LAUNCH OF OPEN FORUM ON AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY MALAWI CHAPTER 1 ST APRIL 2022

African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in conjunction with National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) which is under the Ministry of Education, on 1st April, 2022 launched an open forum on agricultural biotechnology (OFAB) Malawi chapter. OFAB, a project of AATF, expedites productive conversations among key stakeholders and decision makers on agricultural biotechnology. For both policymakers and the larger public, OFAB also accelerates eminence engagements and conversations on the safety and benefits of modern biotechnology.

The guest of honour, Minister of Education, Hon. Agness NyaLonje appreciated the commission for its efforts in advancing Science Technology and Innovation in Malawi. She however challenged that there is a need to embrace the value of relationship between human sciences and natural sciences In order to develop good communication so that science technology and innovation is understood at grassroots and not only to scientists and researchers, this will help to instill positive uptake on biotechnology in Malawi.

Prof. Elijah Wanda, the Director General of NCST positively agreed that with the coming of OFAB it will ensure that farmers have access to improved seeds for a sustainable food security and agriculture-driven economic development in Malawi. One of the seeds that have seen taking shape already is that of BT Cotton, with BT cotton farmers can testify that they have started recording high productivity as compared to the past. Prof. E. Kaunda who is the board chair for NCST, concurred that OFAB Malawi chapter will be a catalyst for linkages and interactions between policy makers, research scientists, farmers, and private sector on embracing biotechnology to improve the agriculture sector.

With an assurance the Director General for NCST made a promise that the commission will continue to execute its mandate which is to advise the Government and other stakeholders on all science and technology matters in order to achieve a science and technology led development in line with Malawi Vision 2063.

Dr Canisius Kanangire, AATF Executive Director said the launch of OFAB Malawi chapter comes at a time when Malawi is keen to sustain its efforts towards the commercialisation of products emanating from agricultural Biotechnology. He further said since the dawn of AATF it has facilitated access to technological worth over 400 million US dollars for use by over 10 million farmers in Africa ranging from better seeds, digital tools, and agricultural mechanisation solutions. In winding up he congratulated Malawi for giving other African countries an opportunity to learn from its experiences especially on BT cotton.

As part of prelaunch activities AATF in conjunction with NCST conducted a two days media training on science communication at BICC for the journalists, communication practitioners, and members of the NCST. The training was aimed at equipping and imparting knowledge to the journalists and communication practitioners in Malawi on how best they can report or cover stories of biotechnology and STI in general to ease understanding across Malawians, this was done with an understanding of a crucial role the media plays in communicating with general public. OFAB is being implemented in nine countries such as; Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Malawi also being its new 10th chapter.

Where ever OFAB dwells on benefits such as; commitment in ensuring that smallholder farmers benefit from access to products of biotechnology, it also focuses on better yields and profits for commercial farmers who are using biotech crops such as BT maize, BT cotton and BT cowpea. And lastly is also settles on improving environmental impact of farming due to genetically engineered crops that have cut chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22% and boosted farmer profits by 68%

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