In the news...

September 30th, 2015 /
A farmer prepares his field for the planting season near Nathenje on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi. Australia is using its expertise and experience to help improve food security in African countries.  Photo: Stephen Morrison  Contact with the URL of an image or images to obtain a high resolution original.

Last week, 193 member states formally adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a new road map for tackling poverty, inequality and climate change that replaces the Millennium Development Goals, which expire this year. The second SDG aims to abolish hunger and achieve food security while promoting sustainable agriculture, putting these issues front and centre of global policy. At the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told world leaders that to reach this goal would require building “more sustainable agriculture and food systems … resilient to stresses and better able to cope with – and respond to – climate change impact.”

This raises questions about the role of science, technology and innovation on the global agenda. SciDevNet produced a report to coincide with the launch of the SDGs, finding that while sustainability science – “research that supports and drives sustainable development” – is a growing field, it is dominated by high-income countries, with low-income countries providing only 2 per cent of publications. The report calls for stronger South-South links between researchers, more stable policies, and better-communicated science. As for perspectives from the field, Farming First posted SDGs & Me: What the world’s farmers have to say about the post-2015 development agenda – a set of interviews giving voice to farmers and how they plan to take part in the SDGs.

Three initiatives to drive R&D were recently launched in Africa: a new scientific alliance, the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), enables researchers and innovators tap into a single pool of resources to further their work and build collaborations within the continent and beyond. A funding award by theWellcome Trust for seven leading African researchers and Grand Challenges Africa, which invests in local innovators, have also been launched.

In biotech news, researchers in Kenya announced the development of a new drought-tolerant maize variety. Called WE1101, it can cope with drought while producing yields averaging 4.5 tonnes of maize per hectare, more than double the national average of 1.8 tonnes per hectare. Also in Kenya, a new high-yielding coffee variety called Ruiru 11  is said to reduce production costs, is disease-resistant – requiring no spraying for leaf rust – and allows more plants per acreage. In China, scientists have cloned a rare gene  that may enhance rice yields. And at Oxford University, researchers have identified SP1, a photosynthesis gene that helps plants survive in stressful conditions such as drought and salinity.

From the B4FA Fellows this week: Noah Nash contributes a video on Ghana’s rice farmers being urged to adopt new nursing and transplanting methods for rice cultivation, while Michael Ssali writes from Uganda about the state of soil quality as an important factor in farming.

Thank you for joining us this week! As ever, please send materials, questions and comments to

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

Committing to a new future: The UN launches global goals to achieve humanity’s dream: sustainable development
Global Footprint Network

World’s 2030 goals put hunger and agriculture at the center of global policy

Sustainability science needs South-South collaboration

Where should global development community focus aid to end hunger?

SDGs & Me: What the world’s farmers have to say about the post-2015 development agenda
Farming First

World Food Programme chief calls for global youth-led movement to eradicate hunger by 2030 AllAfrica

UK former env minister Owen Paterson on why GMOs are safe, environmentally friendly and can save millions of lives

Photosynthesis gene could help plants stay healthy in stressful conditions

China may approve seven GMO crops, including corn, cotton, soy
Genetic Literacy Project

China: Scientists clone rare gene to enhance rice grain yield

Talking Biotech: Current pest control strategies increasingly focused, less toxic, and work better, say scientists
Genetic Literacy Project

Bees, butterflies and insecticides – listen to this podcast on crop protection from the entomological perspective
Genetic Literacy Project

This openly available digital ‘tree of life’ will help advance studies of life, disease, agriculture, and more 
Christian Science Monitor

The importance of genetic diversity in our food systems – Gurdev Khush
Global Plant Council

Ecomodernism… and a plea for depolarisation – Mark Lynas

“Setting a new standard for science transparency”: Kevin Folta
Science 2.0

Anti-GMO activist claims of no long-term safety studies demolished
Genetic Literacy Project

GMOs reduce food waste, increase global food security
Genetic Literacy Project

Concerned with Scotland’s ban, Royal Society of Edinburgh calls for rational GMO debate
Genetic Literacy

International conference and exhibition on cassava in Accra shares best practices

What agroecology in Cuba can teach us about food and climate change

Ecological approaches to agriculture: How the FAO works to make the world better
Sustainable Food Trust

Report: Climate change and the agriculture crisis: agroecology as a solution

Farming films help teach ag skills where they’re really needed

Australian National Press Club: Sustainability benefits of industrial agriculture
Genetic Literacy Project


Three initiatives launched to drive R&D in Africa

Fixing challenges of industrialization, a catalyst for Africa’s future in the next 15 years
Business Day Online

What some believe could make the biggest difference for Africa’s development
Deseret News

Africa’s farmers ‘need urgent climate-proof investment’

IFPRI food security portal for sub-Saharan Africa officially launched

Report: Overview of the scientific, political and financial landscape of Climate-Smart Agriculture in West Africa

African smallholder farmers should be given support to climate-proof food production, says report

Africa Analysis: What a new research excellence alliance needs to succeed

African farmers need investment to ensure future food production in the face of climate change
Atlanta Blackstar

President Mahama to African leaders: ‘Shopping malls not real signs of dev’t’ – focus on energy & agriculture

“If you eat, land degradation affects you” – UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw


Farm inputs offered to 112 SW farming groups


Report: What dimensions of women’s empowerment in agriculture matter for nutrition in Ghana?

Rice farmers urged to adopt nursing and transplanting methods for rice cultivation
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash


China funding agriculture research lab in Kenya
African Farming

New drought-tolerant maize variety developed in Kenya
African Farming

New plan to reduce crop diseases, increase food production is rolled out

New coffee variety Ruiru 11 Is high yielding

Seed selection tool for Kenyan farmers goes live, with hopes of increasing crop quality and output
FarmBiz Africa


“The imperative of rejuvenating agriculture”

Boosting Nigeria’s quest for self-sufficiency in rice production

Govt partners with China on agricultural development, woos Chinese investors

Yam production – stakeholders lament lack of planting materials

Rights group harps on nutrition, food security, particularly in children


South Korea investing US$5mn in supporting modern ag in Rwanda

South Africa

Addressing GMO misinformation in South Africa
SciDev USA

South Africa says no to GM potatoes, but GM corn, soy, cotton are OK


Tanzania champions youngsters in cotton farming

Zanzibar for rice self-sufficiency by 2020

Agricultural sector set up for speedy transformation with launch of fertilizer industry


World Food Programme to help Uganda tackle post-harvest loss

Climate change learning centres launched in Bulambuli, Sironko
Daily Monitor

How to grow vegetables for the high-end market
Daily Monitor

Conservation farming saves family from drought

State of soil quality is an important factor in farming
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali


Water harvesting: nourishing the land, body and mind — AgriCultures Network
Agricultures Net

Innovation to cultivation

Growing nutritious beans changed fortunes of Nyagatare farmer

Opportunities & resources

The European Commission has recently published itsDraft Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2016-2017, which contains three programmes for Africa, the first two of which require at least five African participants:

SFS-41-2016: EU-Africa Research and Innovation partnership on food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture. Budget €10 million. Open 27 October 2015. Close 17 February 2016.

SFS-42-2016: Promoting food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture in Africa: the role of innovation. Budget €5 million. Open 27 October 2015. Close 1st stage, 17 February 2016; 2nd stage 13 September 2016.

SFS-43-2017: Earth observation services for the monitoring of agricultural production in Africa. Budget €10 million. Open 4 October 2015. Close 1st stage, 17 February 2016; 2nd stage 13 September 2016.