Agriculture & Food Security
1 (Suppl 1)
Background: Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has been the world’s largest cowpea importer since 2004. The country is currently in the early phases of confined field trials for two genetically modified crops: Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cowpea and nutritionally enhanced cassava (“BioCassava Plus”). Using the bio-safety guidelines process as a backdrop, we evaluate the role of trust in the operation of the Cowpea Productivity Improvement Project, which is an international agricultural biotechnology public-private partnership (PPP) aimed at providing pest-resistant cowpea varieties to Nigerian farmers. Methods: We reviewed the published literature and collected data through direct observations and semistructured, face-to-face interviews. Data were analyzed based on emergent themes to create a comprehensive narrative on how trust is understood and built among the partners and with the community. Results: Our findings highlight the importance of respecting mandates and eliminating conflicts of interest; holding community engagement initiatives early on; having on-going internal discussion and planning; and serving a locally-defined need. These four lessons could prove helpful to other agricultural biotechnology initiatives in which partners may face similar trust-related challenges. Conclusions: Overcoming challenges to building trust requires concerted effort throughout all stages of project implementation. Currently, plans are being made to backcross the cowpea strain into a local variety in Nigeria. The development and adoption of the Bt cowpea seed hinges on the adoption of a National Biosafety Law in Nigeria. For countries that have decided to adopt biotech crops, the Nigerian cowpea experiment can be used as a model for other West African nations, and is actually applied as such in Ghana and Burkina Faso, interested in developing a Bt cowpea.
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