Biotechnology Society of Nigeria to improve Africa’s agricultural system
The Biotechnology Society of Nigeria (BSN) held its 32nd Annual International Conference at IITA-Ibadan on 18–22 August. The conference assembled people from mainstream biotechnology and related disciplines to discuss ways to enhance food security in sub-Saharan Africa through biotechnology.
BSN celebrated 38 years since its inception on 11 August 1981 at the University of Jos. It now has 16 working groups/thematic sessions representing the pool of experts reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of biotech. This allows for greater networking and collaborative opportunities among researchers involved in those disciplines in Nigeria and the international community.
The Society has grown over its nearly four-decade history as a foremost scientific society of biotechnologists in Nigeria. One of the major functions of BSN is to encourage the exchange of ideas among scientists of different disciplines on the concept and application of biotechnology through meetings such as conferences, symposia, workshops, public lectures, exhibitions, and publications.
BSN, working towards achieving its goal of enhancing food security in sub-Saharan Africa, plans to replicate partnerships with CGIAR centers like IITA and the national agricultural research systems (NARS) of Nigeria, as this has always provided international focus and direction for productivity through research.
While delivering his keynote address, Benjamin Ewa Ebi, President of BSN, emphasized IITA’s contribution and the strategic role it has played in BSN through capacity development and other deliverables. “IITA does not only give fish but also teaches how to fish,” he said.
In validation of the relationship between BSN and IITA, May-Guri Saethre, IITA Deputy Director General, Research for Development, noted that biotechnology is an integral part of IITA’s research program. “I really hope this conference will provide an arena for group discussions and some new research topics to ensure productivity between BSN and IITA,” she said.
In the course of the meeting, the keynote speaker—Executive Director of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Dr Yemi Akinbamijo—highlighted the importance of food to man and importance of biotechnology to enhancing African agriculture. He said, “For the 800 million people going to bed hungry, food is medicine. Although there is a strong demand on Africa’s agriculture to do twice as much with half the resources, this is doable if biochemists will rise.”
Also stating the importance of biotechnology, the Chairman BSN Board of Trustees, Vincent Ado Tenebe, mentioned the problems of food security and unemployment in Nigeria, and biotechnology being the only solution to these problems. “The major problem we have is jobs for the youth. If we can provide a solution to unemployment through the different aspects of biotechnology and get the youth engaged, they will be productive,” he said.
While addressing participants, Michael Abberton, Head of IITA’s Genetic Resources Center and Chairman, Local Organizing Committee, said he hoped the meeting, both in its formal and informal parts, would lay the foundations for new research and inspire a new generation to take that research forward.