Issue 72 of the Drumbeat

The story of bioscience innovations and other scientific developments in Africa cannot be told engrossingly better than in the DrumBeat. In this month’s Issue, we bring you exclusive stories and insights on the importance of food safety for a food secure, healthier and prosperous Africa. We amplify key voices calling for a proactive approach in forestalling food safety incidents in line with the theme of this year’s World Food Safety Day which was celebrated on June 6.

In the Video of the Month, Zambian One Health experts explain how food safety is a key component of public health. The country was recently hit by the worst cholera outbreak in over 50 years. More than 700 people died from the disease with over 20,000 getting infected – the highest number of fatalities and infections ever recorded from cholera outbreaks in the country. The video explains how contaminated food may have caused this outbreak. To prevent cholera outbreaks in future, the video carries some key recommendations from the experts.

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Issue 71 of the Drumbeat

Greetings to our vibrant community of readers and contributors! We are thrilled to present to you the latest edition of ISAAA AfriCenter’s monthly e-bulletin, The Drumbeat. As always, we bring you the most compelling stories, insightful interviews, and crucial updates from the world of agricultural biotechnology across Africa.

Video of the Month: Pioneering Biosafety in Nigeria

In this edition, our Video of the Month features an exclusive conversation with Dr. Hauwa Ibrahim Jibo, the Acting Director of the Department of Enforcement and Operations at Nigeria’s National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA). Dr. Jibo sheds light on the remarkable strides Nigeria has made in approving GMO products since the Biosafety Act’s inception in 2015. She attributes this success to the NBMA’s firm and decisive leadership, ensuring robust regulation of biotechnology products, from genetically modified crops with stacked genes to LMO fish, trees, and genome-edited products. Watch the full interview to understand how Nigeria is setting a benchmark in biosafety management.

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Issue 70 of the Drumbeat

We bring to you yet another exciting Issue spotlighting the Feed the Future Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) project. The multi-institutional, collaborative project in Kenya and Ethiopia is employing genome editing (GEd) technology to build durable resistance to Striga parasite, commonly known as ‘witchweed‘ – a serious threat to production of sorghum and other cereal crops in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Moreover, through the Africa Biosciences Hubs (AfriBIOHubs) initiative, SSSfA aims to foster innovation, promote bio-entrepreneurship, and enhance the local capacity for routine GEd research and commercialization.

In this month’s video, we feature the voices of select SSSfA partners as they highlight how the project will impact both sorghum farmer livelihoods, and the local capacity to conduct and translate GEd research in SSA. By establishing a technology platform for developing and commercializing Striga-resistant sorghum, SSSfA showcases how science, technology, and innovation can tackle societal challenges. It also underscores the importance of fostering an enabling environment for translating research into tangible outcomes.

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Issue 69 of the Drumbeat

Welcome to issue 69 of The Drumbeat. This issue’s theme is “Incorporating environment and plant health into the One Health approach.”

We highlight the efforts to integrate key sectors in the One Health approach by deconstructing the environment and plant health to gain insight into their role and contribution to successful One Health application.

In honor of the International Women’s Day celebrated on 8th of March, we feature interviews and articles from women in science in both our story of the month and the video of the month.

Ms. Betty Mbolanyi, a One Health expert from Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment, features in our video of the month where she shares her thoughts on the role of environment in One Health from her personal and professional experience in the Ugandan One Health landscape.

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Issue 68 of the Drumbeat

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated on February 11 of every year. This day recognizes the vital contributions made by women and girls in science and technology, and aims to foster their complete and equitable involvement in the same.

It provides a forum to highlight the obstacles encountered by women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines and calls for enhanced opportunities and resources to empower women in pursuing scientific careers. In honour of this year’s theme, “Women in Science Leadership: A New Era for Sustainability,” we spoke to a few of the outstanding women scientists in Africa.

In our video of the month, Dr Siboniso Moyo, the Deputy Director General for Research and Development at ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) shares with us her science story, through which we understand the contribution of African women scientists in research, technology, and scientific advancements. She also highlights the benefits of inclusion of women in decision-making processes and leadership roles within the scientific community.

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Issue 67 of the Drumbeat

To kick off 2024, we are shining the spotlight on the exciting Feed the Future Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) project. Launched in 2022, the cross-sectoral collaborative project in Kenya and Ethiopia is working to outsmart Striga (witchweed) and give sorghum a fighting chance using genome editing technology. But that’s not all – SSSfA is keen on growing skills and solutions right at home, making sure that genome-edited Striga-resistant sorghum is not just a one-time product, but the beginning of a seamless introduction of genome editing to complement the pre-existing breeding techniques.

In this month’s video, Bibiana Iraki, Senior Programs Officer at ISAAA AfriCenter, highlights the key milestones made within the African biosciences landscape in 2023. It was a year marked by notable advancements in research and development, regulatory approvals, communication, and goodwill to create an enabling environment for biosciences research translation. As we step into 2024, Bibiana extends an invitation to all like-minded partners to join hands in bridging the gap between science and society in the journey to realizing the shared vision of the Africa we want.

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Navigating the Tides of Change

As the year draws to an end, the AfriCenter family wishes to express our sincere gratitude for your continued support and dedication in our work towards unlocking Africa’s potential for achieving agricultural transformation, and fostering a healthier planet for future generations.

