All AATF Publications

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  • Who we are
  • Message from the Board Chair
  • Message from the Executive Director
  • Highlights
  • Priority Area 1: Mitigating Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture
    Developing drought tolerant and insect resistant maize
  • Priority Area 2: Pest Management
    Controlling Striga weed in maize farms
    Managing the Maruca pod borer in cowpea
    Improving banana, Ensete, potato and cassava against bacterial diseases
    Managing the Maize Lethal Necrosis disease
  • Priority Area 3: Mechanisation
    Promoting agricultural mechanisation for efficiency and better productivity
  • Priority Area 4: Soil Management
    Improving rice productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Priority Area 5: Enabling Environment
    Intellectual property (IP) management and licensing
    Regulatory and policy engagement
    Stewardship
    Communications
    Moving forward the biotech agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa
    Deployment
    Building ‘seed bridges’ to improve small-holder access to quality seed
    Building quality seed for Africa
  • Priority Area 6: Improving Breeding Methods
    Developing hybrid rice with yield advantage
  • Priority Area 7: Improving Food Safety and Quality
    Developing Africa’s food safety systems for health and global trade
  • Financial Report 2017
  • Board of Trustees 2017
  • Staff 2017

Modern agricultural technology and, by extension, genetic engineering – the technique of removing, modifying or adding genes from one unrelated organism to a plant variety for the purposes of conferring desired traits in the genetically modified organism (GMO) – has delivered substantial agronomic, environmental, economic, health and social benefits to both large- and small-scale farmers in developing and industrial countries since the first GM crop was commercialised in 1996.

Despite the demonstrated benefits, modern agricultural biotechnology is still a recurring and contentious public issue, particularly in Africa where the highly divergent scientific, political, economic, ethical, cultural, and even religious viewpoints appear to be deeply rooted.

It is widely acknowledged that this debate continues to fire up mainly because of low awareness and understanding of genetic engineering among those opposed to it. It is science against moral ethics. Unfortunately, this lack of understanding that has generated apprehension, fear, and moral indignation is seriously undermining our ability to develop and put to practical use the products of modern agricultural biotechnology.

The media has a key role in creating this awareness, education and understanding of modern agricultural biotechnology. There is a general consensus that although the mass media cannot unilaterally bring about change in knowledge and opinion, they are important agents in the process of reinforcing public perceptions and, ultimately, influencing and shaping public attitudes.

However, media coverage of modern agricultural biotechnology in Africa has been an issue of concern. There is a general feeling that the reporting on modern agricultural biotechnology is inadequate, wrought with sensationalism, trivialisation, inaccurate reporting; misuse of terminologies; incomplete coverage of issues, episodic, and often related to specific events, such as scientific breakthroughs or current controversies.

What comes through clearly from discussions with journalists across Africa is that most African media are yet to embrace and promote science journalism.

But it is not just enough to paint a grim picture of the media in Africa. What is more important is to understand why the media in Africa has not lived up to its societal expectations. And this is what this booklet is all about: understanding why modern agricultural biotechnology is poorly reported; understanding the challenges that journalists face in reporting on modern agricultural biotechnology; exploring the opportunities that journalists can exploit in reporting on modern agricultural biotechnology; and exploring strategies that can improve reporting on modern agricultural biotechnology in Africa.

Despite Kenya posting one of the highest levels of food and nutritional insecurity, the Government of Kenya banned importation and consumption of foods derived from genetic engineering (GM foods) in October 2012, on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to show that GM foods were safe. The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) commissioned the Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium (KUBICO) to conduct a study to determine the impact of the four-year-old ban on food security, research and training, and to identify opportunities for investment in biotechnology and agribusiness in Kenya. The study sought to determine whether the ban had any role in the escalating food prices and reduced enthusiasm among students training in biotechnology, and development partners funding such projects. The study, combining desk review with interviews and a survey, focused on 13 large scale millers that command 90% of Kenya’s milling volume, 10 small scale millers, five major manufacturers likely to use GM grain, two regulators, and six public biotechnology training and research institutions. Analyses of desk review, secondary data, and questionnaires/interviews indicated that the ban on GM foods imposed in 2012 has heightened food prices, affected food distribution mechanisms and threatened the country’s current and future food security. Results showed that the ban, initially intended for importation and consumption, has now terminated progress in agriculture and food security research, causing many biotech research and development projects to stall.

