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Malawi’s high illiteracy, myths suffocating Biotechnology uptake

National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) Director of Documentation and Information Services Gift Kadzamira

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The high level of illiteracy, negative myths are attributed to less uptake of biotechnology among the general populace in Malawi.

This was reveled in the ongoing Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC 2021) symposium that started from September 20 to 24, 2021.

About six countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia and Malawi are attending the symposium virtually.

Under the theme “ACCELERATING THE BIOTECH TIPPING POINT: TAKING STOCK AND CELEBRATING THE GAINS”, this year’s ABBC symposium gives a platform for biosciences stakeholders to actively exchange experiences and best practices towards improving bioscience communications.

After the sideline of ABBC symposium’s special session for journalists and communications, Malawi’s National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) Director of Documentation and Information Services Gift Kadzamira observes that the country still lagging behind on biotechnology initiatives.

Kadzamira disclosed that myth and high illiteracy are suffocation biotechnology uptake that needs to be addressed urgently.

She added that despite several biotech trial on cotton, banana, cow peas the uptake is very low among farmers hence the needs for more action.

Kadzamira therefore called up media to take charge of the biotech to the masses for quick uptake.

“Science is key driver of social-economic development of any country hence biotech uptake remains paramount to Malawi towards agenda 2060.But Malawi’s uptake on biotechnology is very low because of myth and illiteracy levels.

“This forum gives policy makers share experiences that individual countries learn from each hence the need for our communicators, journalists be part of the agenda,” says Kadzamira.

The 2021 ABBC symposium has attracted participants from policy and decision makers, science communication experts, scientists, media practitioners with specific focus on editors, technology developers and industry players, regulators, professional associations representing various end-users like farmers and consumers and development partners

The symposium, which provides an African-based and African-led platform, is the first of its kind in the region and plays a fundamental role in addressing pressing communication issues needed to propel biosciences innovations in Africa.

The first ABBC, held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2015, and the second held in Entebbe, Uganda, in 2017, addressed biotechnology and biosafety communications issues, respectively. ABBC 2019, held in South Africa, initiated conscious conversations on genome editing in the region.

ABBC 2021, the fourth series, comes at an opportune time when Africa has made significant progress on adoption of biotech crops.

This calls for stakeholders to take stock, celebrate gains, and consolidate lessons needed to inspire and propel the continent forward.

Over the past two years, the number of African countries planting biotech crops has more than doubled, from three in 2018 to seven in 2020 (Eswatini, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Sudan, South Africa, and Kenya).

This significant increase has positioned the continent for increased adoption of agricultural biotechnology.

In order to take advantage of recent growth, African countries must concretize the progress they have made, define their next steps, document their successes and, widely share lessons learned for synergy and inspiration.

In addition, the region has set itself up for an early take off in genome editing, with several experts using this emerging technology to address various challenges.

ABBC 2021 provides a platform for a coalition of the willing to reflect on the progress made so far, and celebrate Africa’s gains in agri-biotechnology.

The symposium’s outcomes will act as a catalyst to further the region’s growth.

By focusing this event on Africa’s early adopting countries, ABBC 2021 aims to help strengthen the foundation for agricultural biotechnology on the continent, which will in turn support other countries’ journeys.

In addition, ABBC 2019’s aspirations for setting up an African Coalition on Communication about Genome Editing will be actualised during this symposium.

Establishment of the coalition will solidify development of strategies and systems needed to improve communication on these emerging breeding tools.

This is expected to be a game-changer in diffusion of gene editing technologies in Africa.

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