Delegates at the 2022 AFSTA Annual Congress at their trading tables. 
Next year’s online registration is now open.

Premier African Seed Trade 2023 congress online registration open

Delegates at the 2022 AFSTA Annual Congress at their trading tables. Next year’s online registration is now open.

By Aghan Daniel   |

The online registration for the AFSTA Congress 2023, which will be held in the capital city of Senegal, Dakar from 6th to 8th March 2023, is now open.


To register, please visit the AFSTA website ( and click on the AFSTA Congress 2023 logo, which will redirect one to the various links on the AFSTA Congress 2023, including the online registration.


Once you finalize your registration, please book your room at King Fahd Palace, the Congress hotel, or in one of the surrounding hotels listed on the congress 2023 website under “information on accommodation” link.


“We are happy to welcome all the delegates from around the world to our country for what we know will be another magnificent forum for seed people”, said Modou Thiam, President of the Senegalese National Organising Committee (NOC).

Thiam, who is also the President of the Senegalese Seed Association (UNIS) added that his committee,  in conjunction with the AFSTA Secretariat, is already working hard to ensure all preparations are complete in time.


Palm fringed beaches, colourful cities and a reputation for world class hospitality, Senegal deserves a spot on everyone’s travel list.


Located at the westernmost point of the Africa continent, Senegal is known as the “Gateway to Africa” and has been welcoming travelers from Europe and the Americas for centuries.

This peaceful sub-Saharan country has always flown beneath the tourism radar and that’s everyone’s loss.


Not only is it one of the continent’s and most accessible countries, it is also blessed with a rich culture, dreamy beaches and some of the best wild-life spotting opportunities anywhere in Africa.



Eng Lazarus Asewe, project manager at Start Somewhere, 
inspects an ongoing construction at Kibera Slum, Nairobi.

Construction technology uses renewable energy to give slum dwellers affordable housing

Eng Lazarus Asewe, project manager at Start Somewhere, inspects an ongoing construction at Kibera Slum, Nairobi.

Victor Ochieng lives in a single-room block house in Kibera’s Mashimoni estate with his family. He was once homeless so he’s happy to have a roof over his head.

“Life is still difficult, but once I’m in this house, I feel happy and sleep well,” says Ochieng.

Before this house was built, the 32-year-old lived in a tin-walled shack, which he once lost to a fire. Fires are common in Kibera.

“None of us saved any of our belongings. All of them burnt to ashes. The fire started in one house and spread to nearly 100 other houses, leaving us at the mercy of well-wishers,” he recalls.

Ochieng, who has lived in this informal settlement for nearly two decades, says he now feels more secure and comfortable. His house and the 13 others in this apartment block are weatherproof and fireproof, thanks to twist block building technology.

Twist block building technology is a pilot programme in informal settlements where fire problems have been the most difficult to overcome. Given that a majority of the houses in these areas are constructed of sheet metal, the technology hopes to address all these gaps and make life more comfortable for the average citizen.

“On June 5 last year, we had a fire that destroyed all 34 of our houses. So when we heard about this building technology that would save us and our tenants from future losses, we agreed to give it a try,” says Nation Mutua, a house agent.

He says they changed a lot of things with the technique to make their tenants more comfortable. The previous house tenants, for example, paid Ksh2,500 a month for rent and a separate electricity bill. The houses also lacked toilets, so tenants had to rely on public ones, which they had to pay for each time they used them. The new units have addressed some of these challenges.

“These houses may appear small, but they are larger than the ones we had previously. Our tenants now pay Ksh5,000 monthly for rent and their houses are legally wired for electricity. They also have their toilets and bathrooms,” Mutua.

“The doors have locks, as opposed to the earlier houses where tenants used padlocks that could easily be broken.”

Besides the 14 houses in Kibera, the technological project is in Kawangware, another Nairobi slum, where the engineers are building 18 classrooms, an office, and a kitchen. The classrooms have a capacity of 20-30 students each.

“This was a community school, and it was in such disrepair. So, after purchasing this land, we decided to build the school to make our students feel better. Before these, our classrooms were of iron sheets that were in poor condition,” says Walter Olando, Principal of Bethany Joy School.

Twist block is a German technology that is slowly being adopted in Kenya.

Milka Achieng, born and raised in Kibera, is the workshop manager. The 30-year-old has learned the technique and trains other youth here how to make twist blocks.