At ISAAA AfriCenter, we recognize that sustainable and equitable food and feed systems have the potential to achieve critical progress on SDGs and Agenda 2063. However, we remain alive to the fragilities of these systems that are worsened by several exogenous factors such as climate change, increased pest and disease pressure, and limited access to modern agricultural technologies. In this regard, we believe that our work would be incomplete without delivering the benefits of modern tools to farmers who form the cornerstone of Africa’s food and feed systems. Our efforts over the years have contributed towards increased adoption of genetically modified crops in Africa, and to date, countries planting such crops have more than doubled, from three in 2013, to eight in 2023. In Kenya, our contribution facilitated progress towards planting of GM cassava National Performance Trials.

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Issue 66 of the Drumbeat

Welcome to Drumbeat 66, a special edition dedicated to our Feed the Future Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) initiative, a public-private cross-sectoral collaboration in Kenya and Ethiopia. The multi-institutional project launched in 2022, is working to impart durable Striga-resistance in sorghum using genome editing while establishing a sustainable model for developing home-grown genome-edited Striga-resistant sorghum.

This month’s video features Jane Waithera, a sorghum farmer in western Kenya. Jane highlights some of the major challenges she faces in sorghum farming – one of which is Striga (witchweed, locally known as Kayongo). Delivering Striga-smart sorghum varieties developed under the SSSfA project presents Jane and other smallholder sorghum farmers with a sustainable solution to the Striga menace.

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Issue 65 of the Drumbeat

In today’s landscape, where climate change and other factors pose threats to traditional farming practices, embracing new breeding tools becomes essential. These tools, however, have encountered hurdles in adoption across Africa, affected by misinformation and a lack of synergies in addressing and disseminating accurate information. In this issue we explore the critical role of new breeding tools in Africa, and the opportunities presented by the Africa Science Dialogue.

In our Story of the Month, Dr. Margaret Karembu, the Director of ISAAA AfriCenter, highlights the crucial role of New Breeding Innovations (NBTs) in addressing climate change and enhancing planetary health. Dr. Karembu emphasizes the potential of Science, Technology, and Innovation, with particular focus on genome editing, in enhancing resilience against climate shocks. NBTs emerge as robust tools capable of confronting climate challenges, improving food security, and attaining One Health objectives.

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Issue 64 of the Drumbeat

Dear reader,  it has been slightly over a month since the curtains fell on the Africa Biennial Bioscience Communication (ABBC) Symposium, 2023. In light of this, we are delighted to bring you a special DrumBeat edition dedicated to ABBC. The Symposium has come a long way since its inception, and this year, it was more inclusive, dynamic, and forward-thinking than ever before. With a broader scope that encompassed not only crop biotechnology, this year’s ABBC was a buildup of lessons and reflections from previous sessions.

In our Story of the Month, ISAAA AfriCenter’s Director and Co-convenor of the ABBC Symposium, Dr. Margaret Karembu, builds a case for why this biennial platform matters. Dr. Karembu provides a brief background on the genesis of ABBC, and snippets of the five editions that have contributed towards framing pertinent narratives in Africa’s agricultural biotechnology landscape.

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Issue 63 of the Drumbeat

The DrumBeat team’s commitment to tell the African story and share expert opinions on topical issues in agriculture, health and environment for impact science continues to grow stronger. In this issue, we exclusively explore the place of Africa’s food systems in enhancing nutrition and health wellbeing of our population, and accelerating our countries’ economic growth.

The Video of the Month highlights the important contribution of livestock in building sustainable food systems on the continent. Through the perspective of an expert, we put forward key recommendations that can be actualized to ensure smallholder livestock farmers reap maximum economic benefits from this farming. It also emerges from the video that improvement of livestock production and value chains can significantly reduce health risks and improve human health.

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Issue 62 of the Drumbeat

Welcome to the DrumBeat 62, a special edition dedicated to our Feed the Future Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) initiative, a public-private collaboration in Kenya and Ethiopia. The initiative involves multidisciplinary teams that are employing genome editing (GEd) technology to develop durable Striga resistance in sorghum.

This month’s featured video showcases the Enzyme Manufacturing Masterclass, a significant component of the Africa Bioscience Hubs (AfriBIOHubs) program. AfriBIOHubs is a capacity development initiative within the SSSfA project, aiming to support research, innovation, and bio-entrepreneurship in the field of GEd. Held at Kenyatta University in Kenya, the Masterclass offered researchers valuable hands-on experience in the local production of laboratory reagents commonly utilized in molecular biology research.

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Issue 61 of the Drumbeat

Welcome to issue 61 of our eNewsletter – Africa Bioscience Trends. This year the world food safety day was celebrated on June 7 with the theme “Food standards save lives.” It is a timely reminder of the crucial role that agricultural innovations play in meeting food safety standards and ensuring the safety of what we consume, thereby minimizing preventable cases of foodborne diseases and facilitating trade.

To kick off this edition, we have an exclusive video featuring Dr. Charity Mutegi, a renowned food safety expert who explains the significance of food safety in the agricultural industry. Additionally, we have an interview with Agnes Mdzomba a Senior standards officer at the Kenya Bureau of Standards, who provides valuable insights on how Kenya is developing standards to ensure food safety with a specific focus on genetically modified products.

