OFAB Ethiopia Program Holds Midterm Review and Planning Meeting


The OFAB Ethiopia program is one of the initiatives of AATF under the NEPAD development program implemented in eight African countries to assist the flow of empirically evidenced information on Biotechnology through the use of network innovation among key stakeholders. In its mid-term review and planning meeting, the Ethiopia chapter reviewed the progress of six nodes on 30-31 July 2018, Addis Ababa, which are functioning under the network established throughout the country in the past active period of the program. As it was told in the preliminary of the MTRP meeting, the nodes are established in North, South, South-West, East, North-East and Central areas of the country and hosted and facilitated by GonderArbaminchJimmaHaramayaMekele and Addis Ababa University, respectively. It is also noticed that such like arraignment of the nodes formation is an innovative approach used only in Ethiopia to address a large number of actors in the system through creating a web of networks that gives an opportunity to strengthen the linkages and exchange science based knowledge and information on biotechnology and its application in agriculture.


In the meeting, the DG of EIAR, Dr. Mandefro Nigussie emphasized the importance of creating an enabling environ likewise the node formation in the case of OFAB Ethiopia that brings together various actors in the value chain and craft and discuss important agenda in Ethiopian education, research and development frolicking arena. The node formation approach gives preeminent opportunity to either create or strengthen linkage, through which the stakeholders, including farmers and pastoralists be able to consolidate their efforts by the use of technology and any other facilitates including biotechnology, he said. Dr. Mandefro inform the participants that EIAR has a biotechnology research infrastructure based at Holetta and it is a facility that it can be fully utilized without any institutional boundary for the substance of realizing the country’s agricultural development goals.


It is key working towards developing a typical research product that addresses our challenges of productivity, pest, disease and drought at scale, at the same time we have to strategically work to raise awareness and create proper understanding among the society on both of the positive and negative effects of using biotechnology. The other key areas of intervention as he further pointed out, the need to build the regulatory capacity to ensure Biosafety and engaging at least one civil society as a promoter for the successful realization of the purpose of the forum in a short span of time. Furthermore, in the contemporary pitch of information era, without due consideration of working to build upon ICT, it is impossible to address and influence the weak areas of policy and practices as far as biotechnology is concerned, he added. As a final point, he noted that EIAR is determined to tap biotechnology to address multiple problems in the agricultural sector and this network becomes helpful to bring the various actors on board to forward important issues to be considered at various levels of the system.


In the review meeting, each node presented their progress report of their biotechnology and related promotional activities. The progress activities were categorized under three main activities, such as i) identify potential stakeholders for OFAB networking and strengthening the programming committee linkage, ii) provide training for stakeholders on the agricultural biotechnology importance, products, concerns and Biosafety, and iii) prepare a node annual plan for 2018/2019 project year. The lessons drawn from implementing the activities were found useful, which starts from adopting a nodal network approach to create interface to that of identifying the existing gaps on biotechnology and proposed solutions for the use of its product at scale. Furthermore, identifying and making an inventory of actors, facilities and infrastructure available in the nodal area found useful for the optimum utilization of biotechnology in the agricultural sector, the participants said.


Up on the lessons learned, the nodes prioritized and crafted activities for 2018/19 performance period, focusing advocacy and awareness raising on biotechnology and biosafety, promoting public engagement through creating biotech clubs and inspirational demonstrations, and training of public media actors for enhanced capacity of science communication. The planned activities should be refined and implemented by taking into account the need to craft a consistent message that can be cascaded into the context specific circumstances at the grass root level, following cost effective media engagement approach, selecting appropriate channel to reach the right target audiences, ensuring the engagement of local leaders and actors, including farmers/pastoralists, and leveraging the impact through a biotech dynamic approach that bring policy maker, researchers, practitioners, farmers, media and so on into the same platform. Moreover, inclusiveness of the Ethiopia chapter on gender should be one of the missed issues that the PC gives greater attention. Finally, it is indicated that the forum and the nodes should design activities that brings various actors to discuss and find a way forward on the commercialization of transgenic products of biotechnology.


As a follow up of MTRP meeting, Monitoring and Learning meeting at Mekele University and a visit at the Mekele Biotechnology Center (MBC) and were carried out to discern how the node approach is functioning in promoting biotechnology and its associated information by taking the experience from the North-East node on 1-3 August 2018 at Mekelle, Tigray Region. In the events Daniel Otunge and Suleiman Okotch, OFAB-AATF, EIAR HQ Secretariat members and PC members of North-East node were in attendance.


During M and L meeting, Dr. Solomon Abere, Academic Vice Dean, CoDANR said that till now a number of awareness raising workshops have been organized and the journalists have been also offered a training of science communication under the scheme of OFAB Ethiopia program. Dr. Desta Berhe, PC Secretariat at the node, on his behalf, informed that the university has organized need based consultative meetings with its stakeholders in the region and engaged in science and knowledge based information communication to the community, which OFAB program is part percale. The lessons drawn from the activities were found useful to adopt the approach in reaching the community with those of science based knowledge and information that the university spawned. Suleiman Okoth, OFAB AATF, told the participants that the experience of the North-East node likewise other nodes in the country is archetypal to other OFAB families outside Ethiopia in bringing various actors and creating networks, through which the actors are able to access the latest information on biotechnology in a short period of time with the least cost. He also noticed the need to rap the opportunity of working with local media and farmers at the grass root level. Daniel Otungie, OFAB AATF, also informed the participants that two things are key in OFAB program that are building strong partnership among actor to increase access to biotechnology products and increasing demand for the technologies through raising awareness.



It is not easy to reach the farmers with the technologies if we do not have the right policy and the required level of awareness among various actors in the value chain, Daniel added. He also informed the participants that monitoring and learning experience of OFAB Ethiopia MTRP went well, but now we wanted to learn from the experience of at least one node, as seeing is believing, on how it works and functions in term of the plan designed ahead. The entire spectrum of new biotechnology products will serve Africa, including Ethiopia, to this end the network that we established here to help to tap the potential and address the gap in policy issues, he added. Facilitative environment is a must to transfer the knowledge and information we have to the farmers and benefit them to improve their livelihood. Finally, points were discussed on how to effectively engage the public and other key activities to be considered in the next action plan of the North-East node.