable to feed on insects, indeed some soldiers are trained to feed on insects in case they are caught behind enemy line without food and supplies.  In Africa, insects is a major source of protein in the diet of village dwellers, however, some people still find it disgusting, this singular factor forms a major challenge to the profitability of commercial rearing of  the insects (Mikkola, 2019). So while you consider the prospect and possibility of getting involved in the eating and farming of insects, I leave you to enjoy this meal of egusi garnished with crickets.                                                                                           

References                                                                                                     

Dickie, F, , Miyamoto, M and Collins, C.M.(2019), The Potential of Insect Farming to Increase Food Security. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.88106  

Finke,  M. D. (2002) Complete nutrient composition of commercially raised invertebrates used as food for insectivores. Zoo Biology. 21:269-285         

Madau, F.A., Arru, B., Furesi, R., and  Pulina, P. (2020) Insect farming for feed and food production from a circular business model perspective. Sustainability 12 (13):5418

Mikkola, H. (2019) Introductory Chapter: Is the Insect Food Boom over or when it Will Start? DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.89801                                                  

www.eatcrickster.com/blog/              

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CHALLENGES FACED BY WOMEN IN STEM: THE WAY FORWARD- meet Dr. NseAbasi NsikakAbasi Etim

The challenges faced by women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) has been an issue of global concern among researchers. It is no longer news that women have been subjugated throughout the globe particularly when it comes to the contributions they have made. Although women are playing an increasing role in STEM today, there are still barriers circumventing them from achieving success comparable to their male counterparts. Regrettably, women continue to have an incredibly difficult time being treated unfairly due to the unfair system. In the developing world, Nigeria inclusive, women scientists face several challenges peculiar to their cultural, societal and institutional norms. These challenges have adverse effects on the overall performance of these women in the pursuit of their career goals. To address the challenges encountered by women in STEM and to formulate policies aimed at supporting them, identifying the obstacles is required. Research done to determine women’s opinion on the challenges they face revealed that women in STEM encounter several difficulties, including inability to balance work with family, especially, when it involves leaving their families with children to attend scientific conferences and post-doctoral fellowships. Women also complain about experiencing some forms of discrimination ranging from delayed promotion to duties or responsibilities assigned to them; lack of institutional support and some forms of sexual harassments, in the form of inappropriate and repugnant remarks, sexual advances and actual unapproved physical contact by men in positions of authority while performing their duties. To solve these problems, the following are recommended: increased duration and frequency of Leave for women in STEM, strict punishment for sexual offenders, policies to stop gender discrimination and support women in STEM through access to funding and research grant, hiring women and nominating women for leadership positions and awards. Mentorship should also be provided for women in STEM, especially, those in the early stages of their careers.

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PHYTOMOLECULES TO THE RESCUE- Meet Dr. Blessing Onyegeme-Okerenta

Natural plant extracts and products discovered from medicinal plants contain phytomolecules and have provided numerous drugs which are being used clinically for the management and treatment of various ailments. In spite of the various challenges encountered in the medicinal plant-based drug discovery, phytomolecules isolated from plants will remain an essential component in the search for further new medicines. Phytomolecules are naturally derived secondary metabolites present in plants and are responsible for eliciting pharmacological or toxicological effects in both animals and humans. The important phytomolecules include flavonoids, terpenoids, saponin, phenols, phenylpropanoids and alkaloids and are widely distributed in plants. The majority of plant extracts are not single compounds but rather a mixture of different molecules and are very often present in minute quantities and quite difficult to synthesize chemically, therefore these compounds must be extracted directly from plants in good quantities for pharmacological uses. However, their mechanism of action usually targets several organ and cellular systems and can give complementary or synergy effects.