“We first heat river sand and fine aggregate and do a simple calculation to determine the percentage of water. Then we thoroughly mix it for about three-five minutes. We then put it on a vibrator for three minutes. We the leave the mixture in the workshop store for 18 hours. The next day, we mould and do curing for 28 days before the blocks are ready to use,” explains Achieng.

Concrete twist block is a construction technique that would prevent fires in densely populated informal settlements from spreading to neighbouring houses. If a fire breaks out in one room, the construction materials prevent it from spreading to the next.

The project of Start Somewhere Kenya Limited was established to ensure needy families have fordable housing that is also sustainable.

“We are proud to say that we are around 40 per cent cheaper than the normal machine-cut blocks or any other blocks in the market,” says Lazarus Asewe, project manager at Start Somewhere.

One twist block costs Ksh125.

“There are significant gaps in quality building materials and labour costs. These are the issues that this twist block technology is attempting to solve. Our columns fit in between the blocks for those buildings with formwork. As a result, you save money and time on the formwork, says Asewe.

“You can begin construction and move into your new home within three weeks. So we are working on a game-changing technology.”

He says twist blocks have no mortar between them. That means a landlord or an individual homeowner can demount them without causing damage if they want to redesign or demolish their structure. He says after demolition, the blocks will still be in good condition and can be used elsewhere.

With discussions about climate change continuing ahead of the COP-27 in Egypt, the engineers here say they are doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint. This is demonstrated by the solar panels installed, which they use to produce the twist blocks.

“Now we only use small amounts of cement, but we’re working on other technologies with other partners around the world to ensure zero cement and zero carbon on the production by using locally available materials like sand to cut carbon use by 100 per cent,” says Asewe.

According to studies, cement production is damaging attempts to protect biodiversity. Environmental scholars say the damage occurs during ground excavation and in the process of refining the cement, as a lot of energy primarily derived from carbon-based fuel is used.

“We need to move away from the use of fossil fuels in our manufacturing processes,” says Amos Wemanya, Senior Adviser, Renewable Energy and Just Transitions at Power Shift Africa.

Wemanya says cement manufacturing has both health and social consequences on people’s lives. In this regard, he urges stakeholders to support and embrace technologies centred on using renewable energy in construction.

“I believe that would aid in decarbonising the cement industry by shifting cement production away from coal and toward solar and wind energy, which can be stored in more stable hydrogen. As a result, we must abandon coal in favour of renewable energy technology,” he says.

Kenya was the first country to implement the twist block technique and fully commercialised it three years ago.

The programme has grown from Nairobi’s slums to Kisumu’s Ahero and other rural workshops throughout Africa, including Cape town, whose workshops are to begin operation at the end of this year. The Kenya Bureau of Standards has tested and certified it.

Start Somewhere technology was selected to join the Sheltertech Sub-Saharan Africa accelerator in August this year due to the innovation and impact of the twist blocks system for the construction of durable and adjustable homes while also creating know-how and jobs within slum areas.

“We are thrilled to partner with the next generation of housing change-makers and to assist them in further developing and growing their technologies,” said Maurice Makoloo, Habitat for Humanity’s Africa vice president.

A Kenyan science journalist Wanjiru Macharia poses for a photo at a wildlife 
sanctuary. Hunting in South Africa, analysts say, leads to the killing of around 1,000 lions each year.

General population, tourists want trophy hunting banned, survey reveals

A Kenyan science journalist Wanjiru Macharia poses for a photo at a wildlife sanctuary. Hunting in South Africa, analysts say, leads to the killing of around 1,000 lions each year.

By Omboki Monayo|

On August 10, 2022, the world marked World Lion Day. In Kenya, the day went by largely unannounced, as the country’s voters waited for the results of the August 9, 2022 General Election.

Along with South Africa, Kenya is one of the 33 countries that are home to a considerably large population of lions in Africa.

Among African nations, Tanzania is home to an estimated 50 per cent of the lions in the wild, with Kenya estimated to have some 2,489 lions. In total, there are 16,000-30,000 lions living in the wild worldwide. 

Lions are also found in smaller populations spread across Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The lion population in South Africa is currently estimated at 2,300. According to the Kevin Richardson Foundation, hunting leads to the killing of around 1,000 lions each year.

In SA, between 8,500 and 10,500 lions languish in captivity at nearly 400 commercial breeding and display sites.

