After a fast-paced two-day early career scientists’ workshop at the University of Embu, The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Kenya (OFAB-Kenya) and partners organized a sensitization forum and study visit to a Bt cotton farm in Kirinyaga, central Kenya.

A beloved crop in the 90s, cotton’s lucrativeness waned with failing produce and weakening markets, until Bt cotton arrived to rekindle the love story. Consequently, for the higher yield, less spraying, and markedly higher quality produce, farmers have greatly embraced the genetically modified cotton and are already reaping benefits.

On a hot Wednesday afternoon, the young scientists, postgraduate students specializing in biotechnology, agriculture and breeding from 11 Kenyan universities, met Bt cotton farmers in central Kenya and interacted with the crop. Key researchers were also present.

On that day, the 22nd of May, the world was celebrating the 2024 International Day for Biological Diversity, whose theme was to “Be Part of the Plan”. This theme highlighted the importance of active involvement of every person in the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which is aimed at halting and reversing biodiversity loss.

The initiative aimed to engage young scientists in critical conversations about biodiversity and their crucial role in its conservation. By exposing them to practical examples of how biotechnology crops, such as Bt cotton, can contribute to biodiversity preservation, the forum sought to inspire a generation of informed and proactive youth dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices.

National Biosafety Authority (NBA) Chief Executive Officer Dr. Roy Mugiira called on the young researchers to immerse themselves into advocacy, as their role is very critical and their voices very necessary.

“Your involvement in biotechnological discussions is essential for fostering a more informed public discourse on biotechnology in agriculture,” he said.

During the visit, the participants interacted with a number of local farmers, gaining firsthand insights into the benefits of Bt cotton, including reduced pesticide use and increased crop resilience.

These advantages play a significant role in biodiversity conservation. The young scientists heard compelling stories from farmers about the positive changes in yields and the quality of produce since adopting Bt cotton.

The visit and workshop presented these young scientists with the chance to explore alternative career paths that align with their studies. By understanding the practical applications and benefits of biotechnology in real-world settings, they can better navigate their professional journeys and identify new opportunities within agricultural and environmental sectors.

OFAB-Kenya’s efforts to foster a deeper understanding of biotechnology’s role in agriculture aim to cultivate a network of advocates. Involving the youth in these initiatives is vital for the widespread acceptance and successful implementation of GM technology. It not only ensures the integration of innovative solutions in agriculture but also helps build a robust support system for sustainable practices among the next generation of scientists and farmers.