USING BIOTECHNOLOGY TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE IN THE SADC REGION

STRENGTHENING BIOSAFETY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY CAPACITY ACROSS SOUTHERN AFRICA

FACILITATING INFORMED DECISION-MAKING ON THE USE OF GMOS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA

ENSURING ACCESS TO SAFE FOOD IN THE SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

STRENGTHENING BIOSAFETY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY CAPACITY ACROSS SOUTHERN AFRICA

About Us

About Us

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region urgently needs to maximise food production, while simultaneously safeguarding the environment through sustainable agricultural practices. The region’s policy makers also need urgent support to strengthen the capacity of scientists, government regulators in biosafety and biotechnology.

Our programmes therefore aim to simultaneously strengthen their capacity and also to combat the lack of knowledge among farmers, businesses and the public on how to absorb and use new biotechnological solutions. These stakeholders need to learn how they can increase agricultural productivity, and lower vulnerability of their agricultural crops to plant diseases and pests using safe genetically modified products.

We work closely with agricultural value chain stakeholders, including agri-scientists, regulators and policy makers to assist them in biosafety assessment and risk governance, so as to facilitate informed decision making, and work towards greater co-operation in regulation and policy making with regard to GMO crops. We strive to promote sustainable agricultural practices and enhance food security across the region.

  • We conduct training, workshops and awareness campaigns, and provide relevant literature, research material and guidelines to our stakeholders, thereby ensuring that people across the region will gain access to sufficient and safe food in the foreseeable future.
  • We also aim to tackle misinformation in the popular press/public domain, by providing concrete, research-based facts and objective information about GMO’s and biotechnology to stakeholders.
  • We wish to promote public awareness of modern biotechnologies, and to show their relevance in assisting to increase agricultural productivity and ensuring food security across the SADC region. We want to empower the public by providing sound, scientifically proven facts.
  • The project will strengthen capacity in Southern Africa to make informed decisions regarding the role of the modern biotechnology, together with appropriate biosafety assessment, in promoting sustainable agriculture and food security in the region.

Our project centres are in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. We are assisted by a team of agri-scientists from the Technical University of Denmark based in Lyngby. However, any scientists government officials and policymakers, farmers, or members of the general public in the SADC states (listed below) who wish to learn more about what we do, or get involved, are encouraged to contact us.

SADC 14 Member Countries (current): Angola, Botswana, Congo (DR), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The GMASSURE Programme will run from January 2014 to December 2016. Read more here (Links to: will be supplied)

Scientific institutions, government regulators and other stakeholders in Southern Africa may lack the expertise to support decision making on the relevance and applicability of new biotechnologies, particularly genetically modified (GM) agricultural crops that contribute to increased agricultural productivity and ensure access to safe food.

There is a lack of knowledge among farmers, businesses and the general public on how to absorb and use new biotechnological solutions to increase agricultural productivity and lower vulnerability to plant diseases and pests. The region needs support to strengthen the capacity of scientists, government regulators and policy makers in biosafety and biotechnology.

In the Southern African countries, policy makers and regulatory authorities are heavily reliant on expertise within universities and research institutions to advise them as to the safety of GMOs and their derived products. Yet despite many training courses in biosafety, the general level of expertise amongst both government officials and scientists remains low, and there is a lack of confidence to make decisions. There is also a lack of hands-on experience in biotechnology techniques and much knowledge remains theoretical. Staff turnover is an on going problem in many institutions in the region, so that training of single individuals does not sufficiently embed the knowledge in the organisation.

Our project aims to assist scientists and government officials across Southern Africa, complemented by outreach to farmers, consumers and other stakeholder groups in a more concrete way.

We wish to develop the expertise within scientific institutions, amongst government regulators and other stakeholders in the SADC region to support decision-making on the relevance and applicability of new biotechnologies, particularly GM crops, for agriculture in the region. We will provide scientists with the knowledge and expertise to embed training programmes on biotechnology and biosafety in their institutions to ensure sustainability. This will also support policy makers and decision makers in the individual countries and in SADC as a whole.

Our stakeholders can in turn provide information and advice to farmer organisations, agroprocessors, consumer organisations and others in the agricultural value chain. At the level of small-scale farmers in particular, support systems need to be in place to facilitate decision-making regarding appropriate agricultural technologies.

We also aim towards greater gender equity when selecting candidates for training and will empowering small-scale women farmers through our outreach initiatives.

Environmental safety and biodiversity conservation are a significant feature of our training workshops, which will incorporate discussion of the Precautionary Principle and Cartagena Protocol, and how best these can be incorporated into risk assessment, risk management and decision making in the SADC countries.

The knowledge of farmers, businesses and the general public on how to absorb and use the new biotechnological solutions will also be enhanced. The project will provide support to strengthen capacity in biosafety and biotechnology.

