In the news...

August 9th, 2018 / B4FA.org

This week, we lead with a report from Phys.org that a team of researchers from Spain, the U.S. and the U.K. has genetically modified a strain of rice to produce HIV-neutralizing proteins. The rice produces one type of antibody and two kinds of proteins that bind directly to the HIV virus preventing it from interacting with human cells. Once grown, the rice produces seeds that can be processed on-site to make a cream containing the proteins, which can be applied to the skin to allow the proteins to enter the body.Production costs of making the cream are nominal once the rice has been grown – people living in infection areas can grow as much of the rice as they need, then make the paste and apply it themselves.

From Africa there is news of Ethiopian scientists developing a new sorghum variety that could lead to multiple annual yields. With a continuous water supply, the new variety is expected to produce yields two or three times a year and at least once when there is water scarcity, explained Gethaun Mekuriya, Ethiopia’s Minister of Science and Technology, during the release of the new variety. There appear to be two great advantages of the new variety. Firstly, it could increase yields fivefold and, secondly, it can produce yields for 7–10 growing years without the need for ploughing.

Alongside this ag-bio news, this week we include a number of stories on technology, leading with the urgent call from African Development Bank President Adesina to give farmers across the continent new technologies with the potential to transform agricultural production – “technologies to achieve Africa’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves,” said Adesina. “The challenge is a lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers.” This is followed by news of a new report from the Malabo Montpellier Panel that busts the myth that mechanisation of African agriculture will be labour replacing. “Quite the opposite,” commented Ousmane Badiane, co-chair of the Panel, “done right, it can be employment enhancing”.

There are two stories discussing the benefits to farmers that can accrue from the use of drones – crop spraying ones that go where tractors can’t and drones that can help farmers monitor crops more accurately. And we follow this with two practical in-action stories from Ghana, where drones are helping in the campaign against fall-armyworms, and from Tunisia where they are being used for vital data gathering. And the featured story from Kenya’s Daily Nation discusses how technology will disrupt and transform our agriculture (see opposite).

We also hear from B4FA Fellow, Michael Ssali who argues strongly for the need tenure for small (peasant) farmers to enable them to grow highly paying perennial crops such as coffee or to install boreholes and durable irrigation equipment like water pipes and the imperative of education. Why, he asks, do we allow schools to operate without school gardens or farms if agriculture is important in an economy and where do we expect our peasant farmers to acquire farming skills from?

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
Genetically modifying rice to produce HIV-neutralizing proteins
Phys.org

Ethiopia releases new, perennial sorghum variety
SciDev.net

Technology
African Development Bank President Adesina calls for technology transfer to farmers
ReliefWeb

Mechanization of African agriculture can drive rural employment and stem migration
Farmers Review Africa

Mechanized: transforming Africa’s agriculture value chains
Malabo Montpellier Panel

Why technology will disrupt and transform our agriculture
Daily Nation

The crop-spraying drones that go where tractors can’t
BBC

Drones can help farmers monitor crops more accurately.
Daily Nation

Ghanaian farmers enlist drones to combat fall armyworm invasion
Genetic Literacy Project

Tunisia launches project to use drones for agricultural data collection
African Farming

Free Google wi-fi and agriculture drones
Next Web

Agritechnology firms in partnership to enhance smallholder farmers’ productivity
Daily Nation

AgBio news
Africa: land degradation – a triple threat in Africa
All Africa

Lack of GM in wheat puts global crop at risk
Cosmos

Nigeria commercializes Bt cotton, its first GMO crop
Alliance for Science

IITA is eliminating viruses from cassava germplasm so it can safely be transported from East Africa to Nigeria
Genebanks.com

Biotech discussed at National Plant Variety Protection Dialogue in Uganda
ISAAA

‘Factory farms wreck the environment’ and other myths farmers are tired of hearing
Genetic Literacy Project

Ugandan researcher: Western science education a ‘game changer’ for African agriculture
Genetic Literacy Project

Trial to test if GM fed salmon are more nutritious
BBC

Viewpoint: Eliminating pesticides from farming isn’t realistic – or desirable
Genetic Literacy Project

The African Development Bank is targeting to increase aquaculture production in Africa by five million tonnes by 2025
The Guardian

