The Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), which has acted as a knowledge hub about biotechnology for journalists and members of the public in eight African countries, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this September.

As part of the celebrations, OFAB has partnered with the Uganda Science Journalists Association (USJA), the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to recognize reporters who have excelled in reporting on biotechnology. Therefore, the partners will be organizing the OFAB Agricultural Journalism Award 2017.

The science of biotechnology has been hailed as a powerful tool that can help to transform economies and lives for the better. Even more so in a continent such as Africa, which is plagued by poverty, low agricultural productivity and a rising demand for food among others.

Despite its promise, the technology continues to divide opinions across the continent regarding its appropriateness and safety. Many in Uganda’s scientific community have blamed the delayed adoption of the potentially life-changing technology.

Although a policy on promoting the use of biotechnology was introduced in Uganda about a decade ago, which triggered research in a number of areas like crop improvement to address disease and other environmental stresses, fruits of this research are yet to be tested by millions of farmers who need them.

Part of the challenge has been an ideological war that has divided policy makers, civil society and members of the public. It has also frustrated the passage of relevant laws to guide the development of the technology. Also, the low levels of knowledge among the public have generated some disappointment.

Journalists have found themselves in the middle of a furious debate between supporters and opponents of the technology. However, some journalists have demonstrated exceptional skills, persistence, and passion in communicating biotechnology to the Ugandan public.

As Phillip Chemonges, the OFAB coordinator in Uganda remarks: “It is appropriate to appreciate people who have done some excellent work in reporting on biotechnology in Uganda. We want to motivate them by giving them an award.”

William Balikuddembe Odinga, the President of USJA also notes that the OFAB Agricultural Biotechnology Award 2017 aims at motivating journalists and science communicators to up their game and fill the information gap among members of the general public on the technology.

The awards ceremony is expected to be held in September 2017 and will recognize three outstanding journalists in three categories:

  • Print/online magazine
  • Radio
  • Television

Winners will walk away with plaques and hard cash.

You can find more information about the award here. Deadline to apply: Saturday 26 August. 

Ugandan winners will automatically enter into a continent-wide competition that will elect the best reporters on the technology. The best African Biotechnology Reporter will also be crowned in Kampala.

Promotional video about the Award here

Article by Henry Lutaaya, an USJA member
Uganda – 17th August 2017

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