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January 16th, 2020 / B4FA.org

Sadly, after eight years, B4FA is suspending its activities due to a lack of funding. This will, for the foreseeable future, be our last Month in Review.

Over the years we have run training courses on biosciences for agriculture in Africa in four African countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda – working with African universities and research institutes to introduce the opportunities and benefits of modern advances in crop improvement and breeding to more than 160 journalists. 

We have also published three collections of essays on various aspects of bioscience for agriculture in Africa (freely available on www.B4FA.org); run a daily news service, aggregating stories from and about African agriculture on Twitter (#B4FA), our website (http://www.b4fa.org) and through this regular newsletter. 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 systemsand a number of individuals. 

We hope you have valued what we have done. You all have certainly been generous in your support in terms of communicating how you value our service, whether by passing on our tweets, commenting on the newsletter or visiting our website. Over the years, we have hardly ever received anything but support.

But times change. Despite considerable 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 per annum 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 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 contactProfessor Christopher Leaver, CBE, FRS, FRSE (chris.leaver@plants.ox.ac.uk)or;Bart Ullstein (ullsteinb@gmail.com) as soon as possible

For now, thank you, may you prosper and goodbye.

DECEMBER HEADLINES
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties  (COP25) concluded in December 2019. UN Secretary General António Guterres had outlined the “increased ambition and commitment” that the world needed from governments during COP25, and called for “accountability, responsibility and leadership” to end the global climate crisis, noting “We are in a deep hole and we are still digging. Soon it will be too deep to escape”. 

Reuters reported on a new study by researchers from countries including France, the United States and Canada which forecast that if emissions of greenhouse gases continued to rise rapidly, nearly “90 per cent of the world’s population … is projected to be exposed to losses of food production” by 2100. Lauric Thiault, the paper’s co-author, reflected António Guterres’ sentiments saying, “Climate change has put humanity on a dangerous path that will become increasingly difficult to reverse if greenhouse gas emissions are not taken much more seriously”.

The European Scientist summed up the outcome of the two-week long conference as disappointing – although delegates from almost 200 nations made some progress, world leaders failed to agree on more ambitious emissions cuts to meet the 2015 Paris goals. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted: “I am disappointed with the results of #COP25. …The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis. But we must not give up, and I will not give up”.

This month, we would like to congratulate African Development Bank (AfDB) President Dr Akinwumi Adesina on being named the African of the Year by Forbes Magazine for his bold leadership and contribution to increasing investment in Africa, and particularly his trail blazing innovation – the Africa Investment Forum.

This month was also notable for the Philippines becoming the first Asian country to approve the use of Golden Rice in food, feed and processing. This is an important decision – the first food approval for Golden Rice in a country where rice is a staple and Vitamin A deficiency a significant health issue affecting 28 percent of children there between 6 and 12 months. We also feature a piece from Matt Ridley tracing the exhaustive battle fought by the developers of Golden Rice and others over the past almost three decades to tackle preventable deaths, blindness and family misery brought about by Vitamin A deficiency. Ridley describes how “a new variety of Golden Rice, GR2E, has been tested in the field in the Philippines and shown to be robust, true-breeding, high-yielding and strong in its expression of beta carotene. The International Rice Research Institute submitted an application to release it to farmers, in the form of eight hefty documents, one more than 800 pages long and detailing the many tests of the physical, nutritional, allergenic, and toxicity done on the plant to show that it could not conceivably be anything other than safe to grow and eat”. It’s adoption now in the Philippines, following on from approvals as a safe food in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US approved Golden Rice, will bring hope to millions.

