In the news...

February 28th, 2019 /

We are pleased to highlight an article by our own Professor Chris Leaver – an overview of the world’s current food security situation noting the challenges inherent in feeding a projected population of 9.7 billion in 2050, 2.5 billion of whom will be African. He calls for sustainable intensification and, especially in Africa, increased training and investment in scientific disciplines involved in crop improvement, plus creating new business models for orphan crops.

This week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture issued a study which warns that the biodiversity on which our food security depends is in steep decline. The report, titled The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, states that climate change, land use change and pollution are causing biodiversity loss. It also notes that, of the 6,000 plant species that have been cultivated for food, only 9 account for 66% of total crop production.

This report is the first of its kind. While the FAO has previously published global assessments of the genetic resources of crop plants, livestock and forest trees, “[w]hat has been missing to date has been an assessment of how biodiversity as a whole contributes to food and agriculture, including ‘associated biodiversity’, the myriad components of biodiversity that support food and agricultural production by providing services such as pollination, pest control, soil formation and maintenance, carbon sequestration, purification and regulation of water supplies, reduction of disasters threats, and the provision of habitat for other beneficial species,” says the FAO in its foreword. “The urgency of closing knowledge gaps in this field is underlined by the mounting evidence that the world’s biodiversity is under severe threat and by the ever-growing challenges facing food and agriculture, including particularly those related to the impacts of climate change.”

The study includes data from 91 countries, which submitted reports on the state of their biodiversity for food and agriculture, “focusing particularly on associated biodiversity and its role in the supply of supporting and regulating ecosystem services and on wild species that are sources of food,” says the foreword. To read the full report, visit the FAO.

B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru writes this week in Uganda’s Daily Monitor about how African scientists are controlling cassava diseases with their efforts at breeding virus-resistant varieties. Meanwhile, Michael Ssali also writes about best practices for reducing post-harvest losses in this week’s Daily Monitor.

We are also having to say au revoir, we hope temporarily, to our editor Karen Eng who has tweeted and put together the Week in Review for B4FA for the past four years. We’d like to thank her for her tireless work and constant enthusiasm, and we all hope that we’ll be able to renew her involvement soon.

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.


Unlocking agricultural potential to achieve food security and sustainability for 9.7 billion

Growing threat to food from decline in biodiversity

Biodiversity is essential to food and agriculture yet, it is declining worldwide. Check out the new FAO report on The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture

‘Terrifying’: Rapid loss of biodiversity placing global food supplies at risk of ‘irreversible collapse’
Common Dreams

Of 6,000 plant species that have been cultivated for food, just 9 account for 66% of total crop production. Read more from the FAO STOTW’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture Report

Cassava experts gather to champion ‘orphan crop’

AgBio news

Boosting plants’ uptake of vitamins and minerals
The Scientist

New crop loss study underscores urgent need for resistant varieties
Alliance for Science

There are high expectations GMO rice currently under trials in Ghana will better the lives of ordinary rice farmers once released onto the market
MyJoy Online

Finding the right bean for biofortification can be like a needle in a haystack if the genebank has over 38,000 samples from 144 countries. Stefania, the CGIAR Genebank Platform Impact Fellow, found the right one: MAC 44

Harnessing modern agricultural biotechnology for Africa’s economic development

Nigeria has its first GMO cowpea. The battle for public acceptance is just getting started
Genetic Literacy Project

Nigeria: Govt urged to ignore call to ban GM beans

Nigeria: Genetically modified beans safe for consumption, scientists insist
The Guardian

Scientists develop wheat that fights celiac disease

Smallholder farmers lack access to quality seeds, study shows
Cornell Alliance for Science

Genetically modified organisms: putting the ‘sweet’ back into corn?
SciTech Europa

Kenya: GMO odium coffee history repeating itself
Daily Nation

SA Government moves to scrap GM crop ban

Drought-tolerant corn adoption jumps 20% in four years as US farmers strive to protect crop yields
Genetic Literacy Project

GM maize’s surprising benefit
Alliance for Science

New genetically modified cotton approved in Argentina
Krishi Jagran

Digital Green Revolution: ICAR’s plan to digitise breeding programmes of eight crops to double annual yield
Financial Express

Quantitative methods in plant breeding

Best practices

Why sweet potato is the darling for farmers in western Kenya
Daily Nation

How farmers can control cassava diseases 
AllAfrica, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Uganda: How farmers can reduce the losses on their farms this year
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Agroecology is helping 100,000 farmers in the Sahel become more resilient to climate change. Read how GroundswellInt is working directly with them to climate proof agriculture in semi-arid regions of Africa
Farming First

Kenya farmers lose over Sh150 billion In post-harvest losses


SDG Knowledge Weekly: Food, Nutrition and Genetic Resources

FAO Report: Biodiversity vital for food and agriculture declining fast

Why do we need to keep breeding new crop varieties?
Sustainable Secure Food Blog

Biodiversity reveals the treasures all around us

Nigeria: Egusi – the hidden treasure melon farmers ignore

Climate change and environment

What is the resilience deficit and how is it being tackled in the Sahel?
Farming First

Early sowing can help save Australia’s wheat from climate change
The Conversation


Agriculture can end Uganda’s job problem, says new study

Rwanda: Youth in agriculture appeal for incubation hub

UN envoy says Chinese technical assistance critical in Africa’s agriculture development
New China

Energy and innovation

Big data harvesting tool will deliver smart farming
John Innes Centre

Open Data can deal with global food security challenges: GODAN
African Farming

French President Emmanuel Macron calls for blockchain usage in agriculture industry
Coin Rivet

Food security

How Tanzania plans to tackle food drought
IPP Media

Pests and diseases

Massive locust swarms threaten food security in Egypt, Saudi Arabia
NOQ Report

Plant pests: The biggest threat to food security?
Somaliland Press

‘Unintended consequences’: UK restrictions on neonicotinoid insecticides may have harmed bees
Genetic Literacy Project

The GM debate

“No genetic engineering means people die”

Opportunities and resources

Online course: Introduction to Sustainable Consumption and Production in Africa – Second Edition 29 Apr 2019 to 21 Jun 2019

East Africa Key Message Update, February 2019

South African Crop Protection Market by Type, Nature & Form of Pesticide; Type of Crop; and Market Structure – Forecast to 2022
AP News