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Issue 60 of the Drumbeat

Welcome to issue number 60 of the DrumBeat. This edition covers our collaborative efforts to achieve planetary health under the Capacitating One Health in Eastern and Southern Africa (COHESA) project. Through the project we aim to address solutions at the intersection between animal, plant, environment, and human health.

Our Video of the Month covers snippets of a regional Science Communication training on One Health that happened in Nairobi, for COHESA affiliated countries. In the video, experts share their opinions on what One Health means, how it can be achieved, and lessons from represented countries.

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Issue 59 of the Drumbeat

Dear reader,  welcome to this special edition of the DrumBeat. This issue features our Feed the Future Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) project, a new public-private partnership, whose primary countries are Ethiopia and Kenya. The project comprises of multidisciplinary teams embarking on a journey to save sorghum, through new breeding innovations. Sorghum is Africa’s second most important cereal and one of the most valued traditional crops on the continent. However, the parasitic weed Striga limits its productivity and causes between 30 to 100 percent yield loss, posing a great threat to livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.

Our Video of the Month showcases how the team is utilizing genome editing to develop Striga-Smart Sorghum. Apart from highlighting sorghum’s enormous food and industrial benefits, the video also outlines the project’s plan to establish AfriBIOHubs. These are self-sustaining technology platforms that will create entrepreneurial opportunities for next-generation researchers to commercialize bio-products, generate income and decent jobs from biosciences.

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Issue 58 of the Drumbeat

The Drumbeat team is delighted to begin the year 2023 with your trusted companionship, once again promising to keep you abreast of happenings in the biosciences sphere, as we join you in helping build a world better prepared for today’s and future challenges. This edition, comes amid unabatingly harsh weather in most of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), thus massive crop and animal production failure, occasioning an alarm for food crisis and continued search and hope for solutions in biosciences. This edition is dedicated to Africa’s participation in the just concluded UN Biodiversity Conference, particularly the Tenth meeting of the conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties to Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 10) in Montreal, Canada.

In the story of the month, Dr. Paul Chege of ISAAA AfriCenter recounts the participation of African Parties in COP-MOP 10, presents the major decision of the conference and how ISAAA AfriCenter and aligned partner organizations participated in the international biosafety negotiations.

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Annual Letter 2022: Stronger Together

Since its inception, ISAAA AfriCenter has worked relentlessly towards delivering benefits of modern biotechnology tools to smallholder African farmers. Our efforts have contributed towards increased adoption of biotech crops in the region, from three in 2018, to eight in 2022. Additionally, a decade-long ban on importation of genetically modified (GM) crops in Kenya was finally lifted, highlighting the significance of intentional, consistent and concerted efforts towards overcoming policy hurdles.

AfriCenter has long championed for an enabling environment for biotechnology development in Africa. We work towards ensuring that policy and decision makers are alive to local and global progress on agri-biotech and biosafety through various platforms, including policy roundtablesnational dialogues and through our pioneer seeing-is-believing biotech study tours.

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Issue 56 of the Drumbeat

As the DrumBeat team, we convey our utmost gratitude to you – our esteemed reader – for making this newsletter a leader in provision of exciting stories on Africa’s latest bioscience development and cutting-edge scientific innovations. This edition celebrates Kenya’s historic decision to lift a 10-year ban on importation and utilization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This is a milestone that will see the country efficiently adopt approved biotech crops and import GM foods as one of the sustainable options to arrest food insecurity.

The Story of the Month presents fascinating statistics on how a Kenyan farmer stands at a prime position to hugely benefit from biotech crops following the lifting of the ban. Farmers have disappointedly obtained meagre returns from their crops and experienced massive food shortages in the face of climate adversity. The Story of the Month puts a strong case of why embracing and cultivating climate resilient GM crops will empower farmers and cushion the country against food insecurity.

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Issue 55 of the Drumbeat

Dear reader, as the world steadily recovers from over two years of socio-economic standstill caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the global society is still faced with serious challenges bearing far-reaching implications. Key among them include food insecurity and undernourishment, climate change, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss. These are global challenges affecting people, ecosystems, and economies from all regions. Some more than others.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 597 million people across 89 countries do not have sufficient food. This is indeed a sad state of affairs that requires immediate attention. At the same time, the global population continues to grow, further increasing the demand for food. This situation calls for a paradigm shift in the way we produce, store, process, and distribute our food. It calls for sustainable food systems.

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Issue 54 of the Drumbeat

Dear reader,  the DrumBeat family applauds a decision by the Federal High Court in Nigeria to dismiss a suit filed by activists against the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) for approving commercialization of Bt cotton. According to African science advocates, the suit filed in 2017, was part of a ploy to slow down biotech progress and derail advancements across the region. The ruling is therefore a “win for biotechnology application and biosafety regulation,” says Dr. Rufus Ebegba, NBMA’s Director General. This win comes at the heels of a monumental decision by Ghana’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to approve environmental release of Bt cowpea, showcasing the region’s progress despite aggressive activism. Additionally, Africa’s giant Nigeria has moved a step further to develop guidelines on genetically modified (GM) plants with stacked genes and guidelines for GM fish!

