ETHANOL DRIVEN VEHICLEThe Ethanol Driven Vehicle Project (EDVP) was initiated in 2006 after a cabinet directive in 2004 that Malawi should explore other sources of fuel for vehicles with the overall objective of contributing to economic development by promoting use of ethanol as an alternative energy source in vehicles. The project was first implemented by the then Department of Science and Technology under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and from July 2010 the project was taken over by the National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST). The project was implemented in collaboration with Lilongwe Technical College, Ethanol Company Limited, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority, Plant and Vehicle Hire Organisation and Malawi Bureau of Standards. PVHO donated an old Mitsubishi Pajero to the project; ETHCO imported a flexi vehicle (Ford Ecosport) and the project bought three Nissan Tiidas.

By promoting use of ethanol as an alternative energy source in motor vehicles in Malawi, the research findings were aimed at contributing to energy self-sufficiency, national economic development and environmental protection. The use of locally produced ethanol could replace a certain proportion of petrol imported resulting in savings in foreign exchange and reduce the reliance on imported petroleum fuel. Ethanol produced from sugarcane molasses is classified as a renewable form of energy. The use of ethanol reduces emissions of greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter and ethanol is generally less toxic to handle than petroleum fuels.

Ethanol use as vehicle fuel as compared to petrol use is seen to have a net positive benefit/ cost impact on the economy of the ethanolcountry. Ethanol use positively contribute to fuel price stability, reduce vehicle running costs, reduce foreign exchange requirements, help address challenges faced by the country due to reliance on imported fuels, growth of agriculture sector and poverty alleviation. Ethanol use negatively contributes to levies collected by Government and does not affect the cost of servicing petrol vehicles, transport costs and storage infrastructure. Ethanol use would therefore contribute to the overall economic development of the country through generation of employment, growth to the agriculture sector, saving of foreign exchange and reducing the reliance of imported petroleum fuels amongst others.

Total ethanol production for the country is 18 million litres per year.This quantity meetsthe current demand of ethanol use as vehicle fuel at a blending ratio of 10% ethanol and 90% petrol. This quantity is however inadequate to meet future ethanol requirements due to increased blending of ethanol with petrol, increased vehicle population and use flexi vehicles.

Existing structures that are used for storage, handling, transporting and marketing of petroleum products (petrol and diesel fuels) and petrol/ ethanol blends are capable of being used for storage, handling, transporting and marketing of increased ethanol/ petrol blends and pure ethanol

NCSTorganizes a journalists sensitization workshop at Livingstonia Beach Hotel

The National Commission for Science and Technology in conjunction with International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS) organized a journalists’ sensitization workshop which took place at the Livingstonia Beach Hotel in Salima on 20th and 21st November.

The workshop brought along 13 journalists from the main media houses of Malawi and it had the following objectives;

  •  Introduce participants to the basics of biotechnology and biosafety
  • Familiarize participants with the role of Malawi institutions in research and regulation of GMOs
  • Create awareness about the global, regional and national status of GMOs
  • Introduce participants to principles of effective biosafety communication
  • Equip participants with skills for identification of biosafety concerns, packaging and publishing of balanced stories on biotechnology


Practical Session: DNA extraction to understand how genetic engineering ensues

Facilitators in the workshop were scientists and researchers drawn from the Department of Agriculture Research Services, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the institution that is carrying out the Confined Field Trials for Bt Cotton and communication experts including Dr Margaret Karembu from ISAAA. Among the facilitators also was the Chairperson of the Cotton Development Trust who is also one of the farmers to have gone to Burkina Faso to witness the benefits of growing Bt Cotton there.
In his speech opening the workshop, the Director General of NCST Mr. Anthony Muyepa Phiri stressed on the importance and timeliness of this workshop saying there has been a lot of misinformation and fear mongering on GM crops and he believed this has been due to the lack of correct information on the part of the media and he said he was sure that at the end of those two days the right information will be inculcated to the media and that the issues of misreporting this technology will be a thing of the past.
The workshop approach was participatory and interactive with presentations, group works, practical sessions and the participants also had chance to conduct a DNA extraction so as to understand how genetic engineering ensues. The practical sessions allowed the participants to develop stories and by the end of the meeting the groups had frameworks of feasible stories.
The presentations were in three categories namely Biotechnology, biosafety and effective biotechnology and biosafety communication.

Participatory and interactive group works

Participatory and interactive group works

It is hoped that having done this sensitization workshop, the misinformation that has been common place when reporting issues to do with biotech crops will no longer be an issue.

