WHY US?

 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.

THIS IS WHERE WE COME IN.

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.

 6. 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.

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