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21st JULY 2020
Welcome to issue 30 of the DrumBeat!

In this issue, we feature two scientists based in Tanzania working on Africa's 'favorite' tuber crops sweetpotato and cassava. In our Story of the Month, Kwame Ogero a research associate at the International Potato Center expounds how understanding cultivar decline in sweetpotato can enhance seed systems interventions. Kwame focuses on Tanzania, which is the second largest producer of sweetpotato in Africa and third in the world, how it has not escaped the threat posed by viruses in production.

The Video of the Month highlights Dr. Heneriko Kulembeka, Center Director, Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) project on cassava and progress in building an economically sustainable seed system for cassava in Tanzania. A classic case of how a combination of best of conventional tools for CBSD tolerant varieties and best of modern biotech for CBSD resistance will sustainably widen the choice for farmers.

Lastly, in our Topical News Roundup section we feature some recent innovations in and around Africa, as the continent grapples to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enjoy your read and stay safe!


BEST CASSAVA: Building an Economically Sustainable Seed System for Cassava in Tanzania

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Story of the month

Kwame Ogero

Understanding cultivar decline in sweetpotato for better seed systems interventions

Cultivar decline, a progressive reduction in yields from season to season, is a major challenge to sweetpotato farming. This is largely caused by viruses such as sweet potato feathery mottle virus (SPFMV) and sweet potato chlorotic stunt virus (SPCSV). The two are the most devastating in East Africa and can combine to cause sweet potato virus disease often leading to 56 - 98% yield losses. Being vegetatively propagated, sweetpotato accumulates viruses over time.

Country Crop Modified trait Date of approval
Philippines Corn Stacked trait= Herbicide tolerant and Insect resistant January 14, 2020
Philippines Cotton Insect Resistant January 14, 2020
Philippines Cotton Stacked trait= Herbicide Tolerance + Insect Resistance January 14, 2020
Philippines Potato Stacked trait= Disease Resistance + Modified Product Quality January 14, 2020
Morocco develops its own COVID-19 diagnostic kit

Morocco develops its own COVID-19 diagnostic kit

The MAScIR Foundation, a research and development institution based in Rabat (Morocco), has designed the country's first COVID-19 diagnostic kit. The RT-PCR diagnostic kit has already been validated by national and foreign laboratories. Read more here.

Cameroon engineers develop ventilator prototype

Cameroon engineers develop ventilator prototype

Cameroon engineers have produced a prototype for a ventilator in response to COVID-19 pandemic. The government is expected to evaluate and support mass production of locally made ventilators to boost the country’s preparedness. Read more here.

Kenyan university student uses 3D printers to make nasal swabs for COVID-19 testing

Kenyan university student uses 3D printers to make nasal swabs for COVID-19 testing

A biotechnology student at Kenyatta University in Kenya is using 3D printers to produce nasal swabs for coronavirus testing. His invention allows for production of as many as 3,000 swabs a day, greatly enhancing the testing capacity in Kenya that has been hampered by low availability of testing kits. Read more here.