In the news...

December 12th, 2019

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. 

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 voicing your support in terms of communicating how you value what we supply, 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 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 contactProfessor Christopher Leaver, CBE, FRS, FRSE (chris.leaver@plants.ox.ac.uk)or;Bart Ullstein (ullsteinb@gmail.com) as soon as possible

We really NEED to hear from you NOW.

NOVEMBER HEADLINES
As we write the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties  (COP25) continues its deliberations on saving the planet from catastrophic climate change at its meeting in Madrid, Spain. Its aim is to strengthen the world’s governments’ commitment to the Paris Accord and keep global warming below 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels. In advance of the COP, UN Environment published its latest Emissions Gap Report, describing where we are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and what still needs to be done to meet the Paris Accord targets. The picture it paints is not positive: on our current trajectory, the world is heading for a 3.2° C temperature rise by the end of the current century and that unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will miss the opportunity of getting on track to the 1.5° C temperature goal.

Also from UN Environment, we hear from food systems expert James Lomax about why the world’s food systems need to change. As he explains, ‘current food systems are failing us in terms of livelihoods, human health and the environment. We have to look beyond the idea that more food in the world and greater productivity will solve our problems. Local and national food systems need to be strengthened to adapt to the climate crisis and become better equipped to provide diverse diets for consumers in food-insecure communities. Diversity in diets can help farmers diversify their risk, provide markets for food crops, break their dependency on commodity crops, and increase biodiversity and resilience’. He goes on to highlight different issues in the developing and developed worlds, ‘the priority for food systems action in a developing country might be tackling post-harvest losses and pesticide use, whereas in a developed country it might be land degradation caused by continuous monocropping, or food waste’.

Nature reports on a major success, genome editing making one of the world’s most important crops, rice, resistant to a devastating bacterial blight. Researchers from the International Rice Research Institute in Manila, Philippines, using CRISPR-cas9 gene editing, have thwarted the bacteria that infect rice by changing rice genes involved in sugar transport.

We are saddened to report the death in August this year of a friend to B4FA, Professor Martin Diran Makinde, Senior Adviser at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). B4FA Founder, Professor Sir Brian Heap writes, ‘We are saddened to hear of the death of our dear friend, Diran Makinde. Oludare J Olusan highlights his many distinctions in a recent issue of Nigerians in South Africa and we want to add and warmly acknowledge the professional advice Diran provided during our ongoing projects – Biosciences in Africa and Smart Villages. We will always remember with gratitude his deep knowledge of the contrasting development issues in African countries, his insights into the application of new technologies of agricultural biotechnology for food security and nutrition, and his appreciation of innovation in the process of improving rural livelihoods. He will be greatly missed not only for his professionalism but for the personal charm and sensitivity that underpinned his real faith in working for the betterment of humanity. He was a wise and special African friend and counsellor.’ 

We welcome questions, comments and story links to ullsteinb@gmail.com. Please also visit B4FA.org for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.

HEADLINES
Cut global emissions by 7.6 percent every year for next decade to meet 1.5°C Paris target – UN report
UN Environment

Why food systems need to change – an interview with the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) food systems expert James Lomax
UN Environment

A crop that feeds billions, rice, freed from blight by CRISPR
Nature, UK

Professor Martin Diran Makinde, Senior Adviser at NEPAD, dies in Johannesburg at 70
Nigerians in South Africa

Golden rice
GMO Golden Rice lauded as one of the most important research projects over the past 50 years
Genetic Literacy Project, US

IRRI and other proponents of Golden Rice claim that it will be an important intervention to address vitamin A deficiency, or VAD
CBAN Fact sheet

How misguided regulation has kept a GMO ‘superfood’ off the market
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Golden rice finally on track for approval in Bangladesh, so what is the delay?
The European Scientist

African swine fever
Quarter of world’s pig population ‘to die due to African swine fever’
The Guardian, UK

China’s pork crisis is bigger than you think – African swine fever in world’s second largest economy has shaken global meat markets
Market Watch, US

AGRICULTURE and BIOSCIENCE
Celebrating South-South Cooperation, innovative partnerships for tackling food insecurity and poverty
ReliefWeb

E. coli bacteria engineered to eat carbon dioxide
Nature, UK

Research team discovers gene for iron control in plants
ISAAA, US

Redesigning photosynthesis in key crops could help sustain global food production
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Robust evidence of declines in insect abundance and biodiversity
Nature, UK