In 2017, about 800 lion skeletons were exported to the Far East for the purpose of making traditional medicine such as bone wine. 

Scientists have predicted that lions will become extinct by 2050 if nothing is done to stop the current decline in population.

The magnificent beasts are already extinct in 26 countries where they once roamed.

Public opinion is, however, turning against the lucrative and commercial activity that has drawn sport hunters to the country for many years.

New research by World Animal Protection shows a growing number of South African citizens and international tourists want to see trophy hunting stopped and replaced with wildlife-friendly activities.

For more than 70 years, the animal welfare charity has been campaigning for a world where animals live free from cruelty and suffering.

It hopes to “give wild animals the right to a wildlife by transforming the broken systems that fuel exploitation and commodification” and also “stop the devastation of natural habitats”. 

World Animal Protection released research into public attitudes towards trophy hunting on World Lion Day.

The survey interviewed 10,900 people from around the world, including South African citizens and international tourists from countries who most frequently visit the country.

Key findings from the research revealed that 84 per cent of international tourists agree that the South African government should prioritise wildlife-friendly tourism over trophy hunting.

Some 74 per cent of international tourists agreed that making trophy hunting a key tourist policy will damage South Africa’s reputation, while 72 per cent indicated they would be put off from visiting the country altogether.

An estimated seven in 10 South African citizens agree their country would be a more attractive tourist destination if they banned trophy hunting.

Nearly three quarters or 74 per cent of South African citizens agree that trophy hunting is unacceptable, particularly when there is poor utilisation of wildlife-friendly tourism alternatives.

Trophy hunting represents less than two per cent of the country’s economy.

It is estimated that the conversion of approximately 21 million hectares of land currently utilised for trophy hunting in South Africa to non-lethal tourism would create more than 190,000 jobs.

This represents over 11 times more than the 17,000 livelihoods that presently depend on trophy hunting.

According to research done in Tanzania by Packer et al. and published in 2011, higher rates of decline in lion and leopard populations have been observed in areas with trophy hunting compared to areas without it.

As the consultation on the draft Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s Biodiversity White Paper concludes in September, there is an increased chorus of voices agitating against the slaughter of animals in the name of trophy hunting.

Travel companies from around the world have added their support to the joint statement, many headquartered in the countries where most international tourists travelling to South Africa hail from, including the US, UK, Australia and Brazil.

In a signed joint statement made to the South African government, TripAdvisor, and Expedia Group are some of the world’s largest travel companies urging the government to publicly pledge an end to trophy hunting.

The giant tour firms are rooting for a future South African tourism industry that will be more “wildlife friendly”. It is their hope that SA will do away with sport hunting to protect its wildlife population.

Signatories agree that trophy hunting is cruel and unacceptable.

They believe that responsible wildlife-friendly tourism, which is a humane, sustainable and under-utilised alternative, can provide enough income and incentives to communities to conserve the animals without killing for purported sport and entertainment.

Coming just a few weeks after the release of the WAP report, the joint statement from some of the leading global tourist companies is clear that trophy hunting firmly belongs in the environmentally harmful and unsustainable past.

Nick Stewart, who is the Global Head of Campaigns for Wildlife at World Animal Protection, said the report had provided further proof on why a ban on hunting would result in higher tourism income for South Africa.

“Here is yet more evidence that developing wildlife-friendly tourism and the removal of cruel wildlife exploitation like trophy hunting and captive lion breeding, has the potential to enhance South Africa’s international reputation as a global leader and destination for wildlife-friendly experiences,” he said.

“We are now hearing a deafening call for change from tourists and travel companies alike. They are clearly supporting a move to protect South Africa’s iconic wildlife through alternatives that don’t harm and kill animals, such as responsible wildlife tourism. Listening to this call will make South Africa a more attractive destination of choice for responsible travellers as well as tour operators.”

The report revealed universally strong opposition to the bloody sport and a desire to finance the protection of the nation’s iconic wildlife through non-lethal alternatives such as responsible wildlife tourism.

The animal rights charity is asking the public to add their voice to the 60-day public consultation on the white paper and demand a genuine wildlife friendly future for South Africa.

photo by Joseph Kipsang

Lake Nakuru diversifies its tourism products

By Loise Macharia

photo by Joseph Kipsang

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has diversified its tourism products at the world-famous Lake Nakuru National Park to include boating services and conference tourism.

