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Welcome to issue 23 of the DrumBeat!

As the year ends, we continue keeping you updated on the latest bioscience trends in the region. In this issue, our Story of the Month summarizes Africa's progress towards adoption of biotech crops. The recent landmark decisions in Kenya and Nigeria have given a much-needed dose of hope to African scientists, farmers and other key stakeholders who have dedicated their efforts towards agitating for access to biotech crops. Their efforts and that of global partners who continue to walk with them is finally beginning to bear fruit! These decisions, together with the recent approval of golden rice in the Philippines, is a testament to why we must keep pressing on regardless of the challenges and set-backs for the sake of small-holder farmers and their families.

Our Opinion continues to display Africa's willingness and preparedness to adopt cutting-edge technologies for increased crop productivity. Prof. Teklehaimanot Haileselassie, an Associate Professor at the Institute of Biotechnology in Addis Ababa University, highlights efforts at his institution towards utilization of genome editing to improve select orphan crops. In the Video of the Month, ISAAA AfriCenter's Director, Dr. Margaret Karembu tells you why Africa is taking off and highlights how the Center will continue to support the region to ensure it sustains the progress.

The DrumBeat would like to take this opportunity to wish its readers a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year. The newsletter will continue to highlight Africa's capacity through stories and videos, as we strive to quench the regions thirst for knowledge on biosciences.

Enjoy your read!

Country Crop Modified trait Date of approval
Nigeria Cowpea SAMPEA 20-T insect resistant December 12th 2019
Philippines Rice GR2E nutrient enhanced- Vitamin A December 18th 2019

2019 Africa Biotech Strides: The Region is Taking Off

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Promoting Climate Finance for Agriculture in East and Southern Africa
Africa Agri Tech
Story of the month
Africa Records Milestone in Crop Biotech Progress In 2019

Africa has made monumental progress in the adoption of biotech crops positioning the continent for a major take-off towards crops resilient to adverse effects of climate change. In this month alone Nigeria and Kenya made landmark approvals of genetically modified (GM) Bt cowpea and Bt cotton respectively. Nigeria's Federal Government approved commercialization of a biotech cowpea variety resistant to pod borers. This development places Nigeria as the first country ever to commercialize genetically improved cowpea. The biotech cowpea is Nigeria's first ever GM crop to go commercial.

Genetic comparisons of fall armyworm populations from 11 countries spanning sub-Saharan Africa provide insights into strain composition and migratory behaviors

The recent discovery of fall armyworm in Africa presents a significant threat to that continent’s food security. This study is an extension of earlier surveys that together combine the collections from 11 nations to produce the first genetic description of fall armyworm populations spanning the sub-Saharan region. The current data confirm the uncertainty of fall armyworm strain identification in Africa by genetic methods, with the possibility discussed that the African infestation may represent a novel interstrain hybrid population of potentially uncertain behavioral characteristics.

Evidence of crop production losses in West Africa due to historical global warming in two crop models

Achieving food security goals in West Africa will depend on the capacity of the agricultural sector to feed the rapidly growing population and to moderate the adverse impacts of climate change. This study found that crop production might have been affected by climate change, with significant yield losses. The estimates of production losses presented can be a basis for the loss and damage associated with climate change to date and useful in estimating the costs of the adaptation of crop production systems.

Photoperiod controls vegetation phenology across Africa

Vegetation phenology is driven by environmental factors such as photoperiod, precipitation, temperature, insolation, and nutrient availability. Across Africa, there’s ambiguity about these drivers, which can lead to uncertainty in the predictions of global warming impacts on terrestrial ecosystems and their representation in dynamic vegetation models. Using satellite data, this study performed a systematic analysis of the relationship between phenological parameters and these drivers. Analysis across different regions consistently revealed photoperiod as the dominant factor controlling the onset and end of vegetation growing season.

Food for All in Africa: Sustainable Intensification for African Farmers
Biofortification: A food-systems solution to help end hidden hunger