In the news...

December 21st, 2017 /

The first One Planet Summit was held in Paris last week, convening leaders and stakeholders to support and accelerate global efforts to fight climate change. The Summit, led by French President Emmanuel Macron, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, aimed to “find new means of financing the adaptation of our ways of life to inevitable transformations, of further speeding up the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and of ensuring climate issues are central to the finance sector,” according to its website.

Among the initiatives introduced during the summit was the the One Planet Fellowship, launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support research on climate adaptation in Africa. The programme is to be run by African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and will finance African scientific research into climate change adaptation, especially as it affects small farmers, as well as build capacity for young African researchers. According to a news article about the launch, 120 African researchers will be selected for mentoring in Europe, and will be expected to mentor two young researchers – one from Africa and one from Europe, totalling 600 scientists over five years.

During the Summit the Gates Foundation also pledged $300m for African and Asian farmers to help them respond sustainably to climate change with crop improvement, protection and management.

Also this week, Africa’s Fall armyworm crisis is finally hitting mainstream Western media with the Huffington Post story “Alien invasion: Battling the spread of the fall armyworm in Africa” – while in Kenya armyworm hits Embu, Isiolo and Tharaka-Nithi, “Malawi declares 20 districts disaster areas after armyworm outbreak” and “SADC food security under threat as more vicious fall armyworm detected.”

However, there’s good news from Tanzania, where aflatoxin is a major threat to public health and food security: a biocontrol technology named AflasafeTZ has been found to control the deadly fungus in maize and groundnuts. “After a two-year field trial conducted in several sites across Tanzania, AflasafeTZ reduced contamination of food crops with the poisonous fungus by over 85 per cent,” says an article about the development on SciDevNet. However, the technology uses fungi specifically from Tanzania, and similar solutions for Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia will develop their own solutions using locally specific strains.

Finally, all at B4FA are saddened by the untimely death of our colleague Professor Calestous Juma, visionary Kenyan thinker, teacher and author on the benefits of modern technologies for sustainable development in Africa. Among the many articles about his contributions being published, we highlight “Tributes for late Kenyan scholar Calestous Juma” from Al Jazeera, “President Uhuru mourns the late Professor Calestous Juma”, and “Africa the poorer as innovation icon, Juma, passes on” – as well as an essay he wrote for B4FA, along with a word from Professor Sir Brian Heap. (See below.) We send condolences to his family and colleagues at Harvard. He will be missed.

We would also like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a happy and warm holiday season. Thank you for your readership and support, and we look forward to seeing you in 2018.

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The BNP Paribas Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launch One Planet Fellowship to support research on climate adaptation in Africa
Global News Wire

Climate change: Gates Foundation pledges $300m for Africa, Asia farmers

The world’s top banana is doomed and nobody can find a replacement
Wall Street Journal

How gene editing will boost crop yields

South Florida’s bugs inspire science that feeds the world
Sun Sentinel

The benefits of world veg tomato breeding

Entomologist Fred Gould critiques media coverage critical of gene drives
Genetic Literacy Project

Is “organic” going through an existential crisis?
Joan Conrow

The ecomodernist argument for modern agriculture

Society of Toxicology: Science has ‘overwhelmingly demonstrated’ GMO crop safety
Genetic Literacy Project

California cherry farmers look to ‘gene drive’ technology to kill invasive fruit flies
Genetic Literacy Project

Researchers develop viral disease resistant variety of cowpea
Research Matters

Major award recognises UK and global impact of wheat scientist
John Innes Centre

Q&A: We need to produce ‘different food’, not more

Talking Biotech: How will agricultural-biotech seed company mergers impact farmers and sustainability?
Genetic Literacy Project

Neonicotinoid seed treatments ‘best option’ for soil pests, but should be used judiciously, study says
Genetic Literacy Project

Vitamin-enhanced GMO potatoes could combat malnutrition—if they ever hit the market
Genetic Literacy Project

GMOs might feed the world if investors weren’t so scared – warnings of hidden risks hurt interest in grains resistant to climate change