HEADLINES
UN Secretary-General outlines the “increased ambition and commitment” that the world needs from governments, calling for “accountability, responsibility and leadership” to end the global climate crisis
UN

Africa: ‘perfect storm’ awaits farming and fisheries if world doesn’t curb emissions
AllAfrica.com

A disappointing end to the COP25 climate conference
European Scientist

AfDB President voted African of The Year
Forbes Magazine, US

Golden Rice
The Filipinos are First! The Philippines is the first Asian country to approve Golden Rice for direct use as food, feed or for processing
Golden Rice

GM crops like Golden Rice will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children
Quillette.com

GENETIC MODIFICATION, REGULATION and GENE EDITING
Confused about GMOs and pesticides? Here’s a science-based handbook for combating anti-biotech fallacies
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Innovative solutions for the regulation of gm crops in times of gene editing
Plant Biology

CRISPR-edited pigs could blunt swine flu epidemic threatening China’s food supply
Genetic Literacy Project, US

GMOs: Grossly Misunderstood Organisms!
The Tribune, Pakistan

Staples, nutrition and bureaucratic red-tape
Daily Star, Bangladesh

High-iron GM wheat could help prevent anaemia, say crop scientists from the John Innes Centre
Eastern Daily Press, UK

Untapped genetic potential means wheat yields only 60 per cent of what they could be
Farmers’ Guardian, UK

Scientists discover how sorghum controls genome to survive drought
ISAAA, US

GM potato trials point to blight resistant crops of the future
The Sainsbury Laboratory

Twenty-one years of using insect resistant (GM) maize in Spain and Portugal: farm-level economic and environmental contributions
GM Crops and Food

Sequenced sugarcane genome aids development of high-yielding GMO crop varieties
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Barley leaf rust resistance genes may help plant breeders battle deadly crop disease
Genetic Literacy Project, US

What is the available evidence for the range of applications of genome-editing as a new tool for plant trait modification and the potential occurrence of associated of-target effects
Environmental Evidence

Using CRISPR-Cas9 to generate semi-dwarf rice lines in elite landraces
Nature, UK

Five ways CRISPR plants can combat climate change
Alliance for Science

New technique may yield gene-edited plants in a few weeks, instead of 9 months
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Biotech cotton planted in 15 countries in 2018
ISAAA, US

China plans to issue biosafety certificates to domestic GM soybean and maize
WHBL, China

Towards a scientifically justified, differentiated regulation of genome edited plants in the EU
Leopoldina Institute, Germany

EU Health Commissioner defends GMOs, warns against ‘regulation by public opinion’
Genetic Literacy Project, US

GENETIC MODIFICATION, REGULATION and GENE EDITING in AFRICA
B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali writes: GMOs can reduce food insecurity
Daily Monitor, Uganda

WACCI Director to African govts: GMOs have a place in African agriculture
GhanaWeb

Genetically engineered crops could improve food security in Africa
Brookings Institute, US

Kenya: Bt cotton approved for planting 
ISAAA, US

Nigeria releases first transgenic crop – cowpea resistant to pod borers
Daily Trust, Nigeria 

Nigeria: NASC presents high yielding Bt cotton seed varieties to farmers
The Tribune, Nigeria

Economist warns Uganda faces heavy losses without GMO banana
Genetic Literacy Project, US 

Impending grain deficit in SADC rekindles GMO consideration
Southern Times, Namibia

BIOSCIENCE and AGRICULTURE
Building resilient agriculture through farmers’ education
ReliefWeb

Palm oil that doesn’t destroy forests? One entrepreneur thinks he has the answer
CNN, US

Biodiversity in 2020: the biggest threats and opportunities
The Guardian, UK

The race to find wild relatives of food plants before it’s too late
New Scientist, UK

Study warns: recent deforestation, agriculture intensification may accelerate biodiversity declines
Genetic Literacy Project, UK 

Europe should take lead in science-based plant innovation
Euractiv, Belgium

Soil erosion: lost livelihoods, lost incomes and lost food
Al Jazeera.com

Microbe-coated seeds survive salty growing conditions in new study
Genetic Literacy Project, US 

How do you cultivate a healthy plant microbiome?
Berkeley News, US 

China-developed hybrid rice yields increase 300% in Africa
ECNS, China

Bayer CropScience awaits nod to launch flood-resistant rice in India
Business Standard, India

Farm to Fork strategy: New EU Agriculture Commissioner wants to boost organic farming
Genetic Literacy Project, US

AFRICAN AGRICULTURE and BIOSCIENCE
For agriculture innovation to thrive in Africa, universities should take lead role
The Eagle 

