Read the B4FA Week in Review each Tuesday for the latest news concerning plant science in Africa...

B4FA – The Week in Review

7 July 2015


As the world looks forward to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP-21 conference in Paris starting on 30 November 2015, the relationship between climate change and agriculture is being examined. A piece from the Oxford Martin Program on the Future of Food points out that agriculture is not included in the draft of the global agreement and explores various facets of the issue. The author notes that, given "the current generation of farmers ... face two stark realities: the need to produce 70 per cent more food to feed a growing population of 9 billion by the year 2050, and the need to do so in climatic conditions never before faced," we should all be watching agriculture's evolving role in the climate negotiations carefully.  
In “Countdown to COP21 in Paris: New expectations for Africa or the same old circus?”, Dr. Johnson Nkem of the UN Economic Commission for Africa discusses possible development trajectories for Africa in response to climate change. We also have news of the launch of a climate and disaster resilience initiative for sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the launch of a climate data project that seeks to prepare poorer nations for climate change. Such initiatives will help vulnerable countries build resilience to climate change, including in the agricultural sector.

In crop biotech developments, a GM wheat that produces an aphid alarm pheromone failed to repel aphids in the field. With this result, scientists may next engineer the wheat plant to change the timing of pheromone release. Meanwhile, researchers in Kenya have found that a gene silencing technique has successfully reduced aflatoxin in maize. This is promising for small farms in Africa, where current aflatoxin control strategies have not been effective.

From the B4FA Fellows, we hear from Abdallah El Kurebe, who writes about a successful field trial of a new Bt cotton variety in Northern Ghana. Michael Ssali reports on Ugandan farmers learning how best to process cassava so as to preserve it for longer, enhancing both food security and household income. Ssali also writes about the Pope’s upcoming visit to Uganda and, in light of the recent papal encyclical on climate change, reflects on the need to start practicing climate smart agriculture. Finally Lominda Afedraru writes about a USAID programme to link Ugandan farmers with quality inputs such as seeds and fertilisers.

Thank you as ever for joining us, and please send questions, comments and links to

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

Climate data project seeks to prepare poorer nations
African Brains

Study: GM wheat producing aphid alarm pheromone fails to repel aphids in the field

Study: Host-Induced gene silencing reduces aflatoxin in maize

Unsubstantiated fears about GM takes food off of plates of hungry in Africa, Asia
Genetic Literacy Project

Reflections on why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public
The Conversation

Improving crops with RNAi
The Scientist

Can gene editing provide a solution to global hunger?
The Conversation

Talking Biotech: Neal Carter on non-browing Arctic Apple; Jonathan Wendel on DNA the of cotton
Genetic Literacy Project

Might polyculture cover crops give some benefit over monocultures?

The people who transformed the world of crop biotech

Ecomodernist Manifesto: Technology based agriculture more sustainable than ‘green’ myths
Genetic Literacy

Farmers net more profits growing GMOs globally, particularly in developing world
Genetic Literacy

Anti-poverty pioneer Sir Fazle Hasan Abed wins 2015 World Food Prize

White House orders review of rules for genetically modified crops
Business Standard

India: Scientists turn to crop gene editing to improve crops to avoid GM obstacles
New Indian Express


Countdown to COP21 in Paris: New expectations for Africa or the same old circus?\

Development partners launch climate and disaster resilience initiative for sub-Saharan Africa
African Brains

Memorandum signed to strengthen the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and maths in Africa
African Brains

African nations pledge greater women’s involvement in agriculture program
News Ghana

Yaya Toure: "Africa needs to invest in its youth, education and agriculture"
Nyasa Times

West Africa has "unprecedented opportunities" for agricultural growth
Global Post

Rwanda: Farmers urged to consider deploying insects against maize stem borer pests

Angola: Banana, cassava growers test new techniques in Buco-Zau

Kenya: Small farmers travel to Israel on agrotourism trips to learn best practices
FarmBiz Africa