Summary of some studies involving the activities of phytomolecules include:

1. Phytomolecules present in the crude leaf extract of Millettia aboensis include reducing sugar, alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, phlobatannins and cardiac glycosides. Following ethanol plant extract administration of 2000 mg/kg, the level of haemoglobin concentration and its related indices were appreciably improved. This gives an indication that the plant extract may contain some phytomolecules that can stimulate the formation of secretion or erythropoietin in the stem cells of experimental animals thereby increasing erythropoiesis. This could possibly mean that the phytomolecules present in Millettia aboensis possess stimulatory effect on red blood cell production and could probably be used as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of anaemia. M. aboensis has been reported to possess antibiotic and hypoglycaemic properties.

2. Phytochemical screening of medicinal plants like Senna alata (L) Roxb indicated the presence of phytomolecules such as anthraquinones, flavonoids (mainly kaemferol), tannins (present as tannic acid), alkaloids (including coniine and coniceine), phenolic acids, saponins, and negligible amounts of quinones and acrylamides. The quantitative analysis of this plant extract showed the presence of high amount of some important phytomolecules such as tannic acid, quercetin, and kaemferol. The plant has been reported to possess some important pharmacological activities such as antidiabetic, hypolipidaemic, anti-oxidant, and analgesic, amongst others.

3. Aqueous leaf extracts of Dennettia. tripetala and Physalis. angulata demonstrated antioxidant properties by protecting the red cells from reactive oxygen species. Also, they were able to reduce the percentage of sickled cells, the rate of haemoglobin polymerization, and the osmotic fragility of human sickle RBCs. The study concluded that aqueous leaf extracts of D. tripetala and P. angulata possess phytomolecules which have anti-sickling potential and can be used for the treatment or management of sickle cell anaemia. Further study will help to uncover the critical areas of phytomedicine that many researchers were not able to explore. Thus a new theory on the management of sickle cell disease may be arrived at. Similarly, ethanol extracts of Annona muricata, Delonix regia and Senna alata have the potentials to reverse sickling in human sickle RBCs. This was shown in their ability to significantly decrease the rate of haemoglobin polymerization, the percentage of sickled cells, and the osmotic fragility of human sickle RBCs. They were shown to possess antioxidant properties which protect the red cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. The inhibitory/reduction activities of ethanol extracts of A. muricata, D. regia and S. alata could be due to the synergistic properties of bioactive compounds present in these plants. The study concluded that these plant extracts may be used for the therapeutic management of sickle cell anaemia. Also, phytomolecules extracted from Annona muricata, and Delonix regia have been reported as hypoglycaemic and hypolipidaemic agents which can be used in the management of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

4. The phytomolecules present in the leave extracts of Cnidoscolus Aconitifolius and Jatropha tanjorensis include alkaloids, flavonoids, tannin, cynogenic glycosides, terpenoid, resin and saponins. A study to investigate the analgesic potentials of aqueous leaf extracts of Jatropha tanjorensis and Cnidoscolus aconitifolius against hot plate and acetic acid induced pain on Wistar rats showed that the extracts, separately and synergistically has potential analgesic activity on the Wistar rats. This observation was based on the amber of abdominal writhes or paw licking in rats which showed a significant delay in reaction time and increase in pain latency in a dose dependant manner.  By implication of the result of this study it can be inferred that the analgesic activity of these plants is most likely to be mediated peripherally and centrally.

5. The search for the use of herbal remedies as an alternative medicine for the treatment and management of cancer is on-going. My study evaluates the in vitro cytotoxic potential of ethanol leaf extracts of Physalis. angulata L., Parquetina nigrescens, and ethyl acetate extracts of Senna alata (L) Roxb and Annona muricata, on four different human carcinoma cell lines: MCF 7 (human breast), C4-2WT (prostate), HT 29 and HCT 116 (colorectal). Results obtained from the cytotoxic assays indicated that these extracts, at a very low concentration, inhibited the proliferation of the different human carcinoma cell lines in a time and concentration-dependent manner and therefore, may be considered promising and for further purification as an anti-proliferative agent against human carcinoma cells.

