In the news...

February 1st, 2018 /

This week, B4FA were delighted to attend the launch meeting of the newly minted Community Network for African Vector-Borne Plant Viruses (CONNECTED) – a network of experts focused on vector-borne crop diseases in Africa funded by the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which supports research on global issues affecting developing countries.

In the UK city of Bristol, we joined network director Professor Gary Foster, co-director Professor Neil Boonham and 70 entomologists, plant breeders, virologists and other experts from more than 30 countries – primarily African, including Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Mali, Ghana, Egypt, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire and Tanzania – as they mapped the landscape of the many devastating vector-borne diseases affecting African crops. The network then began work on identifying gaps in research and to brainstorm solutions across disciplines and borders.

The proceedings will soon be available on the CONNECTED website. Meanwhile, the network is inviting applications for pump-prime funding to develop short-term projects as well as offering subsequent aid in securing longer-term funding for promising projects tackling African vector-borne crop diseases. Anyone with an interest may apply to become a network member and for this funding via the website. We look forward to emerging developments from this exciting new initiative.

Also this week, Bill Gates visited the University of Edinburgh to announce $40 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund genetic research towards developing crops in the interest of supporting food security in Africa. The Scottish researchers receiving this grant hope to identify specific genes to boost crop nutrition and drought and flood resistance. The initiative’s ambition: to allow 100 million African farmers to lift their families out of poverty.

In Nairobi, Kenya, a network of women scientists has pledged to support biotechnology at a biosafety communication training workshop held this week. The members of the Africa Women for Biosciences (AWfB) are composed of women stakeholders in science, technology and innovation. The workshop focused on equipping its members with effective communication and media skills to help bring women’s voices to biotechnology advocacy. “We need the public to give science a chance to thrive, an environment where we can operate,” said Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation’s (KALRO) Deputy Director General Dr Felister Makini. “Women’s voices will play a fundamental role towards unlocking some of the barriers blocking important technologies such as modern biotechnology.”

You may notice that we have slightly revised the way we include and list stories in the Week in Review, and we hope that you find it an improvement. Please let us know.

As ever, we welcome questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. Please also visit 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!


CONNECTED network launches in Bristol, convening experts committed to tackling vector-borne crop diseases affecting Africa

Bill Gates at Edinburgh University to help fund GM crop research
The National

African women vow to rally behind biotech

Ag-bio news

Kenya banks on biotech cotton for 50,000 jobs
Business Daily Africa

TACRI sees success in 17 years of coffee research in Tanzania

Genetic engineering and the future of coffee
Daily Coffee News

‘Wild’ genes open up opportunities for healthier, climate-smart rice

UZH scientists develop wheat lines resistant to powdery mildew

Namibia launches first GM detection lab

Researchers perform allele Exchange at EPSPS Locus in cassava using CRISPR-Cas9

UK aid will back innovative agricultural research through CGIAR to improve the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers around the world

Why wheat genome has over 5 times more DNA than humans
Genetic Literacy Project

Nigeria’s agriculture minister seeks advice on GMO food safety from country’s scientists
Genetic Literacy Project

Namibia bets on Chinese rice varieties to boost production

Tanzania: New maize variety for drought prone regions

Africa should follow in South Africa’s ‘food steps’ and embrace genetic modification
Huffington Post

Food security

The African Union to launch the Africa Agriculture Transformation Scorecard; towards achieving agricultural transformation
Relief Web

‘Nigeria, 44 other countries risk famine in 2018’
New Telegraph

Global cassava coalition calls for support for cassava transformation in Africa
National Accord Newspaper

African leaders commit to overcome malnutrition, elevate nutrition as driver for economic growth
Scaling Up Nutrition

Biodiversity and food security – the dual focus of the World Potato Congress

Ethiopia moves towards achieving food security

Time to put the hunger goal back on track
NewTimes Rwanda

Climate change and the environment

The climate-smart way of transforming agriculture in Africa

How can we improve lives/farming in semi-arid regions? Food Tank interviews Dr. David Bergvinson, Director General of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
Food Tank

How African indigenous knowledge in weather forecasts, agriculture can enhance food production
Standard Digital

Earth Microbiome Project: DNA reveals global map of soil bacteria, opening door to novel antibiotics
Genetic Literacy Project

Pests and diseases

Farming is not a bed of roses: pests and diseases can strike anytime
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Best practice

Nigeria: six universities adopted the Sasakawa Fund for Agricultural Extension Education, SAFE, initiative to improve farming methods
Premium Times

Zimbabwe: Small grains bring big smiles to Binga farmers

Energy and innovation

Protecting cassava from disease? There’s an app for that
The Conversation

Innovation platforms for food security in eastern and southern Africa
World Agroforestry Centre


Rwanda makes progress on continental agricultural plan
New Times Rwanda

Rwanda’s President Kagame takes over as chair of African Union
Standard Digital

In Addis Ababa, Guterres says partnership with African Union is fundamental to work of the UN
UN News Centre

AfDB, as part of its goal to see a generational shift in agriculture on the continent, has brought its ‘Farming is Cool’ initiative/competition to school children in Nigeria\
The Guardian

The GM debate

Farmers, scientists worry anti-GMO activists could stymie CRISPR and other gene-edited crop research
Genetic Literacy Project

Foods containing GM golden rice can be sold in Australia and New Zealand

It’s up to scientists to fix widespread misunderstanding of what science is and how it works


Fourth call for proposals to safeguard biodiversity for food security and climate change adaptation
Deadline 1 March 2018
FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Genebank Impacts Fellowship Program: Contribute to the evaluation of impact of international genebanks. Applications close: 23 February 2018.