AfricaBio- A voice for effective policies and innovations in biotechnology
- Created on Tuesday, 09 October 2012 05:14
The provision of safe, healthy and adequate food is one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Africa can harness the growing science of biotechnology to boost food security.
"There is need to ensure understanding and safe application of biotechnology in promoting food security because once new technologies such as biotechnology are misunderstood, policies and the political will needed to promote the adoption of such innovations in agriculture will not be supported," says Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, the Chief Executive Officer of AfricaBio, a biotechnology stakeholder association based in Pretoria, South Africa that was established in 1999.
AfricaBio is an umbrella association of key stakeholders in the biotechnology sector to interact, dialogue and disseminate accurate information about biotechnology and biosafety in South Africa and throughout Africa. Its membership comprises farmers, farmer organisations, researchers, scientists, consumers, retailers, industry associations, research and tertiary institutions. Dr Obokoh, a plant molecular biologist, with a PhD degree from the University of Cambridge took over the helm of AfricaBio in February 2012 and believes that biotechnology adoption in Africa can thrive on disseminating accurate information about the technology. Prior to her current appointment, Dr Obokoh was the country representative for the Kenya based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) working in Abuja, Nigeria. She has 9 years international and national experience in Agricultural Biotechnology research, development and management including a career as a post-doctoral research associate.
AfricaBio is a non-political, non-profit biotechnology association for the safe, ethical and responsible research, development and application of biotechnology and its products. It is a section 21 company with a dedicated secretariat, executive director and board of directors. The association thus serves as a forum for informed dialogue on biotechnological and biosafety issues in Africa. AfricaBio's objectives are to keep key biotechnology stakeholders informed with accurate information on biotechnology through information and awareness campaign to specific groups, the media and general public. Through its various projects, AfricaBio empowers its target groups by providing appropriate information, outreach materials and training.
"Lack of accurate information contributes to misunderstanding and fear about biotechnology and this impacts negatively on food security because this technology has a huge potential to increase agricultural productivity for farmers. According to the recent Agricultural reports, Biotech crops are now the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture, with a 94-fold increase in hectarage from 1.7-million hectares in 1996 to 160 million hectares in 2011. South Africa is currently ranked ninth, as a Biotech mega-country with 2.3- million hectares of GM crops under cultivation, compared to the USA ranked first with over 69 million hectares of GM crop planted. Thus millions of farmers globally elect to adopt biotech crops due to the socioeconomic and environmental benefits they offer. Africa missed the Green revolution, which saw a number of Asian countries pulled out of the food crisis in the 1960s. We now have the gene revolution, and it has been adopted by 29 countries. Africa cannot afford not to take advantage of technological advances in agriculture," said Dr Obokoh.
Since 2000, AfricaBio has provided information and training on Biotechnology and its application to over 3000 farmers, community leaders, community groups and households in developing communities. In addition, the organisation has trained more than 195 extension officers, 325 international delegates, 93 decision makers and 105 biotechnology communicators in South Africa and the region.