The Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST), in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Directorate General for International Partnership (DG INTPA) of the European Commission, on Wednesday, 31st January, 2024, commenced a two-day in-person meeting on the Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development Goals (STI4SDGs) Roadmap Project for The Gambia.
The workshop aimed to explore how the current Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) system in The Gambia can be enhanced to address the critical issue of food self-sufficiency. Similarly, the gathering leveraged the experience of selected stakeholders to prioritize sustainability issues within the food system and engaged in mapping discussions on existing STI instruments.
In his opening remarks, the Honourable Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Professor Pierre Gomez highlighted the importance of the STI4SDGs roadmap projects which he said marked a significant milestone in the Government’s collective journey towards fostering innovation and ensuring food security in The Gambia.
Minister Gomez expedited that the workshop will engage in intensive discussions, mapping exercises, and collaborative sessions to chart a course that will redefine the role of STI in enhancing food security in The Gambia.
Additionally, Honourable Gomez emphasised that the workshop will provide a platform for structured discussions on the existing STI instruments, thus help identify areas for enhancement and innovation.
Minister Gomez stated that the outcomes of the workshop will not only inform the country’s policy landscape, but will also pave the way for concrete actions that have the potential to transform the lives of the citizens. He asserted that The Gambia’s “commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals demands that we not only aspire to improve food self-sufficiency, but actively engage in the design and implementation of strategies that drive sustainable change.”
Honourable Gomez thanked the Joint Research Centre, the Directorate General for International Partnerships, and all stakeholders for their collaboration and added that he was confident that the collective efforts over the next two days will set the stage for a future where Science, Technology, and Innovation become powerful catalysts for positive change in The Gambia.
The Head of Cooperation of the European Union to The Gambia, Enrica Pellacani, highlighted the potential of STI in harnessing the food insufficiency in The Gambia. She stated that Science Technology and Innovation remains at the centre for development and that the exercise was essential especially at the time that the European Delegation is working with stakeholders to develop a new system that will leverage the potentials of STI in addressing food insufficiency. She added that food system is one of the priorities of the European Union in The Gambia and they are going to continue their support in finding ways to address the food issues in The Gambia.
Dr. Pierre Rialland, Representative from the Joint Research Center (JRC), expressed his heartfelt appreciation to the Ministry, under the leadership of the Honourable Minister, Professor Pierre Gomez, for taking the lead in the conduct of the workshop which is crucial in improving food self-sufficiency in The Gambia..
He highlighted the processes undertaken to come up with the document presented before the participants adding that they had done an in-depth research and situational analysis at the country level. He thus affirmed that the core reason of the information gathering exercise was to discuss the document with the participants in order to share their knowledge, experiences, and also to prioritise issues more efficiently.
Ms. Eleonora Rella, Programme Manager of Research and Innovation Development at the European Commission, thanked the Ministry and the Joint Research Centre colleagues for their efforts and initiative and for the development of the framework.
She also stated that the European Commission’s Director General for International Partnerships recognizes that Science, Technology, Innovation and Education are currently regarded as powerful tools to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs globally.
“Education, Research and Innovation are featured as key policy drivers in our Global Gateway Strategy and are positioned at the very core of our partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa through the AU-EU Innovation Agenda, which reiterates the commitment of the European Commission to work with partner countries to support their full transformation into knowledge-based and innovation-led economies,” she explained.
Dr. Chux Daniels, Joint Research Center Expert and Research Fellow in STI Policy at Sussex emphasised the importance to realise that Science and Technology are critical in addressing the challenges that Africa faces and the key roles they play in addressing these challenges. “The discussion will give us the idea on how we can come up with solutions in addressing food insecurity in the country with the use of STI; how to redirect science and innovation in an inclusive dimension to address the food insecurity in The Gambia, and how all the components surrounding STI can be used with research to address the development challenges that we are facing”, he added.
It is important to note that this workshop came at a time when the current NSTIP (2015 – 2024) is coming to an end, therefore the insights and comments from stakeholders will be very useful in the current efforts being undertaken by MoHERST to develop a successor NSTIP in line with the MoHERST Strategic Plan (2021 – 2025), the Green Recovery Focus NDP (GRF-NDP) as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).