The NCST has been implementing the Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS). This is a programme that is promoting the adoption and use of biotechnology.

To enhance Malawi’s future development and economic growth, the National Commission for Science and Technology is promoting biotechnology as one of the tools to address poverty, hunger and disease.
To guide development and use of modern biotechnology in the country, NCST has facilitated development of the necessary legal and policy instruments such as Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy, Genetically Modified Seed Import Procedure Manual, Trials Managers Manual, Inspectors Manual and Malawi Guidelines on Biotechnology.

In line with the policy, Government approved the first application for Bt-cotton Confined Field Trial at Bunda College of Agriculture in October 2011, making Malawi among the very few countries in Africa and the world to conduct Confined Field Trials.

The government of Malawi signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in May 2000 and ratified it in 2009.
In line with the requirements of the Protocol, the Malawian Parliament enacted the Biosafety Act in October
2002, which is administered by the Minister responsible for Environmental Affairs. The Act provides for an
institutional framework for its operationalization consisting of the following;
National Biosafety Regulatory Committee
Biosafety Registrar

A national biotechnology and biosafety policy was approved by the Malawi Cabinet on 26th June 2008.

Among provisions in the Malawi biotechnology and biosafety policy is the delineation of roles and
responsibilities at government level as well as at the R&D and other service delivery institutional levels. In
the policy, the mandate for promoting and developing biotechnology in Malawi is vested in the National
Commission for Science and Technology (NCST). The NCST hosts the National Biotechnology Committee,
which is responsible for promoting biotechnology, public awareness and coordination of biotechnology
research and development. On the other hand, the Department of Environmental Affairs (EAD) is
responsible for regulation of biotechnology, which entails receiving and reviewing applications for
activities with genetically modified organisms and issuing licenses or permits. The EAD hosts the National
Biosafety Regulatory Committee (NBRC). In addition, there is a third set of public institutions that are
responsible for providing biosafety regulatory and enforcement services in the country. The mandate of
these institutions is provided through regulatory provisions included in the various Acts that established
them. These include: the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security; Ministry of Industry and Trade;
Ministry of Health; Malawi Bureau of Standards; Pharmacy and Medicines Board; Pesticides Control Board;
Seed Services Unit; Plant Protection Unit; Ministry of Labour; Fisheries Department; Forestry Department;
National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi; Department of National Parks and Wildlife; Ministry of
Local Government; Ministry of Women and Child Welfare; and Malawi Investment Promotion Agency.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has also established its institutional biosafety committee
(IBC) known as the Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety Committee (ABBC) which is technically
and financially supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

Commencement of Insect-Resistant Cotton CFT in Malawi
In 2009, Bunda College of Agriculture of the University of Malawi through Professor Moses Kwapata
submitted applications for confined field trials of insect resistant and herbicide tolerant cotton. The two
applications for confined field trials (CFTs) for cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) with the events MON88913
(herbicide tolerant) and MON15985 (insect resistant) were submitted according to the provisions of the
Malawi Biosafety Act #13 of 2002 and Biosafety Regulations, 2007, and the Malawi Biotechnology
Guidelines, 2009; to the National Biosafety Regulatory Committee (NBRC) through the Biosafety Registrar.
In January 4, 2013, Malawi commenced CFT for cotton at Bunda College.

Identified Biosafety Needs and Gaps:
Areas that require ABNE intervention are:
Support to the NBRC in biosafety communication using the ABNE Biosafety Communication Manual.

Training of members of the Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety Committee (ABBC) as an agricultural technical group of experts to serve as a team of scientific safety reviewers and strengthen their capacity in risk assessments

Training of the Biosafety Registrar, institutional biosafety committee members and members of the NBRC for their roles and responsibilities as biosafety regulators

Training of inspectors for monitoring and compliance
Facilitating attendance of the Biosafety Registrar and members of the NBRC in a functional biosafety committee meeting of another country.

one-billion-presentationOn 22th March 2013, NCST presented grants totalling US$ 2.6 Million (MK 1.1 Billion) to 10 Individuals and 5 Institutions carrying out research in health. This was made possible through a Health Research Capacity Strengthening Initiative (HRCSI) a programme within NCST with funding from Wellcome Trust and Department for International Development (DfID UK).

The funds are to assist the grantees to pursue health research as well as further education in health related disciplines. The funding was available in the following schemes schemes: Institutional grants, MSc Fellowships, PhD Bursaries and Internships.