OFAB-Ethiopia Chapter holds a consultative workshop at Mekelle University

The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa/OFAB-Ethiopia chapter held a consultative workshop to form North-East node at Mekelle University (MU) on 17th February 2018 to provide an opportunity for biotechnology stakeholders to establish network and share knowledge and experiences in the North-east areas of the country.  

Welcoming the participants to Mekelle University main campus, Dr. G/Hiwot Tadesse informed that it is worth holding such like consultative workshop on biotechnology and its application in agricultural fields while fronting the forthcoming challenges of high rate of population growth, declining and fragmenting of agricultural lands, climate change and its attributed adverse effects, and increasing demand for quality food by the community. Realizing the contribution of biotechnology in agricultural fields in particular, Mekelle University (MU) has been playing its education and research role to avail qualified professional in the area of biotechnology under Bioscience Program, he said. Dr. G/Hiwot also added that the application of biotechnology in agricultural fields should be vigilant especially in the use of living organism to develop crop varieties and animal breeds. He pledged that MU is committed to broader the understanding of stakeholders within OFAB initiative network.

Opening the node formation workshop, Dr. Tadesse Daba coherently reasoned out the need to establish network to enhance stakeholders’ understanding in the area of biotechnology. He said that biotechnology has wider application in the field of agricultural to supply improved crop varieties resistant to disease and pests, to improve the productivity of livestock breeds and an application to tap microorganisms in areas of soil fertility management, food product processing inputs, etc.

Dr. Tadesse emphasized that the tremendous application of biotechnology can likely be taped while clear and concise understanding among biotechnology stakeholders is created on “what it is, what is does?” and so on. In most instances, people have been seen that they perceived biotechnology as only linked with the use of GMO in supplying food products. But biotechnology encompasses various tools in genetic engineering other than to produce GMO produces; it can be applied to improve crop and livestock productivity in agricultural research processes. Hence, he added that we need to know the associated risks and disadvantages in exhausting biotechnology based on scientific facts. OFAB-Ethiopia chapter is among programs we are working to enhance understanding through establishing knowledge and information networks.

Focal person of OFAB-Ethiopia Chapter, Dr. Endal Gebre briefed the participants of the workshop with the objective and the progress of OFAB-Ethiopia. It is an initiative of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) under African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) in collaboration of like-minded institutes in 2006 as a platform to facilitate regular exchange of credible information among stakeholders. In his presentation, he explained that the network is aimed at enhancing knowledge-sharing and awareness on biotechnology that it will help to raise understanding and appreciation of agricultural biotechnology and contribute to build an enabling environment for decision making.

OFAB initiative is implemented in eight countries in Africa and the Ethiopian chapter is the youngest one, it was established since June 2014, he noted. Since its establishment, OFAB has been undertaking various activities such as among others, forming Programing Committee (PC) oversee the networks, preparing publicity materials, developing of OFAB-Ethiopia webpage, assessing experts capacity, holding seminars, and consultative workshops at Arbaminch University, Goder University, Haramaya University. Furthermore, training and awareness forums for policy makers, public relation experts, editors, and journalists were organized.

Dr. Melkau, member of the OFAB Ethiopia Secretariat presented the “Status of agricultural biotechnology research in Ethiopia.” Following Mr. Michaele Yifter, Head Biotechnology Department at MU gave a brief on biotechnology education and research in Mekele University and the north east university cluster. Side line visiting were held to pay a quick visit of the efforts and activities of tissue culture application to multiply selected plants in Tigray Biotechnology Center (TBC) PLC. Finally the workshop is concluded with in-depth discussion with academic staff and stakeholders on the modality of node formation and succeeding activities. Members of North-East University clutters, researchers, academic staffs and students were attending the workshop.