By Vitumbiko Chinoko
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its recent report of the state of climate change singled out that surface temperature in most part of Africa has already exceeded the Paris Agreement goal of keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. This state of climate change in Africa is extremely precarious and the poor, who are already living below the poverty line, are the most affected. The adverse impacts of climate change have hit hard on the poor in various ways including triggering food insecurity either through floods or droughts. A deepening of these impacts has led to loss and damage. All these situations affect the poor most disproportionately and yet they are not to blame for the problem of climate change.
Climate adaptation has been prioritized as solution by Governments, NGOs and development partners. Several packages of adaptation activities that have been taken to communities to improve the lives of the poor have been minimal. In most cases, the level of impacts of climate change has challenged the adaptation solutions taken to the impacted communities. I think there are two reasons to this. Firstly, the impacts of climate change are increasing and deepening to such levels that our suite of adaptation solutions are failing to fully address the situation. This state of loss and damage is happening across Africa, and most communities are actually failing to adapt despite their most honest and earnest efforts. The state of climate is just deep and there is need to start thinking radically about what else we have not tried in the suitcase of solutions. I believe that one solution that has been forgotten out of the box of solutions is the agricultural biotechnology.
Agricultural biotechnology has been at the center of food security solutions in other continents. It is my contention that the inclusion of this tool into the box of adaptation would greatly support adaptation needs of most of the African communities that are affected by climate change. The continent has been slow in adopting biotechnology primarily due to a lot of noise agitating against the technology particularly in agriculture. The sad part of the situation is that most of this noise is devoid of any scientific basis even as our farmers continue to feel the pinch from the impacts of climate change yet agricultural biotechnology would have immensely cushioned against these impacts.
Climate projections show Southern Africa will continue to receive less precipitation. This region will need early maturing varieties which can survive the few months of rain, and biotechnology comes in handy as it offers water-efficient varieties. East Africa and the neighboring countries have been projected to receive more rain in the next couple of years due to climate change. This state of climate can trigger pests and diseases putting plants and animals at risk. Several biotech solutions can be developed to ensure the survival of flora and fauna despite the prevailing climatic conditions. The nutrition challenge has increased because of climate change with most foods having less and less of minerals especially zinc. Herein lies a viable option in biotechnology as it offers a range of solutions; the technology has allowed development of traits rich in mineral and vitamins.
In fact, biotechnology can effectively complement other adoption options in the toolbox. The problem of food insecurity in Africa is so huge that we should allow all technologies to support our food security agenda; biotechnology being among the leading tools. I believe that we have unfairly denied ourselves an opportunity to make a dent on food security challenges on the continent because we have not allowed agricultural biotechnology.
Let us all make agri-biotech count as it promises to address our big challenge: Food insecurity.
Vitumbiko Chinoko is the Project Manager of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB). OFAB provides biotechnology stakeholders with an effective, trustworthy and responsive platform for dialogue on all aspects of agricultural biotechnology based on scientific evidence. OFAB is a project of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). Reach Chinoko at firstname.lastname@example.org