FSBA project: Food Security and Biotechnology in Africa
Dr. Peter Weesie was the project leader of the EDULINK-FSBA project (2013-2017) financed by the European Development Fund through the EDULINK Programme of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. Within the FSBA project, the University of Eldoret (Kenya), the University of Nigeria in Nsukka (Nigeria), the University of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and the University of Groningen worked together in the field of food security in Africa and the role of biotechnology in sustainably increasing food production. After an implementation period of 42 months, the project has come to an end in February, 2017.
Increasing food security in Kenya, Nigeria and Burkina Faso
In most sub-Saharan African countries, populations are rising, climate is changing and current land-use systems do not produce sufficient food, feed and fuelwood. Especially in places where soils are poor and markets far-away, this leads to soil degradation, biodiversity loss, river bed sedimentation and conflicts amongst local populations over scarce resources, all contributing to deepening poverty, hunger and rural depopulation. According to the FAO (2011-13), in Kenya 11 mln people are undernourished (25% of the populace), in Nigeria 12 mln (7 %), and in Burkina Faso 4.4 mln (25 %).
The sustainable intensification of agriculture thus appears to be a necessity, without high-cost production means, providing work to many, that is, on a small holder scale, and leaving enough space for bushland and biodiversity conservation. Elements of this process include investments in new forms of animal husbandry, soil and water conservation, nutrient management, biodiversity conservation, and institutions that support these changes. A last key factor is the use of biotechnology in food crops, in such a way that no harm is done to humans, other living species and the environment. The EDULINK-FSBA project focused on the sustainable use of genetically modified (GM) crops and the need to establish a local knowledge base on their safe implementation and use in small holder contexts.
Strengthening education, outreach, project management and financial administration in African partner universities
The FSBA project also sought to strengthen the education and outreach capacities of the African partners in the field of the sustainable application of biotechnology in food production in Kenya, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. This has been achieved by the joint elaboration of Master's level courses, the organization of stakeholder meetings, round tables and other outreach events, and the production of outreach materials further described below. African faculty and support staff have been trained in project management and financial administration, and their departments upgraded with new equipment.
The FSBA course development activities concentrated on the elaboration of six new Master’s level courses of 20 hours each in the sustainable application of biotechnology in food production. This was done by multiple South-South and South-North missions by African partner's staff. Knowledge in this field was already available, but it was scattered, incomplete, and partly overlapping. Bringing together and enhancing this knowledge allowed the production of up-to-date education modules that were lacking within the African partner institutions. These courses can now be taught within the African partner universities. And they are available on this website (in English and French) for free download by the wider (academic) public and African countries in general.
We have chosen for the development of six courses of 20 hours each, because of the ease of inserting a 20-hour volume in existing Master’s level curricula. To that end, the six courses have been designed as “stand-alone” teaching units. However, taken together they are a conceptual whole that covers the most important topics in the broad field of food security and agricultural biotechnology, thus forming a complete 120-hour curriculum on its own.
During the project, the African partners maintained and expanded their network by organizing stakeholder meetings and round tables, often with media coverage. These meetings with local actors such as small holders, farmer organizations, village chiefs, NGOs, local and national governments and academia took place at the beginning and the end of the project, and allowed to gear the course contents to locally felt needs and specificities. In all activities described above, the University of Groningen played a supportive, coordinating and monitoring role.
Impact and future activities
All together, the EDULINK-FSBA project fostered the academic collaboration between the three African partner institutions and helped to increase their educational and outreach capacities in the field of sustainable use of biotechnology in food production by small holder farmers. The incorporation of the developed courses into existing university curricula is deemed essential for raising awareness and supplying sound and independent information to future executives and policymakers in Kenya, Nigeria and Burkina Faso and beyond.
The FSBA project partners also developed plans for continued collaboration. Applications to the African Union's Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme EACEA/05/2017 as well as to the LEAP-Agri Call for Proposals 2017 (Sustainable Agriculture and Aquaculture for Nutrition and Food Security in Africa) have been filed by Burkina Faso's Prof. Dicko, with the participation of all current FSBA project partners.
This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
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