This week, at the meeting of the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Africa Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) released a report on how African agriculture may be harnessed for the continent’s economic growth. The report assesses the states of African agriculture and suggests increased productivity on farms, reducing post-harvest losses and strengthening value chains to leverage the potential of agriculture for raising income and creating jobs.
Meanwhile, director-general of Nigeria’s National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Dr Rufus Ebegba has said the agency will not back down to recent anti-GMO activist attacks. This comes as Nigeria prepares for its first commercial GM crops, pest-resistant Bt cotton and cowpea. Meanwhile, Ebegba is reassuring the public that the NBMA will ensure the safe regulation of biotech in the country.
“NBMA is a highly rated biotechnology regulatory agency in the world and among the best in Africa,” he is quoted as saying. “We have one of the most advanced labs for GM detection and analysis. And we also have some of the best trained staff all over the world. In biosafety, the agency is fully prepared to ensure that Nigerians and the environment are protected.” A piece that ran in Nigeria’s Guardian covered the potential benefits of applying biotech to Nigerian agriculture.
The week also saw a flurry of articles on CRISPR, including its potential impact on agricultural produce, recently developed non-browning potatoes from Argentina and CRISPR’s potential to improve cacao trees, which are vulnerable to fungal diseases that can devastate crops. Researchers at Penn State University recently demonstrated that CRISPR can be used to develop disease-resistant varieties more quickly and effectively than traditional methods.
From the B4FA Fellows we hear from Michael Ssali who writes about Uganda’s agricultural challenges, including climate change, incurable crop diseases, a fast growing population, land fragmentation and depleted soils, while Lominda Afedraru reports on Ugandan farmers’ struggle with cassava viruses as they await the passing of biotech laws that would allow release of improved varieties.