The park’s Senior Warden, Edward Karanja said the diversification was to complement its traditional activities which are game safaris, pick-nick sites, camping and bird watching.

He said conferencing was a popular product under business tourism which came with the upgrading of Nakuru to city status in December last year.


Addressing journalist at the at the 188 square kilometer park during a media café’ on biodiversity organized by Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (Mesha), Karanja said the park was still accessible despite most of the routes having been submerged by the swelling lake.

He said KWS spent millions of shillings to create new routes to complete the circuit around the beautiful lake that has almost doubled its size over the past 10 years when it was 44 square kilometers to its current size of 80 square kilometers.

“More than 24 kilometers road network have been submerged since 2010 when the lake started swelling. The organization has invested large amounts of money to come up with alternative routes including cutting through a cliff to ensure tourists get value for their money,” he said.

TOURISM Lake Nakuru National Park Senior Warden, Edward Karanja addresses journalist at the natural resources during a media cafe' on biodiversity organised by Media for Environment, Science and Agriculture (Mesha). Image: LOISE MACHARIA

The Senior Warden said KWS lost more than Sh400 million worth infrastructure to the welling lake after it submerged roads, power lines, offices, camping sites and staff quarters.

He maintained there was so much to see at Lake Nakuru which is among the largest revenue earners because the swelling lakes of the Great Rift Valley had caused a habitat modification bringing in new species of fresh water birds in search of fish.

“Lake Nakuru’s biodiversity is very rich, it is home to both salt and fresh water lake birds, however, there been an increase of fresh water bird species following the accidental introduction of fish into the lake in 2020,” he said.

Karanja said there was three new types of fish including the Nile Tilapia in the lake and a consequential increase of bird species from the initial 400 to about 450 currently.

He said the lake was home to millions of the lesser and larger flamingos but the numbers have since dwindled to about 6,000 due to a change in the water quality whose PH has dropped from 10.5 to nine.

The flamingo have concentrated themselves along the shores on the southern side of the lake where they were busy foraging and making nesting.

The scientists who accompanied the media team said it was not a rare thing to see flamingos making nest in Lake Nakuru although they breed in Lake Natron in Tanzania.

 The park had been classified in different categories among the an Important Bird Area (IBA), a sanctuary for Rhinos and the Rothschild Giraffe, a World Heritage Site by the United Nations and Scientific Organisation (Unesco) and a Ramsar site.

It was recognized for having the largest euphorbia forest in the world until 2008 and 2007 when it was cleared by fire.

A senior Research Scientist at the Wildlife Research Training, Joseph Edebe explained that that the euphorbia forest was easily razed down and completely destroyed because the plants’ sap is highly flammable.

“There are plans to artificially regenerate the forest because natural regrowth may take time due to destruction by the wildlife,” he said.

Mesha Chief Executive Officer, Aghan Daniel said biodiversity was key to life and underlined the need for reporting issues around it.

TOURISM Dead acacia trees on a section of Lake Nakuru National Park terrestrial area. Image: LOISE MACHARIA

“It means that we are losing vital information that the public needs to know If journalists are not going to cover biodiversity effectively, frequently and accurately,” he said.

He said the loss and damage is due to effects of Climate Change like the ones experience at the Lake Nakuru National Park which are some of the issues to be discussed at the Conference of Parties 2027 (COP27) slated in Egypt late this year.

He said the more than Sh400 million loss recorded at the park was just a tip of the iceberg as there were similar scenarios in many party of Kenya and Africa in general despite the continent having contributed the smallest share of greenhouse gas emissions at approximately 3.8 per cent.


Goat eating fete: MESHA Nairobi Chapter members converge to network, learn from each other

Aghan the story teller

By Jecinta Mwangi and Ogonji Ian 


What started as a goat eating party turned into a great learning and networking session for the members of Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA), Nairobi Chapter.

The members converged at Paradise Lost, Kiambu County, on June 11, 2022, to let off steam after a busy half of the year. It was the first time the Nairobi Chapter was holding such a meeting, which was an opportunity to know each other and exchange ideas on how to grow MESHA to greater heights.  

The event brought together all categories of members, including veterans and founders of the organisation.

Before the veteran journalists settled down to share their golden past and wisdom in what was akin to a formal meeting, the younger members could not waste the chance to sample what Paradise Lost had to offer.