Pests and pesticides
Pesticides endanger humans, animals, beneficial insects? Rethinking simplistic notions, understanding trade-offs in sustainability and health
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Fight against fall armyworm in Asia benefits from experience in other regions
CIMMYT

Study finds endoparasitoid wasp can reduce fall armyworm leaf consumption rate by up to 89%
Invasive-species.org

How nematodes outsmart the defences of pest
Science, US

Global consensus finds neonicotinoids not driving honeybee health problems 
Global Literacy Project, US

Eavesdropping on soil insects could aid pest management
The Scientist, Canada

Study shows microbes living in plant roots fight off fungal infection, cutting need for pesticides 
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Nanosensor detects trace amounts of chemicals, helping farmers cut pesticide, fertilizer use
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Fertiliser
Scientists investigate plant nodule and lateral roots, gain another step to developing self-fertilizing crops
ISAAA, US

Crops
Can wheat save the world?
Seed World

CIMMYT wheat breeder supports smallholder farmers without access to a diversified diet by improving nutritional quality in wheat
CIMMYT

Origin of deadly wheat pathogen revealed
AAAS, US

New hope for banana industry
Fruitnet

Breeding a nonallergenic peanut
Scientific American, US

Brisk promotion of improved groundnut and sorghum varieties to take adoption to the next level
ICRISAT

Researchers double sorghum grain yield to improve food supply
AAAS, US

Pulses, cobs and a healthy soil prove the success of a rural innovator 
CIMMYT

Neglected no longer: grasspea and finger millet pre-breeding get a boost
ICRISAT

Sorghum flour with high shelf life hits Nigerian markets
ICRISAT

A novel approach to carotenoid accumulation in rice callus by mimicking the cauliflower Orange mutation via genome editing
The Rice Journal

Resequencing of 414 cultivated and wild watermelon accessions identifies selection for fruit quality traits
Nature, UK 

New perennial legume destined for poor soils
Sheep Central, Australia

AFRICAN AGRICULTURE AND AGRIBUSINESS
B4FA Fellow, Michael Ssali: Keeping the soil productive 
Daily Monitor, Uganda

B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru writes: Key steps in curbing aflatoxin in maize
Daily Monitor, Uganda

How a disease without borders (maize lethal necrosis) was contained
CIMMYT

Technology, scientific advances critical to boosting agriculture in West Africa
The Graphic, Ghana

Investing in drought-tolerant maize is good for Africa
CIMMYT

The Africa Investment Forum – an accelerator for Africa’s agricultural transformation
AllAfrica

Agribusiness – Africa’s new investment frontier
AllAfrica

How African farmers can tap into billion-dollar agro-business chain
Premium Times, Nigeria

Boost your farm’s sustainability with the right crop rotation
Farmers Weekly, South Africa

African plant breeders association launched to improve food security on the continent
Modern Ghana

Where governments can make most impact in food production
New Times, Rwanda

Do smallholders get the right seed and inputs from their agrodealer?
CIMMYT

Pay attention to nematodes, they have adverse effects on African food security 
CGIAR

Neonicotinoid insecticides: use and effects in African agriculture. a review and recommendations to policymakers
IAP

Europe-banned insecticide ‘threatens Africa’s food security’ 
SciDev.net

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) urges African countries to adopt green business development in agriculture due to its potential in providing economic opportunities
Xinhua, China

Hungarian model farms are being established in Africa to test them in different climatic conditions and provide opportunities to present Hungarian breeds and technologies
Hungary Today

Ethiopia
Locust invasion: UN warning for Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea and Sudan
BBC, UK

Ethiopia desert locust infestation worsens
AllAfrica

Fighting climate change: helping Ethiopian farmers adapt to drought and flooding
ReliefWeb

Ethiopia: nation’s first centre of excellence for teff sprouts up
AllAfrica

Egypt
Egypt starts establishing fish, animal farms in 4 African countries – Algeria, Malawi and Zimbabwe, and an animal production farm in Uganda
Egypt Today

Egypt rolls out water-saving smallholder equipment – New agricultural equipment increases yields by up to 20 per cent
SciDev.net