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Issue 53 of the Drumbeat

This issue of the Drumbeat comes at the heels of Open-Ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (WG2020-OEWG-4) meeting in Nairobi Kenya. At the conclusion of the meeting on June 26, Governments that were represented in the meeting advanced text of landmark global agreement on biodiversity, marking final preparation steps in negotiations on assortment of topics to be concluded at COP 15 in Montreal in December. Notably the topic on access to digital sequence information from genetic resources and how to share the benefits from their use was addressed, and hopefully it is the precursor to agreements in the upcoming 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties (COP/MOP) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

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Issue 52 of the Drumbeat

Dear reader, on 7th June 2022, the world commemorated #WorldFoodSafetyDay. The DrumBeat team celebrated this event in a special way and this issue, which largely focuses on One Health, couldn’t have come at a better time!

As we grapple with intractable challenges facing humanity, one thing remains clear; experts, policy and decision makers, as well as those in research, training and service delivery, need to work collaboratively to address the multitude of problems afflicting society. Global issues are highly interconnected and many share common solutions. Consequently, effective implementation of the One Health approach is key in overcoming many of these issues.

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Issue 51 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we feature developments in the uptake and utilization of biosciences tools to solve Africa’s perennial problems spearheaded by African scientists. One of the problems Africa has been grappling with is malnutrition. Achieving food security status has been a mirage for many countries across the continent. The problem has not only been the quantity available to feed 1.3 billion Africans but also the quality in terms of essential body nutrients contained in the available diet.

The Video of the Month features efforts by Ethiopian scientists to provide a more balanced diet in a country and region where malnutrition and protein deficiency is a major problem. Protein deficiency is a leading factor in stunting, which stands at 67% among current adult population and 38% among new born population. We talk to Dr. Habte Jabessa, a researcher from Addis Ababa University who is working on Spirulina to curb stunting.

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Issue 50 of the Drumbeat

Drumbeat team is proud to mark the 50th edition of this premier monthly e-newsletter that tells the African bioscience story as it is. We are truly grateful to the over 5,000 royal subscribers comprising of; policy makers, media, development partners, scientists, and private sector players who make our work so fulfilling. We will strive to continue enhancing public understanding and appreciation of biosciences through impactful videos, stories and much more.

In this issue, our video of the month features African experts’ views on the framing of genome editing narrative and its implications on Africa’s policy and regulatory environment.

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Issue 49 of the Drumbeat

New breeding technologies, such as genome editing, hold the promise to addressing some of Africa’s intractable challenges in agriculture. In this special issue on genome editing, the DrumBeat dives into the continent’s early take off as it conducts promising research using this emerging technology.

The Video of the Month highlights a research project that uses CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing technology to develop multiple vaccines against African swine fever (ASF) in order to prevent or eradicate this disease. The project is conducted at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi. ASF is a viral disease that can cause up to 100% mortality in pigs, and there are currently no vaccines or cures for the disease.

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Issue 48 of the Drumbeat

Greetings! As we kick off another year, the Drumbeat family hopes that you and your folks are safe and in splendid health. We continue to keep you updated on current developments and topical bioscience news from around the continent.

In this issue, we focus on an emerging topic in international discussions, digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources. Video of the month, developed by ABS Capacity Development Initiative, explains the concept of DSI, illustrating its importance under the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In our story of the month, Dr. Margaret Karembu, MBS, Director of ISAAA AfriCenter, highlights some aspects of DSI that are likely to dominate discussions as Parties and stakeholders deliberate on modalities of sharing benefits from the utilization of DSI.

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Issue 47 of the Drumbeat

The agricultural biotechnology landscape is not short of challenges. Despite the odds, Africa made remarkable progress with the number of countries planting biotech crops more than doubling, from three in 2018, to seven in 2021. Four others continued to show promise through field trials focusing on crops and traits of high relevance to challenges facing the region. This significant advancement has positioned the continent for increased adoption. To accelerate progress towards this tipping point, the Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC 2021) symposium facilitated a rich exchange of experiences from more than a decade of biosafety, biotech research, outreach and advocacy. ABBC 2021 provided a platform for reflecting and taking stock of Africa’s agricultural biotechnology progress, while celebrating gains.

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Issue 46 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we dig deeper into the actors and events leading to Nigeria’s environmental release approval of genetically modified maize for open cultivation. The October decision by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), – Nigeria, captures the spirit of regulatory decisions informed by scientific evidence, independent and strengthened regulatory frameworks in Africa. These coupled with emboldened stakeholders, who sustain positive communication at local and regional levels have inspired a new wave of technology adoption across the continent with more approvals expected as countries approach final research stages of different biotech crops. Such efforts, continue to counter strong activism, inform policy, as well as change farmer perceptions and other target beneficiaries of biotech products across the continent.

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Issue 45 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we continue to celebrate the good news from Nigeria, as the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), secured an approval for environmental release of the drought tolerant and insect resistant TELA Maize with effect from October 8, 2021. This now places Nigeria one-step closer to commercializing biotech maize and becoming the second African county after South Africa.

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Issue 44 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 on how to optimize science and technology to steer the continent forward. In this month’s issue, we bring you exclusive coverage on the just concluded Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC2021) Symposium. The Symposium, held from 20th to 24th September 2021, provided an opportunity for African countries to concretize progress made in crop biotechnology on the continent, define the next steps, document successes and share lessons learned for synergy and inspiration.