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Genetically modified (GM) crops were first approved for cultivation and human consumption in 1996. Over the next 10 years, large and smallholder farmers in developing and developed countries increased the acreage of these crops – mainly maize, soybean, cotton, canola, tomato and potato – from 1.7 to 102 million hectares. This rapid and unprecedented rate of adoption of any new agricultural technology was attributed to the substantial multiple benefits realised by farmers in these countries. However, over the 10 years, South Africa is the only country in Africa that grew biotech crops. By 2006, South Africa grew genetically modified maize, cotton and soybean on 1.4 million hectares.

Realising that adoption of modern biotechnology is being hampered by lack of accurate and reliable information, knowledge and awareness at all levels of society, AATF mooted an idea to create a platform for information and knowledge sharing. The aim of the initiative was to allow policy makers and key stakeholders to make informed decisions on use of modern biotechnology.

And in September 2006, AATF founded the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Nairobi, Kenya. The objective was to ensure that the vast and critical wealth of information and knowledge on agricultural biotechnology possessed by scientists is made available to policy and decision makers and the general public. OFAB brings together stakeholders in agricultural biotechnology – scientists, policy makers, regulators, farmers, consumers, journalists, the civil society, industrialists, legislatures, religious groups, academia and the general public – to share knowledge and experiences, and explore ways of bringing the benefits of agricultural biotechnology to smallholder farmers and consumers.

A decade later, there is a general appreciation among the policy makers and the general public of the benefits of agricultural biotechnology – courtesy of OFAB’s awareness creation, sensitisation, education, and information and knowledge sharing initiatives. More governments now appreciate that modern agricultural biotechnology has a major role in helping their countries attain the elusive food insecurity. Indeed, the regulatory environment has changed in the seven countries with OFAB Chapters either through the enactment of new supportive regulatory frameworks or amendment of the previously restrictive regulatory frameworks. They are all at various stages of research, development and commercialisation of GM crops.

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The purpose of this document is to guide the Seeds2B partnership in the development and implementation of strategies to prevent undue delays to market access during the release and registration of new high-performing crop varieties in Malawi and Zimbabwe. It specifically provides information towards ensuring regulatory compliance of legal, scientific and professional applications. It will inform initiatives by AATF’s regulatory affairs unit in support of the Seeds2B Project.

CONTENT

  • Release and Registration of New Crop Varieties in Zimbabwe
  • Zimbabwe’s Varietal Release Process
  • Release and Registration of New Crop Varieties in Malawi
  • Proposed revisions to Malawi’s National Variety Release System
  • Experience of Seeds2B in compliance with regulatory requirements and procedures in Malawi and Zimbabwe

 

PDF: Towards Adoption: Farmers Assess Livelihood-Transforming Technologies – Annual Report 2016

  • Who we are
  • Message from the Board Chair
  • Message from the Executive Director
  • Priority Areas
  • Priority Area 1: Mitigating Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture
    Developing drought tolerant and insect resistant maize
  • Priority Area 2: Pest Management
    Controlling Striga weed in maize farms
    Managing the Maruca pod borer in cowpea
    Improving banana, Ensete and cassava against bacterial diseases
    Managing the maize lethal necrosis disease

  • Priority Area 3: Mechanisation
    Promoting agricultural mechanisation for efficiency and better productivity
  • Priority Area 4: Soil Management
    Improving rice productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Priority Area 5: Enabling Environment
    Product profiling and ex ante socioeconomic impact assessment
    Intellectual property management and licensing
    Regulatory and policy engagement
    Product stewardship
    Communication, issue management and public acceptance
    Deployment
    Positively influencing policy change for an agriculture friendly environment
    Building ‘seed bridges’ to improve small-holder access to quality seed
  • Priority Area 6: Improving Breeding Methods
    Developing hybrid rice with yield advantage
  • Priority Area 7: Improving Food Safety and Quality
  • Financial report 2016
  • Board of Trustees 2016
  • AATF Staff 2016
  • Message from the Board Chair and Executive Director
  • Mixed fortunes for Striga Control in Maize Project as MLN and drought rear their ugly heads
  • Efficacy trials confirm resistance of transgenic cowpea to pod-borer pests
  • Great achievements in development and commercialisation of WEMA products
  • Trials of hope: Milestones achieved in NEWEST Rice Project as Nigeria commissions trial facility
  • Demand for mechanisation shoots up as cassava farmers bag bumper harvests
  • Promising yields from hybrid rice trials
  • 2015 a defining year for Seeds2B variety evaluation trials in Malawi and Zimbabwe
  • OFAB welcomes new phase, redefines biotech advocacy
  • Developing transgenic bananas resistant to BXW disease
  • Overcoming regulatory challenges in commercialisation and adoption of biofertlilisers and biopesticides in Africa
  • Sampling and testing protocol: Ensuring accuracy in determining aflatoxin contamination in maize and peanuts
  • Financial Report 2015
  • Board of Trustees 2015
  • AATF Staff 2015
     
