In the news...

April 19th, 2017 /

This week saw the launch of a new journal, Lancet Planetary Health, which focuses on “the interplay between health and the determinants of health in our living and physical world.” In addition to articles on biodiversity loss and the ecology of infectious disease, food systems, nutrition, health and the environment and understanding drought’s impacts on human health, the inaugural issue also included a piece on the significance of smallholder farms in the global food system. This piece illuminates smallholder farmers’s contribution to the quantity and quality of the global food supply, including the farms’ location, the commodities they produce, and their relevance to nutrient production.

Among other findings, the article reports that small farms (less than 20 hectares) in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, southeast Asia, and China produce 75% of global food commodities, and that mixed production systems generate a bigger diversity of key nutrients such as zinc, iron, vitamins A and B12 and folate. In a summary of the article on Lancet’s website, the author concludes that “[b]oth small and large farms play important roles in ensuring we have enough food that is diverse and nutrient-rich. While industrialised agriculture suggests domination of food systems, smallholder farms play a substantial role in maintaining the genetic diversity of our food supply, which results in both benefits and risk reductions against nutritional deficiencies, ecosystem degradation, and climate change.”

Turning to Africa, an article in Thomson Reuters asserts that hunger will continue to plague Africa until we get serious on soils.  The author states that while according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) soils hold high potential for capturing and storing excess atmospheric carbon dioxide and can make or break climate change efforts, degraded soils are less able to sequester carbon – therefore it’s necessary to focus efforts on repairing Africa’s nutrient-poor, degraded soils to both improve climate change mitigation and food security. Tackling the degraded soils problem from the other end, there is also news that scientists on the Engineering Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa (ENSA) research project at Cornell University are working on transferring the natural nitrogen fixation process in legumes to cereal crops, hoping to reduce smallholder farmers’ reliance on fertilizers in sub-Saharan Africa. This video explains.

From the Fellows, we hear from Abdallah el-Kurebe – who writes of Nigeria’s Sokoto state government adopting the World Bank ratio of one extension worker to 800 farmers, to help train and advise farmers on new methods – and from Michael Ssali, who reports on the vicious circle of poverty and food insecurity in Uganda.

As ever, please send questions, comments and story links to [email protected] and visit  for further reading and useful resources. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.


From big to small: the significance of smallholder farms in the global food system
The Lancet

“Pathogen hunters”: citizen scientists track plant diseases to save plant species
The Conversation, Africa

Could Florida’s oranges be saved by spinach genes?

A crucial climate mystery is just under our feet
Genetic Literacy Project

Conventional (GMOs) vs organic farming: Which is better for animals and the environment?
Genetic Literacy Project

Will organic community embrace gene editing if it restores ancient crops?
Genetic Literacy Project

Biotech and non-GMO crops may need less separation than believed to prevent ‘contamination’ Genetic Literacy Project

Agricultural Transformations: Country context and priorities shape change
Feed the Future

Video: CRISPR-created seedless tomatoes could eliminate need for bee pollination via Genetic Genetic Literacy Project

Tomatoes resistant to fungus and blight developed by 94-year-old West Virginia scientist
Genetic Literacy Project

EU Food Safety Authority: Risk from pesticide residue on foods low, unlikely to pose health risk
Genetic Literacy Project

Hobbyist beekeeping practices & rejection of chemical treatments major driver of bee-killing Varroa mites & disease
Genetic Literacy Project

Weed scientist finds slight rise in herbicide chronic toxicity

Report: 108 million people face severe acute food insecurity

Study shows natural genetic engineering in grafted plants

Review of the impacts of genome editing techniques in plants

Development of new tool to estimate GM pollen spread

How nanobiotechnology could transform agriculture at every level
Huffington Post

Herbicide use has increased more for non-GMO crops than genetically engineered varieties
Genetic Literacy Project

Sustainable diets: rational goal, irrational consumers?


Hunger will continue to plague Africa until we get serious on soils
Thomson Reuters

Fixing the nitrogen problem
Cornell Alliance for Science

Soybean farmers in east and southern Africa get a boost

Food security prospects brighten for southern Africa

Five invasive pests cost African economy US$1 billion every year
News Ghana

How ‘human bees’,  biotechnologists and Gates Foundation are rescuing African cassava
Genetic Literacy Project

Africa’s agriculture needs new blood, but young people are attracted to the cities
Development and Cooperation

Côte d’Ivoire to host the Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2017
Africa Newsroom

Africa biotech summit at University of Cambridge a resounding success
African Business Review

The Sahel and West Africa had a good agricultural season, so why does food insecurity persist?
OECD Insights


Alvaro Sobrinho: helping agriculture in Africa thrive
New Business Ethiopia


Journalists advocate for regular education to improve agriculture journalism


Farmers in Makueni reap big after planting drought-tolerant crops
The Star

Climate change exacerbates the chronic challenges of food insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation
Daily Nation


Improving cassava production in Nigeria through sustainable seed systems, establishing pathways of seed delivery

Agric extension workers: SADP adopts World Bank standard ratio
Vanguard, by B4FA Fellow Abdallah el-Kurebe

‘2 million households targeted for improved food security in 2017’

Skoll Foundation gives $1M social entrepreneurship prize to a Nigerian for-profit organization
Financial Post

Learning from South Africa’s food security task force
Tribune Online

Dangote will be the largest exporter of rice in 5 years – AfDB President


Vicious circle of poverty and food insecurity
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Scientists now fight alien crop pest


Zambia women contribute to cassava growing boom


Post-harvest losses can spoil cheer of good yield