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Issue 43 of the Drumbeat

Greetings! As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated by emerging variants, the Drumbeat family hopes that you are safe and in good health. One thing we have learnt from the pandemic is that a sustainable food supply is crucial in mitigating detrimental effects of present and future pandemics on food security and socio-economic growth.

This issue highlights the prospects of genome editing application in Africa’s Agriculture. The technology has presented Africa with an additional, more efficient tool for improving agricultural productivity. In crop breeding, genome editing will improve the ease, speed, precision, and generation time of improved varieties. However, this optimism must go hand in hand with implementation of policies that foster an enabling environment for research, development and adoption.

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Issue 42 of the Drumbeat

This issue highlights two important food security crops that underscore Africa’s capacity to develop biotech crops addressing local challenges, for the benefit of Africans – insect resistant cowpea and disease resistant cassava. The video of the month takes us to Nigeria, where we speak to a Bt cowpea farmer on his experience with the recently released SAMPEA 20-T variety. Nigeria is the first country to approve cultivation of genetically modified cowpea, globally.

Our story of the month focuses on Kenya’s experience while conducting the first-ever virtual public participation in Africa, following an environmental release application for disease resistant cassava. An approval for the cassava was granted in June, 2021. ISAAA AfriCenter shares five key lessons from this process that could benefit similar projects in the region. Some of these tips were also shared with Golden Rice project team in the Philippines, during a similar virtual public participation process between November 2020 and January 2021. Golden rice received an approval for commercial planting in July 2021.

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Issue 41 of the Drumbeat

In this issue we celebrate Kenya’s decision to approve genetically modified cassava for environmental release, the final step of testing new varieties after which they will be registered and released to farmers. It is the first time genetically modified cassava is being approved anywhere in the world with resistance to one of the crop’s most devastating disease – Cassava Brown Streak. This decision by Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority entrenches a new perception shift towards genetically modified crops in the continent. For a long time, African scientists have had to contend with many regulatory bottlenecks occasioned by policies that stifle bio-innovations from life sciences. However, this is changing as more African policy makers get sensitized about safety and potential of agricultural biotechnology tools. Owing to the precise and effective methods of delivering crop traits through genetic modification, African scientists are employing these tools to solve elusive perennial agricultural challenges affecting both crop production and animal husbandry.

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Issue 40 of the Drumbeat

In this issue we focus on introduction of Bt cotton in Malawi. For the longest time, cotton was the most valuable export crop, and it has remained an important earner of foreign exchange in Malawi. The economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, employing nearly 80% of the population, and it is vulnerable to external shocks, such as weather and health. The COVID-19 pandemic has further negatively impacted economic growth and livelihood. Thus, the introduction of Bt cotton couldn’t have come at better time for the predominately small scale cotton farmers in Malawi.

The Video of the Month features, a satisfied Bt cotton farmer from Central Malawi, who concludes by inviting all doubters of technology and other farmers to visit him and witness, how the new variety (Bt cotton) as he calls it, is doing in his farm.

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Issue 39 of the Drumbeat

As we all continue to rage war against COVID-19, the DrumBeat team continues to keep you, our esteemed readers, in prayers during these unsettling times. Science offers the most viable tools in fighting the pandemic as evident in the development of COVID-19 vaccines that could prove a game-changer. Crop science too offers additional options in combating crop diseases and pests that have destroyed crops and left farmers desolate and more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic.

The Video of the Month features struggles of African scientists in the fight against striga weed to ease the labour burden. Led by Prof. Steven Runo, Professor of Molecular Biology at Kenyatta University, the project team aims to address the challenge of parasitic striga weed which is a huge constraint to production of sorghum and other cereal crops. The striga genus has over thirty species distributed over 50 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, causing an estimated 7 billion dollars’ worth of crop losses every year.

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Issue 38 of the Drumbeat

As we wrap up the first quarter of 2021, significant progress in combating COVID-19 pandemic is evident in most part of the world as massive vaccination campaigns gear up. Thanks to science, this is a win for people and the planet. Most importantly, it is a lesson for world leaders to embrace and empower science, technology and innovation in addressing intractable societal challenges now and in future.

Governments, research groups, non-profit foundations, public and private institutions have dedicated numerous resources in tackling the global pandemic. Evidently, some more than others. In our story of the month, Dr. Hussein Abkallo, a Kenyan biotechnologist, highlights why it is critical for African states to embrace science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs and revamp research funding.

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Issue 37 of the Drumbeat

As we all settle into 2021, the DrumBeat team wishes you, your families and communities continued good health and wellbeing. We are still living in very uncertain times. By and large, most of us have had to come to terms with the fact that our day-to-day will never be the same again. One thing remains true – this pandemic requires scientific and global efforts to manage. However, it appears that vaccine access inequality is threatening these efforts. Wealthy nations that have invested heavily on science, technology and innovation (ST&I) have acquired huge quantities of the vaccines. This should send a strong signal to developing nations on the importance of prioritising investments in ST&I and manufacturing

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Issue 36 of the Drumbeat

Welcome to our very first Drumbeat issue of 2021. For three years now, the Drumbeat has brought you unparalleled coverage of Africa’s bioscience trends, development and scientific innovations blow by blow. Telling the African science story from the source has propelled this publication among the most sought-after e-newsletters.

