Strengthening Stakeholders’ Capacity in Biosafety Communication in Cameroon

NEPAD Agency ABNE, in partnership with Cameroon Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development, organized a training workshop on Biosafety Communication from 29 – 30 November, 2017 in Yaounde.
The workshop was officially opened by Mr. DAMOU LAMTOING Antoine, Technical Advisor to the Minister of Environment. On behalf of the Minister, he welcomed participants and presented the status of biosafety in Cameroon: “I thank NEPAD Agency ABNE for the techical support provided to Cameroon in the biosafety area in general and regarding the organization of the present workshop in particular”, he added.
Dr Silas Obukosia, ABNE Principal Program Officer, on behalf of ABNE Director, thanked Cameroon government for inviting NEPAD Agency ABNE to the workshop and assured Cameroon authorities of ABNE’s availability to provide continuous technical support in the development and implementation of biosafety regulations in Cameroon.
Around 100 regulators and stakeholders from relevant ministries, civil society organization, the cotton industry and the media took part in this workshop. ABNE experts and local biosafety specialists made presentations on various topics including the biosafety status in Cameroon, food safety basics, biosafety administration, biosafety communications principles and strategies, dealing with the anti-GM activism, the Biosafety Focal Point activities and the Biosafety Clearing House activities in Cameroon.
Profusion of questions and comments from participants reflected their high interest in the topics developed and they openly expressed their gratitude to NEPAD Agency ABNE for this capacity building initiative.
At the end of the meeting, participants initiated a local biosafety communications group that included mainly science/environment communications experts, and a WhatsApp platform was subsequently set up to facilitate information sharing in the country.

A view of part of participants

 

M. Abdoulaye Abou Abba

M. Abdoulaye Abou Abba, Director of Agricultural Production at SODECOTON
«This training workshop was very useful as it allowed us to demonstrate that the process of testing genetically modified cotton variety, with our partner Bayer, was done in compliance with the regulatory framework, with the support of relevant institutions, including the National Biosafety Committee.

The meeting also allowed us to show that one can work on GMOs while following the safety requirements that are recommended. And the public must be sensitized and must understand the validity of the tests on this technology and how decisions are made based on scientific evidence to the benefit of the country.
Today, 80% of the world’s cotton is derived from genetically modified material and there is an economic benefit to our producers. And the demonstration has been made elsewhere that there are no risks related to human and animal health and Cameroon has undertaken similar tests to analyze these same risks”.

 

Mrs. Adrienne Engono

Mrs. Adrienne Engono, journalist at Mutations, member of the scientific journalists’ network in Cameroun.
« This meeting comes just at the right moment, especially since biosafety issues in Cameroon still remain unknown because scientists who can give the right information are always suspicious. They think journalists will distort their statements. This meeting brought together journalists and scientists and helped set up a platform even if it is not quite formalized yet. This platform will allow better collaboration between scientists and journalists for a better dissemination of scientific information. The platform is for the moment virtual; we will start with a WhatsApp group and so together we will be stronger.
The presentations were very interesting, very explicit. I particularly liked the experience in other African countries. Seeing how other colleagues are already organizing in other countries, we wonder why not us in Cameroon. Since Africa cannot develop without science, we can also do our best as journalists to make our small contribution to Africa’s development.”