The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in October 2012 launched a sixth chapter in Burkina Faso. This is the first OFAB chapter in Francophone Africa and is a collaborative effort between the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and the Institut de I'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA).
The launch which was held in Ouagadougou, was presided over by Prof Gnissa Isaie Konate Burkina Faso's Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation, and Dr T Kyetere the AATF Executive Director.
In his official remarks, Prof Konate said that biotechnology can be used as a powerful engine for agricultural growth. 'These technologies can be used to overcome the challenges related to population growth, climate change, yield decrease, food insecurity and poverty,' he added.
Prof Konate underscored the importance of OFAB in promoting biotechnology, experience sharing, public awareness, understanding, and attitude change towards genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These factors he said are crucial to the sustainable deployment of innovative biotechnology crop varieties to small-scale farmers in Africa. 'A platform like OFAB will no doubt contribute to the understanding of the importance of agricultural biotechnology among people,' Prof Konate said.
Dr Kyetere decried the effect of negative debate on biotechnology in Africa, arguing that it was slowing the uptake of the technology on the continent. He noted that for Africa to be in a position to harness the benefits of this powerful technology, the biotechnology debate should be about policies that need to be formulated; strategies that need to be adopted and the investments that should be made by individual countries with the support of donors and regional bodies like the New Partnership for Africa's Development - NEPAD.
Dr Kyetere underlined the centrality of effective strategic communication and advocacy in changing public attitudes and perceptions on modern biotechnology.
OFAB was initiated by AATF in 2006 to facilitate structured and regular discussions on pertinent issues on modern biotechnology research, development and deployment in Africa. It aims at enhancing understanding of biotechnology to inform decision making. In addition to Burkina Faso, OFAB is operational in five other African countries - Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ghana. Key partners in OFAB include the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications - Afri-Center (ISAAA) in Kenya, Uganda National Council of Science and Technology, Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, National Biotechnology Development Agency, Nigeria and Ghana's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The Burkina Faso launch was attended by over 70 participants including a team of 30 from various African countries who were in Burkina Faso for the annual seeing-is-believing tour of Bt Cotton farmer fields organised by ISAAA.
The launch of Uganda Chapter of OFAB took place in Kampala, Uganda on 14 December 2007 . The meeting was hosted by the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST) in collaboration with AATF and the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS). Other partners in the initiative include the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), the Association for Strenghtening Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), the Consumer Education Trust (CONSENT) and the Ministry of Agriculture, among other stakeholders.
The Forum takes the form of a monthly lunch meeting that provides an opportunity for key stakeholders to know one another, share knowledge and experiences, make new contacts and explore new avenues of bringing the benefits of biotechnology to the African agricultural sector.– OFAB provides an opportunity to make formal presentations or informal discussions focussing on the relationships between science, technology, innovation, environmental protection, policy, trade, social benefits sharing and their impact on economic development.