Reflecting on Africa’s progress in the year 2020, this issue highlights key actions needed for the region to fully enjoy the benefits from bioscience innovations. The Story of the Month section discusses the new role Africa Union is taking in harmonizing animal biotech regulations across the continent. Dr. Mary Mbole-Kariuki, Technology and Innovations Expert at African Union InterAfrican Bureau of Animal Resources, explains why ending poverty in Africa may remain a mirage without embracing modern tools for improving animal resources such as animal biotechnologies. These technologies are necessary to increase production, productivity and efficiency across animal resource value chains.

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Issue 35 of the Drumbeat

Africa continues to be regarded as the region with the biggest potential to benefit from biotech crops adoption because of immense challenges relating to new pests’ infestation and climate change impacts. This is according to the latest report on the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops, 2019 (ISAAA Brief 55), released by ISAAA in November 2020. According to the report Africa doubled the number of countries planting biotech crops from three in 2018 to six in 2019, leading the progress among the regions of the world in GM crop adoption. In this issue, we summarize Africa’s progress towards adoption of biotech crops, as detailed in the report.

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Issue 34 of the Drumbeat

The African story of scientific development and innovations in bioscience cannot be told engrossingly better than in the DrumBeat. We continue to bring you unparalleled stories on Africa’s latest bioscience development and cutting-edge scientific innovations.

This Issue offers you a special invitation to a live webinar on the launch of the latest Report on the Global Status of GM Crops. The launch is happening on Monday 30th November 2020 at 13:00 GMT. Registration to the webinar is open to all and free of charge. Sign up now at

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Issue 33 of the Drumbeat

This month, we give a special focus to a rapidly growing agricultural research and development front – animal biotechnology. Livestock, poultry and fish farming is integral to global food and nutrition security. However, animal production is faced with numerous challenges including livestock diseases, impact of climate change and increasing demand for animal protein due to population growth. Biotechnology is one of the tools offering solutions towards sustainable animal production.

In the Story of the Month, Dr Margaret Karembu, Director ISAAA AfriCenter, summarizes key outcomes from the ongoing virtual series of the 4th International Animal Biotechnology Conference running from September to November 2020. The Conference lay focus on regulatory approaches for animal biotechnology, with over 300 participants across the world sharing experiences on regulating genetically modified and genome edited animals.

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Issue 32 of the Drumbeat

This month, we focus on Africa’s progress with adoption of biotech crops by highlighting a key issue that adopter nations, and those on the verge of adoption, need to focus on – stewardship. To get an in-depth understanding on this topic and why it is important for Africa to pay particular attention to it now, we sat at the feet of Prof. Walter Alhassan.

Walter Alhassan, a Professor in animal science, hails from Ghana, and is considered a pioneer of biotechnology in Africa. He has extensive experience in university teaching and research in Ghana and Nigeria, and has served as a member of several international boards in agriculture, education and the biosciences. As Coordinator of the SABIMA project that focused on strengthening sub-Saharan Africa’s capacity for safe and sustainable biotechnology management, the DrumBeat was honoured to seek his counsel, which is featured in the Story of the Month segment.

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Issue 31 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we feature two Kenyan scientists who are focused on making the elusive food and nutritional security, a reality in sub-Saharan Africa. Our Story of the Month, celebrates Prof. Steven Runo, a molecular biologist at Kenyatta University for scooping the Royal Society Africa prize for the best scientific research in Africa 2020. This recognition comes at the backdrop of his extensive research work on Striga (witch weed), a parasitic plant devastating cereal production in the region.

The Video of the Month highlights Dr. Eric Magembe, a lead scientist on potato bacterial wilt at the International Potato Center, based in Kenya. Potato being the 3rd most important crop globally is key in achieving food and nutritional security both at the continental and regional level. It is estimated that potato bacterial wilt causes a yield loss of about 40% of the 40 tonnes attainable yield of potatoes per hectare, a situation Dr. Magembe is keen to change by use of modern biotechnology tools.

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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.

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Issue 29 of the Drumbeat

This month we focus on the unprecedented role played by the African woman in agriculture as we shine light on the need to amplify her voice in policy making and towards the building of a vibrant bio-economy. This issue focuses on the gender perspective in food security.

In our Story of the Month we share Gaudiose Mujawamariya’s article on the Critical Role of Women in avoiding a COVID-19 “Food Pandemic” in sub-Saharan Africa. She argues that although African women play a key role in all aspects of the region’s food systems, they often assume this burden while laboring with key disadvantages due to long-standing gender roles that can limit their access to economic resources – both within their households and communities. Gaudiose shares lessons that could avert a crisis.

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Issue 28 of the Drumbeat

Our prayers and good wishes are with all our readers during these unsettling times when COVID-19 pandemic has destabilized our daily lives. Well-being and safety of our readers comes top on our priority as we all wage war against this disease. This pandemic reminds us that we need to invest more in science, technology and innovation to combat challenges such as disease epidemics, drought and food insecurity. It is for this reason that this edition gives special focus to cassava, and an important project aimed at developing brown streak disease (CBSD) resistant and nutritionally enhanced cassava varieties.