According to the WHO, 70-80% of the world population uses the plant-derived traditional methods for the treatment of various health problems. These phytomolecules are natural, available and cost-effective when compared to modern therapeutic agents and have proven to be useful as antibiotics, antidiabetic, antisickling and anticancer chemotherapy agents. This makes them more attractive as promising economic therapeutic agents. Therefore, there is the need for intensive research to elucidate the possible mechanism(s) of action at molecular and biochemical levels of these phytomolecules as therapeutic agents.

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THE SCIENCE WE NEED FOR THE DATA WE WANT- meet Amande Obidike

You may have heard this latest speculation that Data is the new oil. These days, it’s not just about having lots of data, except you have a good question to answer or a solution to proffer. Data science is the main focus of most sciences and studies right now, it needs a lot of things like AI, programming, statistics, business understanding, effective presentations skills and much more. That’s why it’s not easy to understand or study. But we can do it as a country and a continent.

Data science has become the standard solving problem framework for academia and the industry and it’s going to be like that for a while. But we need to remember where we are coming from, who we are and where we are going. Data is an essential resource that powers research, the information economy in much the way that oil has fueled the industrial economy.

For example, Harvard Medical School published research comparing the accuracy of machine learning systems against human pathologists in detecting breast cancer. The machine learning was 92% accurate, which is good. But humans were 96% accurate. Case closed, right?

In short of what of these points are:

We have a lot of data with us, but we are not still utilizing it, therefore, we can not draw out insights from it.

In the digital world we are in, everything is now data-driven. Data has become the most valuable resource on the planet. However, our data needs to be ethically extracted, refined, distributed and monetized. Like the way oil has driven growth and produced wealth for powerful nations, the next wave of growth is driven by Data – and will be for a long time.

Strategy Lead, STEMi Makers Africa.

contact@stemiafrica.org, stemimakerafrica@gmail.com

+234-809-272-9114, +234-703-759-8505

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WOMAN RESEARCHER: THE ENGINE ROOM OF A FULFILLED HOME- Meet Professor Abiodun Olusola Salami

A woman is generally a protector, disciplinarian and friend. She is usually a selfless and loving individual who often sacrifice many of her wants and needs for the wants and needs of her children. A woman works hard to make sure her child is equipped with the knowledge, skills and abilities to live a fulfilled life. A good woman is empathetic, compassionate, supportive, and an encouragement to her partner in building a successful relationship. A mother is a housekeeper, cook, teacher, nurse, coach, storyteller, planner, organizer, decorator, best friend, worst enemy, multitasker and a wonder woman, indeed an “Engine”. There is no person stronger than a mother and I am proud to be one! An engine converts one form of energy to other forms in order to make many others work and function appropriately. She tasks herself, challenges and creates deadlines for herself. She admits she does not have all the answers, yet, she asks questions. She is confident in her abilities, although, she can still learn while on the job.

Mothers as engine in the home, expose their children in such a way that is instrumental to the development of their leadership skills. This helped them develop the “can-do-spirit” rather than give up while climbing the ladder of life and surmounting the challenges that line their path to the peak of their different careers. For instance, based on my exposure, I developed a “can-do-spirit” and was the first female Professor and Head of my Department of 58 years of existence of Department of Crop Production and Protection in Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. This has put me in a vantage position as a mentor to help in my largely patriarchal environment. This has also been a major motivation for my children in fighting for their space in life. I usually exchange my ideas with them in order to inspire them to learn and move up in life. I have, as a mother, developed an essential successful mentoring relationship with them such that we jointly identify, define, and honestly articulate our common, as well as individual goals and motives together. This has created a better team and cohesive force between us, to build a legacy with landmark achievements. Mothers are generally mentors and pillars of support to their children in order to build competences and soft skills in life.

