Six outstanding science reporters in Uganda have this evening (Friday Nov 20), walked home with a big smile on their faces after they were each awarded three millions and plaques in recognition of their hardwork.
The journalists were recognized by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) at a colourful ceremony held at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala.
OFAB Africa headqauters are locates in Nairobi, Kenya with chapters in seven African countries including Uganda.
The 2020 OFAB – Uganda science Writer of the year in the print category is Ismail Musa Ladu of Daily Monitor while the Electronic Category award was taken by Sarah Natoolo of UBC Radio.
Organisers also awarded previous winners in 2018 and 2019 with UGX3M because they had not gotten their cash awards.
The OFAB Uganda chapter is hosted by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST).
The Chief guest, Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, who is also the Minister for Science and Innovations, said in a Speech read for him by UNCST Deputy Executive Secretary Dr. Maxwell Onapa, that: “I take this opportunity to welcome OFAB initiative, we hope we shall have responsible professional ethical and effective reporting on biotechnology to enhance adoption of this useful technology in Uganda and the required regulatory regimes.”
Minister Tumwesigye blamed the delay in passing the Genetic Engineering and Regulatory Act 2019 (GERA), on what he called needless controversies that originated from international biosafety instruments such as the Catagena protocol and the convention on biodiversity.
“The origin of this controversy seems to have partly legitimized through international biosafety legal instruments, the convention on biological diversity,” said Tumwesigye.
Despite the delay in passing Uganda’s law on regulating Genetic Engineering, OFAB coordinator Phillip Chemonges, said they are not relenting in their efforts to sensitize the Ugandan public about the positive role that biotechnology can play not only in agriculture but in other areas such as industry.
“As a sign of our commitment to deepening understanding of biotechnology, we have today launched the OFAB Grants, which will be given to past winners of OFAB, to facilitate them to do more stories that can help to change the mindset of both the members of the public as well as policy makers,” said Chemonges.
The latest winners couldn’t be happier with the awards.
Christopher Bendana of The New Vision, who scooped UGX3M for his award made in 2018, said the cash award was timely and is motivating.
“In the media industry, you don’t target money. However when the money comes it can help you to buy equipment and also enable you to make more stories that can open more doors and create more opportunities for you,” said Bendana.
Lack of equipment and resources to pursue more stories, it seems has been a major obstacle for others journalists, which could be solved by the lump sum of UGX3M given to the winners as Sarah Natoolo, a radio reporter for UBC Radio told The Sunrise.
Natoolo said: “I am humbled and feel more energized to do more science stories. This token is especially heartwarming, as it will help me buy equipment to do more abd better stories.”