They literally got lost into a range of fun activities; from boat riding to a photo session in a natural environment that Nairobi residents rarely see, before everyone settled down for mouth-watering delicacies – roast goat, fried chicken and vegetables, washed down with a blend of soft drinks and high quality alcohol.

Then it was time for the veterans to spit some wisdom and share the journey they have walked with MESHA since its inception.

“Back then, our editors kept telling us that science doesn’t sell and they were not keen on creating science desks in newsrooms. So, when we formed MESHA, very few people took us seriously,” said Wambera Ojanji.

They also shared their personal experiences as journalists and writers, the highs and lows they have had during their careers, the challenges they faced and the good times, including the accolades they have received and the fulfilment that comes with doing their job and following their passion.

“Despite the harsh words from our editors, we did not get discouraged and the efforts eventually paid off. Soon enough, science stories started getting space on the front page of newspapers and we never looked back,” said Mike Mwaniki.  

The veterans encouraged the younger members, including students, to put in the work, be diligent and never be afraid to chase opportunities that come their way as they further their careers. They also spoke on identifying relevant stories and the whole process of coming up with a story from research to publication.

They pointed out how easy it is for the younger generation to research, authenticate and validate their stories as compared to the past when there was limited access to research and sources.

With the advancement in technology, getting information has been made easier. Research materials are just a click away unlike in the old days when one had to visit the library to get a reference.

They also emphasised on upholding the winning spirit within the organisation and supporting each other. MESHA journalists have won various accolades, with the most recent one being John Riaga who was appointed Science Journalism Forum coordinator for sub-Saharan Africa.

The younger members said they have so far benefited from MESHA and hope to learn a lot more from the entire membership.

“I have learnt from veteran journalists the best practices in the industry and from here I’ll be able incorporate this with the mentorship I have received to make my science stories better,” said Kairu Karega, a student journalist at the University of Nairobi.

MESHA Secretary, Aghan Daniel urged the veterans to continue mentoring the younger journalists.

“There are a lot of established journalists in MESHA. Some have been in the industry for over three decades and have accumulated knowledge on how to do different tasks. Take the chance to consult, network and ask questions. They are ready to guide,” he said.

Agatha Ngotho, a board member of MESHA, sought the opportunity to formalise the Nairobi Chapter and promised more such networking and fun sessions.

Mountain gorilla, Virunga National Park, DRC, Africa

Keeping apes and humans happy together the Ugandan way


Uganda’s population of gorillas continues to thrive, thanks to a One Health program targeting the residents living around Bwindi National Park.

“Over the last 25 years, our gorilla population has doubled. Our park is the only one that has been able to achieve this milestone in Africa. The other parks with gorilla populations are recording falling numbers,” says Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of the Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH).

The Ugandan veterinarian is also the founder of CTPH, an organization dedicated to the coexistence of endangered mountain gorillas, other wildlife, humans, and livestock in Africa.

According to the veterinarian, protecting the gorilla population was key for her organization when the COVID-19 pandemic was reported in Uganda.

She explained that the measures were necessitated by the similarity shared by humans and primates.

“The DNA of monkeys, apes and gorillas is quite similar to the human one. We share 98 percent of our genetic material with these primates, meaning that diseases can easily move across the species. This is why we had reports of gorillas catching COVID-19 in some other areas,” said Dr Kalema-Zikusoka.

She said there were cases of scabies among gorillas that would sometimes stray onto community land.

“After studying the incidences, we found that the apes were coming into contact with children’s clothing that was infected with the pathogens. Scabies is a disease associated with poor hygiene, and when children are not going to school, they can easily pass it to the apes by crossing their paths,” said the expert.

She made the remarks while making a presentation on One Health approaches to conservation at the Fifth MESHA African Conference of Science Journalists held last week.

The celebrated veterinarian has won several international awards, among them the Edinburgh Medal and the UN Planet Pesron of the Year Award, believes the scientific way is the proven option for dealing with societal concerns.

“Science is life. We should not only practice it, but also talks, write and post about it,” said Dr Kalema-Zikusoka

She added that the project to protect the gorillas had been in place long before the pandemic, adding that it took intensive engagement with the local community to accomplish its goals.

“We had to talk to the locals and educate them on the importance of conserving the gorilla population that was attracting tourists to the area. We also helped them draft income-sharing proposals with the park management,” said Dr Kalema-Zikusoka.

