Last weekend, the 2018 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) concluded in Kigali, Rwanda. Besides the launch of a new consortium to fight the invasive Fall armyworm threatening African maize, sorghum and other crops, the three-day conference featured the announcement of a farmer-led irrigation initiative, the Irrigation for Smallholder Farming Enterprises, a program that will help smallholder farmers acquire and operate irrigation systems to help stabilize rain-reliant farming regions.
Other focal points included new pledges of financial investment in African farms and agribusiness, attracting youth to agriculture, agricultural trade between African countries and technical assistance partnerships with China and Israel.
During the gathering, the Africa Food Prize was also awarded to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) – the first institution ever to receive this award. Based in Ibadan, Nigeria, the IITA is a non-profit research institution that focuses on ensuring food security in sub-Saharan Africa in the face of pests, diseases and climate change, with an emphasis on African staple crops. The IITA has developed many improved and high-yielding varieties of such crops as cassava, banana, cowpea, maize, soybean and yam.
“From the cassava we’re still eating today, to the valuable and nutritious soybeans we now grow in our fields, to maize varieties that can withstand drought and deadly toxins—our diets and our agriculture businesses would be much poorer today without IITA’s leadership, and its willingness to forge powerful bonds with African farmers and African communities,” said H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and chair of the Africa Food Prize Committee.
In biotech news, scientists led by Dr Simon Bull at the Institute of Molecular Plant Biology in Switzerland have used CRISPR-Cas9 to edit cassava genes to alter the quality of the starch it produces in favor of the type preferred by consumers as well as to accelerate flowering–which will help breeders create improved varieties of the plant more quickly.
A feature written by Devan Mehta, one of the researchers involved, engagingly explains the technology behind the breakthrough as well as why it could provide new market opportunities for smallholder farmers in Africa. In pointing out how CRISPR-led breakthroughs do not only benefit the global North, he makes the case that CRISPR-derived plants should not be subjected to the same regulations as GMO plants if the technol is to help the rest of the world.
“This study is an excellent demonstration that CRISPR can be rapidly deployed by public institutions to benefit crops and farmers who’ve been long ignored by the seed industry,” he writes. “For the subsistence farmers growing cassava today, the legal distinctions between genome-editing, mutation breeding, and GMOs are far less important than finally being able to support their families. I can only hope that regulators in Africa and Asia heed the message and embrace new breeding technologies like ours.” The original paper may be accessed at Science Advances.
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Major highlights from the African Green Revolution Forum 2018
A ground-breaking project to cultivate grass pea in drought-prone areas has been awarded £1.2m funding from GCRF, in bid to unlock the potential of the resilient and highly nutritious legume
John Innes Centre
Embracing biotech crops and why Nigeria’s GMO fight is far from over
Genetic Literacy Project
Nigeria: Government to support 1000 cotton farmers
Journal du Cameroun
Ensuring food fortification in Nigeria
GMOs are not agriculture’s future–biotech is
Argentina and GMOs: Exploring the nation’s long relationship with biotech crops
Genetic Literacy Project
Nitrogen fixation engineering in cereal crops moves a step closer
John Innes Centre
South Africa tells the continent: “Learn from our biotech example”
Alliance for Science
Thailand offers solution to local cassava virus
Uganda: Youth strikes gold in farming
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru
Uganda: Farming can reduce youth migration
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
On the brink of innovative ag technology acceptance: a Kenyan farmer’s perspective
Global Farmer Network
Energy & innovation
Pests and diseases
Glyphosate on trial
The GM debate
Opportunities & resources
Apply for the AWARD pan-African Fellowship
Deadline 08 October 2018
E-conference : Responding to Fall Armyworm in Africa
Sustainable Development Solutions Network
Next Einstein Forum Africa Science Week Zambia celebrations start today, launching the second edition of the NEF Science Week in 35 African countries throughout the months of September, October & December 2018
Africa Science Week
Event: Brussels Briefing 52: Food safety and the food system in Africa, Sep 19, 2018 at 9:00 AM
Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)
Vacancy: SME Development Specialists for Uganda and Tanzania
African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP)
Program: Congress FOOD 2030: Towards sustainable agri-food systems
University of Hohenheim