Science for Poverty Alleviation

ASSAf originally constituted its Standing Committee on Science for Poverty Alleviation (CSfPA) to contribute to one of the five new national missions outlined in South Africa’s Research and Development (R&D) Strategy. Over the past few years, a number of forum-type studies on selected topics relevant in the fight to alleviate poverty in South Africa, have been conducted.

Latest Activities

GMOs in African Agriculture

The ASSAf policymakers’ booklet on Regulation of Agricultural GM Technology in Africa was initially launched at the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) Annual international Conference, in Addis Ababa in November 2012. A follow-up launch and localisation event, as well as a capacity building initiative was held on 15 and 16 April 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The event was organised by the Kenya National Academy of Sciences (KNAS) and ASSAf and funded by NASAC and the Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA) Programme. The workshop was attended by representatives from the Kenyan government, various science academies (Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa), journalists (Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya) and various other stakeholders. A total of 50 delegates attended the capacity building session by ASSAf.

Agricultural biotechnology, specific genetic modified (GM) technology, has the potential to contribute to poverty reduction and food security on the African continent.

Increased crop productivity and increased adaptation to drought and pests are some of the benefit yet Africa has been slow to reap the benefit of GM crops. The main objective of this policymakers’ booklet is to provide science-based information that will encourage safe access to GM technology.

It focuses on ways that could improve the efficiency and quality of policy development for GM technology, as well as on building African policymakers’ confidence by suggesting effective ways of procuring and using scientific evidence in GM risk analysis. It also focuses on the role of the public and the African national science academies and science-related associations in GM regulatory systems and processes.

Given their role of providing evidence-based scientific advice to government and increasing public awareness of science, national science academies in Africa are well placed to take up the challenge of providing evidence-based advice on GM crops. The booklet is a guide to African policymakers on how they can procure and use evidence to make informed decisions on the development, introduction, commercialisation and use of agricultural GM technology.

Previous Activities


Regulation of Agricultural GM Technology in Africa

This policymakers’ booklet is produced by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) as part of the project “GMOs for African Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges”. The project was implemented through ASSAf’s Committee on Science for Poverty Alleviation. The project is in its second year of implementation with funding from the Global Network of Science Academies (IAP).


Title: Regulation of Agricultural GM Technology in Africa: Mobilising Science and Science Academies for Policymaking
Published by: Academy of Science of South Africa
Publication date: November 2012
Publication Type: Policymaker’s Booklets 
Aims: This booklet highlights the key opportunities of genetic modification in agriculture, and policy and institutional challenges in regulating the development, introduction and commercialisation of GMOs. The booklet places emphasis on the importance of African policymakers procuring and using credible scientific evidence and expertise from academies in order to make accurate and timely decisions on GM technology to ensure its effective and sustainable utilisation. It also discusses the importance of mobilising science academies and scientific evidence and ensuring public participation in GM technology regulatory processes.
Collaborators: Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) and the Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology (MAST).


Science-based Improvements of Rural/Subsistence Agriculture

The Forum on Local and Economic Development in Small Towns, Housing Delivery and Impact on the Environment is the second to be convened by the Committee. The Forum was a one-day workshop, held on 27 June 2008; with Prof Cloete as the convener.

Economic development

Title: The Forum on Local and Economic Development in Small Towns, Housing Delivery and Impact on the Environment
Published by: Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf)
Date of Forum: 27 June 2008
Publication date: April 2009
Publication Type: Proceedings Report
Aims/Objectives: The structure of the workshop to consider the following issues that would guide the national strategy: The population in small towns; Creating entrepreneurship culture amongst the youth; Infrastructure and resource development, e.g. railway lines, artisan schools, etc; and look at economic versus physical model approach. The outcome of the workshop is therefore not necessarily a strategy but rather a methodology of how ‘local economic development in small towns’ can be achieved.
Collaborators: Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the United States National Academies through the African Academies Development Initiative (ASADI) Programme and the South African national Department of Science and Technology (DST).


Local Economic Development in Small Towns

This forum on Science-based Improvements of Rural/Subsistence Agriculture is the first in a series that are being convened by the ASSAf Forum steering Committee on Science for Poverty Alleviation.


Title: Science-based Improvements of Rural/subsistence Agriculture
Date of Forum: 18 October 2006
Published by: Academy of Science of South Africa
Publication date: July 2007
Publication Type: Proceedings Report
Aims/Objectives: The purpose of this workshop was to bring together a group of experts in the fi eld of agricultural research and to help identify promising scientific and technological strategies for improving agricultural productivity and food security, specifi cally for small-scale farmers.
Collaborators: Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the United States National Academies through the African Academies Development Initiative (ASADI) Programme, and the South African national Department of Science and Technology (DST).