The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB-Kenya) and partners held an induction meeting for Project Associates on Monday 12th October 2020. The objectives of the meeting were to; officially initiate members to the OFAB Kenya Associates Program; outline the roles and expectations of OFAB Kenya and the Associates in the Program; and highlight various ways in which the Associates can contribute to outreach and advocacy for agricultural biotechnology. The meeting was preceded by a call made by OFAB Kenya to select stakeholders to express interest in collaborating with the Chapter in its agricultural biotechnology outreach and advocacy activities. OFAB Kenya Associates Program aims at expanding and diversifying of the Chapter’s outreach in building common public understanding on agricultural biotechnology and the opportunities it presents in improving food security and boosting socio-economic development. The Program will leverage unique capacities of scientists, farmer leaders, women leaders, faith-based leaders, youth, private sector players and social media influencers to address issues in real time and cascade factual information needed in building appreciation for agricultural biotechnology and its applications.
Over the years, OFAB Kenya has provided biotechnology stakeholders with an effective, trustworthy and responsive platform for dialogue on all aspects of biotechnology based on scientific evidence. To achieve this, the Chapter has partnered with National and County governments, the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), Farmer Associations and other partners. This has created synergy in creating awareness on agricultural biotechnology and biosafety in the country. Kenya is legislatively strong to implement agricultural technologies that will support achievement of the Big Four Agenda. Having ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 2003, the country approved the National Policy on Biotechnology Development in 2006 to guide research and commercialization of modern biotechnology products. This was closely followed by enactment of the Biosafety Act in 2009 that lays down legal and institutional frameworks for governing modern biotechnology. The Act served to establish the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) in 2010 to provide supervision and monitoring of genetically modified organisms research and commercialization activities. In addition, Kenya possesses a government-led national biotechnology awareness strategy (BioAWARE) that provides a participatory mechanism for awareness creation and understanding of the role of biotechnology in the country’s development agenda.
Kenya has made significant progress in agricultural biotechnology research, development and adoption, with three GM crops (cotton, maize and cassava) now advancing to commercialization and/or final research stage. The Government has given approval for commercial cultivation of insect-resistant Bt cotton. Farmer-led demonstrations farms are ongoing to train farmers on Bt cotton cultivation. Insect-resistant Bt Maize is currently under National Performance Trials. An application for environmental release and placing in the market of disease-resistant GM cassava was made to the National Biosafety Authority (NBA). Thereafter, NBA called for public participation as part of a legal requirement towards decision making on the product.
The OFAB Kenya Associates Program will play a crucial role in cascading factual information about agricultural biotechnology in the country as the country continues to explore various appropriate technologies to improve food productivity. Members will participate through; representing OFAB Kenya in their respective institutions; facilitating OFAB-led biotech outreach activities on a need basis; addressing issues raised by stakeholders on agricultural biotechnology in real time; and, participating in media outreach including writing opinion pieces, radio/TV interviews and social media engagement. Prioritized activities include hosting of OFAB Kenya Nodes in (4) grassroots universities and running a social media campaign in recognition of farm heroes (#FarmShujaaz) who dedicate their daily lives to improve the way we produce our food.