ISAAA AfriCenter Director and chair of the African Women for Biosciences, Dr Margaret Karembu attended The Commonwealth Innovation Forum (TCIF), held in Queensland, Australia from 5-6 April, 2018. In her presentation on the role of women in science communication, she called upon member countries of the Commonwealth to encourage more women into biosciences saying they are the driving forces behind innovations in agriculture. “Given a favourable environment, women in biosciences can make major contributions towards transforming lives since they understand the problems of food availability, scarcity and safety better in their daily decisions thereof,” she argued. Dr Karembu’s sentiments come in the wake of the UN Women 2018 report findings ‘Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ showing that women and girls face a myriad of challenges that result in persistent and sometimes growing gender gaps. Participants were concerned that these challenges will likely derail the progress towards innovations that address women needs.

Comunication session panelists at TCIF Brisbane

Communication session panelists at TCIF Brisbane

The forum unanimously acknowledged innovation’s role in delivering diversified and stronger global economic productivity. Echoing the message, Prime Minister of Malta, Dr Joseph Muscat emphasized that ideas and collaboration among different scientists and leaders are key to fostering innovations that can upscale the Commonwealth economy. “Innovation is not the stuff of laboratories, it requires us to listen to the needs of the people,” he remarked.  On the need and passion behind feeding the people of the world, Prof Sagadeevan Mundree, Director, Center for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities at Queensland University of Technology decried the complexity of the issue, which he explained is very poorly understood. This was further emphasised by Professor James Dale through the long journey it has taken to deliver a GM banana variety for Uganda through a collaboration with Ugandan scientists. ”Agricultural biotechnology offers many benefits that can attract youth and make them part of the solution to food insecurity instead of being part of the problem,” he observed.

The clarion call by participants who included scientists, government representatives, civil society and industry partner was that Commonwealth countries must embrace innovations to address food, fuel and health needs of her people.

The two-day event, which was co-organised by Life Sciences Queensland Limited also explored the outcomes that create new therapeutic products and treatments for peoples of the Commonwealth. It also examined how renewable and environmentally responsible sources of fuel and products can drive the global supply chains.

For more on The Commonwealth Innovation Forum, contact the Convenor, Dr Mario Pennisi Chief Executive Officer, Life Sciences Queensland Limited at