In the news...

October 7th, 2015 /

Agricultural leaders and experts met last week in Lusaka, Zambia, for the 2015 African Green Revolution Forum. Themed “Walking the Talk on Youth and Women: Bringing Inclusive Agricultural Markets to Life,” the summit focused on engaging Africa’s fast-growing youth population in the continent’s agribusiness industry as a way of providing jobs, growing economies, and ensuring food security. A report produced by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and distributed at the conference found that barriers to entry include lack of land, extension services, quality farm inputs, markets, and so on. In news article ”Youth Dividend” will help Africa produce food and jobs, David Ameyaw of AGRA said, “With the characteristics of young people – dynamism, creativity, energy and strength – we’ll be able to tackle the two biggest challenges this continent is facing.”

Biotech stories this week include a feature about how plant breeders are turning to advanced computing to more efficiently analyze vast amounts of genomic data in order to improve seeds. Scientists at the University of California have sequenced the genomes of five microscopic roundworms, which will help improve their efficacy in preventing insect damage to crops. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has announced that its 3,000 Rice Genomes Project has successfully sequenced 3,024 rice varieties from 89 countries – important data for understanding natural genetic variation in rice and discovery of novel genes linked to environmentally and economically important traits.

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium have successfully stabilized folates in biofortified rice, and a new high-yielding lentil variety has been released in Syria. This is interesting in light of recent news that Syria’s International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), made the first withdrawal of its own seeds from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway because its research has been disrupted by civil war. Syria requested 16,500 of its seed samples, and hopes to reproduce them in facilities outside the country before returning new seeds to Svalbard. “These seeds are very valuable to the world,” ICARDA’s Director-General Mahmoud Solh said in a news report. “It is an important source for breeding programs, particularly for crops that have drought immunity or are resistant to the hotter temperatures we are getting because of global warming.”

We are pleased to hear from many B4FA Fellows this week. Noah Nash sends in two video reports from Ghana: “Seed growers in Golinga adapt seed production techniques” and “Farmers promise to purchase from certified fertilizer dealers”. Samuel Hinneh reports from Nigeria on how urbanisation is reducing Ghanaian smallholders’ lands; Jimoh Babatunde on the importance of African women scientists in the push for agricultural growth; and Sarah Natoolo’s audio reports on cassava disease threatening farmers. From Uganda, Michael Ssali exhorts farmers to elect more supportive leaders in 2016 and tells how students are paying school fees by rearing chicken and collecting eggs, and Lominda Afedraru writes on how varieties of cassava are succumbing to the deadly brown streak virus.

Last but not least, we feature a piece by our own Dr David Bennett, who addresses the greater role social sciences should play in African research and development. “Natural sciences have a much better chance of succeeding at solving Africa’s problems if they are combined with understanding of social factors and relationships, based on locally appropriate agendas,” he writes.

Thank you for joining us this week! As ever, please send materials, questions and comments to [email protected].

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

How supercomputers and plant genetics provide farmers better seeds 
Genetic Literacy Project

How do plants deal with flood and drought? Biotech strategies to enhance natural response and improve yield
ISB News Report

Scientists crack genomes of microscopic worms vital for agriculture

3,000 rice genomes data available free on Amazon Web Services cloud, will speed up development of improved varieties

Scientists develop rice with high folate stability

A new high-yielding lentil variety ‘Idlib 5’ is released in Syria

Why development needs social science

‘Know GMO’ documentary, filming in Africa, challenges anti-GM scare campaign
Genetic Literacy Project

Podcast: Science and sensibility: on the untrustworthy nature of truth
Guardian UK

South Australia farmers call for permission to grow GE crops

U.S. and China commit to further improve biotech approval process

Half of Europe opts out of new GM crop scheme
Guardian, UK

Royal Society of Edinburgh calls for ‘rational debate’ over GM ban

GMO controversy: When do demands for scientists’ records turn from transparency into harassment?
LA Times

Ecomodernist environmentalist movement stumbles in European rollout
Genetic Literacy Project

Science underpins new development goals

Next-generation genetic engineering must address public fears
Genetic Literacy Project

CRISPR upgrade may make gene editing even simpler
Genetic Literacy Project

Opinion: We can overcome poverty and hunger by 2030 – Jomo Kwame Sundaram, IPS/FAO


Africa Agriculture Status Report – 2015
AGRA Alliance

Africa’s bumper crop of youth to drive agriculture
The Star, Kenya

Africa’s agriculture needs young blood, says 2015 African Agriculture Status Report

‘Youth Dividend’ will help Africa produce food and jobs

Team Africa needs a strong lineup of women agricultural scientists
AGRF 2015

Aflatoxin continues to pose challenge to African agricultural productivity

African agricultural experts promote non-traditional food
VOA News

Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund: Infusing a quarter of a billion dollars into African biz, esp small farming & food

Africa could be the answer to delaying ‘peak grain’

Yara Prize winners honored for their profound impact on African farming

Extreme poverty to fall below 10 percent, but Africa still of concern – World Bank

Stakeholders from Africa visit Bt cotton fields in India


Vegetable growers eulogize FAO and partners for improving communities’ livelihood


Seed growers in Golinga adapt seed production techniques
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash

Urbanisation reducing Ghanaian smallholders’ lands
SciDevNet, by B4FA Fellow Samuel Hinneh

Farmers promise to purchase from certified fertilizer dealers
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash


Kenyan government should allow science to guide GMO policy
Genetic Literacy Project


Improving agricultural productivity through community seed program

Women scientists are needed for agricultural growth
AllAfrica, by B4FA Fellow Jimoh Babatunde

Scientists advocate agricultural biotechnology for sustainable growth
Voice of Nigeria

South Africa

Pesticides are not the only way to deal with our biggest food competitor – insects


Working to allay farmers’ fears of improved seeds
Daily News


Audio: Solar power improves lives of youth; cassava diseases threaten farmers
by B4FA Fellow Sarah Natoolo

Farmers should elect more supportive leaders in 2016
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Cassava brown streak virus poses challenge as varieties succumb
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Rearing chicken and collecting eggs help students pay their school fees
Dailiy Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Uganda to get agriculture assistance from FAO and China
African Farming

Report: Tackling Uganda’s substandard agricultural input problem

Ugandan fruit farmer awarded for encouraging 1,500 girls to farm passion fruit commercially

How farmer schools are changing Northern Uganda
Daily Monitor

Women scientists are needed for agricultural growth
AllAfrica, by B4FA Fellow Jimoh Babatunde


Zambia hosts Africa Green Revolution Forum 2015

Walking the talk on women, youth in agriculture

Photoessay: Growing the seeds of change in Zambia

Innovation to cultivation

Agra funds seed companies

Beekeeping attracts more investors as sector grows, benefiting livelihoods, agric and health  
Dailiy Monitor

Opportunities & resources

B4FA’s Media Programme Director Dr Bernie Jones will speak at the Pioneering STEM in Africa Summit, 3-4 Dec, London