Staff Publications


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.

George Marechera*
African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Nairobi, Kenya. E-mail:

Joseph Ndwiga
African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Nairobi, Kenya. E-mail:
* Corresponding author

Aflatoxin contamination in maize and maize products is a major problem in Kenya, especially in the lower eastern part, where crop losses and human fatalities have been reported. Using a pre-tested questionnaire, 480 households were surveyed in the area, which has been identified as a “hotspot” for the lethal Aspergillus flavus strain S. This study aimed to estimate the potential adoption of Aflasafe, a new aflatoxin control technology that is currently being field-tested in Kenya, Burkina Faso and Senegal. The study found an adoption potential of 82%, which suggests that Aflasafe is likely to command a large market in lower eastern Kenya. The main factors that significantly influenced (positively or negatively) farmers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for Aflasafe were: formal education, farmer type, household income, and county of residence in Kenya. The uptake of Aflasafe could be enhanced through extension services and short-term subsidies.

The cultivation of rice in Africa dates back more than 3,000 years. Interestingly, African rice is not of the same origin as Asian rice (Oryza sativa L.) but rather is an entirely different species (i.e., Oryza glaberrima Steud.). Here we present a high-quality assembly and annotation of the O. glaberrima genome and detailed analyses of its evolutionary history of domestication and selection. Population genomics analyses of 20 O. glaberrima and 94 Oryza barthii accessions support the hypothesis that O. glaberrima was domesticated in a single region along the Niger river as opposed to noncentric domestication events across Africa. We detected evidence for artificial selection at a genome-wide scale, as well as with a set of O. glaberrima genes orthologous to O. sativa genes that are known to be associated with domestication, thus indicating convergent yet independent selection of a common set of genes during two geographically and culturally distinct domestication processes.

C. Taracha, F. Nangayo, G. Ombakho, J. Machuka
Tissue culture and regeneration of tropical maize has been achieved in only a limited number of genotypes, because majority of tropical maize germplasm is recalcitrant to in vitro response. Establishment of a highly efficient and widely used tissue culture system for maize will accelerate the application of transformation technology in breeding programs, and the study of the functions of maize specific genes. Three culture media were evaluated, it was established that two media could guarantee the production and proliferation of embryogenic calli with high regeneration capacity from immature zygotic embryos representing different maize germplasm. The results suggest that the evaluated tissue system could facilitate the introduction of foreign genes into regenerable Elite Kenyan Highland inbred maize

James Legg, Eklou Attiogbevi Somado, Ian Barker, Larry Beach, Hernan Ceballos, Willmer Cuellar, Warid Elkhoury, Dan Gerling, Jan Helsen, Clair Hershey, Andy Jarvis, Peter Kulakow, Lava Kumar, Jim Lorenzen, John Lynam, Matthew McMahon, Gowda Maruthi, Doug Miano, Kiddo Mtunda, Pheneas Natwuruhunga, Emmanuel Okogbenin, Phemba Pezo, Eugene Terry, Graham Thiele, Mike Thresh, Jonathan Wadsworth, Steve Walsh, Stephan Winter, Joe Tohme, Claude Fauquet

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014


Cassava, originally from South America, is the fourth most important source of calories in the developing world after the cereal crops wheat,maize, and rice.Worldwide, it feeds an estimated 700 million people directly or indirectly. Cassava production has increased steadily for the last 50 years, with 242 MT harvested in 2012. The increase is likely to continue as farmers in more than 105 countries come to recognize the crop’s advantages. A semi-perennial root crop, cassava can stay in the ground for up to 3 years. This makes it an excellent food security crop: when all other crops have been exhausted, cassava roots can still be harvested. It is naturally drought resistant and resilient to climatic changes, high temperatures, and poor soils, and in addition, cassava responds extremely well to high CO2 concentrations, making it a very important crop for the 21st century. Africa alone accounts for more than 55 % of the world’s production, and cassava is the first food crop in fresh tonnage before maize and plantain in sub-Saharan Africa. Cassava is also an important source of income, especially for women in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Furthermore, cassava is the second most important source of starch in the world. Cassava is thus a highly valuable crop for the world today and in the future. It is critical that it should not be compromised by viral diseases.

