On November 2, 2017, Deputy Chief of Mission Melinda Tabler-Stone joined more than 80 scientists, researchers, government representatives and farmers for the Biotechnology Workshop for Women in Science, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy. The forum brought together African women involved in agricultural research and policy making to discuss innovations in agriculture and biotechnology in Ghana and in Sub-Saharan Africa. The DCM was joined by speakers such as Dr. Rose Gidado, assistant director of the National Biotechnology Development Agency in Nigeria, and Dr. Marian Quain, associate professor at CSIR College of Science & Technology. In her remarks, DCM Tabler-Stone highlighted U.S. support for women in science and agriculture, saying “In our 21st century economy, we must actively welcome the immense talents and contributions of women and girls to advance peace and prosperity.” You can read DCM Tabler-Stone’s full remarks below.
Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Melinda Tabler-Stone
Biotechnology Workshop for Women in Science
Centre for African Wetlands, University of Ghana
November 2, 2017 | 9 a.m.
Good morning. It is a privilege to be with you today at this great institution of the University of Ghana to help open this biotechnology workshop for women in science. I am particularly pleased to see so many Ghanaian women researchers and scientists. They are all pioneers of achievement and the role models of excellence for the vision of our program today.
Women scientists have a critical role to play in Africa’s development, and yet they are woefully under-represented in positions of leadership. UNESCO estimates that just 30 percent of professionals in the sciences in Sub-Saharan Africa are women. Diverse perspectives are important to meeting the challenges facing Ghana. So I am heartened to see you here and hope that you will connect with and support each other, and be advocates for other girls and women to pursue studies and research in the areas of science, technology, and agriculture.
The United States considers promoting the empowerment of women and girls a key foreign policy priority, including by advancing their education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Our gathering here today underscores our commitment to address gender imbalances and empower young women with the knowledge to be competitive for success against their male counterparts.
In our 21st century economy, we must actively welcome the immense talents and contributions of women and girls to advance peace and prosperity. There is no perfect nation in addressing women’s issues — not the U.S., Ghana, or others. But we are proud to share with Ghana our priority to advance women’s rights. In fact, many Ghanaian women leaders are making a difference in government, business, civil society, the media, academia, and all sectors. All Ghanaians can be very proud of the example they set for Ghana’s image in the world.
There is an old African proverb which says that when you educate a woman you feed a whole village. We know that many of Ghana’s and Africa’s greatest and most hardworking farmers are women.
For more than 50 years, the United States has partnered with countries around the world to improve agricultural production. In Ghana, agriculture is critical to the success of the national economy. Agriculture remains the primary livelihood of the majority of Ghanaians, driven by the labors of women in the fields. It accounts for 19 percent of Ghana’s GDP and approximately 30 percent of its export earnings. We applaud President Akufo-Addo’s vision of agriculture as a key component of his national economic strategy for job creation through the “Planting for Food and Jobs” program.
Agriculture remains the main driver for poverty reduction, particularly in Ghana’s three northern regions. However, farmers remain challenged by low productivity, poor soils, and changing rain patterns. More than one million people in Ghana suffer food insecurity. These pressures, increased with the rapidly changing demographics caused by higher numbers of birth rates, call for the implementation of effective and innovative solutions in Ghana’s agricultural sector.
Real transformation will require new approaches and efficiencies. The use of science and technology, including biotechnology, can be an invaluable tool. We know this because agricultural biotechnology has greatly improved crop efficiency and production in the United States, Brazil, and Argentina among other nations.
Since the first biotechnology-derived crops were commercialized in the 1990s, they have been widely adopted in the U.S. Today, most of our corn, cotton, soybeans, canola, and sugar beets are produced using genetically engineered varieties. These innovations have saved farmers time, reduced insecticide use, protected crops from disease, and enabled the use of less toxic herbicides. New advances in science continue to expand options for farmers, while at the same time promoting the health of consumers.
These innovations have tremendous potential in Africa as well, and can play a role in helping to transform the agricultural sector from low productivity to a real driver of economic development and improved food security. Ghana will have an opportunity to transform itself from an importer of food into an exporter to feed itself and the region through wise cultivation of its fertile soils. Millions can be lifted out of poverty, should we persevere in advancing this vision.
This morning, we have assembled a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss these key issues. You will hear from experts on biotechnology research and development in Sub-Saharan Africa, the state of biotechnology in Ghana, the role of the National Biosafety Authority, and how to better communicate the benefits and risks of agricultural science to the public.
Ultimately, we need science and evidence-based information to inform and shape conversations about biotechnology, and to ensure that farmers everywhere – including women – have the opportunity to benefit from innovation to transform their communities. I hope the workshop today contributes to a better understanding of the current status, issues, constraints, and opportunities for biotechnology in Ghana.
I wish you all a fruitful discussion and look forward to hearing about the outcomes. Finally, thank you all again for making possible today’s Biotechnology Workshop for Women in Science. Together, we can help realize the dreams of future generations of women and girls here in Ghana and around the world.