The Executive Workshop on Agricultural Biotechnology got underway on Monday 13, August 2012, at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology‘s Main campus, Juja.
Workshop, moderated by the distinguished US based Kenyan Scholar, Prof. Calestous Juma, was officially opened by the Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, Hon. Prof. Margaret Kamar, who in a speech read on her behalf by the Assistant Director, Research, Management and Development, Dr. Roy Mugiira, underscored the significance of the workshop saying that that “the twin concepts of Agriculture and Biotechnology hold primary importance not only to the country, but also to the world at large”.
She explained that at a time when the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization estimate that, one in every six people is vulnerable to malnutrition globally, “every country must now be keen to actualize productive and sustainable agricultural and industrial practices.”
The Minister lauded the JKUAT and the US Embassy through the United States Agency for International Aid for supporting Agricultural Biotechnology initiatives as attested to by the workshop, saying that, “the global population continues to outpace the traditional methods and practices of food generation. This, she added, had created an urgent need for more innovative ways to ensure long term sustainability.
“Part of the solution lies in the adoption and uptake of biotechnology. As a country, Kenya has chosen to go the modern biotechnology way”, she averred
In his overview remarks, Prof. Calestous Juma observed that the main aim of the workshop was to “Get Kenyan universities more actively engaged in Biotechnology initiative, advising Government officials on the latest and best biotechnology innovations.” He said Kenyan university students could do for biotechnology what their young counterparts are doing with Mobile technology. “If they actively engage in the area of Biotechnology, they may end up coming up with new solutions that, we, as a country, have never thought before”.
He decried the slow adoption of Biotechnology in Africa, citing few countries like Egypt, Burkina Faso, and South Africa which have already embraced biotechnology. Prof. Juma also identified the challenges that hinder the adoption of biotechnology innovations as poor funding and policy strategies to support biotechnology research. He explained that, if a country does not have clear policies on Biotechnology, it becomes difficult to attract international partners. He gave the example of a partnership between USA and Indonesia, whereby Indonesia has prioritized biotechnology innovations and the US researchers are in Indonesia to help in the uptake of biotechnology in that country.
Mr David Drinkard, the Deputy Economic Counsellor, at the American Embassy in Kenya, pledged the US government support for the biotechnology initiative noting that, he was thrilled to see what was already going on at JKUAT. He emphasized the urgency of agricultural biotechnology uptake by observing that, with the ever changing climatic conditions, there was need for more innovative methods of food production to cater for the increasing population.
In her address to the workshop participants, the JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mabel Imbuga, underscored JKUAT’s institutional urgency in creating and disseminating factual knowledge regarding biotechnology. “That need is what informed the establishment of the Institute of Biotechnology Research (IBR), where programmes and research undertakings on biotechnology are currently ongoing”. The JKUAT Vice Chancellor appreciated the fact that biotechnology concerns went beyond research institutions, and therefore, calls for a more concerted effort from other stakeholders, adding that, “JKUAT in partnership with United States of America Government, organized the forum to pioneer productive engagement on the same”.
The Workshop has drawn over 6o participants from academia, research organizations, policy makers among others. Present during the opening ceremony included the; Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Production and Extension, Prof Esther Kahangi; Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Prof. R. Odhiambo and Dr. S. H Okech, the Registrar, Academic Affairs.
The two-day Workshop proceedings will culminate in a Public Lecture: Rebooting African Economies: Innovation for Economic Development by Prof. Prof. Calestous Juma, on Tuesday 14th, August, 2012 at KICC, ABERDARES BALL ROOM at 2pm.