Africa Harvest outreach in West Africa helps biotech develop strong roots
During the year under review, Africa Harvest continued with biotech outreach projects in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. In Ghana and Burkina Faso, the main focus was strengthening biotech stakeholder management by supporting regular, multi-institutional meetings to build consensus on critical issues. The meetings were also designed to synergize biotech and biosafety outreach strategies of members of the Ghana Biotech Stakeholders Forum (GBSF).
These include the NBA, Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI), the Program for Biosafety System (PBS) Ghana, the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Ghana Chapter, Crop Life Ghana and the Africa Biosafety Network of Experts (ABNE). Through the GBSF, Africa Harvest supported efforts to maintain and coordinate communications, outreach, and advocacy efforts among partners.
A meeting was held at Kumasi. Interviews were held with scientists at the Crops Research Institute (CRI) in Kumasi as part of a strategy to interview and gather information for a multi-institutional, national communication strategy. Africa Harvest undertook similar work in Burkina Faso; however, the interventions were more focused on challenges related to the non-planting of Bt cotton. Several meetings were held to enable the Burkina Biotech and Biosafety Stakeholder Forum (BBBSF) build consensus on critical issues.
Partner organizations synergized their biotech and biosafety outreach strategies. The institutions included: Africa Harvest, Institute de l’ Environnementet de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), ABNE, Burkina Biotech Association (BBA), RECOAB and OFAB. Among the achievements of the stakeholder forum in Burkina Faso was mitigating the adverse effects of not planting Bt cotton. Information was disseminated to defined target audiences, especially within the new government.
The forum remained engaged with Bt cotton farmers; their support for the technology was not in question and helped frame discussions with the government in a progressive way. Africa Harvest was part of a multi-stakeholder Rapid Response Team (RRT) that played a key role in message development and deployment.
A regional biotech stakeholder conference, which included partners outside Burkina Faso – such as Africa Harvest, Africa Seed Traders Association (AFSTA) and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) – confirmed to the new government, politicians and policymakers that the issue was beyond the country or the West Africa region.
However, the political transition and the fact that many in the new government were not conversant with the technology made the challenge of reaching out particularly difficult. None-the-less a clear way forward was agreed, based on a single coordinating unit, consisting of local individuals and institutions involved in biotechnology and biosafety.
During the last quarter of 2016, Croplife International (CLI) requested Africa Harvest to strengthen biotech outreach in Nigeria. More specifically, Africa Harvest was asked to synergize and strengthen efforts of the NABDA. To this end, a stakeholders’ workshop to review efforts by different organizations and agree on a unified strategy was held in Abuja in December 2016.