In the news...

May 4th, 2019 /

WE HAVE CHANGED …Due to severely restricted funds, we have changed what we do regularly. Our newsletter is now be published MONTHLY – and this is the second. 

We are still tweeting (@B4FA) daily, posting on Facebook (Biosciences for farming in Africa) and updating our website (www.b4fa.orgregularly.

We hope you value what we do. We have raised just enough fund to continue until the end of 2019, But we want to forge partnerships with African organisations and individuals so that through active cooperation we can together both continue and widen our activities. Can you help, or do you know of someone who might? Or have you any comments and criticisms about what we are doing, and how we could improve? Please contactProfessor Christopher Leaver, CBE, FRS, FRSE or;Bart Ullstein as soon as possibleWe really want to hear from you.

April has seen much news on bioscience, agriculture and farming. As a result, this month’s Newsletter is very full. We hope you will bear with us, as we do try to select the most relevant stories as they reflect and show potential benefit for farming in Africa. We hope that you will find something of interest among the stories we include.
We lead by highlighting a report from the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) which found that around 113 million people in 53 countries experienced acute food insecurity in 2018, compared to 124 million in 2017. While the 9 per cent improvement is to be celebrated, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica noted that the report highlights the need for a strengthened cooperation between humanitarian, development and peace actors to reverse and prevent food crises. Nearly two-thirds of those facing acute hunger are in just eight countries, five of which are in Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Sudan. The report also highlighted that fully a quarter of the acutely food insecure were victims of climate and natural disasters.
In our featured article, by Achim Steiner, Administrator, the United Nations Development Programme and Dr. Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute, point out that around the world rural areas are in crisis. Rural residents make up 45 per cent of the world’s population but bear a disproportionate burden of poverty, malnutrition, and poor quality of life. The article goes on to suggest that as the deadlines to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate goals draw ever closer, it is time for a dramatic, system-wide transformation to make rural areas more productive, sustainable, climate-resilient, healthy, and attractive places to live in order to leave no one behind. We can only include an extract, but we link to the full article.
A piece from Science magazine argues that a world without hunger is possible but only if food production is sustainably increased and distributed and extreme poverty is eliminated. Globally, most of the poor and undernourished people live in rural areas of developing countries, where they depend on agriculture as a source of food, income, and employment. International data show a clear association between low agricultural productivity and high rates of undernourishment. Global studies have also shown that rapid reduction of extreme poverty is only possible when the incomes of smallholder farmers are increased. Therefore, sustained improvement in agricultural productivity is central to socioeconomic development. In the article, the authors argue that with careful deployment and scientifically informed regulation, new plant breeding technologies (NPBTs) such as genome editing will be able to contribute substantially to global food security.
We also headline reports on African swine fever that is sweeping through the Chinese pig herd. The New York Times reports that to date more than a million pigs have been culled, continuing “a billion-plus pork-loving people are facing much tighter supplies. The need to fill the gap is influencing meat markets worldwide.” Further, Bloomberg reports that getting rid of the disease and rebuilding the herd in a nation that consumes half the world’s pork will take three to five years, curbing demand for soybeans used in feed. Pig World reports on an outbreak of the deadly disease on a farm in South Africa, while Farm Journal’s Pork links the outbreak potentially to contact with wild animals, a factor that is worrying pig farmers not just in Africa, but also across Russia to Europe.
On a more positive note we also headline the work of the John Innes Centre (JIC) to increase the iron content of wheat, potentially bringing health benefits to anaemia sufferers around the world. The project follows advances in wheat genome sequencing which has allowed researchers to identify the genes responsible for the transport of iron, an important micronutrient. The JIC team has been able to move one such gene and make it active in the endosperm, the main starchy part of the wheat seed which produces white flour but has a low iron content. Currently, white flour is fortified using iron powder or iron salts but the crop trials, if successful, will remove the need for this process by creating a wheat plant which produces flour with its own built-in natural iron. And then there’s news of other work at the JIC to improve the iron content of Tanzanian beans.
Lastly, we highlight the discovery of gene conversion mechanisms, which essentially see one version of a gene (allele) being converted to another during double stranded DNA break repair, that could lead to the breeding of high-yielding wheat varieties.

We welcome questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. Please also visit for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.