A researcher is somebody who carries out academic investigation, whether independently or otherwise as a principal investigator, with the aim of establishing facts in a systematic manner. Combining this with responsibility of motherhood as outlined above is not a mean task. Women researchers work in academic, industrial, government, or private institutions. Many women researchers have pioneered several ground-breaking researches across the world. Despite their remarkable discoveries, women still represent just 29 % of researchers globally, and their work sometimes do not gain the recognition it deserves. Only 3 % of Nobel Prizes for science have ever been awarded to women, and only 11 % of senior research roles are held by women in Europe. I am a mother and a researcher, my interest emanates from the fact that as an Academic, every activity that promotes the advancement of knowledge acquisition and its practical application to social, cultural, economic, scientific and technological problems attract special place in my heart. I am determined to prepare my children for future accolades and therefore, create conducive teaching and learning home environment for acquiring skills, knowledge, positive behaviour and attitude for my children.

ROLE OF MOTHERS AS MENTORS IN DEVELOPMENT

Mothers are mentors. Mentoring relationship is a professional activity, in which there is a trusted relationship with meaningful commitment. Women are therefore the best mentors at home given the high level of trust and confidence between children and their mothers. Mentoring, when well done, is a luxury in this fast-paced and unpredictable work environment where good manner and culture should be established. Yes, schools at different levels are known to be experts at offering traditional education to diverse student clientele, but mothers in their roles do more in a more diverse way. I have been able to effect changes by bringing mentorship to my home, students, staff and even farmers in my career. I have built a mentoring relationship in an informal way within collegial associations. In this way, they learn by observation and example in order to structure formal agreements between expert and co-mentors. This allows each of them to develop professionally through the two-way transfer of experience and perspective. This has cumulated to a mentoring relationship of helping and supporting them to “manage their own learning in order to maximize their professional potentials, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the persons they want to be”.

WHAT AND WHO HAVE BEEN THE MOST SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCES ON WHO I AM TODAY-PERSONALLY?

My parent’s belief in me and their bold commitment to the girl child education, their lavish care, as well as the support and example of my husband, Professor Ayobami Salami and Vicki Wilde (Director an International Organizer of AWARD Programme based in U.S.A.) are the most significant influences on my personality and leadership drive today. At the time and in the environment in which I was born, there was a widespread belief that had a deep cultural penetration and acceptance that the education of a girl child is a waste of resources. In terms of care and education therefore, female children were discriminated against and were seen as only to be needful for procreation. But my parents, Mr. and Mrs. S.L. Ladoye, held the belief that all children must be given equal education opportunity and were willing to bear the societal rejection and the isolation that came with their decision to educate their girl children. My father who was an Agricultural Extension Officer made the payment of our school fees from his salary his highest priority while my mother would see to it that we were well fed, adequately kitted and catered for from her meager pastry business income. In cooperation, they were not only committed to taking care of their children and laying solid foundation for my future, they were also full of empathy for the resource-poor children around us then, by sharing our food with them. As a young child, I have vivid memories that people would prefer to drop their children with my parents than any other in our neighborhood. My parents would not complain that what they had might not be enough, rather they would encourage us to share our meals with other kids from the less privileged background than ours. This was my early exposure and induction to community service and it was from these unforgettable early childhood experiences that I determined and purposed to study hard enough to rise to the very top of any career path I find myself in order to be able to take care of my parents in return and give a helping hand to the needy around me. This sense of mission and purpose has remained part of me and has shaped my sense of duty and relationship with others.

