With population increase, biotechnology can come in handy

“The contribution of modern biotechnology in driving the fourth industrial revolution.”

That is one of the topics that rocked the 8th National Science, Technology and Innovation Conference and Exhibition organized by the Commission of Science and Technology (COSTECH) held in Dar es Salaam region.

The conference brought together researchers, scientists, designers and scholars to receive and discuss the results of scientific, technological and creative activities in the country.

In the conference, a biotechnology Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr. Ally Mahadhy explained that the country has been facing many challenges, including a large population increase.

This is evident from the fact that in 2012, there were about 45 million people in Tanzania but the census that ended last year puts the number of people at about 62 million.

“While we continue to increase, our land is decreasing because we need to find places to build and do other social activities.

“Experts estimate that by the year 2030, despite the fact that we have increased a lot, 60 percent of people will be living in cities, and only 40 percent will remain in rural areas to do production activities,” he says.

This situation shows how the nation will be able to face challenges if the society remains on the technology that it is using.

He says that climate change has caused areas that used to receive regular rains to now experience droughts, floods and unpredictable rains.

“But our interaction with other creatures is causing the emergence of new pathogens, in the past they were limited to animals, now they are coming to humans.

“All these contribute to lack of food and problems in the food sector, safety, but also food storage,” he says.

Dr. Mahadhy says humans has shown history that he is surviving up to now because he has the ability to face his challenges by trying to come up with solutions to his problems so that he can continue to exist.

According to Dr. Mahadhy, biotechnology is one of the important parts in this fourth industrial revolution.

What is biotechnology?

Biotechnology is the use of living organisms to produce various crops but also to create systems that will enable solving problems.

“For example, for a senior chemist, if you want to know if the child is yours or not, by using parts of your living organisms called genetics, there are systems developed that can tell you whether the child is yours or not,” he says.

And one of the most popular biotechnology, but not the only one, is genetic engineering biotechnology (GMO).

“In biotechnological agriculture and food storage, we produce various seeds that are resistant to diseases. An example is a banana that is resistant to a disease known as banana wilt.

“That bacteria attacks all bananas, so scientists discovered that green peppers are not attacked by that bacteria, so they transferred the information and put it in the banana and it was able to withstand these diseases, this disease has appeared in Uganda,” he says.

But he also describes the plants that protect themselves from pests and gives the example of maize that is resistant to insects, a study that has been done in Kenya, which is currently producing seedlings so that if they put law the in place, they will have enough seedlings.

He also talks about drought resistant plants that have been researched here in Tanzania in Makutupora area in Dodoma region.

“Let’s look at the technology and its benefits and if there are challenges like in other technologies, and let’s put systems in place to ensure that we get the benefits and avoid the losses,” he says.

And the Director General of Costech, Dr. Amos Nungu explained the aim of the scientific conference held from June 14 to 16 this year in the Dar es Salaam region was to bring together researchers, scholars, designers and explorers, policy makers and decision makers to share experiences about how Science, Technology and Innovation can contribute to the economic growth of the nation and achieve the National Development Plan 2025.

He reminds that Article 7 of the Parliament of 1986 has given the National Science and Technology Commission the responsibility of being the main advisor to the government in all matters related to Science, Technology and Innovation for the development of the nation.

This include coordinating, promoting and developing research as well as coordinating, developing and transferring technology and innovation, collecting, storing and distributing Science, Technology and Innovation information, including seeking funds from the government and other stakeholders for development and development Science, Technology and Innovation.

“Promoting regional and international relations in matters of Science, Technology and Innovation and advising the government on Science, Technology and Innovation issues, including research priorities, allocation of research funds in accordance with agreed priorities, regional and international cooperation in research, training and employment of researchers, and the National Science and Technology Policy.

“The commission manages the entire system of Science, Technology and Innovation so that it can contribute socially and economically in this country,” he says.

In addition, the Commission has enabled local and foreign researchers to conduct research in this country by coordinating the issuance of research permits. In some requests for research permits, the Commission involves stakeholders from the relevant sector so that they know what research is going on, and prepare to receive the results of those studies so that they can be used by the government.

On his part, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Professor Adolf Mkenda at the science conference where he was presented by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dodoma (UDOM), Professor Lugano Kusiluka, mentioned the motto of the conference as ‘Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development’.

“The Manifesto of the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) for 2020 and 2025 and the National Five-Year Development Plan 2021/22 to 2025/26 emphasize the use of science, technology and innovation as an important tool to achieve sustainable development in the country.

That includes the discovery of better seeds and seedlings, the use of science, technology and creativity in response to climate change and the construction of a strong and sustainable economy for the country.

Last year at the launch of the Tanzania Biotechnology Forum (BST), the Manager of Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), Mikocheni Center in Dar es Salaam region, Fred Tairo said biotechnology has a great contribution in contributing to the availability of food and nutrition.

He advised that it is important to strengthen the ability to use technology for finance and infrastructure experts.

He also advised that it is important to continue raising public awareness and knowledge about biotechnology.

Dr. Traore Edgar of Burkina Faso says he sees genetic engineering technology (GMO) as another technology to improve human life.

“It is very easy to send messages, sounds and pictures using smart phones, unlike before when we used to send messages by post, is it right? In general, people are receptive to technological change.

“However, there are still concerns about GMO technology. In reality, it is not correct to talk about GMO as a whole, instead it is necessary to decide and talk about one of the technologies,” he said.

In Africa, he says the technology has brought about an agricultural revolution in South African countries, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

“Using this technology, seeds can make their own protection against insects, which earlier required manpower to do the work.

He says, however, that GMO is still feared in Africa due to ongoing opposing debates against it.

His advice is that Africa, after missing the global green revolution, has the opportunity to monopolize such innovative technologies in order to be self-sufficient by having enough food.

“In contrast, other countries in the world will be required to come under the auspices of food aid that will contain GMOs that we hesitate to use,” he says.


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