Global Report on Food Crises: acute hunger still affecting over 100 million people worldwide

New plant breeding technologies for food security
Science, US

Afican Swine Fever
African swine fever, which harms pigs but not humans, has swept across China, the world’s largest pork producer
New York Times

Deadly pig disease is reshaping global soybean markets
Bloomberg, US

African swine fever rears its head in South Africa
Farm Journal’s Pork

South Africa reports farm outbreak of African swine fever
Pig World

Improving wheat and beans
VideoWhy make high-iron wheat
John Innes Centre

VideoHow do you make high-iron wheat
John Innes Centre

Improving the iron content of Tanzanian beans
John Innes Centre

Newly discovered ‘gene conversion’ mechanism could lead to high-yielding wheat
Science Daily

Africa: new consortium to reduce environmental footprint of rice production
All Africa

Chinese Green Super Rice promotes sustainable agriculture development in Asia and Africa

Hybrid rice seeds yielding hope
China Daily

Sequenced durum wheat genome aids efforts to breed more nutritious, disease-resistant crops
Genetic Literacy Project

Chinese researchers have discovered a “death switch” in plant immune systems that can provide resistance
Xinhua, China

A consortium of Dutch seed companies have launched the Seeds for Change (S4C) programme in Kano State, providing quality seeds and training to vegetable farmers to up their yields
Leadership, Nigeria

Nigeria: government to partner the Netherlands on seed development
All Africa

Building resilience across East Africa one seed at a time

Can we boost crop yields by making photosynthesis better with genetic engineering?
Genetic Literacy Project

Fine tuning photosynthesis: predictive model helps scientists breed higher yielding crops
Genetic Literacy Project

What is the relationship between maize crop yields and genetic activity in the plant’s metabolic pathways?
Scitech Europa

HarvestPlus developed the Biofortification Priority Index (BPI) to help assess which country-crop combinations will have the greatest impact in reducing micronutrient deficiencies
Biofortification Priority Inde

Naturally mutating corn pollen genes may lead the way to higher-yielding crops
Genetic Literacy Project

Microbial biofertilizer could boost sustainable farming as food demand booms
Genetic Literacy Project

Epigenetics could alter the way we breed crops for drought and climate change
Genetic Literacy Project

New cane varieties to boost Zimbabwe’s sugar output
Cajnews Africa

First commercial sale of calyxt high oleic soybean oil on the US market 

Project to improve tilapia seed launched in Accra
Joy, Ghana

Farmers in Kenya are ready to help select improved amaranth cultivars
World Vegetable Center

This tiny new grain could save the planet
World Economic Forum

The real price of food – we must produce good, clean food using environmentally friendly practices says B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Declining diversity of sorghum, world’s fifth most important cereal crop, could threaten Africa’s food security
Genetic Literacy Project

Harnessing plant hormones for food security in Africa

Food preservation in developing countries: challenges and solutions

Five-university partnership to seek solutions to global challenges including food shortages and the effects of climate change
University World News

Drive to increase food security in East Africa through farmer training
All Africa

Application of genetic modification and genome editing for developing climate‐smart banana
Wiley, US

Africa: a global rural crisis – rural revitalization is the solution say UNDP’s Achim Steiner and Dr. Shenggen Fan of International Food Policy Research Institute
All Africa

Root cause of agrarian crisis lies in economics, not technology says  MS Swaminathan
News Click, India

Africa has good news says Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the AfDB
The Guardian, Nigeria

The next phase of agricultural transformation that is required to boost food security and rural incomes across Sub-Saharan Africa will be realized through adoption of new technologies and innovation
Xinhua, China

Innovation, research and technology key to achieving food security
Fifth Estate

World Bank: slowdown in growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will not last
Business Times, China

Africa: why fixing food systems is crucial for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals
All Africa

Sustainable agriculture is the root of Africa’s economic transformation

Infrastructure development key to Africa’s growth
Eurasia Review

The Agriculture Fast Track Fund (AFT), hosted by the African Development Bank, has announced US$ 3,390,000 funding for 17 new small and medium enterprises in the agriculture sector

The AfDB project to support the employability and integration of young people in growth sectors (PAEIJ-SP) in Togo has helped create 35,000 jobs in agricultural SMEs
African Farming, UK

Agricultural innovations seen boosting Kenya’s food security, manufacturing
Xinhua, China

Financial institutions sceptical about Africa agriculture investment

World Bank subsidiary, IFC, signs agreement with Africa RE to protect smallholder Nigerian farmers against environmental risks
Pulse, Nigeria

Africa Re Joins World Bank’s IFC to build crop insurance market for Nigeria’s farmers
Insurance Journal

Ghana in need of US $40m to fill the financial gap in the agricultural sector- FAO
Farmers Review Africa

Royalty-free seeds, mobile devices help African farmers boost crop yields despite drought
Genetic Literacy Project

Pioneering Kenya eyes next stage of mobile money
Financial Times

Free Download: Climate Change: Evidence and Causes
The US National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society

