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March 9th, 2016 / B4FA.org

In celebration of yesterday’s International Women’s Day 2016, we begin with a set of stories focused on women’s roles in agriculture in the face of climate change and food insecurity. A report called “Seeds of adaptation: climate change, crop diversification, and the role of women farmers” notes that “Around the world, women farmers are taking a leading role in implementing strategies aimed at crop variety conservation and diversification, with the goal of strengthening local climate change adaptation capacities.” Produced by the Center for International Forestry Research, the brief says while political, social, economic, and environmental changes are putting pressure on farmers’ seed systems, the women who play key roles in these systems are often overlooked by researchers, policies, and programmes.

Meanwhile, a piece in SciDevNet (“Seed firms accused of neglecting female farmers”) says “Global seed companies are failing to meet the specific needs of female farmers and provide them with the plants they need.” The Access to seeds index report 2016 found that seed firms rarely strive to improve seeds important to female farmers – like sweet potato or peanut – in developing countries. Furthermore, the report states, only three of 17 global seed companies studied took women farmers’ input into account, which means that women farmers benefit less from advances in seed breeding and agricultural science than male farmers.

In “Without women, African agriculture won’t withstand climate change”, the author notes that 60 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Southeast Asia are engaged in agriculture – “crucial players” in coping with the already declining food production and livelihoods caused by climate change. “The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) predicts that sub-Saharan Africa will have to significantly transform around 30 percent of its agricultural areas by the end of the century to cope with climate change,” says the article, “but any meaningful transformation is not likely to happen without the active engagement of women, who take on a tremendous proportion of farm work.”

On a positive note, “New grant benefits both women and men farmers in sub-Saharan Africa” announces a new initiative that will help bring about greater gender parity in sub-Saharan Africa so that men and women may more equally share the benefits of agricultural research. Known as the “Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT)”, the $5 million grant was awarded by the Gates Foundation to Cornell University in partnership with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Researchers will be trained to address the priorities of women and men in the agricultural research process. Why is gender parity important for agricultural development? “When research to develop new varieties of cassava is ‘gender blind’, it means that the needs of women who produce and process much of the cassava in sub-Saharan Africa are neither considered nor met,” says the article. “When research … is ‘gender-responsive’, researchers seek input from both women and men in new variety development. Gender-responsive research results in higher adoption rates of the new varieties and greater benefits to 500 million consumers.”

From this week’s biotech stories, we feature one fascinating piece in FastCoExist (“An ambitious genome sequencing project is tackling Africa’s nutrition crisis”) about an initiative to sequence the genomes of Africa’s nutritious traditional foods, like amaranth and okra – plants often neglected by commercial breeders. The idea: if traditional foods can can help alleviate stunted growth and other malnutrition-related illnesses, why not breed them to improve yields and nutritional content? The aim is to breed improved crops appropriate for local markets, increasing access to nutritious foods across the continent.

We’re also very pleased to hear from many of B4FA’s Fellows this week. From Uganda: Michael Ssali sends in “Uganda must reduce environmental, health pesticide risks” as well as “How to graft quickly – growing seedlings” and “Why cooperative societies are very important for every farmer”. Lominda Afedraru joins with “Counting potential benefits of biotechnology to Uganda”. Noah Nash’s video reports from Ghana this week include “Let’s invest and expand Agriculture to create the needed Jobs” – President Mahama” and “Consumers urged to consume more orange flesh sweet potato for better health”. Finally, we hear from Nigerian Fellows Hope Abah (“Benue female vegetable farmer survives on dry-season farming”), Jimoh Babatunde (“Council, Research Institute working on improved seeds”) and Abdallah el-Kurebe (“Concession dams to states, Tambuwal urges FG”).

As ever, please send questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. Visit B4FA.org for further reading and useful resources, and add us on Twitter to keep up with daily news! Thanks for joining us.