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Issue 27 of the Drumbeat

As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19 pandemic, we would like to wish our readers, their families and communities good health and wellbeing. We are living in very uncertain times that require humankind to come together in fighting this common enemy. The Drumbeat will continue bringing you stories, updates and opportunities that biosciences present in addressing intractable societal challenges.

In this issue, our Story of the Month underscores the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Africa’s food and agricultural systems. Farmers, traders and other players in the agri-food sector have had to explore alternative ways of marketing and delivering food to consumers amidst tight COVID-19 control measures. The opinion by Bibiana Iraki-Kipkorir, a Program Officer at ISAAA AfriCenter, examines the situation in Kenya and Rwanda, and calls for local context-specific evidence to guide decision-making.

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Issue 26 of the Drumbeat

We would like to begin by sending love, light and positive energy to all our readers. We are living in unprecedented times and it is easy to let fear consume us and render us powerless. We must not. As science advocates and champions for informed policy and choice, we have an opportunity to remind the world, especially our policymakers, what we have been agitating for over the years. The need to give science its rightful place in society.

In this issue, our Story of the Month does just that. It highlights some of the advances in science that can be harnessed to find a solution for COVID-19, but more importantly, calls on our leaders to invest in science, technology and innovation and simply give science a chance.

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Issue 25 of the Drumbeat

The DrumBeat continues to explore exciting bioscience stories and trends from around Africa. Our top story this month features the importance of partnerships in harmonizing biosafety regulations in Africa. We detail how the COMESA Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy seeks to increase investment in biotechnology applications and agricultural commodity trade in the region. To accelerate its actualization, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter are jointly seeking to improve adoption of agricultural biotechnology and biosafety practices through communications, outreach and capacity building of key stakeholders including farmers, researchers, regulators, policy makers, consumers and member states.

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Issue 24 of the Drumbeat

Happy new year 2020! With this Issue, we mark the second year anniversary of bringing you news and stories on bioscience research and developments around Africa. Your continued support has encouraged us to reach wider in underscoring the role bioscience innovations play in providing solutions to various societal challenges.

Our Video of the Month feature residents of Tanga Corner, a village in Western Kenya where cassava is the staple food and primary driver of household economic growth. Unfortunately, cassava farmers and processors in Tanga Corner are currently grappling with Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), a disease that now threatens their only source of livelihood. The residents now hope for access to CBSD-resistant cassava varieties being developed by the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA Plus) project.

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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.

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Issue 22 of the Drumbeat

The DrumBeat continues to bring you exciting bioscience stories and trends from around Africa. This issue’s Video of the Month captures a candid conversation on what ails adoption of gene modification technologies in Africa and Europe. Complexity of regulatory systems in Africa and politicization of science emerge as some of the factors hampering adoption of modern agricultural biotechnologies on the continent.

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Issue 21 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we bring you recent stories and developments in Africa’s bioscience landscape. In our Story of the Month, Rose Mukonyo, an award winning radio journalist from Kenya reflects on her journey into biotechnology reporting. Rose unearths how one study tour to a GM crops confined field trial site converted her into a believer of the technology, and has cascaded into an avalanche of opportunities for her career. Our Video of the Month presents voices and opinions of select African biosafety regulators and researchers on the direction Africa should take in regulating products of genome editing.

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Issue 20 of the Drumbeat

This issue focuses on the just concluded Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC) Symposium, which took place on 29th and 30th August 2019, in Pretoria, South Africa. ABBC 2019 brought together close to 100 participants from 17 countries to interrogate various regulatory options and best-bet communication practices that will facilitate informed decision making on genome editing in Africa. The Symposium’s theme “Getting it Right: Communicating about Genome Editing” was informed by the need to promote public awareness of new breeding techniques given conversations on how to govern genome editing are starting to gain momentum in the region.

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Issue 19 of the Drumbeat

A special report on the latest global status of biotech crop commercialization is the major highlight of this issue. The report – Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2018 – released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) reveals that a total of 70 countries adopted biotech crops through cultivation and importation in 2018, the 23rd year of continuous biotech crop adoption. It shows Africa continues to make steady progress in the adoption of biotech crops with Nigeria becoming the first country in the world to approve biotech cowpea, thus, adding a new biotech crop to the global biotech basket.

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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.

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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.

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Issue 15 of the Drumbeat

We would like to begin by congratulating ISAAA’s newly appointed Global Coordinator, Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan. The DrumBeat celebrates Dr. Maha’s appointment as she strives to take ISAAA to greater heights.

In the Opinion piece, we hear from Dr. Margaret Karembu, a seasoned science communicator and Director of ISAAA AfriCenter, who shares her lessons on communicating the science of gene modification from the last two decades. Karembu calls on the scientific community to cultivate shared values with their stakeholders, adding that investing time to regularly engage them is not an option, but an obligation.

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Issue 14 of the Drumbeat

The DrumBeat’s unparalleled coverage of bioscience stories and trends from around Africa is getting more resonate and exciting! In this month’s issue, we take you on an experienced-packed journey into Bt cotton research in Malawi. Prof. James Bokosi, the Principal Investigator in Bt cotton research in the country, relives his experience in research and development of the biotech crop in the south-eastern African nation offering African agri-biotech researchers some invaluable lessons.