Is African agriculture waking up?
Trade for Development News, Switzerland 

WACCI’s Professor Eric Danquah, has urged African governments to put in a Presidential Initiative on Grand Challenges for the transformation of the continent’s agriculture
GhanaWeb 

Speed breeding to fast-track crop improvement in Africa
AAS Open Research

Scaling out climate-smart agriculture in southern Africa
CIMMYT

B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali reports: Price fluctuations in farming
Daily Monitor

Smart irrigation controllers to see rapid growth in coming years
African Farming, UK 

The mighty soybean seeks a foothold in Africa
AgWeb.com 

Ethiopia is making maps to help improve soil health
AllAfrica.com 

Revolutionising precision agriculture with high-performance GPS+INS
African Farming, UK 

Innovative solutions and business opportunities for farmer organisations
CTA, Netherlands 

Boosting food production through biotechnology
The Nation, Nigeria 

Will ag biotech be Kenyatta’s legacy for Kenya?
Alliance for Science, US

B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali reports on expectations from farmers’ groups
Daily Monitor, Uganda 

Ethiopia: Boosting farm productivity is crucial to unlocking agricultural potential
African Farming, UK

Raising Ghana’s land productivity can transform economy, boost incomes
My Joy Online, Ghana 

Ghana: our agricultural woes
Modern Ghana

Ghana: Post-harvest losses in cereals: US$141m lost in 2018
GhanaWed 

Kenya: For food security, we must create conditions to nourish agriculture
The Nation, Kenya 

Nigeria: Lagos to empower 1,600 agro entrepreneurs
AllAfrica.com 

Nigeria: ‘soil erosion greatest threat to food security’
AllAfrica.com 

Crops Research Institute releases stress tolerant maize to address food insecurity in Africa
Modern Ghana 

Quality seeds for Asian and African vegetable growers
World Vegetable Center, Taiwan 

Leave them or rewild them? Survival plan for bees clouded by a swarm of opinion
Daily Maverick, South Africa 

How plantain can boost food security, farmers’ income
The Guardian, NigeriaBest Practice
Iron-rich beans are Nakimuli’s gold reports B4FA fellow Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor, Uganda

How to grow shea tree
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Kenya: macadamia is the crop of the future
AllAfrica.com 

‘White collar job? No thank you’ – Kisaakye – B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali reports
Daily Monitor, Uganda

A (sunflower) oil baron rises in Tanzania  
OZY.com

The solar dryer helps farmers to ensure their products such as maize, bananas, cassava, mangoes and pineapples don’t ferment or lose their content
Daily Monitor, UgandaB4FA Fellow Michael Ssali reports: Mixed farming is my job – Masembe
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Smallholders
Can African smallholders farm themselves out of poverty?
The Conversation, UK

Microloans make farming profitable for Kenyan smallholders
SciDev.net 

Women and youth
Youth and jobs in rural Africa: beyond stylized facts
IFPRI  

Youth can help end hunger, says FAO chief
SIFY News 

Agribusiness said to be key to addressing youth unemployment in Ghana
Ghana Business News 

Ghana: NGO Solidaridad encourages youth to pursue careers in agriculture
Business Ghana 

Youth can drive changes needed for food security in Africa
Arab News 

Getting women in the driver’s seat of Africa’s agribusiness revolution
African Brains

New initiative aims to empower Africa’s female farmers
Alliance for Science, US

Rwanda, Tanzania lead in women’s land and property rights
The East African, Kenya 

CLIMATE CHANGE
CAMFED has received a UN Global Climate Action Award in the ‘Women for Results’ category for effective and scalable solutions
Business Weekly, UK 

Large atmospheric waves in the jet stream present risk to global food production 
University of Oxford 

WMO’s first state of climate services report focuses on agriculture and food security
IISD, Canada  

Agriculture Is part of the climate problem, and the solution
Forbes Magazine, US 

The voices of rural people most affected by the climate crisis are being drowned out
Euronews 

