In the news...

December 20th, 2018

B4FA.org

This week’s headlines were dominated by the 2018 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 24th Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP24), which wrapped up in Katowice, Poland, over the weekend. The nearly 23,000 delegates came together to try and agree on a “rulebook” for what will happen when the global deal agreed in Paris in 2016 enters force in 2020. Agriculture and food security were high on the agenda as were the effects of climate change on Africa which, according to experts, are already upon the continent.

Stories in this vein included “Preparing Africa for ravages of climate change ‘cannot be an afterthought’ – COP24” and “Many African countries already live the future of 2°C warmer”. In the former, director of UNDP’s Africa Bureau Ahunna Eziakonwa states, “Taking reactive approaches to food security and disaster recovery costs the people of Africa billions of dollars in lost GDP, and syphons off government resources that should be dedicated to education, social programmes, healthcare, business development and employment.”

In the latter piece, Gernot Laganda, chief of the Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction Programmes at the World Food Programme, says, “I think in all the discussions about temperature ranges we tend to forget that many countries, especially in Africa, are already experiencing two degrees Celsius of temperature increase. So the reality in these countries look like what we are still discussing here. Indeed, many African countries already live the future that we are collectively still trying to avoid.”

Meanwhile, African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina said in an interview that Africa requires more climate finance to fortify itself against climate change. Among the strategies he discusses are insurance systems for farmers, scaling up technologies to boost productivity, irrigation and the development of drought-tolerant maize under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) programme.

Coinciding with COP24, Devex published an article, “The impact of climate inaction on food security”, urging proactive action on building food security. In an interview with Devex, Matthew Morell, director general of the International Rice Research Institute, spoke of the need to future-proof food systems instead of responding to crises. While potential solutions include using biotech to build climate resilience into plants, technology may not be fast enough to keep up with climate change, and therefore biotech solutions must be coupled with action to decelerate global warming. “[O]ur political systems and current thinking [are] responsive — and by then it is less cost-effective and simply less effective in general to deliver food aid rather than build a more resilient system in the first place,” he says.

In addition, we hear from B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru, who writes “New biotech crop-breeding technologies struggle for traction across much of Africa” looking at the regulatory challenges across the continent currently hindering the development of agricultural biotech. The piece gives an overview of the status of biosafety law in seven African nations.

We welcome questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. 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.

Meanwhile, all best wishes to our readers and supporters for a happy holiday season, and we will see you in the new year! 

Headlines

Preparing Africa for ravages of climate change ‘cannot be an afterthought’ – COP24
Independent

Many African countries already live the future of 2°C warmer
ReliefWeb

Q&A: Akinwumi Adesina on AfDB’s climate mission
Devex

The impact of climate inaction on food security
Devex

AgBio news

New biotech crop-breeding technologies struggle for traction across much of Africa
Genetic Literacy Project, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Nigeria: Furore over introduction of GMO cotton
The Guardian

Drought-tolerant maize to help Zimbabwe weather climate change
Voa News

Kenya: Officials hint at biotech cotton nod
Business Daily

First Dutch bananas could help tackle worldwide fungal threat
The Guardian

Hybrid rice engineered with CRISPR can clone its seeds
Science News

Will gene editing boost food production? The potential of a ‘revolutionary technology’
Genetic Literacy Project

Newton Prize Award for biotech drought-tolerant beans to help Mexico prepare for climate change
Tech

The future of drought-tolerant wheat is near
Global Farmer Network

Significant progress in pearl millet pre-breeding to develop drought- and blast-resistant varieties
ICRISAT

5 new potato heat-tolerant potato varieties released in Rwanda open up possibilities for farmers in the hotter regions of the country
The New Times

Using biotech to turn plants into ‘antifungal factories’ could protect against disease
Genetic Literacy Project

Aarhus University researchers release new insights in rust resistance in wheat
ISAAA

