In the news...

June 28th, 2017 /

Congratulations to African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, who has just won the prestigious World Food Prize in honour of his work to improve crop yields and incomes for farmers in Africa. Adesina grew up poor, the son of a Nigerian farm worker. He then earned graduate degrees in agricultural economics and worked to make seed, fertiliser and financing accessible to African farmers to enhance food and nutrition security and sustainable livelihoods.

Adesina says, “I believe that what Africa does with agriculture and how it does it is not only important for Africa but it’s important for how we’re going to feed the world by 2050 because 65 percent of all the uncultivated arable land left in the world is in Africa,” he said. He also said, in a BBC interview: “You can find Coca-Cola or Pepsi anywhere in rural Africa, so why can’t you find seeds or why can you not find fertilisers? It is because the model that was used to distribute those farm inputs were old models based on government distribution systems, which are very, very inefficient. So I thought the best way to do that is to support rural entrepreneurs to have their own small shops to sell seeds and fertilisers to farmers”. These networks spread, bringing inputs to farmers and encouraging private sector involvement.

Meanwhile, a piece in Quartz Africa warns that the arabica coffee bean, native to Ethiopia, may be under threat due to rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall, according to new research published in Nature Plants this week (“Climate change could devastate the birthplace of the arabica coffee bean”). The article reports that 60% of Ethiopia’s coffee-growing areas may become unsuitable for coffee cultivation by the end of the century, affecting up to 15 million Ethiopian farmers – 15% of the country’s population. The study, undertaken by Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and scientists in Ethiopia, used modeling, simulations, and satellite imagery to project how climate change would affect coffee crops. “As Ethiopia is the main natural storehouse of genetic diversity for Arabica coffee, what happens in Ethiopia could have long-term impacts for coffee farming globally,” says senior botanical scientist at the University of Addis Ababa Sebsebe Demissew, one of the coauthors of the study.

In biotech news, researchers have found a way to improve nitrogen fixation in legumes involving antimicrobial proteins that evolved to manipulate certain bacteria to start the nitrogen fixation process. A team of researchers from Australia and India have also discovered traits in lentil genotypes that are tolerant to heat stress. Finally, the 2016 annual report on Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops (ISAAA Brief 52) has been launched in Cameroon and Malawi. According to the report, 2016 was the 19th year of commercialization of biotech crops in Africa, and a total of 13 African countries either planted, conducted trials or transitioned to granting approvals for general release of various biotech crops. Of these, of the 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops grown globally, South Africa and Sudan grew a total of 2.8 million hectares, says the report.

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Adesina wins 2017 World Food Prize

Africa agriculture pioneer wins 2017 World Food Prize

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