In the news...

March 29th, 2017 /

World Water Day took place on 22 March this year, and while much of its focus is on sanitation, this year’s theme of Wastewater touches on the role of water in agriculture. A piece in BizCommunity “Thinking of wastewater as a resource & not a problem to maximise its potential for agriculture” reports that the FAO has “highlighted the opportunity treated wastewater represents for agriculture, improved food security, and nutrition.” The articles notes that agriculture accounts for around 70 percent of freshwater withdrawals but, globally, only about 10 percent of all irrigated land is watered with wastewater. There are some exceptions – including Jordan, where 90 percent of treated wastewater is used for irrigation, and Israel, where half of irrigation water is recycled wastewater. The article says that data remains incomplete for Africa. Another potential benefit of using treated wastewater: it’s a potential source of phosphorus and nitrates, which could be turned into valuable fertiliser.

Meanwhile, scientists from CIAT working in Colombia are working with cow urine to find ways to fix nitrogen into a usable form in the soil, reduce nitrogen runoff into the environment, as well as reduce nitrous oxide (N2O) – a potent greenhouse gas that’s a byproduct of soil microbes converting excess nitrogen. Enter the fodder grass Brachiaria, whose roots release a compound that prevents soil microbes from converting nitrogen into N2O, thereby letting nitrogen get trapped in soil that plants can use as food. Scientists think that if Bracharia’s capacity can be bred into crops such as rice and sorghum, they could boost soil fertility while reducing greenhouse gases and environmental damage from livestock farming, all in one shot.

“BNI could be one of the next big things in sustainable agriculture,” says CIAT forage specialist Jacobo Arango, a co-author of the urine study. “Understanding more about it could enable scientists to breed cereals whose roots contain nitrification inhibitors, or activate inhibitors that are normally dormant. That would enable us to make better use of nitrogen across the board and could help wean us off our addiction to nitrogen fertiliser.”

In news from Africa, Uganda’s cereals and fresh produce are facing being banned from export to other countries for fear of spreading the invasive army worm infestation that has been damaging crops in more than 30 districts across Uganda. And in the Butaleja and Pallisa districts of Uganda, farmers have successfully adopting a new style of growing their rice crops – applying mineral fertilizers and organic matter to improve soil, then planting rice spaced out in straight rows rather than sowing seeds with no attention to spacing. The strategy had proven successful: farmers adopting these strategies “have more than doubled their agricultural productivity and increased their farm-level incomes by 20 to 50 per cent,” says the article. Finally, in Nigeria, scientists have come up with a simple, low-tech method to fight Tuta absoluta, the moth that ravaged Nigerian tomato harvests in 2015, causing a state of emergency. The method uses light to lure the moth from the plant into a tray of water, in which it drowns. Other methods proffered to control the pest have included applying biocontrols such as pheromones, and insecticides.

From the B4FA Fellows, we hear from Lominda Afedraru, who reports on the regulation of fish farming in Uganda (“Fish farming to be regulated”) and agronomy practices being explained at a recent  fish farmers symposium in Kampala, while Michael Ssali tackles the need for Uganda to increase investment in agriculture.

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.


Thinking of wastewater as a resource & not a problem to maximise its potential for agriculture

Scientists make a splash with urine fertilizer experiment

EU nations vote against GM crops, but not enough to block them

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Conversation Edu

VIB-UGent researchers discover gene that increases seed yield in maize

Iowa State University agronomist among team to discover resistance gene to fight international viral threat in corn
Iowa State University  

Discovery shows how PHR1, a key switch protein, controls plant response to low levels of phosphate

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Genetic Literacy Project

5 technologies that will change agriculture for the better in 2017
Genetic Literacy Project

Farms are not like Eden: The case for aggressive human intervention in agriculture
Genetic Literacy Project

Bangladesh to release 3 more GM brinjal varieties
Daily Star

Canadian farmers poised to plant GM potatoes for first time
Genetic Literacy Project

Rusty patched bumblebee officially added to endangered species list
Genetic Literacy Project

Humans made the banana perfect—but soon, it’ll be gone

LAUNCH: International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2017 Global Food Policy Report

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Egypt hosts the International Conference on Biotechnology and Environmental Safety

International research team discovers gene that resists virus causing maize lethal necrosis disease

NAS releases report on preparing for future biotech products

Princess Anne backs GM crops and livestock
Guardian UK

Which GM crops might be embraced by the organic movement — if sustainability matters
Genetic Literacy Project

European governments about to vote on the authorisation of three GM maize
New Food Magazine

SADC Food Security Quarterly Update, March 2017
Relief Web

Bangladesh: Wheat-maize cropping pattern can double yield: Experts
The Financial Express

Time for the EU to authorise GMOs and support science & innovation

The Green G-Nome’s Guide to GM Crops & Policies in the EU

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The Conversation Africa


Report: Tackling vitamin A deficiency with biofortified sweet potato in sub-Saharan Africa
Science Direct

Report: Regional Overview of Food Insecurity: Near East and North Africa
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Food remittances: rural-urban linkages and food security in Africa

Africa is not a sample size of one, emphasise industry leaders
How We Made It in Africa  

Digital transformation in agri-business required to safeguard African food supply

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World Bank: Efficiency of public spending will enhance agriculture productivity for poverty reduction in Africa
The Financial

The inside guide to African drought

What’s Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies up to lately? Helping African farmers, for one thing
Inside Philanthropy

East Africa gears for synthetic biology

More contract farming needed in Africa

Southern Africa Food and Nutrition Security Update, March 2017

Twelve African countries doing field tests for genetically modified crops

A day in the life of grace: Food security and nutrition in a rapidly urbanizing Africa


Go for fast maturing crops, farmers urged

Climate change making Kenya’s droughts more severe

Researchers accuse state of derailing GMO studies

Solar boreholes, irrigated crops throw lifeline to Kenyan herders

Kenyan farmers battle drought with growing appetite for baby corn


Scientists invent technology to end tomato ebola

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Prices of food Items slip as dollar crashes further

South Africa

Protect Cape Flats Aquifer, says campaigner


The need to increase investment in agriculture
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Fish farming to be regulated
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Agronomy practices explained at fish farmers symposium in Kampala
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Uganda’s exports face ban due to armyworm – Agric. Minister

Butaleja, Pallisa adopt new technologies to grow rice
Daily Monitor

Uganda’s failure to enact a biosafety law a setback for other COMESA countries

Prolonged drought pushes tomatoes prices up
Daily Monitor

Uganda research-for-development work is helping to transform the country’s growing smallholder pig sector


Empowering rural women will lead to agric growth, poverty eradication – Zambia First Lady
African Brains


Investing in Zimbabwe’s smallholder farmers

Opportunities and resources

Book: Reaping Richer Returns : Public Spending Priorities for African Agriculture Productivity Growth

Event: The Potential of Biotechnology to Address Food Security in Africa. April 6, Washington, DC