Overcoming smallholder challenges with biotechnology – FAO Report

A new Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) publication has called for greater national and international efforts to bring agricultural biotechnologies to smallholder producers in developing countries.

The publication: “Biotechnologies at Work for Smallholders: Case Studies from Developing Countries in Crops, Livestock and Fish,” states how biotechnologies can help smallholders to improve their livelihoods and food security.

Charmaine Wilkerson of the FAO Media Relations in Rome, made a copy of the publication available to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday.

The publication written by scientists and researchers worldwide, covers 19 case studies in crops, livestock and fisheries.

It describes the practical realities and experiences of taking biotechnology research and applying it in smallholder production of bananas, cassava, rice, livestock, shrimp and more, in different parts of the developing world.

The publication was prepared by a multi-disciplinary team at FAO as part of an agricultural biotechnologies project, partially funded by the Government of Canada.

“With the right institutional and financial arrangements, governments, research institutions and organizations can help to bring biotechnologies to smallholders, improving their capacity to cope with challenges like climate change, plant and animal diseases, and the overuse of natural resources,” said Andrea Sonnino, Chief of FAO’s Research and Extension Unit.

According to the publication, there were four case studies from India, two from China and one each from Ghana, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand.

The publication said researchers used their knowledge of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) markers to develop a flood-tolerant rice variety in India with a potential yield of 1-3 tons per hectare more than previously used varieties, under flood conditions.

It said researchers in Ghana found that the propagation of sweet potato, plantain and banana using clean planting materials promotes crop establishment and vigour.

The publication pointed out that concerted efforts by the research community and government are seriously needed to promote the utilization of clean planting materials of clonally propagated crops in Ghana.

The scientists, according to the publication, said biotechnologies can improve crop-, livestock- and fish-related livelihoods by boosting yields and enhancing market access.

The publication is of the view that introducing new and traditional biotechnologies on family farms can also keep production costs down and improve sustainable management of natural resources.

The publication offers lessons from the case studies which could be used to inform and assist policymakers in making decisions on programs involving biotechnologies.

High up on the list is the need for national political commitment to improving smallholder productivity and livelihoods; financial support from non-governmental sources to supplement national efforts; and, long-term national investment in both people and infrastructure linked to science and technology.

The publication pointed out that international and national partnerships are vital for achieving results, as is the sharing of genetic resources, techniques and know-how across national and continental borders.

Biotechnologies at Work for Smallholders, also underlines the importance of involving smallholders in the process at all stages, taking into consideration their knowledge, skills and own initiatives. GNA

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