Egypt’s small-scale farmers buoyed by technology investment 
SciDev.net

Kenya
What must be done to get toxin out of Kenya’s food supply
The Conversation

Kenya: intercropping avocado with potatoes pays big for farmer
AllAfrica

Kenya needs to overcome inhibitions about GMOs, official says
Alliance for Science, US

Ghana
Ghana’s seven year quest to increase cocoa production
Ghana Web

Ghana: Access to improved seeds, the way to sustain government’s signature Planting for Food and Jobs
Peace FM, Ghana

Niger
In rain-short Niger, wasps deployed in war on crop-munching worm
AllAfrica

Nigeria
Nigeria: agriculture as pivot for economic growth
AllAfrica

Vibrant extension service system is inevitable for food security
The Guardian, Nigeria

Tanzania
Tanzania to increase land under coffee
The East African, Kenya

To avoid cassava disease, Tanzanian farmers can plant certain varieties in certain seasons
AAAS, US

Collaboration to improve Tanzanian rice production – developing innovative microbe-based methods to manage rice blast
African Farming, UK

Uganda
GMO technology is in Uganda’s interests says B4FA Fellow, Michael Ssali
PMI Daily, Uganda

Biotechnology tipped to revolutionize Uganda’s agriculture
ISAAA, US

Hass avocado the new green gold
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Why cocoa farming should be your next investment option
Daily Monitor, Uganda

B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali reports: Wash tomatoes with warm water to escape poisoning from chemicals – study
PMI Daily, Uganda

GENETIC MODIFICATION, GENE EDITING and REGULATION
Genetic strategies for improving crop yields
Nature, UK

New genetically modified corn produces up to 10% more than similar types
Science, US

New gene-edited canola variety resists deadly disease, expected to drastically boost crop yields
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Manipulating sugar production in plant leaves could boost photosynthesis, crop yields
Genetic Literacy Project, US

“The holy grail” of crop transformation: UK researchers develop wheat genetic modification system
Food Ingredients First, UK

State of the art research meets breeding for wheat’s future
Global Plant Council

The world’s banana crops are under threat from a deadly fungus. Is gene editing the answer?
National Post, Canada

Projected crop yields unable to feed the world by 2050, we need GMOs, gene editing and other genetic strategies
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Viewpoint: Developing countries need GMO, gene-edited crops to solve food security challenges
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Europe must embrace GMOs to address the UN SDGs 
The Parliament Magazine, Belgium

Gene editing for the EU agrifood: risks and promises in science regulation
European Journal of Risk Regulation

How dysfunctional regulation has decimated entire sectors of biotechnology
Regulatory Transparency Project, US

Will following the regulatory script for GMOs promote public acceptance of gene-edited crops?
Science Direct

GMOs are ‘substantially equivalent’ to conventional foods. Should they face reduced regulations?
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Anti-GMO forces target New Breeding Techniques (NBTs) despite similarities to conventional crops
Genetic Literacy Project

CRISPR
Will CRISPR’s promise force the organic industry to reconsider its opposition to gene-edited crops?
Genetic Literacy Project, US

United Nations FAO biotech expert panel: CRISPR gene editing can ‘transform’ agricultural production
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Why gene editing is decade’s most significant innovation
Irish Times

CRISPR immunizes rice, staple crop consumed by billions, against devastating bacterial infection
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Genetic modification, gene editing and regulation – Africa
GM foods: the battle for Africa
African Business

Ghana’s parliament has approved regulations that open the door for the country to commercialize genetically modified (GMO) crops
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Kenya demo plots show GMO maize resists insects, increases yields
Alliance for Science, US

Nigeria: BT cowpea, BT cotton undergoing performance trial ahead 2020 commercialization
The Tribune, NigeriaCLIMATE CHANGE
Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’
The Guardian, UK

Climate-heating greenhouse gases hit new high, UN reports. Head of World Meteorological Organization says ‘no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline’
The Guardian, UK

Climate change will make plants – and us – thirstier
National Geographic, US

Nature can help us fight climate change – if we hurry
Thomson Reuters

World must embrace CRISPR, synthetic biology to boost food production in the face of climate change
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Fighting climate change with gene editing: Can we slash cows’ methane production?
Genetic Literacy Project, US

E. coli bacteria engineered to eat carbon dioxide
Nature, UK

Artificial leaf converts CO2 into biofuel, potential new strategy in battle to slow climate change
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Rice yields could plummet 40% by 2100 due to climate change
Down to Earth, India