Francis Nang’ayo • Stella Simiyu-Wafukho • Sylvester O. Oikeh

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014


Globally, transgenic or genetically modified (GM) crops are considered regulated products that are subject to regulatory oversight during transboundary movement, testing and environmental release. In Africa, regulations for transgenic crops are based on the outcomes of the historic Earth Summit Conference held in Rio, Brazil two decades ago, namely, the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the subsequent adoption of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. To exploit the potential benefits of transgenic crops while safeguarding the potential risks on human health and environment, most African countries have signed and ratified the CBD and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Consequently, these countries are required to take appropriate legal, administrative and other measures to ensure that the handling and utilization of living modified organisms are undertaken in a manner that reduces the risks to humans and the environment. These countries are also expected to provide regulatory oversight on transgenic crops through functional national biosafety frameworks (NBFs). While in principle this approach is ideal, NBFs in most African countries are steeped in a host of policy, legal and operational challenges that appear to be at crosspurposes with the noble efforts of seeking to access, test and deliver promising GM crops for use by resource-limited farmers in Africa. In this paper we discuss the regulatory challenges faced during the development and commercialization of GM crops based on experiences from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Monica Racovita, Dennis Ndolo Obonyo, Roshan Abdallah, Robert Anguzu, Gratian Bamwenda, Andrew Kiggundu, Harrison Maganga, Nancy Muchiri, Chinyere Nzeduru, Jane Otadoh, Anwar Rumjaun, Iro Suleiman, Manjusha Sunil, Mark Tepfer, Samuel Timpo, Wynand van der Walt, Chantal Kaboré-Zoungrana, Lilian Nfor and Wendy Craig

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In tackling agricultural challenges, policy-makers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have increasingly considered genetically modified (GM) crops as a potential tool to increase productivity and to improve product quality. Yet, as elsewhere in the world, the adoption of GM crops in SSA has been marked by controversy, encompassing not only the potential risks to animal and human health, and to the environment, but also other concerns such as ethical issues, public participation in decision-making, socio-economic factors and intellectual property rights. With these non-scientific factors complicating an already controversial situation, disseminating credible information to the public as well as facilitating stakeholder input into decision-making is essential. In SSA, there are various and innovative risk communication approaches and strategies being developed, yet a comprehensive analysis of such data is missing. This gap is addressed by giving an overview of current strategies, identifying similarities and differences between various country and institutional approaches and promoting a way forward, building on a recent workshop with risk communicators working in SSA.

Click here to view on Landes Bioscience website

Alhaji Tejan-Cole, Legal Counsel & Board Secretary
African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)

This article covers the commercialization of intellectual property rights (IPRs) derived from agricultural research projects. It defines key terms and deals with the cost of commercializing IPRs. Other issues addressed are commercialization models, website and checklist.

Jennifer A. Thomson and Dionne N. Shepherd
University of Cape Town
Hodeba D. Mignouna
African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)

A number of crops with a variety of traits are being developed by public-private partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa. These include maize that is resistant to the parasitic weed, Striga; tolerant to drought, and resistant to the African endemic maize streak virus. Others in the pipeline are insect-resistant cowpea and potato, as well as nutritionally-enriched sorghum. Some of these are undergoing field trials in various parts of the sub-continent. However, the South African regulatory authorities denied permission for release of the genetically modified potato and for glasshouse trials of the sorghum. After an appeal against the latter decision, permission was eventually given after two years. It remains to be seen how regulatory authorities respond to requests regarding the other crops.

Click here to view full article on AgBioForum

By DH Mignouna, SO Oikeh and DF Mataruka
African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), P.O. Box 30709-00100, Nairobi, Kenya
Africa is the only continent in the world where the per capita food production has consistently declined for the past four decades. To reverse this trend and increase agricultural productivity, Africa needs to embrace innovative technologies including biotechnology tools and its products. An African green revolution has begun in some countries through the adoption of new technologies. Africa should embrace improved crop varieties developed through both conventional and advanced modern biotechnology. To facilitate this, AATF in partnership with private and public institutions set out to develop, test and deploy in Sub-Sahara Africa, crops that are resistant to insect pests, diseases, and soil salinity tolerance along with those that have enhanced nitrogen and water use efficiency using biotechnology tools and products.

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