In the news...

May 3rd, 2017 /

This week, two articles address the fall armyworm problem that continues to plague African farmers. In the Financial Times, “Invasion of fall armyworms ravages crops in 20 African countries & will cause $3bn damage to maize in next 12 months and serious food shortages” not only describes the continent’s struggle to contain the threat, but cites a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warning that geographical spread “into Europe via the Mediterranean basin and Asia through the Middle East is almost certain”. An article in Mareeg (“Multi-pronged approach key for effectively defeating fall armyworm in Africa”) says scientists think the pests may have proliferated due to warming global temperatures over the last few years, and could have travelled to Africa from the Americas in warm ocean jet streams. Solutions include development of pest-resistant, drought tolerant and disease-resistant hybrid crops that are more resilient to the Fall armyworm, biopesticides, pheromone traps, and low-cost chemical pesticides, says the article.

There are also two interesting Talking Biotech podcasts this week: first, an interview with Matthew Harsh from Concordia University in Montreal, who researched sociological and ethnographic challenges to GMO adoption in Kenya, the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to carry out research and development of genetically engineered crops. Another features a conversation with Dr. Jan Kreuze, a plant virologist at the Center for Potato Improvement (CIP) in Lima, Peru, about the naturally transgenic sweet potato and how its natural horizontal gene transfer could be the basis of its domestication, and developing disease-resistant sweet potatoes by identifying a protein that interferes with the plant’s defence mechanisms.

From the B4FA Fellows we hear from Samuel Hinneh, who writes for SciDevNet about a sweet potato project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that is improving nutrition and incomes in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria by establishing commercial seed systems and developing markets for improved, lower-sugar, higher yield orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties. Alex Mchomvu writes about how organic agriculturists in Tanzania are looking to scale up their production to meet global demand. And from Uganda, Lominda Afedraru investigates how a former cattle raider turned to mixed farming to make a living after learning from FAO experts about the importance of growing crops and keeping animals, while Michael Ssali exhorts small farmers to keep their gardens productive by taking good care of soil.

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.


EU food safety chief: Critics of glyphosate safety finding are ‘playing politics’, undermining science
Genetic Literacy Project

Biomin mycotoxin survey indicates higher mycotoxin risks in corn and livestock feed in 2017
African Farming

Global Experts: Promote agribusiness to attain the SDGs

Small farmers feed close to 80 percent of the total population and support the livelihoods of nearly 2 billion people worldwide
Impact Alpha

Small farms: stewards of global nutrition?
Environment Reports

Danforth Center scientists discover gene that influences grain yield
Danforth Center

Sweet success: genes identified that could lead to sucrose-boosting GM sugarcane
Genetic Literacy Project

Are you ‘anti-science’ if you resist biotechnology on political or economic grounds?
Genetic Literacy Project

Talking biotech: Naturally transgenic sweet potato can be tweaked to fight plant disease, boost nutrition
Genetic Literacy Project

Can world’s haves help our have-nots?
World Economic Forum


Invasion of fall armyworms ravages crops in 20 African countries & will cause $3bn damage to maize in next 12 months and serious food shortages
Financial Times

Multi-pronged approach key for effectively defeating fall armyworm in Africa

Talking Biotech: What’s blocking GMO crop adoption in Africa?
Genetic Literacy Project

Food insecurity a pressing issue amidst urban growth in Africa
Food Tank

Africa must invest in modern farming methods – including pesticides, fertilisers and better seed varieties

Growth in Africa has bypassed millions
Financial Tribune

The AFDB has committed $24 billion towards Africa’s food production over the next 10 years in order to create jobs and increase food security

Sustainable agriculture in Africa is key to meeting Zero Hunger goal by 2030
Impact Alpha

The future is starting to glow in Africa – it is where others will look for the best in new innovation
Biz Community

Revised Handbook of West African Weeds to help farmers tackle weeds in farms

AfDB ‘Dangote could become world’s largest rice exporter by 2021’
African Farming

Africa has vast agricultural potential – so why are we due to import u.s.$110 billion worth of food annually by 2025?

Turkey cooperates with African countries on agriculture

Western countries are playing ostrich in the face of famine in Africa – Erdogan
Africa News

Turkey inks agriculture deals with 6 African countries

Experts urge African nations to increase science funding
New Times

African countries’ success presupposes that they generate and manage energy sustainably to keep up with increasing demand

Africa’s indigenous technology for rural women economic empowerment

Better livestock policies pathway out of poverty in Africa

Special issue of African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development on biofortification

How to help Africa feed Itself – famine revives debate on scaling up farms on the continent

Young Africans create new roads for agriculture
Biz Community

New smart crops to underpin food security in Africa
University of Cape Town

Sweet potato project improves nutrition and incomes
SciDevNet, by B4FA Fellow Samuel Hinneh

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso seeks Saudi investment in agriculture, livestock and mining
Saudi Gazette


Ghana’s failure to develop a thriving agricultural sector reflects a trend across the continent. What can African countries do differently

Ghana’s Northern Rural Growth Programme – innovative way to make agriculture a worthy investment for rural farmers


Kenyan women in biosciences expressed concern on the unpredictable biotechnology and biosafety policy environment and urged the government to streamline coordination

Kenyan scientist calls on government to increase funding for agricultural biotechnology to help empower women scientists

Kenya launches drought-tolerant crop varieties to boost food security

High prices of maize flour and irregular supply of the commodity are a major cause for concern


Malawi moves towards commercialization of GM cotton, cowpeas and bananas
Genetic Literacy Project

Malawi Lake Basin Programme promotes production of sweet potatoes


Small changes in maize-growing techniques are helping farmers in Mozambique boost production
Cosmos Magazine


Nigeria leans towards crop innovation to bridge $10 billion production loss

Transforming a nation, Nigeria, one woman at a time

Whistleblowers to monitor supply of 20 million bags of fertilizer to farmers – Govt

Increased cocoa production can overcome dwindling prices – Jerat


Rwanda is food secure despite fall armyworm – Minister Mukeshimana

Sierra Leone

Over 150 women benefit from Amr Gold agricultural support

South Africa

SUNfarming technology spells good news for food security


Agriculture & forestry company Obtala has signed a Letter of Intent to build business in Tanzania through investment associated with Grow Africa partnership
Military Technologies

Organic agriculturists battle to take care of demand from global market
by B4FA Fellow Alex Mchomvu


Keep your small farm productive by taking good care of soil
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Lokonoi abandoned cattle rustling to try mixed farming

Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Uganda’s population growth puts spotlight on food
Financial Times

Rescue country from embarrassing food crisis

The current scarcity of maize in Uganda has driven many smallholder poultry farmers out of business due to the increasing prices of poultry feeds
Poultry Site


Wet season helps with bumper crops

Zimbabwe and the southern Africa should take advantage of the recent good rains beef up irrigation infrastructure to increase yields and global competitiveness