I am an agricultural plant biotechnologist from Kenya, and I had the opportunity last month to attend the FAO Africa Regional Biotech Meeting in Addis Ababa. Most farmers in Africa are still skeptical of agricultural biotechnologies as a tool for food and feed production. Therefore, there is huge demand for awareness creation among farmers.
Farmers are at the core of biotech development since they are the consumers of most of the products. There is need therefore to involve them in the whole value chain of biotech product development. This will help gain their trust and approval of the technology, and they will not feel that biotechnology products are being imposed on them, which is the current situation. There should be concerted efforts in doing this by all stakeholders.
It is clear that the future of food security in Africa depends on adoption of biotechnologies due to increasing population and decreasing arable land. Yields must be increased using the available arable land, despite the impacts of climate change-induced droughts, floods, new pests, and diseases. Already, the technology is changing from GM to new ones, like CRISPR and TALEN, and Africa may be left behind if it is still debating whether GM is good or bad. It was actually mentioned that the debate about whether GM is good or bad is outdated and biotechnology is not all about transgenics. Governments were urged to take the lead in adoption and development of biotechnologies due to the high costs involved.
-Francis Wanjohi, Agricultural Biotechnology Awareness Association, Kenya
This reflection is one in a series written by participants of the FAO Regional Biotech Conference for Africa held in Addis Ababa on November 22-24, 2017.