Agricultural biotechnology in southern Africa: A regional synthesis

Mnyulwa, Doreen and Mugwagwa, Julius (2005). Agricultural biotechnology in southern Africa: A regional synthesis. In: Omamo, Steven Were and von Grebmer, Klaus eds. Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food Security in Southern Africa. Washington DC/Harare: International Food Policy Research Institute, pp. 13–36.


Countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region are employing various forms of biotechnological techniques in their agricultural, environmental management, forestry, medicine, and industry efforts, and have been since time immemorial. However, without doubt Africa is the region where biotechnologies are the least developed. There are many different explanations for this situation, but several schools of thought associate it with the perennial economic problems affecting the continent. From studies conducted by the Biotechnology Trust of Zimbabwe (BTZ) in 2001 and 2002, and studies by other organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and International Service for National Agricultural Research, it can be seen that the main area in which biotechnology techniques are being applied in southern African countries is agriculture, with the major thrust being crop improvement. Techniques such as tissue culture are being applied in almost all the countries, mainly because of the less intensive nature of this technique in terms of human and infrastructural resources. Modern biotechnological techniques, which include genetic engineering, are being employed in few of the countries, namely Malawi, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, and to a small extent in Mauritius and Zambia. Of all these countries, only South Africa has reached the commercialization stage insofar as products of genetic engineering are concerned. The rest are still at the laboratory research stage.

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