We need your help
After eight years, we fear that B4FA will have to suspend its activities at the end of December 2019 due to a lack of funding.
Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA) was set up to help African farmers unlock the continent’s huge agricultural potential. Initially we focused on working with journalists and other communicators, providing training on biosciences and modern plant breeding techniques so they could communicate balanced, scientifically based information on best practice, innovation and entrepreneurship to decision makers, scientists, educators and farmers, alike.
In our first years, thanks to generous project funding from the John Templeton Foundation and the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre, we ran courses in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, in collaboration with local scientists from universities and research institutes, providing training for more than 160 TV, radio and print journalists.
From this grew the B4FA Newswire as we recognized the need for a regular, accurate, unbiased and up-to-date source information for all those working to improve African agriculture and food security. Today, through social media, our website and newsletter – the Month in Review – we communicate with more than 10,000 policy makers, decision takers, scientists, journalists, educators, extension workers, farmers and students.
All this has been generously funded, at different times, by the John Templeton Foundation; the Cambridge Malaysian Education and Development Trust; the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture; and the N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme of the University of York, a multidisciplinary programme across eight universities in the north of England working to develop sustainable food systems, and a number of individuals.
There is much more to do. Africa has its own developing bioscience sector with university researchers, institutes, plant breeders, farmers organisations, agri-entrepreneurs and more working to improve agriculture and food security across the continent. Indeed, the World Food Prize and the World Agriculture Prize have been won three times in the past three years by Africans working in African institutions.
But many of these dedicated people are starved of the cooperation and collective working that is the lifeblood of scientific progress – often for lack of knowledge about what is being done elsewhere on their continent and beyond, and with whom they could engage in dialogue and collaborate. The B4FA Newswire, the only medium dedicated to aggregating and amplifying information on bioscience for farming in Africa, is one way of trying to bridge this significant gap.
Then there’s the challenge of engaging Africa’s next generation in agriculture. The agricultural sector is exciting, fast moving, vital and potentially profitable, but without being made aware about the opportunities the sector offers, young people will miss them. Here, too, B4FA can play a part in stimulating others to share the details, opportunities and potential openings.
The need is clear – and made more urgent by the recent findings of the International Panel on Climate Change and the FAO’s 2018 State of the World’s Food Insecurity report. Our loyal and growing audience suggests an appetite for our activities, but we cannot continue our work beyond the end of 2019 without funding.
Despite all our efforts and continuing enthusiasm to give African bioscience for agriculture and farming a voice and reflect its interests and concerns, we have not been able to raise enough funding to continue into 2020.
However, were funds of the order of GBP 15,000 from a number of sources to become available or were we able to forge a partnership with an (African) organisation to continue and/or widen our activities, we would love to continue.
Can you help, or contribute, or do you know of someone or an organisation that might? Or have you any comments and criticisms about what we are doing, and how we could improve?
Please get in touch with us with your suggestions as soon as possible.
We really need to hear from you!
Emeritus Professor of Plant Sciences
University of Oxford