How To Save Africa’s Agriculture
Last week, a meeting of twenty United Agencies (UN) agencies was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to explore on ways to help the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad) achieve its goals.
Nepad’s main mission is to end chronic poverty in Africa, by, mainly, integrating innovative agricultural technologies, such as biotechnology, into African countries’ economies.
Agriculture being the mainstay of most African countries’ economies, Nepad should exploit the resources at various agricultural-oriented UN agencies to facilitate its rejuvenation. There is the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that has, for many years, been championing the rights of African farmers. The World Health Organization (WHO), on the other hand, has been very resourceful in giving expert guidance on food safety, the most memorable one being a declaration that genetically modified foods don’t pose health risks on consumers.
It must, however, be stated that the success of this initiative largely depends on Nepad’s willingness to persuade African farmers and policy makers to be ready to embrace more productive agricultural technologies such as biotechnology. UN agencies alone cannot bring prosperity to Africa. African farmers and policy makers must realize that the world, now, is a global village, where countries freely share technologies.
Nepad has already made recognizable progress in convincing Africa to integrate modern agricultural technologies, such as biotechnology, into their economies. Nepad’s science and technology secretariat, through policy briefs, conferences, and position papers, has been actively touting modern agricultural biotechnology as the new frontier to food security.
Just three months ago, Nepad released a draft position paper on potential applications of modern biotechnology in African countries’ economies. To be tabled during the African Heads of States meeting in January, next year, the paper, among other things, asks African governments to integrate modern biotechnology into their development plans. It calls for an integrated approach to agricultural biotechnology.
All these efforts are commendable, but Nepad still can do more. To ensure Africa benefits maximally from, for example, modern agricultural biotechnology, Nepad must intensify efforts to help African governments develop biosafety policies. It can do this by volunteering technical assistance.
Collaboration with a UN agency such as the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been active in research on the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), would be helpful. Such an agency can help correct misinformation that attends the debate about genetically modified foods.
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