The Open Forum for Agriculture Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa has received a grant of three million dollars from Bill and Gates Foundation, a non-governmental organisation in the United States to support local farmers in the country to increase food production.
The move is also to help famers acquire knowledge and skills in creating an enabling environment for decision making in agricultural biotechnology to enhance food security.
The Coordinator of OFAB, Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, who announced this during the Forum’s fifth anniversary celebration in Accra, said the use of biotechnologies in agriculture has encouraged global publication in creating awareness on the safe use of the technology for the advancement of food security and its awareness.
He said that despite the increasing trends in the use of modern biotechnology for agriculture, the rate of its adoption on the African continent had been very slow and attributed it to the lack of legislation to support its implementation in most countries.
Despite the challenges associated with its implementation, Professor Alhassan commended Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal for their good legislative frame works in biotechnology.
He said the implementation of the biotechnology had improved some agricultural produce in Africa through the support of the West African Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAP) noting that Ghana, Mali and Senegal had received support to enhance the capacity for research for the sub-region in root and tubers, dry cereals and rice.
Professor Alhassan challenged African leaders to enact legislations and fast-track mechanisms for scientists to review bio-safety applications through regular training and support programmes to farmers.
The Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ms Sherry Ayittey, said government had passed into law a Bio-safety Act to provide machinery for regulating biotechnology and bio-safety in the country.
Biotechnology, she said was a vital tool in agriculture, which could contribute immeasurably to food security through good legislative structure for its implementation adding that food security in Africa could not be addressed by a single institution or country, hence the need for an integrated, multi-disciplinary and holistic approach.
The Minister, however urged OFAB to provide a more unique platform for stakeholders to share information on biotechnology freely to strengthen and support it awareness in the country so as to help farmers especially to apply biotechnology and its use for biotechnology crops.
The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) is a platform that brings together stakeholders drawn from Africa in biotechnology and enables interactions between scientists, journalists, the civil society, industrialists, lawmakers and policy-makers.
It is a monthly lunch meeting that provides an opportunity for key stakeholders to know one another, share knowledge and experiences, make new contacts and explore new avenues of bringing the benefits of biotechnology to the African agricultural sector.