My husband, Professor Ayobami Salami, was instrumental to the development of my leadership skills. He helped me develop the “can-do-spirit”. Eventually I became the first female Professor in my Department and I was also appointed the first female Head of Department. This has put me in a vantage position to help others and encourage the female gender in my largely patriarchal society. I am now in a position to exchange my ideas with them, to inspire them to learn and move up in life. Vicki Wilde models for me the ideal of a target-oriented leadership and how to harness the power of multi-level mentorship to achieve the goal of reaching a wider audience. Vicki can be appropriately tagged as a ‘Woman Developer’ who is obsessed with developing women, especially women Agricultural Scientists across Sub-Saharan Africa in order to help smallholder farmers. She has contributed immensely to the well-being of African women Scientists via career-development programs focused on fostering mentoring partnerships, building science skills, and developing leadership capacity. She is a real catalyst for innovations, detecting and bringing up potentials in Sub-Saharan African women Scientists, thus, strengthening their research and leadership skills. All these great influences have equipped me with the instrument that make great things happen in the lives of people around me. bringing mentorship to my home, students, staff and even farmers in my career. I have built a mentoring relationship in an informal way within collegial associations. In this way, they learn by observation and example in order to structure formal agreements between expert and co-mentors. This allows each of them to develop professionally through the two-way transfer of experience and perspective. This has cumulated to a mentoring relationship of helping and supporting them to “manage their own learning in order to maximize their professional potentials, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the persons they want to be”.

WHAT AND WHO HAVE BEEN THE MOST SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCES ON WHO I AM TODAY-PERSONALLY?

My parent’s belief in me and their bold commitment to the girl child education, their lavish care, as well as the support and example of my husband, Professor Ayobami Salami and Vicki Wilde (Director an International Organizer of AWARD Programme based in U.S.A.) are the most significant influences on my personality and leadership drive today. At the time and in the environment in which I was born, there was a widespread belief that had a deep cultural penetration and acceptance that the education of a girl child is a waste of resources. In terms of care and education therefore, female children were discriminated against and were seen as only to be needful for procreation. But my parents, Mr. and Mrs. S.L. Ladoye, held the belief that all children must be given equal education opportunity and were willing to bear the societal rejection and the isolation that came with their decision to educate their girl children. My father who was an Agricultural Extension Officer made the payment of our school fees from his salary his highest priority while my mother would see to it that we were well fed, adequately kitted and catered for from her meager pastry business income. In cooperation, they were not only committed to taking care of their children and laying solid foundation for my future, they were also full of empathy for the resource-poor children around us then, by sharing our food with them. As a young child, I have vivid memories that people would prefer to drop their children with my parents than any other in our neighborhood. My parents would not complain that what they had might not be enough, rather they would encourage us to share our meals with other kids from the less privileged background than ours. This was my early exposure and induction to community service and it was from these unforgettable early childhood experiences that I determined and purposed to study hard enough to rise to the very top of any career path I find myself in order to be able to take care of my parents in return and give a helping hand to the needy around me. This sense of mission and purpose has remained part of me and has shaped my sense of duty and relationship with others.

My husband, Professor Ayobami Salami, was instrumental to the development of my leadership skills. He helped me develop the “can-do-spirit”. Eventually I became the first female Professor in my Department and I was also appointed the first female Head of Department. This has put me in a vantage position to help others and encourage the female gender in my largely patriarchal society. I am now in a position to exchange my ideas with them, to inspire them to learn and move up in life.

Vicki Wilde models for me the ideal of a target-oriented leadership and how to harness the power of multi-level mentorship to achieve the goal of reaching a wider audience. Vicki can be appropriately tagged as a ‘Woman Developer’ who is obsessed with developing women, especially women Agricultural Scientists across Sub-Saharan Africa in order to help smallholder farmers. She has contributed immensely to the well-being of African women Scientists via career-development programs focused on fostering mentoring partnerships, building science skills, and developing leadership capacity. She is a real catalyst for innovations, detecting and bringing up potentials in Sub-Saharan African women Scientists, thus, strengthening their research and leadership skills. All these great influences have equipped me with the instrument that make great things happen in the lives of people around me.

