AfriCenter participated in an agri-biotechnology and biosafety workshop in Abuja, Nigeria, between the 17th and 18th of March 2016. The workshop was officially opened by Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Honorable Minister, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. The training’s objective was to showcase the role of agri-biotechnology in the achievement of food security and economic diversification in the country.

Speaking during the event, Hon. Onu underscored the importance of modern biotechnology in helping Nigeria feed its rising population. “If our population continues to grow at its rate, it will rise to one billion by the end of this century. It is therefore very important that we start planning for tomorrow” he said. According the Minister, biotechnology has the potential to help Nigeria achieve food security as well as protect farmers’ health and the environment. Hon. Onu also expressed his delight on the enactment of the biosafety law, stating that the public’s concern on the safety of the technology is taken care of by this important legislation. “By this law, no product of biotechnology that is harmful can be allowed into the country” he added.

In her welcome address, Dr. Louise Setshwaelo, the FAO representative in Nigeria, stated that although biotechnology was not a panacea to Africa’s agricultural challenges, the technology offers tools to combat some of those challenges and should be used to complement other conventional methods of farming. “At FAO, we believe agri-biotechnology has the potential to benefit African farmers and therefore support a science based approach on evaluation of biotech crops” she added.

The two day workshop addressed the full cycle of product development and testing, including the principles of risk assessment, risk management and risk communications. AfriCenter’s Program Officer Mrs. Bibiana Kipkorir took participants through the principles of effective biosafety communication, as well as how to develop messages that effectively address stakeholders’ concerns.

The workshop participants included a broad range of stakeholders including public servants drawn from relevant ministries, specialized agencies such as the Varietal Release Committee, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service and Nigerian Seed Council. The media and leaders of farmer associations were also invited to the event.

A similar sensitization workshop was also held in Accra, Ghana between the 21st and 22nd of March. Participants of the Ghana workshop were made up of regulators and the fourth estate. The AfriCenter also gave guidance on the biosafety communication component of this workshop.

Both workshops demonstrated a clear need for more training on biosafety communications and ISAAA AfriCenter is already making plans with the Program for Biosafety System to hold a subsequent training targeting regulators in the coming months, in Ghana.