OFAB held a virtual science café on Wednesday 5th August 2020. The objectives of the meeting were to Explore the implications of the ongoing Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between Kenya and the US and highlight the implications of Bt cotton commercialization and how it will impact textile and apparel trade under African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The key panelist was the CS Betty Maina, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development. Also present was Dr. Margaret Karembu, Director ISAAA AfriCenter, Chair OFAB Kenya PC, Dr. Roy B. Mugiira Director, Scheduled Sciences, NACOSTI and Joe Ageyo, Editorial Director, Royal Media Services, as the moderator.
Dr. Margaret Karembu started off the meeting with welcoming remarks and stated that cotton is being grown on 24million hectares of land in Kenya. She noted that registration for OFAB Media Awards was still on up to 31st August 2020. She recommended localizing supply to retain more value because Ksh. 350million is spent buying goods and textile made from imported raw materials, textile and apparel manufacturers to use local cotton and negotiate for value added products i.e. agricultural because acquiring 5% of the US market in 5 years would lead to increase earnings from Ksh.60billion to Ksh. 2trillion. She added that technical assistance from the US and Europe should be sought to meet their standards. She urged Kenyans to join OFAB as associates to do more awareness in counties.
Ms. Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade & Enterprise Development thanked OFAB for making science palatable and popularizing Bt cotton in Kenya. She noted that local innovation and self-reliance was being promoted as two locally made ventilators were going into clinical trials and that industrial property and copyright legislations were being practiced. She reported that the trade negotiations between Kenya and US which had been launched on 8th July 2020 were to be hopefully concluded in not more than 2 years since US is Kenya’s 3rd largest market. The CS recommended commercialization of Bt cotton by making available best technology for its farming, creating a market for Kenyan goods, making available seeds for farmers, complying with regulations from National Biosafety Authority to label GMOs, making available other options for local clothes producers to reduce importing of mitumba, science, technology and agriculture to be promoted, the media to share correct information and encouraging farmers to utilize technology.
Prof. Theophilus M. Mutui from The National Biosafety Authority cited that following the Environment Impact Assessment requirements, Bt cotton is being grown in National performance sites. He recommended that cotton fabrics should be labelled as organic or genetically modified and that the government should be advised to adopt Bt cotton farming to build local capacity.
Dr. Charles N Waturu Centre Director KARI-Thika stated that hybrid seeds cannot be replanted because the quality decreases. He suggested moving from conventional to hybrid cotton for competitiveness. He pointed out that COVID-19 has affected cotton processing in terms of not being able to visit farms and transport produce.
Dr. Roy B. Mugiira Director, Scheduled Sciences, NACOSTI gave the closing remarks. He appreciated Ms. Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade & Enterprise Development for her commercial inputs. He also noted that Ksh. 500million is being commanded by Kenya in the US. He recommended engaging policy making persons in such forums to increase awareness.