Plant breeding and CRISPR plants market worth $14.6 billion by 2023
PR Newswire

Studies: Transgenic American chestnut trees show no ill effects on seeds, fungi or larval frogs
ESF

Environment versus agriculture
SAI Food

Best practices

Study: Organic food Is worse for the climate than non-organic food
US News

Kenya: Garlic farming and marketing
FarmBiz Africa

Biodiversity

Probiotics of the plant world: Why soil microbes are gaining worldwide interest
GFAR

“Pakistan is a true haven for Crop Wild Relatives, yet these cousins of our domesticated crops have not been well understood in the country. No longer,” writes Michael Major Med
Crop Wild Relatives

Climate change and environment

The land, agriculture and forestry nexus at the heart of African sustainability
AllAfrica

Climate change: Plan to end drought on African farms
Africa Science News

Hike in record-dry months for Africa’s Sahel worries scientists
Reuters

From mangoes to maize, climate change brings new hunger threats
AllAfrica

New study in Nature finds governments and researchers have been underestimating the significance of land and diets to reduce climate change
World Resources Institute

Climate Risk Profile: West Africa
ReliefWeb

Climate change: Failure to tackle warming ‘suicidal’
BBC

Development

Africa, Israel exploring joint Israel-Africa Agriculture Innovation Center
Forbes

The three lessons Africa can learn from Asia about investing in agriculture
Reuters

Adopting climate-smart agricultural practices can have a positive economic impact
European Scientist

Smallholders’ global food production underestimated
SciDevNet

Medium-scale farms are on the rise in Africa. Why this is good news
The Conversation

Nigeria: Ondo women farmers allege marginalisation
The Guardian

Food import ban as catalyst for national dev’t
New Telegraph

Nigeria: Stakeholders call for allocation of 10% budget to agric sector
The Independent

Steps to getting more African research from Africa
Africa Oxford Initiative

Transforming the African agribusiness sector: tech & transparency hold the key to inclusive growth
Africa Agriculture

Optimizing the benefits of agriculture to transform Nigeria
Global Banking and Finance

Energy and innovation

NDEMO: Digital wallet concept can boost farming
Business Daily

In Africa, tech-savvy entrepreneurs sow seeds of a farming revolution
UN Environment

Food security

Local context is a factor in sustainable and healthy diets
Barilla Center

Malnutrition: the new challenges are also the new opportunities
AllAfrica

Kenya classified as a food deficit country in Global Hunger Index 2018
AllAfrica

FAO and eastern Africa parliamentarians call for stronger commitment and funding to achieve zero hunger
African Farming

Kenya: Why some counties face persistent food insecurity
Business Daily

East Africa Key Message Update, December 2018
ReliefWeb

Pests and diseases

Developing eco-friendly insecticides: a CONNECTED Virus pump-prime funded project aimed at developing new treatments that smallholder farmers can use to protect their crops, and break plant disease cycles
Connected Network

Zimbabwe: Armyworm invades Chipinge
AllAfrica

Will a new pest beat transgenic corn to African farms?
Futurity

The GM debate

Viewpoint: Arguments against crop gene editing rely on ‘cherry-picking half-truths’
Genetic Literacy Project

Anti-GMO sentiment has repercussions for developing world
PhysOrg

Opportunities and resources

Session videos: IDRC’s Towards a Food Secure Future
3-4 October 2018, Ottawa, Canada
Paepard

Course: Modern breeding techniques for potato improvement, Tuesday June 11th – Friday June 28th 2019, Ghent – Belgium
Ghent University

Our newly updated training manuals are chock full of everything you need to empower sweet potato farmers with sweet potato knowledge
International Potato Center

Risks and opportunities of GM crops: Bt maize example
Science Direct

Advanced course: Antimicrobial resistance and One Health: Implications for agricultural systems, food safety and the environment, Zaragoza (Spain), 18-22 March 2019
CIHEAM

Applications for free AGORA  [Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture] online course 4-15 February now open. Deadline 27 January 2019
AGORA