‘Banana on steroids’: How the superfood you’ve never heard of could be a life saver for climate change
Irish Independent

Climate-smart rice production is key for global food security, says report
New Food

Climate change – Africa
Africa: as climate change hits crops, debate heats up over use of plant gene data
AllAfrica

African ministers strategize on adapting agriculture to climate change
Premium Times, Nigeria

For southern Africa, climate change is real as prolonged droughts are creating food shortages
Forbes, US

The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly severe in sub-Saharan Africa, where millions of people are facing severe food shortages due to drought
Alliance for Science

Access to water and improved water use efficiency are essential to reduce the vulnerability of rural communities to climate shocks in West Africa
News Ghana

Angola: as climate shocks intensify, UN food agencies urge more support for southern Africa’s hungry people
ReliefWeb

Burkina Faso: climate change triggers rural exodus
AllAfrica

Ethiopian plant breeders turn to a nuclear technique to help Teff farmers adapt to climate change
Addis Standard, Ethiopia

Ghana: access to improved seeds, the surest way to sustain government’s Planting for Food and Jobs Programme (PFJFs)
Modern Ghana

Farming in South Africa is under threat from climate change. Here’s how
The Conversation, UK

AFRICAN SCIENCE
Agricultural universities need greater investment
University World News 

African researchers called on the continent’s governments to increase funding for science, technology and innovation (STI) to spur growth in the region
IOL, South Africa 

‘What will I eat today’ vs. ‘will I eat today?’ – it’s time to trust African scientists
Alliance for Science, US

Let’s trust African scientists in war on hunger
Business Daily Africa 

African governments must invest in science for future growth
Mail and Guardian, South Africa

Universities pushing food security beyond campuses
Punch, Nigeria

WOMEN AND YOUTH
Making agriculture attractive to young people
CTA, Netherlands

Avert catastrophe now in Africa’s Sahel – governments worldwide must invest in girls’ education, family planning, agriculture and security in this vulnerable region
Nature, UK

Training youths in modern agriculture is critical to drawing them to agriculture, and this implies pumping adequate capital into irrigation facilities, road networks, electricity, and farm mechanisation
The Guardian, Nigeria 

Innovative approaches to including gender within agricultural mechanization
AgriLinks

Getting women in the driver’s seat pf Africa’s agribusiness revolution
AfricanNews

Ethiopia: International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) launches initiative to benefit 100,000 youth
AllAfrica

Equip Kenyan youth and women for opportunities in expanded Africa
The Nation, Kenya

Reality TV shapes up young farming in Eastern Africa 
CTA, Netherlands

TECHNOLOGY
Silicon Valley VC firm leads $13M funding In African Smallholder Farmer Network
Moguldom

The future of work in Africa: opportunities and challenges of digital technologies
The Brookings Institute, US

The business of farming: how digitalisation is bringing Africa’s youth back into agriculture
CTA, Netherlands

A byte at a time: Africa’s progress towards a digital agriculture future
The Africa Report

Scientists develop an early warning system that delivers wheat rust predictions directly to farmers’ phones
CIMMYT

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has enormous potential for global development and is already being widely explored as a means to tackle poverty and boost economies
SciDev.net

Technologies for climate-resilient smallholder agriculture: sharing practices from Brazil with Africa
ReliefWeb

The meeting of technology with agribusiness
ProShare, Nigeria

How smart technology is helping African farms to flourish
CNN

Transforming Africa’s food system with digital technologies
IFPRI

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) unveiled suite of digital tools that are helping in transforming farming, improving yield and livelihoods of farmers
Modern Ghana

VIDEOS and PODCASTS
VIDEO: How agriculture is enhancing food security in a time of climate resilience
CNBC Africa 

VIDEO: ‘If I don’t farm, we won’t eat’: Kenyan farmer illustrates the impact of crop disease in Africa
Genetic Literacy Project, US

VIDEO: Different ways to make rice more nutritious
YouTube

VIDEO: How agriculture is enhancing food security in a time of climate resilience
CNBC Africa

VIDEO: Vector-borne plant virus training features in new seven-minute film
CONNECTED Network, UK

PODCAST: ‘OMG, GMOs!’ Bill Nye answers your questions about biotech crops

PODCAST: CRISPR might save the banana from deadly disease. Will consumers get behind the technology
Genetic Literacy Project, US