The former Tanzanian Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives, Hon. Adam Kigoma Malima, has described modern biotechnology as the next frontier Africa has to conquer in order to ensure food security.
He stated this at a week-long Africa leadership course on strategic planning and grassroots organising by the Cornell Alliance for Science (CALS) which took place from April 6-13, 2016 in Mwanza, Tanzania.
Addressing over 60 participants drawn from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda, Malima stressed that Africa nations must learn to use biotechnology to tackle various challenges in agriculture if they must be food secured.
The former minister urged participants to critically look at having science in agriculture as a subject matter that would be passed on to everyone at all the other sectors of the economy.
He said: “Most of the countries represented here have a high level of food sufficiency but what happens in the next 15 years when there would be significant explosion in the population? If we don’t have solutions in agriculture to tackle the problem of food sufficiency then we’re in trouble. However, we’re very lucky we have biotechnology to mitigate such challenges.”
In her remarks, the chairperson of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Dr Flora Tibazanwa, urged participants to equip themselves with strategic frameworks to develop a convincing argument on benefits of biotechnology.
“We have a big problem in front of us and we need biotechnology to confront it. However, we currently have lack of trust within the grassroots about this technology. We need to come up with how to approach the presentation of the biotechnology agenda to the people to achieve trust.
“We are having issues with the biotechnology agenda because public policy intervenes with the science of common sense. So, we need inputs from politicians and policy makers.
We need to come up with ways of taking the biotechnology agenda to politicians and convince them of the agenda because they have greater access to the grassroots,” she said.
She further harped on the need for African leaders to channel more funds to research and development (R&D), saying there could be no meaningful development without the deployment of science and technology which can only be fine-tuned through continuous research and development efforts.
“You cannot look at agriculture for development without science and technology. Science and technology is an all-encompassing field that touches every other sector like information; culture; tourism; health; transportation; education; ICT. We are very lucky we have this new technological tool, biotechnology to tackle issues of food sufficiency in the world,” she added.
Earlier, the Program Coordinator of Alliance for Science International Programs, Polly Endreny Holmberg, described the alliance as an international group of concerned scientists, farmers, and humanitarian organisations working to restore the place of science in food policy decisions and ensure that all farmers – regardless of where they live – have access to the advances in science that can provide them with stable and safe food supplies.
She added that their mission was to seek to promote access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability, and raising the quality of life globally, adding agricultural biotechnology is key to the global issues in agriculture.
The program coordinator noted that the weeklong intensive training was specially designed for leaders committed to increasing access to biotechnology as a means of addressing global challenges such as food security, agricultural sustainability, and climate change, adding the interactive training course would focus on providing participants with the strategic frameworks, tools, and support they needed to develop forward-facing communication plans to promote access to innovation in their home countries.