An on-line network now exists where stakeholders in African food production can share information about African agricultural development. Tonight we’ll talk about that service as part of our weeklong series on agriculture in Africa. The Agricultural Biotechnology Network for Africa (ABNETA), was launched with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). So far the network has coordinators in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.
Danladi Dada Kuta is ABNETA’s coordinator in Nigeria. VOA English to Africa Service reporter Angel Tabe asked him what has changed in Africa’s agro-biotechnology landscape since ABNETA’s was launched in March 2006. “We were able to develop a networking system for plant breeders, journalists, policymakers, students, cooperatives, farmers…to share knowledge and information in breeding…. There is also need to facilitate the off-take of emerging agricultural biotechnology innovation and products at the grassroots level…. ABNETA has provided that forum to link up with scientists…and personal contacts have introduced some plant breeders that other colleagues could share…. It is useful to anybody involved in agricultural research.”
Since grassroots farmers may not have access to resources provided through the Internet and other electronic devices, Kuta explains that a lot depends on agricultural extension workers. “The extension workers will access the ABNETA website…visit the information processing centers (to be located in every country) get information not only in the electronic format (but also) in brochures, newsletters…materials in local languages of the areas.”
Responding to criticism about private sector involvement in ABNETA, and challenges ahead, Kuta encourages all concerned to consult and understand the action plan and to contribute their ideas. “We are talking about new agricultural products. It’s the private sector that will multiply new varieties. I agree that the private sector has to be fully involved…. ABNETA is not cast on iron; suggestions are always welcome.” He also names time as a major constraint to progress with their action plan. The coordinators have to communicate through e-mail; most of them are involved in other activities in their institutions; if not for their commitment, nothing would have been done.” Kuta is optimistic that major donors and stakeholders, who consider ABNETA as their own project, will provide the necessary funding for it to carry on. His only problem now: “how to fast-track these processes.”
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