African governments have been urged to be proactive in using science and technology, especially biotechnology, to address food security challenges facing the continent.
The Principal Programme Officer, African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), Dr Sials Obukosia, said the continent was not doing enough to promote science and technology information for development not only in agriculture but in areas such as energy, health, infrastructure, among others.
“We believe in harnessing science, technology and innovation for sustainable development and meeting the aspirations of the continent as espoused in the African Union Agenda 2063,” he said when he addressed the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) Media awards and gala dinner, 2019 held in Mombasa, Kenya, on November 21, 2019.
The ABNE is an agency of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a socio-economic flagship programme of the African Union (AU).
Dr Obukosia noted that Africa’s development and prosperity would be attained through strategies for inclusive growth, job creation, increasing agricultural production; investments in science, technology, research and innovation.
He said modern biotechnology had the potential to contribute towards increased agricultural productivity and help mitigate food security and climate change challenges on the continent.
Consequently, he urged journalists to make science reporting a priority in order to ensure responsible, professional and effective reportage on agriculture biotechnology.
“Journalists must play a vital role to in promoting awareness and the adoption of agriculture biotechnologies, which can greatly improve Africa’s chance of achieving food security and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and economies”, he said.
The OFAB Media Awards is an annual event sponsored by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a non-governmental organisation which focuses on agriculture biotechnology, through its OFAB project.
It was to recognise exemplary journalism that promote best practices in science reporting with emphasis on agriculture biotechnology through responsible, professional, ethical and effective reporting.
The awards provide an opportunity to enhance knowledge-sharing and awareness creation of agricultural biotechnology that will raise understanding and appreciation of the technology and contribute to building an enabling environment for informed and timely decision making.
In all, 25 finalists from the seven OFAB countries participated in awards and each received a certificate of participation. They included Ama Achiaa Amankwah Baafi, a Staff Writer with the GRAPHIC BUSINESS, who emerged the overall winner in the print and online category at the 3rd edition of the OFAB Ghana chapter media awards 2019, and Salifu Wononuo of Radio Wa who won the best radio reporter.
A Kenyan journalist, Gabriel Kudaka, a reporter at both NTV and the Daily Nation, won this year’s OFAB African Journalist Of The Year Award.
Representatives from Ghana at the OFAB Media Awards in Mombasa, Kenya
It was founded in September 2006 by the AATF in Kenya, Nairobi, with the objective to ensure that the vast and critical wealth of information and knowledge on agricultural biotechnology scientists’ possess is made available to policy decision makers and the general public.
OFAB therefore brings together stakeholders in the agric industry such as scientists, policy makers, farmers, regulators, journalists, consumers and academia, among others to share knowledge and experiences and explore ways of bringing the benefits of agricultural biotechnology to smallholder farmers and consumers.
A Senior Manager, Communications and Partnerships at the AATF, Ms Nancy Muchiri, said OFAB had so far expanded to six other countries including Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Tanzania.
She said each country chapter was hosted and coordinated by a national agricultural research system, a government scientific institution or an agricultural oriented international organisation.
“The mandate of OFAB is to contribute to enhance science communication in Africa and especially help to understand biotechnology,” she said.