High-level conference on STI marks OFAB’s 10th Anniversary

By Suleiman Okoth

November 08, 2017

Participants: ‘High-Level Conference on Application of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in Harnessing African Agricultural Transformation’ to mark OFAB 10th Anniversary held at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Uganda, from 27 to 29 September, 2017.

A High-Level Conference on Application of Science, Technology and Innovation in Harnessing African Agricultural Transformation marked Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) project 10th Anniversary celebrations that were held at Speke Resort, Munyonyo in Uganda, from 27 to 29 September 2017.

The conference whose theme was ‘integrating the path in Africa’s agricultural transformation’ was organized by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in partnership with the Government of Uganda,  African Union Commission, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD),  Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and other  partners.

Over 300 delegates from Africa, Europe, Asia and America — who included current and former ministers, deputy ministers, diplomatic missions, members of parliament, heads of research organizations, agricultural experts, leaders of farmer group organizations, science journalists, among others — attended the conference.

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Africa’s Biotech Integration 20 years Overdue, Says Prime Minister

By Daniel Otunge,

November 7, 2017

Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s Prime Minister

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, has called for urgent integration of modern biotechnology into Africa’s agriculture to help improve food security and economic growth.

He said this while officially closing The High-Level Conference on Application of Science, Technology and Innovation in Harnessing African Agricultural Transformation held at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Uganda, from 27 to 29 September 2017.

“Africa has been very slow in integrating modern biotechnology into the continent’s agriculture to help improve food security and economic growth. This is long overdue because it is now 20 years since GMOs were first commercialized. African agriculture must continue to evolve and make use of science, technology and innovations.

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Uganda poised for Bio-economy, Uganda STI Minister, says

By Daniel Otunge

November 6, 2017

Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, Ugandan Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation.

“Passing of the Biosafety Bill into law by parliament will help Uganda to develop the economy and improve its food security situation,” Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, Ugandan Minister of Science Technology and Innovation, said.

Speaking during the official closing ceremony of the The High-Level Conference on Application of Science, Technology and Innovation in Harnessing African Agricultural Transformation held at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Uganda, from 27 to 29 September 2017, the minister stated categorically that his ministry is ready to do everything possible to ensure utility of science, technology and innovation (STI) to help develop Uganda’s economy and improve food production for both consumption and exports.

Dr Tumwesigye noted that the conference whose theme was ‘Integrating the path in Africa’s Agricultural Transformation,’ could not have come at a better time when the Ugandan government is working towards passing the Biosafety Bill to implement the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy of 2008.

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AATF to establish annual STI policy dialogue platform

By Daniel Otunge

November 4, 2017

Dr Denis Kyetere (right), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Executive Director with Dr Elioda Tumwesigye (centre), Ugandan Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation during the High-Level Conference on Application of Science, Technology and Innovation in Harnessing African Agricultural Transformation held at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Uganda, from 27 to 29 September 2017

In his closing remarks, during the High-Level Conference on Application of Science, Technology and Innovation in Harnessing African Agricultural Transformation held at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Uganda, from 27 to 29 September 2017, the Executive Director of AATF, Dr Denis Kyetere, welcomed the conference’s key recommendation to establish an annual high-level platform to discuss issues of science, technology and innovation.

He promised to ensure implementation of recommendation by establishing the platform that would be used by African leaders and experts to deliberate on utilization of STI to transform agriculture. The platform would mainly focus on policy options support technology adoption and utilization by smallholder farmers who dominate farming in Africa.

Science-based biosafety laws and STI policies, laws and regulations are needed in Africa to ensure that Africa is not left behind by the on-going economic revolution led by advances in biosciences, such as modern biotechnology and gene editing, Dr Kyetere said.

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Message from the Board Chair: AATF Annual Report 2016

By Dr. Ousmane Badiane

October 01, 2017

Dr Ousmane Badiane, AATF Board Chair and IFPRI’s Africa Director.

The most effective way to reduce poverty is to raise the productivity of resources that poor people depend on for their livelihood. For most African countries, these resources are agricultural land and labour. Growth within the agriculture sector does not only lead to improved food security among rural farming communities, it also spurs growth in other sectors of the economy as farmers spend their incremental income on locally produced goods and services.  With sustained growth and transformation of the agricultural sector and the rural economy, more wealth is created, generating fiscal resources to invest in infrastructure, education, health, science and technology − all catalysts for economic transformation and industrialisation.

Agriculture is however a technology-intensive undertaking and is bound to be even more so in the decades to come. While we are looking for responses to the technological challenges faced by the agricultural sector today, we also need to pay attention to the future. The global community cannot meet the challenge of feeding an additional 2.5 billion people by 2050 without a more productive and competitive agricultural sector in Africa. A failure to sustainably and competitively raise production in the agricultural sector would penalise African countries in two significant ways. Global food supplies would rise less, leading to higher food prices. African countries would not only miss the opportunity to earn foreign exchange from higher exports, they would also have to import food at higher prices to meet their domestic needs.

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Eliminating crude ethanol imports in Nigeria through enhanced cassava production

By Abdalla el-Kurebe

October 27, 2017

Farmers in Oyo demonstrating the use of machine to plant cassava, facilitated by AATF through CAMAP. Photo by Nigerian Tribune.

Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava but the nation’s annual local demand for ethanol is between 300 and 400 million litres. The country only meets up with three percent of total annual demand.

The balance of 97% is presently met through importation, requiring a whooping N160 billion – an expense that must be curtailed. Bridging the importation gap Funded by the United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) came up with the Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-Processing (CAMAP) project.

This brings cassava cluster farmers as producers and processors, who are up-takers, together. Aimed at encouraging mechanisation thereby growing beyond subsistence, the cassava farmers are provided with farm inputs including fertilisers, insecticides, implement as well as taught best practices, under the project.

According to CAMAP project coordinator, Ayodele David, “A farmer spends 10 days to harvest cassava on a hectare of land while a farmer in India spends less than six hours on the same portion of land under mechanisation.”

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Nigeria Prepares for Commercialisation of BT Cowpea, Cotton

By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja

October 17, 2017

Cowpea seeds. Photo by Mansoor Ali Khan

The National Agriculture Seed Council (NASC) has commenced sensitisation of Nigerian seed companies in preparation for the commercialisation of Genetically Modified Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cowpea and cotton by 2018.

A sensitisation workshop organised in partnership with an association that represents private seed companies in Africa, the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) with support from Seed Enterprises Entrepreneur Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN); African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF); Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB); Africa Harvest; and the National Biosafety Management Agency (NABDA), in Abuja, was staged to educate seed companies that are expected to play a major role in the distribution of genetically engineered seeds when the nation finally commercialises it next year.

Giving the opening remarks, the director-general of NASC, Dr Philip Ojo, said the meeting was very important for Nigeria because it was focused on educating major seed industry players from the public and private sector agencies registered and accredited to do seed business in the country on recent developments and technological advancements in agriculture particularly as it relates to biotechnology and GMOs.

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Message from the Executive Director: AATF Annual Report 2016

By Dr Denis Kyetere,

October 01, 2017

Dr Denis Kyetere, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Executive Director

AATF progressed in all its project goals during the 2016 financial year recording key firsts in some areas as we continue to focus on providing technology-based solutions to a broader farmer community based on their needs.

A key highlight for us during 2016 was injection of an additional 38 maize hybrids into the commercial seed market in east and southern Africa. Of these, 33 were realised under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa Project (WEMA) that released 28 conventional (DroughtTEGO®) and 5 transgenic varieties as part of our climate change mitigation work, while 5 hybrids trademarked StrigAway were released through the Striga Control in Maize Project that is contributing towards pest management interventions. Some of the conventional WEMA hybrids are recording, under moderate drought, yield benefits of up to 56% (3.9 tonnes per hectare) compared with the commercial varieties used as checks (2.5 tonnes per hectare). StrigAway hybrids have achieved yield benefits of between 0.5 to 1.5 tonnes per hectare, which at times is about 100% depending on severity of Striga infestation.

 We also expanded the range of products that is getting to farmers through our activities. The first transgenic product out of the WEMA Project, the insect-pest protected (Bt) maize, trademarked TELA™, was planted by farmers in South Africa. This is a first for AATF and we are excited and thankful to all our partners. The five TELA hybrids are being licensed to seed companies for production. Continue reading

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Kenya launches task force to facilitate commercialization of GM cotton

By Xinhua News

October 11, 2017

A farmer tending her cotton crop in Kenya. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

NAIROBI, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) — Kenya on Wednesday unveiled a national task force to oversee the commercialization of genetically modified cotton in the next five years.

Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Willy Bett said the team will build the capacity of key stakeholders involved in the rollout of genetically engineered cotton.

“The government is committed towards harnessing the benefits of biotechnology to help improve rural livelihoods, create employment and increase foreign direct investments in the cotton sub-sector,” Bett said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

He said Kenyan farmers will start cultivation of the Bt cotton in 2019 once the task force establishes structures to support that endeavor.

Bt cotton is genetically enhanced with Bt-genes to protect it against caterpillar pests, especially the African bollworm, the most destructive pest in cotton crops. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a beneficial bacteria that occurs naturally in the soil, local Daily Nation reported.

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DroughtTEGO® to address food insecurity in Africa

By Florida Maritim

October 01, 2017

Maize in a farm. FILE PHOTO | KALRO

In the recent past, African farmers have suffered harsh climatic conditions that has wiped away their livestock and crops. According to research, three-quarters of the world’s severe drought occurs in Africa, affecting small scale farmers whom rely on rainfall to water their crops. Maize is the most affected crop, yet over 300 million people rely on it as staple food.

Like the rest of Africa, Kenya’s drought situation has affected maize production as farmers suffer severely from unpredictable weather and low yields. However, thanks to Water efficient maize for Africa project, WEMA for short, which is a public-private partnership project that has ensured that introduced a drought tolerant maize variety with high yields under moderate to address the drought menace.

The WEMA project is being co-ordinated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To this extent farmers have been relieved from the stress of bad weather which in past has resulted to loss of their hard earned sweat in the farm. Most semi areas in Kenya, such as the Machakos, Kitui, Embu and Tharaka Nithi regions can now enjoy planting the new maize variety called DroughtTEGO maize.

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