The commercial use of biotech crops developed using genetic modification (GM) technologies is very limited in sub-Saharan African agriculture. Efforts are on-going to address this. The need to implement best practices in stewardship to support the responsible and safe management of agricultural biotechnology and maintain the highest research standards on product integrity have received less attention. A pioneering initiative on â€œstrengthening capacity for safe biotechnology management in sub-Saharan Africa (SABIMA)â€ was introduced in six African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi) during the period 2009 to 2013. This initiative was led by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) to address the stewardship capacity gap. The train-the-trainer approach was used to train 1515 professionals in the core principles of stewardship. Key stewardship practices like Critical Control Point Analysis (CCPA) and the relevant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were internalised in the public research and development institutions. These institutions also demonstrated their commitment to stewardship by developing and implementing stewardship policies. Evidence of enhanced quality product development was demonstrated by the publication of case studies from project work at beneficiary institutions. These fuelled the demand for further stewardship training in African countries. Training and implementation of the best stewardship principles and practices should be mainstreamed into all research and development programmes creating new varieties using molecular biotechnology to address the needs of farmers and their value chains. Sustainable funding into the post-project period is a challenge to be addressed in future stewardship capacity building projects.
Keywords: Agricultural biotechnology, genetic modification, gene editing, crop improvement, critical control point analysis, standard operating procedures, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).