As a result of successful negotiation with park management, the locals are enjoying 20 percent of the park entry fees, among other benefits.

The veterinarian firmly believes that the One Health message is not too heavy or complicated for teens and children.

“We can spread the One Health message to the young people and children through talks in school, wildlife clubs and even the newspaper pullouts designed for children. It is never too early to start talking to them about the need to stay healthy while conserving the natural life around us,” she said.

Working with the park management, CTPH devised a system to protect the gorillas.

“We devised a social distancing protocol of seven metres between humans and the apes, in addition to enforcing a mask mandate and sanitization requirement,” she said.

Amos Rutherford of Legacy Seeds in Ghana

It’s a shame Africa begs for food with 60% of world’s arable land, says expert

African countries must increase investment in crop production in a bid to improve the continent’s agribusiness share in the global market.

Amos Rutherford, Team Lead, Research and Innovation at Legacy Seeds Ghana, said it was high time farmers in Africa knew their value in the global market and increased production from the current two billion tonnes to the possible 60 billion tonnes annually.

Rutherford said this is only attainable if farmers adopt modern and sustainable farming methods alongside enhancing value addition to their farm produce. He said this will give them a better bargaining power in the ever growing and competitive agribusiness market.

“Currently, since 2021, the global agribusiness market size is valued at $6.21 billion and is projected to grow to $154.6 billion by 2027, despite the economic challenges,” he said in his presentation at the Fifth African Conference of Science Journalists.

Rutherford said it is shameful that Africa as a continent has 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, yet it is food insecure.

The seed expert gave a snapshot of the challenges farmers in Africa face in the course of food production, including lack of quality seeds, crop nutrition inputs, drought, a land tenure system that does not allow commercial farming, pests and diseases, unstructured market systems and weak financial architecture.

According to UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 2009 report, agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa has been underperforming since independence and the continent must now rise up and produce sustainable food and surplus for agribusiness.

Another report by the World Bank says African farmers and the leaders of their organisations are key players in mitigating these challenges affecting crop production.

“The narrative of getting relief food must end in Africa if we want to earn our dignity and respect as a continent globally,” Rutherford said.

He said sustainable crop production will ensure the continent has enough food to feed the ever growing population, create job opportunities for the teeming youth, enhance industrial revolution, and avert conflict and tribal wars.

MESHA Secretary, Aghan Daniel regretted that Africa’s full potential in agriculture remains untapped, hence the need to put in more efforts.

“It is time to stop complaining about issues and start taking action to improve on our shortcomings for a food secure continent,” said Aghan.

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Conference of the future: A journalist’s perspectives on the Fifth MESHA African Conference of Science Journalists

By Tebby Otieno I

As the MESHA Fifth African Conference of Science Journalists drew to a close last Friday, many things kept crossing my mind.


First, it must take a strike of some genius to organize such a big conference. The amount of work that goes on in the preparation of this conference must be enormous laced with a lot of hard work, I suppose.


The manner in which the themes were arranged to fit in snugly into four days, with the first day being set aside for health, the second day dedicated to agriculture, with environment, biodiversity and climate change being the main concern on day 3 – struck me with awe. 


Issues of what we do – reporting science journalism – fitted in snugly on day 4 – the last day of the Conference. This excellent, meticulous arrangement and planning only comes from experienced conference directors. I found this approach stimulating, enriching and professional. So logical were the presentations that as a first time attendee, I felt nothing but joy. When the conference began, within the first three presentations, my fear, mixed with anxiety, quickly evaporated, leaving me in the realization that this was a Conference of note. So, as they say, I sat back, listened and enjoyed.


At exactly 1am each subsequent night, we received the day’s conference bulletin! What a surprise! With barely any resources, the Secretariat managed to put together this daily publication with the alacrity of the Korean Sword! Whatever magic our Secretary, Aghan Daniel uses on his team to put up such an out of the world show, remains a mystery for me and perhaps to many MESHA members.


Wait a minute. And so where did the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists emerge from to make such scintillating opening remarks at the beginning of the conference!  This is yet another aspect that has left me in awe! The opening ceremony had three speakers, – our own MESHA Chairman, Mr Bozo Jenje, a representative of InfoNile, our partners in the Conference, Alis Okonji and Lena Johansson, the President of ifaj. She shed a lot of light on the Federation and stated that human rights and freedom of speech were key tenets in promoting science journalism.