Our Aims:

  1. Assist in creating better understanding of biotechnology and biosafety issues amongst key role players (to assist them in making informed choices concerning the role of advanced biotechnology with regards to food security and food safety issues).
  2. To help stakeholders devise, manage, monitor, evaluate and disseminate agricultural biotechnology (particularly GM technology) programmes in their region.
  3. To promote a culture of science among the general public by providing easy to follow literature on the relevant subjects.
  4. To provide up to date research and statistics regarding the implications of agricultural biotechnology (as a means to increasing agricultural production).
  5. To help develop a partnership approach between institutions

in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, three countries that are at different stages in the use and application of GM technology which can be rolled out across the SADC region.

  1. To enhance inter-institutional and inter-country networking in the areas of agricultural biotechnology, food safety and biosafety. We will strengthen networks within the SADC region about co-operation that will assist stakeholders into the future.

Our Goals:

The short and long term goals of our project are:

  • Increased inter-country and inter-institutional networking on GMO safety issues.
  • Improved decision-making by government regulators regarding the introduction of GMOs in the SADC region.
  • Increased capacity of scientists, policy makers and government officials to manage, monitor and evaluate the impact of agricultural biotechnology, particularly GM technology.
  • Better understanding of biotechnology and biosafety issues amongst scientists and government officials.
  • Participating countries will be more able to make informed choices concerning the role of advanced biotechnology in their scientific and economic policies.
  • Increased awareness and knowledge of biotechnology amongst the general public in the SADC region resulting in an increased ability to assess the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of introducing new technologies.
  • Policy makers and the general public will have a better understanding of the role of agricultural biotechnology in increasing agricultural productivity.

Our aim is to increase inter-country and inter-institutional networking on issues of GMO safety, resulting in improved decision making regarding the introduction of GMOs in the SADC region. We work to increase the knowledge of stakeholders, giving them the information required to make informed decisions with reference to GMOs and GM food.

We strive to achieve these goals as follows:

(The activities below address the lack of capacity and increase the knowledge of stakeholders, giving them the information required to make informed decisions with reference to GMOs and GM food):

  • Bringing together agricultural value chain actors to discuss the most pressing issues around GM food acceptance in their respective countries
  • Raising awareness of the importance of appropriate biosafety regulations and biosafety risk analysis (risk assessment, risk management and decision making) amongst key stakeholders, particularly government officials and scientists involved in providing input and support to regulatory activities in agricultural production.
  • Strengthening the capacity of regulators, scientists and policy makers in biosafety and biotechnology through GMO biosafety workshops and training courses.
  • Provision of biosafety information that is accessible online, or available on CD and DVD where Internet access is not possible, tailored to the Southern African region.
  • Organisation of workshops for scientists and government officials to raise awareness and discuss the implications of new emerging (bio)technologies.
  • Provision of biosafety risk analysis training to scientists, policy makers and government officials.
  • Provision and dissemination of accurate and appropriate information on GMOs through newsletters and brochures.
  • Creation of an experienced, expert online biotechnology and biosafety panel that will answer questions relating to GMOs and GM food (See ONLINE PANEL.)
  • Dissemination of accurate agricultural and food safety information generated during the project, as well as collated from other relevant resources, to farmers, extension officers, the general public, cultural and religious groups and the anti-GM fraternity.

Types of activities and related outputs and results:

Our activities are all focused on achieving the result that scientists, regulators and other stakeholders in Southern Africa will have sufficient expertise in safety assessment and governance of GMOs to ensure informed decision-making.

Work Package 1 will provide biosafety risk analysis training to key stakeholders. An initial symposium will be organised with key decision makers in the SADC region to highlight the importance of GMO biosafety for agriculture and food security and to ensure that the relevant people attend training courses.

Work Package 2 will provide and disseminate accurate and appropriate information on GMOs. This will be done through newsletters and brochures, the creation of an online biotechnology and biosafety panel to which questions and comments can be submitted, and interactive workshops with cultural and religious leaders in the region.

Work Package 3 will provide linkage to the other WPs and have the output that all materials from the other WPs are available online, as a source of continued learning and revision. This will also ensure that the materials are available to new employees of key organisations, countering some of the effects of high staff turnover and attrition. Additionally, a wider range of online biosafety learning modules will be developed for the Southern African region and made available on a public website with linkages to other existing training sources.

Work Package 4 will raise awareness of new biotechnology developments and their possible regulatory implications. The role of new “-omics” techniques in assuring biosafety will be demonstrated, and a workshop will be held to discuss regulatory implications of new biotechnology techniques beyond current GMOs. A position paper will be produced as an output.

Work Package 5 will address dissemination of information to farmers, extension officers and others in the agricultural value chain. This will include the provision of communications training to scientists.

Work Package 6 will provide project management and visibility to the project.

Outputs are all directed towards the achievement of a common position on GMOs in the SADC region, through sharing of information and the provision of a cadre of trained and networked scientific personnel and government officials, with linkages to farmer organisations and other role players in the agriculture and food value chain. The interlinked activities address a variety of needs in the area of agricultural biosafety that are not dealt with through any existing programmes.

Timeframe: The action will take place over 36 months. This time frame is necessary given the complexity of working across countries many of which have relatively poor communication. It also allows for the development of new training materials and stakeholder dissemination activities.