While the rich world braces for future climate change, the poor world is already being devastated by it

How synthetic biology can cut nitrogen pollution and help reverse climate change
Genetic Literacy Project

Why Africa stands to benefit if rise in global temperatures is kept to 1.5°C
The Conversation

Ecological restoration can be a powerful means of protecting the atmosphere
The Guardian, UK

Africa: technology eases farming ‘drudgery’ and risk as climate threats grow
All Africa

Climate Smart Agriculture: How can we be smart about it?
Observer Research Foundation

Tanzania’s climate smart agriculture
African Daily Voice

Exploring opportunities around climate-smart breeding for future food and nutrition security

Kenya must reinvent its agriculture – rainwater harvesting must become a priority as continued dependence on rain-fed agriculture is no longer tenable
The Star, Kenya

Kenyan scientist urges African countries to adopt drought tolerant crops
Xinhua, China

Why the world needs an African ecofeminist future
Equal Times

Bridging information gaps for women agripreneurs

AfDB to support Ghanaian women in agribusiness
Graphic, Ghana

Women in Rwanda redefine gender roles through agribusiness
Pulitzer Center

Vodacom Foundation equips female farmers with digital skills
IT News Africa

How ‘savings circles’ empower women in rural Africa
World Economic Forum

Africa in the Digital Era – hype or reality? Adebayo Adedeji Annual lecture
Business Ghana

Regulatory bottlenecks slow down drone revolution in agric sector

How drones can help rural Africa take flight
World Economic Forum

Mobile app aiding farming data collection and sharing

The 5G revolution is coming to Africa
The Africa Report

Tunisia, South Korea and African Development Bank yesterday signed a deal to establish a training centre for drones used for data collection to the enhance management of agricultural projects
Middle East Monitor

Protecting Africa’s climate change-hit harvests

Uber of tractors moves to bridge agricultural mechanisation gap in African farms
The Exchange, Tanzania

AgriTechs bet on Kenya’s mobile coverage to make farming more productive
Capital Business, Kenya

World Bank eyes a million farmers with ‘disruptive’ digital platform
Business Daily Africa

Accelerating economic development through digital in Africa
IT News Africa

Tapping into digital technology platforms to boost farming productivity in Africa
How we made it in Africa

Ghana has begun the use of drone technologies in farming as it takes steps to digitize and revolutionize its agricultural sector

New partnership to boost food security in Africa by use of AI
Seed World

Africa machinery outlook – structural barriers keeping growth subdued
Fitch Solutions

Innovative smart-phone app to improve rainwater harvesting in Africa

Video: the biggest revolution in gene editing: Crispr-Cas9 explained
The Guardian, UK

Video: the basics of GMO safety and labelling 
Genetic Literacy Project

Video: harvesting grasshoppers in Uganda

Video:  Managing tomato late blight
Access Agriculture

Podcast: GMO insect-resistant cowpea helps Africa combat destructive pests without chemicals
Genetic Literacy Project

A new Green Revolution: scientists are using CRISPR to re-domesticate fruits and vegetables
Discover Magazine

CRISPR-edited ‘super plants’ might be our best chance to slow climate change
Genetic Literacy Project

Africa edging toward greater acceptance of genetically engineered crops
Genetic Literacy Project 

International group of economists, geneticists calls for relaxed crop gene-editing rules to promote food security
Genetic Literacy Project

CRISPR crops spur farming innovation despite climate change, water shortages and exploding food demand
Genetic Literacy Project

Why now is the time for the convergence of agriculture and CRISPR technology
AG Daily

The Nigerian Federal Government is to release new Genetically Modified rice, BT rice, BT cassava and other crops soon
The Vanguard, Nigeria

Nigeria’s Bio-safety Management Agency says there is no approval by the government for the release of genetically modified mangoes, grapes fruits, and cassava
Plus TV, Nigeria

Working to build trust in the insect-resistant BT cowpea, Nigeria’s first genetically modified food crop
Genetic Literacy Project

Current GMO regulation is crippling advancements in sustainable development and food security
Food Navigator

CRISPR’s challenge: it’s still easier to subtract genes than it is to add them
Genetic Literacy Project

Photosynthesis-efficient rice could help meet surging food demand in developing countries
Genetic Literacy Project

Genetically engineered animals face daunting regulatory process
Alliance for Science, US

GMO tomato demonstrates ‘high levels’ of resistance to root knot nematode in new study
Genetic Literacy Projects

From high-yielding rice to disease-resistant oranges, CRISPR-edited crops could save our favorite foods
Genetic Literacy Project

Boosting corn yields with CRISPR-carrying pollen
European Scientist

Genetic breakthrough on tropical grass could help develop climate-friendly cattle farms