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Issue 13 of the Drumbeat

This issue takes us back to Nigeria as we celebrate a major breakthrough for the region – commercial approval of a GM food crop, Bt cowpea! Africa has finally contributed one crop to the global biotech basket. We speak to Prof. Mohammad Ishiyaku, Principal Investigator of the Bt Cowpea project. In an exclusive interview under our Story of the Month section, Prof. Ishiyaku reflects on the product development process and shares some words of advice for other researchers conducting similar projects across Africa.

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Issue 12 of the Drumbeat

The first issue of 2019 starts from Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation and perhaps the most progressed in agri-biotech trends over last year. Dr. Rose Gidado, Assistant Director, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) Nigeria chapter gives an opinion on the potential of agricultural biotechnology in transforming African agriculture amidst current intractable challenges.

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Issue 11 of the Drumbeat

The DrumBeat continues to explore exciting bioscience stories and trends from around Africa. This month’s issue carries a detailed personal account of how the continent should position herself to tap from the numerous benefits provided by application of science, technology and innovations (ST&I). Today, Africa is faced with new-world challenges ranging from the burgeoning global population to climate change, with adverse effects on her food production systems, environment and health. Gertrude Ngabirano, Executive Secretary of the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), gives an insight on bridging the gap between research and implementation to solve these key challenges.

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Issue 10 of the Drumbeat

This issue takes us to Sudan where Dr. Rasha Omer, Deputy Director of Biotechnology and Biosafety at the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), makes a case for genetically modified drought tolerant food crops. In 2017, Sudan was the only other African country, besides South Africa, to plant biotech cotton. The country planted 192,000 hectares of insect resistant (Bt) cotton, an increase from the 120,600 hectares planted in 2016.

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Issue 9 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we bring you stories making headlines in Africa as the continent continues to explore biosciences to address key food, health and environmental challenges. In the opinion piece, Dr. Leta Bedada, a senior biotechnology research scientist at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) offers perspectives on application of agricultural biotechnologies in improving food production. The video of the month highlights voices from Kenyan policymakers in support of adopting Bt cotton for revitalization of the country’s textile industry.

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Issue 8 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we continue to explore Africa’s position in using bioscience innovations to solve key food & nutrition, health and environmental challenges. This has become urgent amidst rise in societal adversities, ranging from escalating climate change effects, disease outbreaks and a rapidly decreasing capacity of food systems to sustain the burgeoning population. The opinion piece features a personal account of Dr. Edgar Traore, coordinator for the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) Burkina Faso chapter. Dr. Traore recounts the plight of Burkinabé cotton farmers, two years after suspension of cultivating biotech cotton.

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Issue 7 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we share highlights on the progress Africa is making in harnessing science, technology and innovation in addressing key challenges facing the continent. The opinion piece features a personal account of Francis Mulaa, a Professor of Biochemistry and Biotechnology from the University of Nairobi, Kenya on how Africa can effectively fix the gaps derailing adoption of bioscience innovations.

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Issue 6 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we share a special feature on progress in research and adoption of biotech crops with a focus on Africa’s milestones achieved by 2017. In a new report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), global hectarage of biotech crops stood at 189.8 million hectares in 2017, a 3 percent increase from 2016. The report records 67 countries using biotech crops with 19 out of those cultivating being from developing countries. In Africa, remarkable developments were achieved in biotech crops research, policy development and commercialization. This progress involved 12 crops in 13 countries being improved for 14 traits of interest.

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Issue 5 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we share a special feature on the advent of genome editing in steering crop and animal breeding programs to top-notch status. The opinion piece by Dr. Hennie Groenewald, Executive Manager Biosafety South Africa outlines the voyage that genetics, molecular biology and genetic engineering has taken in harnessing DNA potential in improving crops, livestock, providing cures to diseases and offering solutions to numerous global challenges. The month of May also saw three African countries make landmark step towards embracing biotechnology in agriculture.

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Issue 4 of the Drumbeat

In this issue, we share a special feature on women’s contribution in science towards steering African development. The opinion piece section highlights Professor Yaye Gassama, Chair-High Level Panel on Emerging Technologies of AUC/NEPAD and Vice President National Academy of Technical Sciences of Senegal (ANSTS). Prof. Gassama epitomizes a prevailing formidable woman spirit with an ability to transform the society through active engagement in scientific innovations.

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Issue 3 of the Drumbeat

DrumBeat would like to encourage young African scientists to apply for the Science & ScienceLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists. The Prize is awarded annually to one young scientist for outstanding life science research for which he/she was awarded a doctoral degree in the previous two years. Deadline for application is July 15, 2018.

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Issue 2 of the Drumbeat

ISAAA is running a Science and She campaign. The campaign, which kicked-off in February 2018, serves as a platform for female scientists and science communicators to share their views and experiences to help bridge the gap between science and the public. Follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook using #ScienceAndShe

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Issue 1 of the Drumbeat

The name ‘DrumBeat’ was inspired by Africa’s spirit of Ubuntu – the belief in a universal bond that connects all humanity. As the African proverb goes, “you do not beat a drum with one finger.” It is our hope that through your contribution and partnership, we will make the DrumBeat a success. We aim to inform and educate key stakeholders on the progress Africa is making in the field of biosciences, and where necessary, remind our leaders that we can no longer afford to be left behind.

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