Food security is ensured when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Although many of African countries including Tanzania are endowed with abundant natural resources, they remain to be the poorest in the world. African agriculture is performing dismally: crop production is the lowest in the world. Yields of basic food grains, for example, are one-fifth those of China. The average of fertilizer use in Africa is 8 kg per hectare compared to 60 and 100 kg per hectare in Latin America and Asia respectively; indicating that the Green Revolution has had very little effect on the continent's agriculture in the last 2-3 decades. There are number of limitations to greater productivity in Africa which include but not limited to the high cost of farm inputs, declining per capita land sizes, frequent droughts, lack of water resources, poor crop varieties and livestock breeds, diseases and numerous pests, poor livestock forage, low technological base, rural infrastructure and financial constraints - all contributing to food insecurity and poverty. Biotechnology offers great hope for directly addressing these and other challenges of the African countries in human health, agriculture and environment and sustainable utilization of natural resources.
Modern biotechnology has the potential to provide new opportunities for achieving enhanced agricultural productivity in many countries in Africa in a way that alleviates poverty, improves food security and nutrition, and promotes sustainable use of natural resources.
Public awareness and understanding of biotechnology has great implication not only in successful application of biotechnology in research for development, but also on the acceptance of products of biotechnology. It has been observed that stakeholders including policymakers and decision-makers, research managers and scientists in many developing countries have inadequate knowledge about biotechnology, its impacts, as well as its potential for socio economic development.
Public information and participation may relate to the degree of transparency in the technology transfer system and to the extent to which the public can provide input into the formulation either of a policy or of a specific decision. In this context, transparency refers to the extent to which governments provide information on why and how risk assessments are performed and decisions made, as well, the conclusions and decisions that have been reached. The provision of information concerning both potential benefits and risks of the application of biotechnology and use of products thereof is an essential component of building public trust in new technologies. The issue is not simply one of providing balanced scientific information to the public, but rather of building trust between science and society.
The introduction and launching of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa - Tanzania Chapter brings together stakeholders in biotechnology and enable interactions between scientists, journalists, the civil society, industrialists, lawmakers and policy makers. The Open Forum takes the form of a monthly lunch meeting that will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to know one another, share knowledge and experiences, make new contacts and explore new avenues of bringing the benefits of biotechnology to the African agricultural sector. The Open Forum will provide an opportunity to make formal presentations or informal discussions focussing on the relationships between science, technology, innovation, environmental protection, policy, trade, social benefits sharing and their impact on economic development.