Crop Biotech Update

African Delegation Visits Burkina Faso Bt Cotton Fields

November 26, 2010

A delegation from 8 African countries representing eastern (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda), southern (Malawi), Anglophone western (Ghana, Nigeria), and Francophone western (Mali, Togo) made a study tour to the Bt cotton fields in Burkina Faso from November 9 to 11, 2010. The delegation is comprised of farmers, researchers, legislators, ginners, journalists and biosafety regulators.

The study tour exposed the participants to the commercialization process of biotech crops using Bt cotton in Burkina Faso as a case study. It was organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter in collaboration with AU-NEPAD Agency ABNE, RECOAB, SOFITEX and Monsanto. It is expected that the participants will use this experience to expedite the commercialization process in their respective countries for the benefit of cotton farmers.

The participants expressed appreciation for the exposure saying it was an eye-opener for them. "If there is anybody that has benefited most from this tour, it is me," said Moses Mugwate, a Kenyan small scale cotton farmer. Moses was optimistic that when Bt cotton is commercialized, Kenya farmers will be able to realize higher yields. This will be achieved by adhering to the recommended production practices and ensuring good stewardship of the technology. Honorable (Barr) Makanjoulo the chairman of the Agricultural Parliamentary Committee in the lower house Abuja, Nigeria and the sponsor of the Biosafety Bill in the country, confessed that: "Agricultural biotechnology is a necessary technological development that we must adopt to ensure food security not only in Nigeria but in the whole of Africa. With the advantages attached to this technology and with the information gathered from the farmers in this tour, one can say that ‘yes' it is high time that African farmers embrace biotechnology."

Honorable Kityo, former member of parliament and the Secretary General of the Uganda National Farmers Federation, challenged Uganda leaders to change their attitude toward GM "to ensure that when Africa is waking up, Uganda is not left behind." The Kenyan team intends to incorporate the lessons learnt during the tour in their on-going Bt cotton commercialization process. Participants were challenged by Burkina Faso's bold step to embrace biotechnology despite its being one of the poorest countries in Africa.

The study tour received wide publicity in public media through a short video posted on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZYuYCQNS6M).

For further information contact m.karembu@cgiar.org or f.nguthi@cgiar.org