CRISPR’d wheat helps farmers control weeds
Chinese Academy of Sciences

CRISPR could save banana, major food source for 500 million people, from deadly disease, climate change
Genetic Literacy Project

The world needs smart bananas
Fresh Plaza

Diseases deal massive blow to productivity in Africa

New standards to curb spread of plant pests and diseases
African Farming

Fall Armyworm detected in South Africa
African Daily Voice

Biological weapon against fall armyworm found in Africa

Staving off Striga, the ‘violet vampire’ – scientists are getting closer to finding viable solutions to the menace of parasitic plants
Nature Middle East

Developing herbicide-tolerant varieties by genome editing holds great promise for addressing the worsening weed problems in wheat cultivation

An invasive, thorny tree is taking over Africa – can it be stopped?
National Geographic, US

Monsanto, Roundup and cancer: cutting chemicals from agriculture is a cost we can’t yet afford

The Robin Hood bias against glyphosate

Huge success of virus and vector diagnostic training could lead to similar future opportunities
Connected, UK

Newly discovered plant immune response mechanism reveals how crops battle deadly pathogens
Genetic Literacy Project

The future of plant disease management
Sustainable, Secure Food

Natural enemies against the devastating millet head mine
Agri Links

350 African researchers to benefit from training in how to tackle crop disease
BizCommunity Africa

New diseases threaten aquaculture

As weeds outsmart the latest weedkillers, farmers are running out of easy options
The Salt

Invasive weed could cut crop yields by 30 per cent

Nigeria: a strange disease is ravaging many tomato farms in Jigawa State
All Africa

Poor seeds affecting food production, experts say
The Star, Kenya

Kenyans oppose bid to ban use of raw animal manure on crops
All Africa

How to rear pigs in urban areas – practical advice
Daily Monitor, Uganda

The tree helping Kenyan farmers beat drought and poverty
All Africa

Cameroon government programme is providing training and funds to help farmers process and package local spices and herbs, boosting their incomes and protecting forests
All Africa

How you can start cassava farming
Daily Monitor, Uganda

B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru explains why farmers must treasure insects
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Tomatoes serve couple juicy profits thanks to irrigation– B4FA Fellow Lominda Afredraru reports
Daily Monitor, Uganda

B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali explains how you can grow bananas successfully
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Kenyan scientists are advancing an innovative bio-control remedy that is helping smallholder farmers fight the scourge of aflatoxin
Alliance for Science

Tanzania: poultry production cost cut as insects are used as feed
All Africa

It is almost standard for young people to migrate to large towns but Pascal Migadde believes it’s more rewarding to be a farmer says Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor

How you can manage bird flu
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Do you keep farm records? It’s vital, asks B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Why massive effort needs to be put into growing trees on farms
The Conversation

Economic impact of smallholder farmers in East Africa
Exchange, Tanzania

Smallholder farmers need holistic financing solutions: John Deere Financial
African Farming, UK

Smallholder horticultural empowerment and promotion approach
Fresh Plaza

Agriculture Fast Track Fund to launch 17 new projects in support of agribusiness small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana and seven other African countries
Africa News

Moves to industrialise agriculture must involve smallholder farmers – Agbugba, Senior Research Fellow, Africa Agricultural Agenda
The Independent, Nigeria

African Development Bank Group (AfDB) – Youth & Employment Officer. Apply here. Closing date 11 May 2019
Financial Watch

Media skills for scientists – a free online course addresses any reservations scientists and researchers  might have about engaging with journalists and packaging scientific information for non-scientists

How to convince the media to report about your research

Committee on World Food Security 46, 14 – 18 October 2019 at FAO, Rome
the first global meeting on food security and nutrition after theHigh Level Political Forum SDG Summit

Budding journalists are being offered a step up the career ladder thanks to a new mentoring scheme

Opportunity: The African Academy of Sciences and Royal Society announce the African recipients of £25M FLAIR scheme
African Academy of Sciences

The Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) – at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), 29-30 October 2019. The theme Enhancing Impact: Digitalisation, Investment and Intra-African Trade

Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) Fellowships are for talented African early career researchers

Senior Agriculture Officer at African Development Bank

PhD Fellowships for women scientists from science and technology lagging countries

PhD OPPORTUNITIES for the next generation of agricultural research scientists for Africa
Rothamsted Research

Do you want to help improve global food security?University College Cork’s MSc in  Food Security Policy and Management is now recruiting students from diverse backgrounds – learn more
University College Cork, Ireland

eLearning Africa launches agriculture track a special programme for africa’s farming and food sector
Entrepreneur Network