Cambridge UK, Feb 10, 2014: This key session will bring African experts in person to Chicago to report on how agricultural biotechnology is starting to have a real impact on the crucial smallholder farming sector in particular. However, the session will also warn that this fledgling bioscience revolution needs to be carefully nurtured. According to moderator Sir Brian Heap, African economies are now among the fastest growing in the world. "While many of the world's farmers have benefitted from advances in bioscience, African farmers and citizens could possibly benefit the most. 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 session results from the work of Biosciences for Farming in Africa - B4FA. Funded by the Sir John Templeton Foundation and the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre at Cambridge UK, this wide-ranging project has over the last three years looked to spread awareness of the potential for recent advances in biosciences and genetic technologies to improve agricultural productivity in Africa in a sustainable and equitable way. Professor Walter Alhassan from Ghana, member of the Scientific Advisory Board of B4FA and speaker during the session said "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. 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."
For AAAS B4FA has assembled a panel of leading African experts who through a series of short presentations will first discuss the role of new technologies in economic transformation, examples of new genetics research on local crops, work to encourage young future farmers and the current state of government policy:
- Mohamed H. Hassan, Academy of Sciences for the Developing World Biosciences in Africa's Economic Transformation
- Andrew Kiggundu, National Agro-Biotechnology Center, Uganda Bioscience-Based Research for African Staple Crops
- Diran Makinde, New Partnership for Africa's Development, Burkina Faso Crop Biotechnology and Biosafety in Africa
- Walter Alhassan, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Ghana African Biotechnology Stewardship Initiative for High Quality Crops
- Daniel Otunge, African Agricultural Technology Foundation, Kenya Biosciences Strategic Communication in Africa
- Margaret Karembu, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, AfriCenter, Kenya Preparing Youth for High-Tech Agriculture
The presentations will be followed by a wide-ranging question and answer session and general discussion.
Saturday February 15th 8.30-11.30, Booth no. 607 - Biosciences for Africa - Agricultural, Plant and Food Sciences Track
Notes for editors:
Biosciences for Farming in Africa, B4FA, promotes informed dialogue about biosciences and agricultural biotechnology in Africa. This includes publication of a book of essays called Insights by a range of African and international experts, a weekly newsletter, bioscience training courses for African journalists and other activities focusing on plant genetics. B4FA currently works in four countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda and has been active since 2011. For more information visit http://www.