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29TH JULY 2019
Welcome to issue 18 of the DrumBeat!

We would like to begin by thanking all our readers for your continued support since we started this journey one and a half years ago. We take pride and encouragement from your positive feedback on the stories we share.

The Opinion Piece takes us to Ethiopia where Dr. Kassahun Tesfaye, Director General of Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute (EBTi) shares insights in fostering a thriving agricultural biotechnology environment in Africa. In the Story of the Month, we feature an interview with Dr. Abdoulaye Diabaté, a Senior Medical Entomologist and Principal Investigator with the Target Malaria project in Burkina FAso. Here, Dr. Diabaté addresses fundamental questions surrounding the use of innovative genetic technologies in control of malaria-causing mosquitoes in Africa.

This month's video features Kalkidan Tesfu, a researcher with the Ethiopia National Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center (NABRC). Ms. Tesfu demonstrates progressive research in genetic improvement of maize through selection for tolerance to soil acidity.

With a month to go, the Drumbeat team calls on stakeholders with an interest in genome editing to register for the upcoming Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication(ABBC symposium scheduled for 29th – 30th August 2019 in Pretoria, Republic of South Africa. The symposium will provide a unique opportunity to network and address key communication components that will lay the foundation for effective dialogue on genome editing in Africa.

Finally, we announce an open call for participation in the 2019 Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB)-Kenya Media Awards. The award continues to recognize and promote excellence in reporting agricultural biotechnology.

Enjoy your read!

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

Soil Acidity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Ethiopian
Scientists Developing Tolerant Maize Varieties

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5th African Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases & Biosecurity
Kenya NBA 8th Annual Biosafety Conference
International Conference on Biorefinery (ICB2019)
Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication Symposium, 2019 (ABBC2019)
Story of the month
GM Mosquitoes released in Burkina Faso pose no safety risks, assures expert

Six thousand four hundred (6, 400) genetically modified sterile male mosquitoes have been released into the environment in Burkina Faso as part of the Target Malaria Project. This activity occurred on 1st July 2019, in Bana village - about ten kilometers from Bobo-Dioulasso, southwest of the country. To understand the purpose and issues of this operation, Jean-Yves Nébié interviewed Dr Abdoulaye Diabaté, Senior Medical Entomologist and Principal Investigator of the Target Malaria project. They talked about the objectives of the release, its impact on malaria incidence, and the safety of the population.

Explant type and hormone regime influences somatic embryogenesis and regeneration of cassava

Despite its importance, cassava production is faced by a myriad of biotic/abiotic constraints. Genetic transformation capable of mitigating these challenges has as a prerequisite, availability of robust regeneration systems. This study evaluated the effect of explant type and hormone regime on somatic embryogenesis and regeneration of Kenyan cassava cultivars. The optimized regeneration protocol can be coupled with mutation breeding or genetic transformation to improve the cassava germplasm.

Plant DNA‐barcode library and community phylogeny for a semi‐arid East African savannah

Applications of DNA barcoding include identifying species, inferring ecological and evolutionary relationships between species, and DNA metabarcoding. This study collected, identified, and vouchered plant specimens from Mpala Research Center in Laikipia, Kenya, to develop an extensive DNA‐barcode library for a savanna ecosystem in equatorial East Africa. This plant DNA barcode library and community phylogeny will be a valuable resource for future investigations.

A crop wild relative inventory for Southern Africa: a first step in linking conservation and use of valuable wild populations for enhancing food security

Successful conservation strategies require that taxa are prioritized because resources for planning and implementation are always limited. In this study, the authors created a partial checklist of crop wild relatives (CWR) that occur in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and identified the taxa of highest priority for regional conservation planning based on their importance for food and economic security.

Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH): 2018 Annual Report
Seasonal Monitor – East Africa Season 2019