Ethiopia: Improving seed quality for greater yield, food security

Gambia: Gunjur women committed to year-round vegetable production

Moth threatens Kenya’s Sh14b capsicum market
FarmBiz Africa

Horizon 2020 – first projects funded involving African researchers

Website lets Kenyan farmers shop for seeds
VOA News

Maize farming simplified
FarmBiz Africa


New BT cotton variety proves successful In Northern Ghana‎
News Diary Online, by B4FA Fellow Abdallah El Kurebe

Players in seed industry form association
News Ghana


Developing youth-friendly agriculture to boost food production
Leadership NGA

Agricultural infrastructure: a guarantee for jobs, poverty reduction and food security


Farm production remains bleak

Tanzania deputy minister for agri advocates adoption of biotech in agriculture


Naro station teaches cassava farmers to add value
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow  Michael Ssali

On the Pope’s visit, climate change, and agriculture
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Why do Ugandan farmers hardly use inputs like fertilisers to boost production?
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Seed companies asked to allay fears associated with GM seeds
New Vision

Fertilizer deficit mars Uganda farming; gov encourages investment in its manufacture

Agriculture boot camp for Miss Uganda contestants increases awareness of modern ag technologies

Views and opinions in Week in Review are solely those of the author or authors and do not necessarily represent those of B4FA.



New Bt cotton variety proves successful in Northern Ghana

By Abdallah El Kurebe, News Diary Online

A new variety of Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) cotton, which underwent trial in Northern Ghana, has proved successive, Dr. Emmanuel Chamba, a scientist at the Yam and Cotton Breeding Programme of the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), has confirmed.

The trial of the Bt cotton, which was carried out in the three northern regions of the country, was done by growing a non-Bt cotton along side the Bt cotton. “What we did was that we had a quarter hectare Bt cotton and a quarter hectare non-Bt cotton lying side by side. We did that in six locations in the three northern regions,” he said.

Chamba in an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra about the confined field trials of the crop in the country, said that although the results were positive necessary procedures would be carried out in order to get the Bt cotton seeds commercialised.

“The farmers are eager for the seeds to plant because of the high yields and the cost-effectiveness involved, but ours is to do the investigations and present the findings to the National Biosafety Authority for advice on the way forward,” he said.

It has been reported that some farmers from the three northern regions have sidestepped the regulatory system by planting Bt cotton seeds, which they brought from Burkina Faso. The seeds, the report further reveals were recording positive yields in spite of the trials that are being undertaken to ensure that all the safety precautions were undertaken to avoid any negative impact on the environment.

Farmers that are already involved in planting the Bt cotton posit that in view of the fact that Ghana and Burkina Faso share the same climate conditions, the need to drag the process did not arise. They therefore “call for the processes to be fast-tracked to have the seeds released before the end of the year.”

Chamba also confirmed farmers’ anxiousness to get the Bt cotton seeds on seeing that the trials in the six locations were positive. “But like I said, we had to ask them to calm down to have the processes completed and for the National Biosafety Authority to take a decision on the commercialisation,” he said.

Explaining the processes for the trial of the variety, Dr Chamba said that while trying the variety, “we sprayed the Bt cotton two times only as compared to the six times we did for the non-Bt (conventional) cotton.

“So with the Bt, it proved how farmers can cut down their spraying cost; how they will also reduce the impact of the chemicals on their environment and again how farmers will be able to save time,” he explained.

Comparing the yield of the Bt cotton with the conventional one, Chamba said: “In fact, in all the locations we tried, the yield of the Bt cotton was higher than the conventional one with the exception of one location where the farmer could not go according to instructions.”

He added that because very little cotton was being grown in Ghana, the production of cotton was not as expected, even though, he further said, government was making attempts to revive it.

“Some zoning of the production sector was done and three companies; Amajaro Cotton Company, Wienco Cotton Company and Olam were selected,” Chamba said adding that the companies had pulled out.

“Unfortunately, there is no production; only Wienco is attempting because it has put cotton under its maize programme,” he stressed.

Chamba assured that the Bt cotton seed was still under investigation at the research institute because “you cannot bring GM cotton seed and start planting as per our laws.”

To read the full article, visit News Diary Online 


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