The Africa Biofortified Sorghum Project is aimed at resolving the problem of hunger and malnutrition. Also, food security contributes to poverty eradication and the support of economic well-being and development. Therefore, the more general aim of the project was to improve the quality of life in Africa and ensure its sustainable development.
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Food security is not always easily achieved in many African countries, where agriculture has to deal with climate specifics including heat and droughts. Despite its rather low nutritional value, sorghum is tolerant to these conditions, which makes it a typical and even “staple” dietary product for many African countries, including Ethiopia and Sudan (Mastandrea, 2009, p. 111). As a result, improving this crop was deemed a suitable strategy for enhancing food stability in Africa. Given the fact that the majority of the African population cannot afford dietary supplements, the improvement of a staple food appears to be a wise choice.
To successfully deliver the program, modern scientific technology and infrastructure for its transfer were required. Also, education for the stakeholders, as well as other means of providing an enabling environment for the change, was necessary. Both of these requirements also needed funding. No single organization could produce all these factors, which is why an alliance was formed to plan and implement the project.
The project was created by the Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International that worked in alliance with a number of “private, public and academic organizations” and received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Mastandrea, 2009, p. 112). The challenge of organizing the collaboration of the organizations was successfully resolved, and a structure for teamwork was developed. Despite this, the partners “found it challenging” to ensure the engagement of stakeholders, their communication, and the information flow between them (Mastandrea, 2009, p. 113).
In particular, language and cultural barriers were met in Burkina Faso, but means of resolving them (meetings, training) were found. The political aspect of the work was also challenging: before encountering some difficulties with the permits for the experiments, the organizations had not actively sought the support of governmental figures or the society. The lessons were learned, and the project worked towards ensuring information exchange and vital stakeholder engagement and education. Also, the project found that the best way to motivate stakeholders consists in demonstrating them tangible results.
The challenges related to the technological part of the project have been appropriately met. The transformation system that was developed for the plant became a useful contribution to the bulk of knowledge of genetic engineering, and it can be used for future projects. In general, I think that the project can indeed be replicated in other countries that suffer from a similar issue because similar problems require similar solutions. However, if it is adjusted, it will be more likely to bring positive results in specific settings that can be different. Also, the implementation lessons and the example of the partnership of public and private organizations from various regions can be of use for future projects.
Mastandrea, A. (2009). Case studies for global health. The Africa Biofortified Sorghum Project Consortium: Food safety and fighting malnutrition in Africa.
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