Plants and fungi together could slow climate change
IIASA 

Climate change and sustainable economic growth in Africa
GhanaWeb 

Climate change adaptation: people first
University of Cape Town, South Africa 

Climate smart agriculture investment plans: bringing CSA to life
ReliefWeb 

Focusing on smart agriculture across Africa
Punch, Nigeria 

Building resilience across Africa 
University of California Santa Barbara, US 

Africa: how to make the business case for climate action in agriculture
AllAfrica.com

Soil is our best ally in the fight against climate change – but we’re fast running out of it
BizCommunity, South Africa

For farmers, climate change brings a winter of discontent, especially in Africa
Thompson Reuters

PLANT DISEASE, PESTS AND PESTICIDES
FAO scales up fight against fall armyworm
FAO, Italy

Zimbabwe: African armyworm ravages crops
AllAfrca.com 

AFRICA: Scientists warn against neonicotinoid insecticides
Afrik21

Neonic pesticide thiacloprid has no detectable negative impact on bumblebees, field study shows
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Crops protected from disease without use of sprays
Farming UK

Pesticide troubles in Southeast Asia
World Vegetable Center, Taiwan 

Opportunity to develop disease-resistant crops ‘has never been greater,’ plant pathologists say
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Nigeria, other African countries lose $200b to plant pests, diseases yearly
The Guardian, Nigeria 

FINANCE AND DEVELOPMENT
Adesina – What AfDB is doing to support Africa’s growth, development
Premium Times, Nigeria 

Africa is capitalising on the fourth industrial revolution
Arican Business Chief 

Nigerian Institute for Soil Science advocates national policies to boost food security
Ventures Africa 

UGX20bn Nile water monitoring project launched
Sunrise, Uganda 

Africa: care for economic development, then care for food nutrition, food researcher tells Africa’s politicians
AllAfrica.com 

Financing the transition to agroforestry
UN Environment 

China, Africa see robust growth in agricultural trade
Xinhua, China 

Increased investment in agriculture is critical in Africa’s hunger fight
New Times, Rwanda 

TECHNOLOGY
Using media to connect African farmers with scientific innovation and technology
Alliance for Science, US 

Millennials turn to tech to solve African farming challenges
Alliance for Science, US 

Research: how technology could promote growth in six African countries
Harvard Business Review, US

Collaborating for irrigation access solutions: Where policy and engineering meet
MIT, US 

Smart solar pumps use big data to stop Africa being sucked dry
Thompson Reuters 

Off-grid, mini-grid technologies critical for Africa
New Business, Ethiopia 

AfDB approves $21.783 million grant for rollout of solar-powered irrigation
PML Daily, Uganda 

Apps advise farmers on weather, prices, loans
The Star, Kenya

SCIENCE and SCIENTISTS
Turn your anger at science denial into political action
New Scientist, UK 

Startup developing solar-powered crop-drying devices forms new partnership for East Africa distribution
Purdue University, US

VIDEOs and PODCASTS
VIDEO: Making a good okra seeding
Access Agriculture

VIDEO: Taking care of okra
Access Agriculture 

ANIMATED VIDEOS advance adoption of agriculture techniques
Michigan State University, US

PODCAST: How artificial intelligence, machine learning can help us realise the value of all that genetic data we’re collecting
Genetic Literacy Project, US 

PODCAST: Wild plants help protect key food crops from climate change, disease
Genetic Literacy Project, US 

PODCAST: how nitrogen-fixing bacteria can cut fertilizer use 30-50%
Genetic Literacy Project, US 

PODCAST: Vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit explains the ‘dos and dont’s’ of battling scientific misinformation
Genetic Literacy Project, US

OPPORTUNITIES and EVENTS
Call for the next cohort of the One Planet Fellowship opens. Applications close on March 31, 2020
One Planet Fellowships

Opportunities through the Africa Oxford Initiative: Scholarships; Travel Grants for African Researchers; Follow up grants for AfOx alumni; and Fellowship opportunities for Africans at the University of Oxford
University of Oxford 

EVENT: Power on your plate: An all-Africa summit on diversifying food systems with african traditional vegetables to increase health, nutrition and wealth, 25-28 May 2020, Arusha, Tanzania
World Vegetable Center, Taiwan