Gene-edited soybeans and other foods avoid GMO regulations—and perhaps the whole frankenfood debate
Technology Review

Viewpoint: Why so many scientific studies are flawed and poorly understood
Genetic Literacy Project

Indian researchers test CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in banana

Max Planck researchers engineer key enzyme in photosynthesis


Alien invasion: Battling the spread of the fall armyworm in Africa
Huffington Post

SADC food security under threat as more vicious fall armyworm detected
The Southern Times

African leaders convene to discuss ways to beat hunger and malnutrition
African Farming

Taking agricultural innovations to scale: RTB Scaling Fund awards grants

Bird flu: AU offers help
The Nation

How Africa can emulate India’s agricultural success
Farmer’s Weekly

Does protected cultivation have a place in sub-Saharan Africa?
World Vegetable Center

Agriculture: ECOWAS charged to ensure African women’s rights to land

IITA chief thumbs up IITA Cassava Weed Management Project for research and delivery
Modern Ghana

AfDB calls for economic transformation of Africa’s rural areas as key to curbing migration
Ghana Business News

AFSA engages 10 African countries on food sovereignty

African Centre for Food Security academic appointed as Agricultural Research Council deputy chair

‘Africa Rising’ narrative not an illusion – it may be dogged by conflict and disease but it’s definitely not stagnant or regressing

Famine early warning systems network: 76 million across 45 countries likely to need food aid, partly due to changing climate

New crops, technology needed to help farmers adapt to rising heat – Gates Foundation

African agribusinesses seek stable investment environments
Famer’s Weekly

Burkina Faso

Reversing the tide of progress: Burkina Faso’s cotton story
Alliance for Science


Onion seed production in Cameroon
World Vegetable Center


Premier appreciates farmers’ efforts in improved seeds


The agric sector – what’s wrong?

MP peeved at attempts to frustrate introduction of GM foods
Joy Online


Alarm as armyworm hits Embu, Isiolo and Tharaka-Nithi

Why technology should be at the heart of farming
Daily Nation

Provide irrigation tools to boost farming, state and counties told
The Star


Malawi declares 20 districts disaster areas after armyworm outbreak


Knowledge of soil dynamics will enhance soil productivity and guarantee food security
The News Nigeria

Climate change has thrown a spanner in Nigeria’s food security – a problem when water insecurity is thrown into the mix
Tribune Online


Rwanda’s agricultural revolution is not the success it claims to be
The Conversation


Senegalese renounce European odyssey for the fields
Modern Ghana

South Africa

South Africa national seed dialogue strengthens the push-back against corporate and state control over seed and food production
Daily Maverick

Youth must lead the science revolution, says Ramaphosa
African Brains


Biocontrol tech slashes aflatoxin levels in Tanzania – it could reduce aflatoxin contamination by 85 per cent


When you want to keep a dairy cow, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Managing your banana plantation
Daily Monitor

Food shortage looms in north after poor harvest
All Africa

Gardens are emblems of resistance: says Slow Food International Vice President
Food Tank

In memoriam

The death of Calestous Juma, among whose legacy is found that of “intellectual giant”, “innovator” and “tireless champion of the world’s poorest”, has prompted tributes from around the world. Enlisted to write the first essay (following) in our 2013 publicationInsights – Africa’s future … can biosciences contribute, the messages are just as strong today. Calestous’s knowledge of African countries, their need for leadership and innovation in agriculture, and the creation of opportunities provided by science and technology were topics that he deeply researched and elegantly expressed from his Kenyan heart. The formal titles by which he was known say it all: Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalisation Project at Harvard University – but it is the man and his humanity that we will miss most.

Professor Sir Brian Heap

Tributes for late Kenyan scholar Calestous Juma
Al Jazeera

Africa’s leading innovation scholar, Calestous Juma, has died
Quartz Africa

Professor Calestous Juma: Advocate for innovation
Alliance for Science, by Mark Lynas

President Uhuru mourns the late Professor Calestous Juma
Standard Kenya

Africa the poorer as innovation icon, Juma, passes on
Daily Nation

In memory of Calestous Juma
Philipp Aerni