Public awareness and public participation
One of the main challenges with public participation in biosafety decision-making is that levels of awareness are generally low amongst stakeholders in the country. Public participation is important throughout all stages of design and development of the NBF.
During design and development of the National Biosafety Framework, SEA in partnership with a range of partners including the Ministry of Agriculture, the Regional Agricultural & Environmental Innovations Network-Africa (RAEIN-Africa), the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) and various Non-Governmental Organizations facilitated a number of public awareness initiatives targeting Teachers, Extension, Customs and Excise.
The Swaziland Environment is also keen to enhance levels of awareness and education on biotechnology and biosafety in the country in order to ensure effective participation in its implementation and ultimately in monitoring. SEA has thus taken special interest in participation of rural farmers who are the most likely to be affected by the technology and is implementing a project which has amongst its aims development of collaborative arrangements for public participation in biosafety decision making. This project has a strong component of community engagement. A number of activities have been implemented.
Community meeting at Qomintaba Umphakatsi
Qomintaba is located in the Shiselweni District. Members of the community grow maize and cotton as the major crops. The community is also in close vicinity to GM cotton growing areas of South Africa. A meeting aimed at sensitizing the community n biotechnology and biosafety was held with the community in November, 2015. More than 6o community members attended the meeting. Discussions with the community showed that many members of the community have some exposure to genetically modified crops in terms of the perceived benefits evidenced by use of terms such as “Kotini longafutfwa / longajovi” (cotton that does not require spraying), “Kotini longahlakulelwa” (cotton that does not required weeding). The community stressed that they need more time to engage with the training team.
Training workshop for community members Matsanjeni Inkhundla
The Workshop was attended by thirty five participants drawn from all seven Chiefdoms that fall under the Inkhundla. The workshop was highly participatory in nature giving plenty of opportunities for the community members to engage with the training team and the regulator through discussion, group work and drama.
STAKEHOLDERS’ WORKSHOP ON ACCESSING INFORMATION ON THE NATIONAL BIOSAFETY WEBSITE AND PARTICIPATING IN DECISION MAKING PROCESSES
A Stakeholder's Workshop on Accessing Information on the National Biosafety Website and Participating in Decision-Making Processes was held at the Royal Swazi Spa & Convention Centre on Thursday 28th January, 2016. The Workshop was attended by thirty five participants among them members of the National Biosafety Advisory Committee, Millers and Grain Processors , Government Departments and others. Presentations made include Swaziland' Biosafety Regulations and Provisions for Public Awareness and Public participation in Biosafety Decision-making. The Workshop also presented a platform for discussion on prospects of modern biotechnology for enhancing productivity in the country.