Stakeholders within the agricultural ecosystem are advocating the introduction of fresh funding sources for the nation’s plant biotechnology initiatives, which encompass Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) technology and genome editing.
Currently, the International Symposium on Agricultural Transformation and Biotech Crops in Africa (ISATBCA) reveals that a significant portion of biotech crop projects in Africa rely heavily on donor benevolence; a situation stakeholders described as worrying.
To break free from this dependence, Dr. Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw – a Principal Research Scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), said it is imperative to introduce a new funding sources including taxes and a dedicated fund that will provide financial resources for the country’s biotechnology projects.
“Government must establish a fund for the development, promotion and commercialisation of the biotechnology industry and every other activity related to it…because now we are going that way. Several forms of biotechnology and scientific concepts will come for the development of food products and the rest,” said Dr. Ampadu-Ameyaw, who’s also the National Coordinator of the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) – adding that “It could be in the form of tax”.
The Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Motivating The Farmer, Nana Yaw Reuben, concurred, stating that the problem with Ghana and Africa’s agricultural value chain is over-dependence on donor funding.
“Donor support in the agricultural value chain is not helping Africa and Ghana, and we think that the way forward is by setting up appropriate funding to be used on agricultural-related projects and research rather than continuously relying on donors for support in terms of agricultural value chain activities – which is not achieving the results,” Mr. Reuben, who is a member of the Alliance for Science Ghana, told the B&FT.
Stressing the need to break away from over-reliance on donor support, he added: “I’ve been to fields where modern infrastructure was built for a farming community; but because the project had ended, the community could no longer maintain that infrastructure so it’s deteriorating. Also, I’ve been to irrigation fields where only a pump is needed to bring it back to life; but because the community doesn’t have money, the irrigation facility is left to rot”.
For him, setting up the fund will be crucial in advancing the country’s scientific frontiers in agriculture and could prove pivotal in the fight against food insecurity, and for growth of the agricultural value chain.
Explaining further, he said: “Don’t forget the donor has an agenda, it is business; it’s not about him or her loving you. Even though he or she loves you, it’s about what he or she also gets”.
He therefore charged state regulators to address loopholes in regulatory frameworks for GMOs and genome-edited crops, streamlining and simplifying the processes while maintaining transparency and robustness.