In the news...

June 28th, 2018 / B4FA.org

This week, B4FA highlights computational biologist Geoffrey Siwo who is out to ensure that the ground-breaking gene-editing tool CRISPR will be available to all scientists everywhere in the world. He argues, “if scientists in Africa can read open-access papers about CRISPR but have no means to use it in experiments, they still can’t transform that knowledge into technologies that will improve the health of Africans.”

The diets of more than two billion people lack essential vitamins and minerals, making them vulnerable to disease and disability. To counter this, biofortification uses conventional crop breeding techniques to increase the nutritional value of the staple foods consumed most widely by low-income families in Africa, Asia and Latin America including cassava, maize (corn), beans, sweet potato, millet, rice, and wheat. A new map now shows the 60+ countries around the world where more than 290 biofortified varieties of 12 staple food crops have been released and are being grown or tested.

In other biotech news, we learn of a collaboration between researchers from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya, Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI) in Tanzania and the Basque Institute for Research and Development in Agriculture (NEIKER) seeking to develop cassava varieties that are resistant to diseases and able to tolerate different environmental conditions such as heat, cold and drought. From Uganda, we further learn of research at the National Crop Resources Research Institute seeking to develop GM cassava that is resistant to cassava brown streak disease and cassava mosaic disease both of which are threatening food security. And we also report on an inter- and transdisciplinary research that is taking a novel approach for improved soil and crop management in yam systems for improved food security in West Africa

We also hear from B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru about researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya and Uganda’s National Agricultural Livestock Research Institute (NaLRI) working to develop an anti-tick vaccine to help livestock farmers. “We have antigens which can be used to produce candidate vaccines for tick-borne diseases affecting animals in the cattle corridor of Uganda,” explains collaborator Dr. Halid Kirundafrom Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MBAZARDI), adding, “once the vaccine is ready for use we will export it to other African countries suffering the same challenge.”

And there are two positive developments in the on-going war against the devastating fall armyworm. First, there is the launch by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) of a talking mobile phone app – Nuru – that will identify the caterpillar that is threatening the food security of 300 million people across Africa. And from a trial in Mozambique, we learn that Water Efficient Maize for Africa(WEMA) has been shown to resist the attacks from the pest and to provide a lasting solution to the plague.

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. We look forward to hearing from you!

Headlines

Headlines
Let’s design CRISPR to benefit everyone while we still can, says Kenyan computational biologist Geoffrey Siwo
TED

Biofortification’s growing global reach
Harvest Plus

East African research centres plot for climate-ready cassava
Harvest Science News

New UN-supported farming app is cream of crop in tackling fall armyworm
UN News

Searching for biotech solutions to problems plaguing livestock in Africa by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru
Genetic Literacy Project

AgBio news
Can biotech crops solve the hunger crisis?
Genetic Literacy Project

Rewiring plant defence genes to reduce crop waste
Warwick University
AATF receives multi-million grant for Bt maize commercialization in Africa
ISAAA
South Africa’s success shows anti-GMO propaganda is baseless
Alliance for Science
Nairobi-based appropriate tech firm has received Sh2.46 billion to pursue regulatory approval for commercialisation of drought-tolerant and insect-resistant maize hybrids
Business Daily
Inter- and transdisciplinary research on yam systems for improved food security in West Africa
Open Access Government
Inside the genetically modified cassava research In Uganda
Business Focus
India: Panel for adopting latest genetically modified technology for important non-food crops
Financial Express
Best practice
Uganda: New rice harvester offers better harvest
Daily Monitor
How to pick green gold from tea by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru
Daily Monitor
Uganda: Shelling maize need not be a tough task
Daily Monitor
African farmers tap into a rich store of success stories
Business Live
Uganda: Understanding farm tractors
Daily Monitor
How farmers process fuel from seeds by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru
Daily Monitor
Biodiversity
Alberto Salas has dedicated his life to finding, researching, and preserving potato wild relatives, the distant relatives of the common spuds we enjoy today
International Potato Center
Daniel Debouck: The man who knows beans
Genebank Platform
Development
Monitor Farm Clinic: Sponsors promise more partnerships
Daily Monitor
Encouraging African youth to adopt climate-smart agriculture
CCAFS
African agri-food systems and the changing partnerships landscape: old wine in new bottles?
AgriLinks
Are medium-scale farms driving agricultural transformation in Africa?
AgriLinks
NGOs say initiative to improve food security in Africa through agribusiness has failed in Senegal; call for more support to peasants farmers, especially women
Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
Past 20 years have seen unprecedented development of farmers’ and rural producers’ organizations throughout Africa. Farmers’ organizations are enjoying growing recognition
Devdiscourse
North Africa best performing on SDGs: AU report
Xinhua
Energy and innovation
Are drones ready to take off in Africa?
DroneLife
Mini-grids for rural growth
New TimesFood security
Why it’s important to recognise multiple food systems in Africa
Independent

Kenya: Agriculture action should mirror quest for food security
Business Daily

Kenya launches smallholder farmers program to enhance food security
Xinhua

FAO, African Union team up to help nations reduce post-harvest losses
FNB News

Possible solution to forthcoming food crisis
Business Mirror

GODAN Action is a three year project to enable data users, producers and intermediaries to engage effectively with open data and maximise its potential for impact in agriculture and nutrition
Godan Action

Pests and diseases
WEMA maize shows resistance to armyworm
Leadership

On the offensive against Fall armyworm in Africa
CIMMYT

The GM debate
Gene editing, GMOs, and fear-based marketing
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Gene editing: building better blueprints, one gene at a time
Linked In

Is quantitative genetics still necessary in this age of genomics?
African Journal of Agricultural Research

Rationalizing governance of genetically modified products in developing countries
Ask Force

Opportunities
Event: International Conference on Arabidopsis Research, annual conference centered on all aspects of modern plant biology using thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) as a model system. 25-29 June 2018, Turku, Finland

Opportunity: Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Ghana Chapter, has opened nominations for its media awards recognizing outstanding work of journalists in agriculture and biotechnology. Deadline: June 30

Join the Africa Vegetable Breeding Consortium for opportunities to discuss and evaluate breeding approaches and discover avenues for sharing data and progress

Enter the
2018 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards
​SciDev.net