Solving Africa’s food insecurity through biotechnology

There is an increasing focus on science being linked to providing   practical solutions to agricultural problems. There is also increasing awareness of technology, although the channels used for information and creating change in the way information is passed and understood by the receiver are poorly developed.

According to Nigerian Tribune, biotechnology is no longer a new technology in Africa; some countries in Africa have adopted the technology, while some other countries are currently conducting confined field trial for the technology.

In Nigeria, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which is a component of biotechnology is currently undergoing confined field trial in various locations. It is expected that in the next three years, the commercialisation of the BT cotton will commence in the country.

Africa as a continent in the recent past have suffered a high level of food insecurity following the actions and inaction of various governments to put sustainable policies to fast track agricultural development.

Some countries in Africa have also experienced food shortage due to some natural disaster which includes flood, pest attack, insect infestation and drought.

In some countries, the uses of manual and outdated method of farming have contributed immensely to the country’s dependence for food supply on some developed countries that have used technology to advance their agricultural sector.

Biotechnology have been adopted by various countries to develop their agricultural sector which have made them self sufficient in food production and earned them foreign exchange through exportation of agricultural products.

Many African countries have been skeptical of adopting biotechnology following some baseless and unscientific criticism from some quarters on the new technology.

This singular act of negligence and gullibility exhibited by these African countries have further subjected them to being importers of food products from countries that have developed there agricultural technology.

In Ghana, the commercialization of GMOs may not be possible until the court injunction issued against its further release in Ghana have been concluded.

However, good news emerged as the Plant Breeder’s Bill was said to be underway and soon to be signed into law in Ghana to protect   the developers of the technology and encourage the investment in science and technology beyond the country’s budget.

Instead of the critics of the technology to say science is not good at all, they should discuss on its deployment which can be useful to our economy.

The Open Forum On Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Ghana have visited all the regions in Ghana and information materials on biotechnology have been translated into local languages.

It is worthy to note that the Ghanaian government does not fund science, to this end, funding is needed to scale up educational activities on modern biosafety issues in Ghana.

In Nigeria, it is sad to note that the country has one of the lowest usage rates of agriculture inputs and ranks the lowest on agriculture indices of mechanization and irrigation.

Insect and pest problems, climate change issues and increasing   population were also attributed as the reasons for poor productivity.

Meanwhile, there are some Genetically Modified crops that can withstand insects and pests attack, while some are drought resistant. These crops if adopted could be used by farmers to upscale the country’s food production without the crops been damaged by pests and insects.

However, Maize, cotton, rice, cassava, Sorghum (ABS) have been said to be the first GM crops to be introduced in Nigeria for commercialisation soon.

It is also worthy of note that the Biosafety law was signed in Nigeria in 2015 which gave rise to the establishment of regulatory agency, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) same year.

Since its establishment, NBMA has carried out 3 approvals and accredited research institutes and universities for GM research.

OFAB Nigeria in its advocacy drive has carried out advocacy visits, capacity building, Seeing is Believing Tours, workshops and seminars, radio and tv programs, social media campaigns to enlighten the public and policy holders with the right information on the safety of biotechnology and its practices.

In Burkina Faso, Cotton is one of the major driver of the country’s economy, 85 per cent of population of Burkina Faso is active in agriculture and cotton is its number one cash crop contributing 25 per cent of agricultural income.

There is evidence that cotton is locomotive for cereal crops such as maize and sorghum in Burkina Faso.

In Burkina Faso, necessary steps have been taken towards the release  of  GM  cotton- Pre-release   trials,   BT  cotton   seed   multiplication,   Commercial   production   of   GM Bollgard II Cotton and cultivation field, commercial production since 2009.

BT cotton (GM Cotton) have pushed Burkina Faso in the cotton production ranking from 11th  in 1990s to 1st  position in Africa since 2010.

Genetically Modified Organisms is a technology which African countries cannot afford to neglect, this new technology will help African countries to upscale its food production, guarantee food security and earn foreign exchange for the countries.

The era of dependence on food importation should be over in Africa. The governments in Africa should look for possible ways of adopting biotechnology in food production, this will go along way to addressing food insecurity and guarantee self-sufficiency in food production.

Nigerian Tribune