The keynote speech, from Dr Samuel Oti left me thinking – how can I contribute towards decolonizing health rights and funding for my own African brothers and sisters?


The day of health…..mine. This was a gem. An experts spoke eloquently on how much hope there was in the introduction of the vaginal ring in the intervention against HIV that left me wondering – have all women of Africa heard of this ring? Then came the presentation on U=U by Dr Lazarus Momanyi, a Ministry of Health official. U=U basically means undetectable is equal to untransmittable. Good enough, I now know that adherence is key in wrestling HIV/AIDS. I asked our Conference Director, Nduta Waweru why they had to bring a science café into the conference and her answer was…..”Our funders, AVAC, okayed our request for this session, adding that it is rewarding to once in a while meet other journalists who ordinarily do not attend the cafes.”

I also noticed that this year, there were more than 5 sessions on biodiversity. Why the prominence to this branch of conservation? The organisers told me that since February, MESHA received funds from JRS Biodiversity Foundation to do a project called Journalists Acting for Biodiversity (JAB). This support enabled the invitation of four scientists to talk about biodiversity at the Conference.


Sessions on agriculture were mouth-watering. That there are 500 species of edible insects in Kenya was an amazing fact that has convinced me now to believe that insects have a big role to play in food security in Africa. From the agriculture session, I picked the knowledge that I need not worry about Genetically Modified Organisms since our endemic species are intact – in fact they are kept in a gene bank! And very country has its own genebank.


It was also cool to note that there is a fallacy about so called farmer saved seeds, as our farmers do plan what is called grain and not seed. Where are all these seed people been? I have kept on wondering. That there are regulations that seek to ensure that we do seed business harmoniously within the economic blocs. Even though I am an avid reader, I have decided that I will read even more. How come I have all along not known that there are continental guidelines the use of Biotechnology for food and agriculture? Thanks to the Conference now I know. It was gratifying to hear Dr Simplice Nonou, Head of Agriculture and Food Security at the African Union Commission talk about biotech in Africa and led us as journalists into understanding what is happening in Africa as a whole.


It was a brilliant idea to bring science journalists to share with us their experiences in covering climate change. I learnt a lot and will practice what I heard other journalists across the borders do. 


Callings on African governments and international agencies


If any event needs funding from agencies, the UN body, African Union, large and international NGOs, the Kenya Government etc – that event is the MESHA Fifth African Conference of Science Journalists. 


This Conference holds the future for African science and should hence be made BIG. It is that single event that provides a forum to showcase science being done in Africa. It is that gathering that acts as a single market where all the science done in Africa yearly can be brought together and presented to the masses – devoid of jargon. 


My take is that the Conference is that a must attend event by all who work in the space of science. It will require attendance from each of the 54 African countries, it can be our heritage where the West come to listen to us as they savour our science. 


I call on the industry players, producers of goods and services in Africa to come out and support the Conference. This conference can no longer remain low keyed. It must attract the high and the mighty!


Come on people of Africa and put money in this Conference.


MESHA Chairman

Pan-African science journalists conference opens

The Fifth African Conference of Science Journalists will take place from May 24-27 2022. This will be the second time the conference is held virtually.The conference, organised by The Media for Environment Science Health and Agriculture (MESHA) in conjunction with InfoNile/Water Journalists Association based in Uganda, will bring together over 200 international and local science journalists, communication professionals, scientists and policy makers. With the theme ‘Letting Science Live,’ the conference is a platform where stakeholders share knowledge and ideas on scientific issues in Africa; enhance networking between scientists, journalists, farmers, and traders; and explore ways of harmonizing the various policies on health, environment and agriculture.
“Participants will also deliberate on what promotes access to scientific information and use of geo-data in science communication. At the end of the showpiece, we hope to increase the interest, skills and knowledge of African journalists to pursue science stories,” says Bozo Jenje, MESHA Chairperson.
These objectives will be achieved through short presentations by selected experts in particular areas. Break-out skills training workshops will expose participants to techniques, tools, and new innovations in science reporting.