Best practice
Improving food security in Africa through enhanced partnerships and post-harvest management
African Union

Dr. Kofi Boa of Centre for No-Till Agriculture (CNTA) calls for innovation to ensure the structural stability of soils to sustain agroecology – a brown soil revolution
Joy Online

Women’s cooperatives boost agriculture and savings in rural Ethiopia
All Africa

Small farmers’ preferences for weather index insurance: insights from Kenya
Agriculture and Food security

How conservation agriculture is helping Ethiopian farmers become more than subsistence farmers
All Africa

Kenya, Ethiopia show neighbouring Uganda how to revive its dying cotton industry with pest-tolerant technology
Genetic Literacy Project

Uganda cotton farmers to get training in modern production
Business Week

Irrigating your bananas ensures the plantation never stops giving
Daily Monitor

Advice for female farmers in South Africa
Farmers Review Africa

Biodiversity
Kenya hosts forum on restoring degraded landscapes in Africa
Xinhua.net

Climate change
Enhancing the enabling environment for investment in climate-smart agriculture: insights from Kenya
Agrlinks

Development
Agric must be business not a way of life to ensure that farms are more productive and that farmers earn more from their labour
Modern Ghana

We must improve peasant farming says B4FA Fellow, Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor

African needs precision agriculture
Graphic

As Tanzania is planning to achieve an industrialized economy, biotech farming could be one avenue to steer their vision
The Exchange

Nollywood to play major role in projecting Nigeria’s agriculture globally
Vanguard

Building a resilient Eastern Africa in the face of climate change
Relief Web

Team from Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa visits Israel to pinpoint local agricultural technologies that are pertinent to Africa’s challenges
Times of Israel

Increasing youth engagement in Feed the Future
Agrilinks

Let’s first ask what women scientists want
SciDev.net

Food security and nutrition
Global food security: are we running out of time?
In the Black

A blanket carbon tax could heighten food insecurity
Anthopocene Magazine

Merits of an effective marketplace for agricultural evidence
Newsday

South Africa’s fake honey scam leaves local beekeepers embittered
The South African

The economics of teff: exploring Ethiopia’s biggest cash crop
IFPRI

NGO partners business owners to end malnutrition
Vanguard

Averting the looming food crisis in Nigeria
Business Day

Nigeria’s low investment in seeds undermines food security
All Africa

Ghana: government committed to promoting value chain in agriculture
Ghana News Agency

Pests and diseases
Learning from plant protection regulatory data and fall armyworm in Africa
Agrilinks

Ghana may have to start looking at using genetic modifications in crops to address the devastation caused by fall armyworms
Ghana Web

Pheromone-based pest control could be the wonderful future of agriculture
Green Optimist

Race to contain destructive march of armyworm as pest spreads to India
The Guardian

Business
BASF $9B buyout of Bayer crop science assets includes Bayer’s RTP operation
Herald Sun

AfDB signs US$41mn deal to develop Sudan’s agribusiness
African Farming

Is East African agriculture at risk of playing second fiddle to oil wealth?
The East African

Policy
WACCI urges increased investment in agricultural research as it graduates 14 PhDs
Joy Online

India’s China challenge in Africa
The Diplomat

The GM debate
Nigeria must rely on science to find its way through the GMO debate
Genetic Literacy Project

GMO Nigeria: at last, science prevailed
Nigerian Voice

What is CRISPR? And why should you care?
Genetic Literacy Project

When is modifying genetics not genetic modification? 
The Royal Society

Alarmism over genetically modified foods is unscientific and false
Economic Times

Green criticism has undermined public and political confidence in GMOs but science proves they are no riskier than more traditional methods
Irish Times

Will we see a ‘CRISPR’ EU?
The Boar

USDA to re-double efforts following EJC ruling on gene editing
Ag Daily

The complicated truth behind GMO cotton in India
Alliance for Science

Journalists schooled on biotechnology and genetically modified organisms
Ghana News Agency

Resources
August 2018’s CONNECTED monthly newsletter now available with news of new CONNECTED scheme aimed at early career researchers who are network members to apply for a funded training visit to a research group in the UK
Connected Network

The 2018 RU Forum Biennial conference is unique with a focus on university-agriculture community transformation. 22-26 October 2018 Nairobi, Kenya. Early-bird registration closes 31 Aug