Could Africa Experience A Green Revolution? Farmers To Get Educated About Biotechnology And Modern Farming

By Shweta Iyer on February 16, 2014 1:07 PM EST

African Farming
Old farming practices may not produce enough crops to feed the growing numbers of people living in Africa. Therefore, a group of experts in biosciences and agriculture got together on Saturday to speak about how to take Africa through a green revolution. (Photo: DFAT Photo Library, CC BY 2.0)

On Saturday, The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conducted a session in Chicago speaking about the state of biosciences in Africa. African experts in the field of agricultural biotechnology held presentations highlighting the impacts of biosciences on small holder farming sectors. The African economy is on an upward trajectory, and is among the fastest growing in the world. African farmers could benefit by introducing technology in their farming techniques, however, the experts pointed out the need to carefully deliver this bioscience revolution, which is still in its nascent stage.

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"While many of the world's farmers have benefitted from advances in bioscience, African farmers and citizens could possibly benefit the most," said Sir Brian Heap, a prominent biologist and moderator of the session, in a statement. "Sub-Saharan African countries still face poverty, food insecurity, and the effects of climate change - but advances in science and technology could fundamentally change their lives for the better."

The topics discussed in the session included an overview of the work done by the Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA), a project funded by the Sir John Templeton Foundation and the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre in Cambridge, UK. Since its inception a little over three years ago, its goal has been to promote awareness of advances in biosciences and genetic technologies, thus bringing about a green revolution through improved agricultural productivity - in both a sustainable and equitable way. Besides that, it also promotes informed dialogue.

"The intention has always been to stimulate local interest and B4FA has thus in the first instance aimed to engage with the media, smallholders, women farmers, and local politicians," said Professor Walter Alhassan, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of B4FA and a speaker at the session who is from Ghana, in the statement. "The response has been highly encouraging with reports of a number of landmark regional projects starting, ranging from disease-resistant cassava to vitamin enriched golden bananas. We therefore believe the best way to now ensure further progress is to help these local stakeholders present their case on a wider stage."

Besides Alhassan, whose presentation was titled "African Biotechnology Stewardship Initiative for High Quality Crops," other representatives from Africa who presented at the session were:

Mohamed H. Hassan from the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World. His presentation was titled "Biosciences in Africa's Economic Transformation

Andrew Kiggundu from the National Agro-Biotechnology Center in Uganda. His presentation was titled "Bioscience-Based Research for African Staple Crops"

Diran Makinde from the New Partnership for Africa's Development in Burkina Faso. His presentation was titled "Crop Biotechnology and Biosafety in Africa"

Margaret Karembu from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications in Kenya. Her presentation was titled "Preparing Youth for High-Tech Agriculture"

These experts gave a series of presentations on how biotechnology can be used for economic growth, examples of new genetic research on local crops, ways to encourage young future farmers, and the current state of government policy.

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