African farmers should benefit from the cohabitation and free choice between biotech crops and agroecology


In my country of Rwanda, the level of malnutrition and hunger leading to stunting among children under the age of five is still alarming, and it’s a scenario that is repeated in many African nations and other developing world countries. Due to the food production challenge, in Sub-Saharan Africa alone 34 percent of children under age 5 are stunted, leading to future generations of people who are mentally and physically impaired and more prone to disease.

In an effort to avoid replicating the mistakes of Western countries, where agroecologists often take hostile and antagonist stances towards modern biotechnology and the green revolution, African countries are urged to separate themselves from such division for the sake of ending extreme hunger and poverty and meeting the United Nation’s 2030 goal of zero hunger.

African policymakers and world food system leaders are also urged to implement measures that will help African farmers benefit from both agroecology and modern biotechnology. The situation of food production in Africa is so fragile that African smallholder farmers and their communities can’t afford any more divisions in their food systems due to the agroecology movement’s antagonism towards modern biotechnology.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and various farming-related plant diseases and insect challenges, like the locust swarms in East Africa, threaten the livelihood of millions. Resilient biotechnology crops that offer protection, like Nigeria’s insect-resistant and drought-tolerant TELA maize and insect-resistant GM cowpea, solve problems and economically empower farmers and rural communities.

“The climate crisis demands that we innovate and give farmers in every country diverse tool kits. Agroecology and biotechnology can co-exist and be mutually supportive,” stated Matt Murray, acting assistant secretary for Economic and Business Affairs in the United States Department of State, while speaking at the 2021 World Food Prize.

Achieving coexistence between agroecology and modern biotechnology in African farming communities will be the turning point in promoting food security on the continent. It will also economically rejuvenate Africa’s large and small producers, who will finally enjoy the freedom of choice over what they produce and how they protect and manage their farming investments.

At a time when an increasing number of African countries are making wise decisions about adopting biotech crops that offer their farmers greater resilience in managing the effects of climate change, it is important to highlight their importance to the livelihoods of small producers.

This is but one area where agroecology and biotechnology have shared goals. We must now focus on other common goals and values to support, rather than divide, Africa’s farmers.

Pacifique Nshimiyimana

Pacifique Nshimiyimana

Pacifique has a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology. He is a farmer and an entrepreneur. In December 2015 he started Real Green Gold Ltd, using half a hectare of land from his family. He developed a banana farming demonstration farm with more than 15 varieties of bananas and trained small producers while contracting to buy their 1st grade quality bananas. He sells them to high-end hotels and restaurants in Kigali.
Today he has expanded to 3 hectares, adding avocados and other fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and eggplants. As the number of crops increased, he started working with more farmers. He’s currently working with 144 small producers from across Rwanda. The group has been challenged with Panama disease, a devastating disease in bananas.
He is a founding member of Rwandan Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF) a countrywide network of youth who are doing primary production, food processing and extension service.

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