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Source: David Hartnett, 785-532-5925,
News release prepared by: Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, 785-532-6415,

Monday, March 23, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Ecological sustainability doesn't exist in a vacuum, especially in African nations, according to a Kansas State University professor who is organizing a symposium on issues facing the African continent.

"Unlike in the United States and other developed countries, African nations have an extremely strong and direct connection between environmental sustainability, agriculture and human livelihoods," said David Hartnett, university distinguished professor of biology.

The interconnected nature of these topics, combined with K-State's expertise in these areas, is why the university is host to the African Issues Symposium: Food Security, Environmental Sustainability and Human Health, March 30 to April 1. The symposium is sponsored by K-State African Studies Center, K-State's Institute for Grassland Studies and the K-State office of international programs.

"We want to bring international scientific expertise on these topics to K-State and bring together some of the world leaders in these areas," Hartnett said.

The symposium will feature speakers from around the world, including Monty P. Jones of Ghana, who received the 2004 World Food Prize and is credited with launching Africa's green revolution. Other speakers include Jon Lovett, a leader in African ecology and global environmental change from the United Kingdom, and Robert Scholes, a South African world leader in grassland and savanna ecosystems. In addition, the symposium will feature speakers from Tanzania, Finland, Italy, France, Canada and the United States.

More information about the speakers and symposium is available at:

Hartnett said that the conference's focus takes into consideration the academic areas in which K-State's contributions to Africa are the strongest, including grassland science and international agriculture.

Food security, environmental sustainability and human health are nearly inseparable on the African continent, Hartnett said.

"In the African grasslands, most resources -- from food to energy sources to building materials -- are directly linked to natural ecosystems," he said. "You can't really discuss or address the issue of energy without talking about environmental sustainability. You can't discuss food resources without discussing environmental sustainability. You can't treat them separately."

A good example of this interconnected nature, Hartnett said, was how political unrest in Zimbabwe was affecting the sustainability of a particular insect often eaten as a protein source in Botswana. As Zimbabweans take refuge in Botswana, they too are foraging the bugs. This not only strains the insect population, Hartnett said, but it also affects Botswanans who are in the business of packaging and selling them.

"Politics, economics, food security and environmental sustainability all intersect," he said.

Hartnett said the symposium's organizers hope to see tangible results from the conference. "Our goal is not simply to talk about the issues, but also to discuss solutions," he said.