Fredrick Mugira, director, Water Journalists Association, said River Nile and Lake Victoria will also come into perspective during the conference.
“How much of Lake Victoria’s water is available for use by the riparian communities without hurting the ecosystem? Are just some of the issues that we will focus on.
Conference Director, Nduta Waweru, says the conference will also highlight issues of climate change farmer rights and biodiversity.
“Over the past few years, issues of biodiversity, especially on how policies and community involvement integrate to solve biodiversity challenges in Africa, offer an interesting perspective on how to address emerging problems,” she explained
The Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) is a professional association of science journalists whose membership includes journalists, scientists and communicators with a big foot print in African science journalism.
MESHA has a track record of successfully organising and hosting high-profile congresses and conferences that bring together hundreds of participants —journalists, scientists, donors and communication officers from across Africa to learn and share.


Dr Ed Mabaya during the launch of the tool to aid access to seed information at the AFSTA Congress 2022.

New tool to facilitate easy access to seeds now available

By Christine Ochogo|

Farmers in Africa now have an easy-to-use, digitised seed information tool that facilitates access to data that supports seed system development. Development Gateway – an IREX Venture (DG), The African Seed Access Index (TASAI), and Cornell University started developing the dashboard in 2019 to support policy reform by government, investment priorities by development partners, and strategy by private companies working in Africa’s formal seed sector. The new interactive digital tool dubbed Visualising Information on Seeds Using Technology in Africa (TASAI-VISTA) Dashboard will visualise and use data to support a fully functional formal seed system. Speaking during the launch of the tool at the 22nd African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) congress in Djerba, Tunisia, a fortnight ago, Mainza Mugoya, TASAI Regional Coordinator, said the tool will enhance access to improved seeds by smallholder farmers in Africa.

The CEO of Development Gateway (DG), Mr Joshua Powell, added that the new interactive digital tool includes data from 17 African countries and displays 22 different indicators such as number of active breeders by crop, availability of basic seed, number of active seed companies/producers, number of varieties sold, and number of seed inspectors. He said that the quality and availability of seeds is a crucial component of supporting smallholder farmers to increase food security in these African countries, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Senegal, Rwanda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Mali, Malawi, Madagascar, Ghana, Ethiopia, DR Congo and Burkina Faso. “By providing clear data and insights on country seed systems, the TASAI-VISTA dashboard helps partners identify where and how to create policies and investments that support farmers and their crops,” said Mr Powell. Dr Ed Mabaya, Research Professor in Global Development at Cornell University and Chief Scientific Adviser to TASAI, mentioned rising populations, climate change and other environmental aspects as key factors threatening food and nutritional security in many subSaharan African countries.

He emphasised the need to improve seed quality, this being one factor that can help in addressing these challenges and that decision makers need information on where and how seed quality and availability are lagging. This dashboard, he said, is one step towards making that information more easily accessible, user-friendly and actionable. “The TASAI team has been collecting country-level seed sector data since 2015, and we are excited to share this wealth of information in this new digital format.”

Seed sector stakeholders already rely on TASAI country reports as a source of valuable information, but the new dashboard will expand their access and allow for comparisons across time and space that were difficult to do previously,” Dr Mabaya said. He explained that the TASAIVISTA Dashboard was developed after an initial assessment of stakeholders in the seed sector. Following the assessment, Development Gateway and TASAI held a co-design workshop to get feedback and to validate initial findings before incorporating user responses into the final design. “Along with the public dashboard, DG and TASAI have developed survey tools for internal use by TASAI researchers, which have allowed the team to digitise their data collection and validation process. Data collected through the new tool is published on the dashboard after final validation,” said Dr Mabaya. For much of sub-Saharan Africa, rising populations combined with climate change and other environmental factors are threatening food and nutritional security.

Experts say timely availability of improved seeds at affordable prices is critical to improving food security, resilience, and livelihoods for smallholder farmers in Africa. Improved seeds, they observe, can deliver state-of-the-art technology to farmers, including higher yields, disease and pest resistance, climate change adaptation, and improved nutrition. According to Duncan Onduu, the Executive Secretary at Seed Trade Association of Kenya, over the last two decades, formal seed systems in Africa have been gradually liberalised, resulting in increased participation of private seed enterprises. His counterpart in Ghana, Augusta Clottey, welcomed the dashboard, saying that a competitive seed sector will ensure famers access quality seeds of improved, appropriate varieties at affordable prices to help attain food security in Africa.

The launch of the tool comes amidst findings of a recent report that stated that Africa still trades in both old and new varieties.