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27TH JUNE 2019
Welcome to issue 17 of the DrumBeat!

We continue to bring you absorbing stories on Africa's latest bioscience development and cutting-edge scientific innovations, as well as expert views and recommendations on optimizing science and technology to steer the continent forward. We also bring you the latest research and publications on biosciences.

In this month's issue, the Story of the Month explores the role of science communication in combating emerging crop pests and diseases. With a spotlight on tribulations of Rwandan farmers, the story puts a strong case of how science communication can help transform rural communities.

In the Video of the Month, Ethiopian women scientists candidly share their experiences in communicating science to different stakeholders in the country. They applaud the importance of training scientists on science communication saying this is crucial in empowering women scientists to participate in public engagement and policy dialogue on bioscience issues.

This issue's Opinion Piece comes from Dr. Hala Eissa, the vice dean of the College of Biotechnology at Misr University for Science and Technology, Egypt. Dr. Eissa explores the prospects of biotechnology to the Egyptian food security system. Dr. Eissa is optimistic that Egypt has a golden chance to swiftly commercialize biotech crops since the country’s political regime is open to new ideas and innovations.

The DrumBeat also continues the countdown to the special Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication Symposium (ABBC2019) to be held from 29th-30th August, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. The symposium will bring together stakeholders with an interest in science to explore how to effectively communicate about genome editing and interrogate the various regulatory options and implications for adoption and application of this technology. We call on you to register, and participate in framing Africa's genome editing narrative.

Happy reading!

Country Crop Modified trait Date of approval
United States Apple Antibiotic resistance and non-browning April 25th 2019

Ethiopian Women for Biosciences Communication Training

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Bio Africa Convention
Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication Symposium, 2019 (ABBC2019)
Story of the month
Changing my Community through Science Communication

One fifth of the Rwandan population is food insecure. Ironically, agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy, contributing nearly 33% to the national GDP. Despite efforts to improve the sector, agriculture in Rwanda is still facing serious challenges such as climate change and emerging pests and diseases. Farmers’ tribulations are growing day by day in the face of these challenges. Habimana Jean Claude, a Rwandan agricultural communication specialist and journalist, explores the role of science communication in wrestling down these challenges and transforming rural communities.

Tissue culture protocols for the obligate parasitic plant Striga hermonthica and implications for host‑parasite co‑cultivation

To facilitate studies of Striga–host interactions for molecular and genetic studies, the authors of this study: (i) established an efficient protocol for growing Striga from seeds in tissue culture; (ii) optimized protocols for its regeneration through direct organogenesis and somatic embryogenesis, and (iii) determined the effect of co-culturing host and parasite in the same culture media. Techniques described in this study will enhance further understanding of Striga–host interactions.

Morphological characterization, genetic diversity and population structure of African nightshades

This study analysed morphological traits, genetic diversity and differentiation in 54 entries of: Solanum villosum and S. scabrum. Genetic diversity of the released cultivars and accessions was comparable to but lower than that of the local cultivars. The local cultivars had higher allelic richness and a larger number of unique alleles than did the developed cultivars and could serve as a useful gene pool for future breeding of superior germplasm.

Evaluation of the Genetic Diversity of African Yam Bean Using Seed Protein Marker

This study evaluated the genetic diversity on forty (40) accessions of African yam bean (Sphenostylis stenocarpa) obtained from IITA germplasm bank and other parts of Nigeria. The genetic differences among the accessions were detected by the presence or absence of bands, which could be used as a basis for variation among accessions. Results revealed high polymorphism (≈93%), indicating high intra-specific genetic variation with potential linkage to traits desired by breeders.

Global Report on Food Crises, 2019
WFP Hunger Map 2018