Bioscience around the world

Seeds of adaptation: climate change, crop diversification, and the role of women farmers
Eldis

Seed firms accused of neglecting female farmers SciDevNet

Climate change to force deadly diet shift
SciDevNet

Can we feed the world sustainably? Lecture by Professor Sir Gordon Conway, Centre for Environmental Policy
Imperial College London

Scientists report breakthrough in the quest for obese plants
ConversationUK

Genome sequence of cultivated groundnut completed
ISAAA

International team decodes Mesoamerican bean genome
ISAAA

From “intelligent fertilizer” to “RNA high interference”, crop scientists just getting started, says plant scientist
Alberta Farm Express

Pollinators vital to our food supply under threat – UNEP
UNEP

Philippines signs new GMO rules, food industry relieved
YahooNews

‘India, Africa are key partners in global food security’
Odisha News Insight

Indian dream of plentiful food from African farms runs into trouble
Daiji World

India: Innovation is the answer to affordable Bt cotton technology
Economic Times

How a Chinese acquisition could put genetically modified foods on menu
Christian Science Monitor

Philippines: Young scientists push Bt research
The Standard

Viruses have their own version of CRISPR
The Atlantic

Monarch butterflies continue sharp recovery in 2015 – casting doubt on glyphosate claim
Genetic Literacy Project

Bee health update: Latest field studies conclude neonicotinoids not key problem
Genetic Literacy Project

Dirty secrets of fraudulent ‘advocacy research’
National Review

Noted scientist selected to lead international project on postharvest food losses
Kansas State University

Financial diaries with smallholder families describe challenges they face
CGAP

FAO: Countries requiring external assistance for food, as of December 2015
FAO

Pan-Africa

Celebrating African rural women: custodians of seed, food, and traditional knowledge for climate change resilience
Eldis

Without women, African agriculture won’t withstand climate change
Thomson Reuters Foundation

New grant benefits both women and men farmers in sub-Saharan Africa
Cornell University

An ambitious genome sequencing project is tackling Africa’s nutrition crisis
FastCoExist

Climate change could make growing these crops in African regions impossible
Climate Home

Climate deadline looms for African food crops
BBC

The digital technology cloud hangs over every African farm
AllAfrica

Science is warning us that a food crisis is coming to Southern Africa. Will we stop it?
Quartz Africa

What’s driving sub-Saharan Africa’s malnutrition problem?
The Conversation Africa

African agriculture not a social issue but serious business
The Southern Times

Meeting hears that biosciences could boost food security in Africa
SciDevNet

NEPAD calls for increased financing to agro-sector
Zambia Daily Mail

Remembering our roots: new books and resources on Africa and food security
Ag4Impact

Ethiopia

Protecting crop and feed diversity enhances food security while reducing greenhouse gases
ILRI

Ghana

Video: “Let invest and expand Agriculture to create the needed Jobs” – President Mahama
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash

Video: Consumers urged to consume more orange flesh sweet potato for better health
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash

Kenya

Insects as food? Kenyan scientists propose eating bugs to curb food insecurity, malnutrition
International Business Times

Nigeria

Benue female vegetable farmer survives on dry-season farming
Daily Trust, by B4FA Fellow Hope Abah

Council, Research Institute working on improved seeds
AllAfrica, by B4FA Fellow Jimoh Babatunde

Concession dams to states, Tambuwal urges FG
by B4FA Fellow Abdallah el-Kurebe

Role of biotechnology In Nigeria’s economic diversification
EnviroNews Nigeria

Sorghum with higher iron content hits market
AllAfrica

Researchers develop new wheat variety
AllAfrica

South Africa

Food insecurity now a reality in South Africa
IOL

South African youth trained to be future agri-preneurs
The Hindu

Uganda

Uganda must reduce environmental, health pesticide risks
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

How to graft quickly – growing seedlings
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Why cooperative societies are very important for every farmer
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Counting potential benefits of biotechnology to Uganda
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru


Opportunities and resources:

Introductory molecular biology and bioinformatics for Eastern/Central African applicants. Nairobi, Kenya. 9-20 May 2016