The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) domiciled at the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) has explained its rationale for recognising and rewarding outstanding science journalists that sensitise Nigerians on the potentials of modern agricultural biotechnology through their reportage.
Speaking at the fifth edition of the OFAB media award and gala night 2021 in Abuja, the NABDA director-general, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, said the event aimed to celebrate journalists who work assiduously to process and protect the dissemination of credible information in the field (especially agricultural biotechnology) to Nigerians.
“No technology development has ever succeeded anywhere in the world without the media playing a vital role of leading to its propagation and ensuring its acceptance. Today we are gathered here to celebrate and eulogise this group of hardworking and tireless individuals who lay their lives just to ensure information is disseminated even to the remote areas.
“The agricultural biotechnology sector in the country is undergoing a rapid transformation, with scientists and researchers working round the clock to improve various crops. So far, we have made progress with three crops – cotton, cowpea and maize. Cotton and cowpea are already with farmers while maize will get to the farmers in 18 months’ time. It has already been de-regulated by the National Biosafety Management Agency, meaning the genes of the insert have been certified safe by the agency.
“The next phase of commercialization is very crucial to the successes already recorded because if we fail to get the products to farmers then the many years of research and advocacy will be in vain.
“It is on this note that I want to urge our media partners not to relent but to continue to work with the scientists to keep Nigerians informed of what is happening in the various research institutes.”
Earlier in her welcome remarks, the country coordinator, OFAB Nigeria chapter, Dr. Rose Gidado, explained the media award is an annual event instituted by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) for OFAB in seven African countries – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania.
She said the award, which is in its fifth year, aims to recognise and reward exemplary journalism that stimulates best practices in the adoption of agricultural technologies – particularly agricultural biotechnology for sustainable development, poverty eradication and food security.
“Today, OFAB has trained over 100 journalists and this has to some extent deepened the understanding of modern biotechnology. We have, so far, awarded over 15 journalists across the Nigerian media landscape and empowered them with grants of various sums to conduct independent researches on agricultural biotechnology,” she said.
The OFAB coordinator pointed out that the media remained its strategic ally, adding the agency will do everything to ensure the work environment is conducive for reporters and editors.
In his keynote address titled ‘The media as a tool for building a food-secured Nigeria’, the managing director, the Guardian newspapers, Mr. Martins Oloja, said journalists should be made aware of the issue and be offered intensive training for reporting on food security.
Earlier, the executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Prof. Garba Sharubutu, described biotechnology as an application of knowledge to improve the general well-being of crops, saying it is vital in achieving a food-secured Nigeria.
“The government of Nigeria long recognised biotechnology as a powerful and promising technology capable of delivering a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits and has put mechanisms in place to ensure the technology is fully utilised to achieve food security,” he added.