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Remembering Georgina Mace

by Seirian Sumner and Nathalie Pettorelli

We were deeply saddened to hear that Georgina Mace passed away at the weekend. Georgina has a firm place on any list of influential women in science, and will be remembered as one of the great titans of conservation. There is no doubt that she has changed the world through her work: she was best known for defining the criteria for assessing species threat levels, through the IUCN Red List. Official recognition of her impact includes Fellow of the Royal Society (2002), Officer (OBE, 1998), Commander (CBE, 2007) and Dame (DEB, 2016) of the British Empire, Cosmos Prize (2007), Ernst Haekel Prize (2011), Heineken Prize (2016), Medals from the British Ecological Society (2018), and the Linneann Society (2016), BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2018) and more. Georgina was modest about her achievements; but her science legacy speaks for itself: she was a a leader and innovator for biodiversity science, and a formidable champion of early career scientists. A loss to us all.

But here at Soapbox Science, we are not seeking to champion her remarkable professional achievements – the medals, titles, awards, or even how she has changed the face of conservation with her acuity, intelligence, foresight and diplomacy. Georgina has a very special place in the hearts of female ecologists like ourselves, because, as a mother and grandmother, she modelled for us how family life can be compatible with (an extraordinary) life scientific.

We set up Soapbox Science in 2011 as a way to help female scientists punch through the gender barriers that both the media and academic culture propagates. Our idea was simple: round up some of our amazing female scientist friends, give them an upturned wooden crate to stand on, set them up on a busy city street, and let them do what they do best: enthuse about the brilliant science they do! All we needed was a bunch of women who would agree to do it….

We set about cajoling our favourite friends and colleagues into being one of our speakers. One of our dreams for Soapbox Science was to break the image of the impenetrable, super-human ‘ivory towers’ scientist and make them personable and relatable for the public – that’s what young scientists need to see: they need to know that scientists are also real people, with families, feelings, a sense of humour and empathy. Who better than thrice-appointed member of the Order of the British Empire, a rare female Fellow of the Royal Society, and probably the bravest and most impactful pioneer in conservation science of our era – Georgina Mace.

On paper, Georgina would sound suitably intimidating to any member of the public or indeed any young scientist. But luckily, we’d had the enormous privilege of getting to know her on a personal level, as Director of the institute where we worked. We knew that the real Dame Prof Georgina Mace was of course brilliant, but she was also personable, generous, kind, funny and witty; above all we’d witnessed (and experienced) time after time how she cared about the next generation of scientists – shaping who they are and giving them a foot-up whenever she could.

Georgina was a natural choice for a public platform like a Soapbox Science: she’d changed the way scientists, politicians and policymakers thought about, measured and tackled biodiversity issues; she had a tome of keynote lectures under her belt; she had first-hand experience in putting the science facts right for some of the most influential and powerful people in the world – countless world leaders, politicians, international diplomats and royalty! Anyone who had the privilege of witnessing her chair a meeting will attest to her acuity, wit, quick intellect and integrity. With CV credentials like that, we were confident that she would simply breeze onto the Soapbox, enthral everyone, and then step back into her day job of changing the world. She did exactly that, with her characteristic brilliance; she touched the hearts and minds of 1000s of members of the public on the streets of London, and thousands more across the world via the media coverage she and our other speakers attracted.

Georgina was a speaker at our first event in 2011, and she has continued to support Soapbox in its (now) 10-year venture, helping promote its growth across the globe by casually putting in a good word for us, recommending to her colleagues that they take part, and also in nominating us for numerous prizes, many of which we were awarded. Georgina was an integral part of Soapbox Science’s success – a quietly proactive (and superbly effective) champion, as she was for so many young scientists.

It was only many years later we learned that she’d confessed to friends and colleagues that Soapbox Science was the most terrifying experience of her life! This sums her up: Georgina invented the ‘can do’ attitude before it was fashionable: she just got on with things no matter how difficult, challenging, daunting or impossible the task may be. She calmly changed the world with her science; she surreptitiously provided us with an example of how you can have a family (three children) and a fulfilling and successful career; she quietly got on with supporting the careers of countless young scientists.

Georgina, we will miss you. Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone, for Soapbox Science, and the next generations of women in science.

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