Biosafety sensitization workshop for the Newly Constituted Portfolio Committee parliamentarians and a group of Journalists in Eswatini

African Union Development Agency – NEPAD ABNE, in partnership with the Eswatini Environmental Authority, successfully carried out a biosafety sensitization workshop for the Newly Constituted Portfolio Committee parliamentarians and for a group of Journalists, from 15 – 18 April, 2019, in Ezulwini, Eswatini. Eight Portfolio Committee parliamentarians on environmental affair and 8 media practitioners across major news media houses attended the two meeting respectively along with government officials and resource persons from the research sector.

The Minister of Tourism and Environment Affairs Hon. Moses Vilakati (4th from left), with Portfolio Committee Parliamentarians Hon. Ndumiso Masimula (3rd from left) and part of his Senior Staff.

The Objectives of these two awareness workshops were first to enhance the capacity of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee members on biosafety to enable them to make informed decisions regarding the Amendment Biosafety Bill which would soon be tabled to the parliament, and for them to take ownership of the request Bill from the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affair. The meeting also was to offer the opportunity of a seeing-is-believing tour, for both the Members of Parliament and the Journalists group, to a conventional cotton field, the local ginnery, and a commercial Bt Cotton field within Eswatini. The awareness sessions for journalists aimed to enhance their understanding and skills on fact-based reporting on biotechnology and biosafety issues in the country.
The series of sessions was officially opened by Hon. Moses Vilakati, Minister of Tourism and environmental Affairs. In his opening remarks, Hon. Vilakati said this sensitization workshop was timely and was an opportunity to reflect on biosafety issues and “to sharpen the country’s swap to better understand the subject matter and better implement the national strategies and plans.

Group picture of Parliamentarians and Journalists during the field visit to Nisela commercial farm where Bt Cotton from JK Seeds was planted.

During the two meetings, presentations were made on themes pertaining to biotechnology and biosafety, including Biotechnology Basics, Emerging Biotechnology Applications (Gene Drives, and Synthetic Biology), Biotech Trends Facts in African countries such as Burkina, South Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa), Country Obligations (The CBD, The CPB, The Biosafety Act), The Biosafety Amendment Bill, Socio-Economic Considerations, Background of the African Biosafety Communication Network, Challenges in Local Biosafety Communication.
At the end of the meetings, participants expressed positive views on both the sensitization sessions and the fields visit. Participating MPs were particularly satisfied with what they heard and saw on the fields.

Participants views on the meetings

Hon. Noah Gama, MP, Portfolio Committee member, Ministry of Tourism and Environment Affairs

“I am very much grateful for this workshop and all the presentations that exposed us to biotechnology opportunities and how we could help our constituencies so that they come to know this technology work, though it has got advantages and disadvantages. All the presentations were wonderful and informative and I am sure all the MPs that are here have gained a lot. We hope to really support the government with the passing of the laws. We will make significant contributions and make sure all this is a success and also implemented.

Hon. Mduduzi Matsebula, MP, Portfolio Committee member, Ministry of Tourism and Environment Affairs

I would like to thank the Ministry and NEPAD for such as wonderful workshop. We are really capacitated. I am hoping we will contribute a lot in terms of domesticating the regional and international laws for the betterment of our country.

 

Hon. Ndumiso Masimula, MP, Chair of Portfolio Committee, Ministry of Tourism and Environment Affairs

I am grateful to be part of this workshop. We have discussed biotechnology and biosafety processes, mainly policy, environment, and the scientific part. As regulators, we have been well informed and we will support the ministry accordingly when it comes to amendments of bills and policy formulation. After this meeting, we expect the Minister to table the amendment bill so that we get the ball rolling as far as the legislative environment is concerned regarding this subject area and from there we will take it forward.