  • Message from the Board Chair and Executive Director
  • New partnerships, first hybrid and new varieties re-energise the Project and boost commercialisation of StrigAway maize seed
  • Gearing to deliver pod-borer resistant cowpea to farmers
  • DroughtTEGO gains higher demand – even as MLN devastates the maize market
  • NEWEST Rice Project ushers in Phase II as Nigeria joins the Project
  • Higher yields and better prices for cassava farmers under CAMAP
  • First hybrid rice developed
  • OFAB opts for high-impact grassroots outreach
  • The Seeds2B Project rolls off its workplan with technology needs assessment and scouting
  • Expanding the horizon of possibilities – producing and testing transgenic lines with stacked genes
  • Commercial Products II (COMPRO II) Project
  • USDA-FAS initiative for bio-pesticide registration guidance for Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Control of aflatoxin contamination in maize and peanuts in Sub-Saharan Africa
     
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Legal Counsel for the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Alhaji Tejan-Cole, explains what his organization is doing to help farmers in Africa increase productivity, profitability and sustainability to reverse the continent’s food deficit.

Experts have long agonized over how to produce higher crop yields and more nutritious foods from poor soils, to make food affordable for and accessible to Africa’s expanding population./p>

As African farming is largely smallholder-based and most farmers still use inefficient practices that take a lot from the soil but give little in return, the prognosis is gloomy. With the current faith in market-based solutions, many of them can only slip into deeper poverty and deprivation.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations says that every 10 percent increase in smallholder agricultural productivity in Africa can lift almost 7 million people above the dollar-a-day poverty line.

Proprietary technologies to improve the drought tolerance, pest and disease resistance, yield potential and nutrient content of food crops are already being exploited in developed countries, with research companies coming up with better technologies every day.

While most smallholders in Africa seem resigned to the hit-or-miss character of their livelihood, they are keen to adopt new proprietary technology options where the right incentives and market opportunities exist.

With this in mind, the AATF was established to help small-scale farmers access and use these proprietary technologies to attain food security and reduce poverty.

The Art of the Deal

What do the following have in common?   DOWNLOAD PUBLICATION I PDF

  • A staple consumed by millions of people − strangled by a weed that could not be vanquished.
  • A bean prized by millions for its high protein content − that all too often gets devoured by a caterpillar before harvest.
  • The fastest growing staple in Africa − but which most African countries import, since the local varieties are low-yielding and difficult to produce.
  • A popular food crop that increasingly fails as climate change brings hotter, drier weather to many areas.

All these are major African crops with major problems that require urgent attention in order to meet food security and economic development needs and that AATF is involved in addressing through focused partnerships with technology owners, researchers, agribusiness, and governments. You learn about the crops referred to in the pages in this book.

AATF itself owns no research fields, laboratories or patents. Instead, AATF staff work with more than 80 research, technology, policy, government, and NGO partners to connect ideas and agreements, people and technologies to ensure that what comes out of laboratories can be developed into excellent tools for smallholder farmers in Africa. AATF and partners also ensure that these technologies get approved by policymakers and regulators, get produced by local agribusinesses and are made available to smallholder farmers. This in turn enables farmers to produce high-yielding, high quality staples and other crops and enjoy higher income and food security.

The solutions may be a disease-resistant banana, drought-tolerant maize seed, insect pest-resistant cowpea, special machines for planting and harvesting cassava, a deal with commercial seed companies or a study tour for policy makers to better understand biotechnology. In each case, AATF is contributing to solving tough problems to help African farmers improve yield, income, and lives.

We focus on more than the value chain. We work on a value “web” linking not only farmers, input dealers and markets – but also research institutes, private companies, technology developers, royalty-holders, machinery assemblers, policy makers, and the media.

We are the “honest brokers”: persuading, negotiating, advocating, getting permissions, licensing, sub-licensing, arranging for royalties or royalty-free arrangements.

The following pages introduce ten projects in ten countries, and includes reminiscences on the organisation’s founding and thoughts on where it’s going.

We hope you enjoy the tour.

 

Publications

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