On 20 March, B4FA held the Nigerian launch of its new book, Insights: Africa’s future … Can biosciences contribute? According to several Nigerian leaders, the book is a welcome call for an open discussion of science, technology and agriculture.
“This is a subject dear to my heart. … I went to the web site and was excited when I looked at the essays. I commend the team,” commented Dr. Baba Abubakar, Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), who was representing the current Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.
Dr. Abubakar added, “There has been a lot of negative propaganda. … There is a lot we can gain through the use of biotechnology.” On the biosafety bill, which awaits the assent of President Goodluck Jonathan, “we have been trying to see that the government signs the bill for biosafety … we want to make sure that what you consume is safe.” Regarding the collection of essays, he commented that you must know your subject well to write about it in clear, simple terms.
According to Prof. Turner Isoun, “We want to make technology available to small farmers. … We need technology to improve food security. There is nothing controversial about it. We must make enlightened and strategic choices.” Prof. Isoun added, “The future for biotechnology in Africa is bright.”
Dr. Kevin Urama, Executive Director of the African Technology and Policy Studies Network, based in Nairobi, noted, “We as Nigeria, Africa, must try to be at the table when technologies are being developed so we are not latecomers.” He added, “It has 60% of arable land but is hungry – that continent is Africa. We have the richest soils but are not harnessing them.”
Sir Brian Heap, B4FA’s Project Leader, stated that in the book of essays “I hope you’ll find accounts from different perspectives that will help to address it in a balanced way and help everyone from farmers up to the President, a book you can use to help promote dialogue.” He added that Dr. Templeton, whose foundation supports B4FA, especially hopes to help small farmers: “How can we raise the standard of living of smallholder farmers and help them develop as entrepreneurs?”
In addition to the speakers above, Dr. Dr Prince Addae, Regional Director of AATF in West Africa, spoke, as did Diran Onifade, Editor in Chief of AfricaSTI, who introduced each of the speakers. Ms. Rose M. Gidado, Senior Scientific Officer of NABDA in Nigeria, helped to unveil the book.