NARDI IN PARTNERSHIP WITH BUAN LAUNCHES DIVAGRI BIO BASED TECHNOLOGIES IN BOTSWANA
National Agricultural Research and Development Institute(NARDI) and the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) recently launched a project called Revenue Diversification Pathways in Africa through bio-based and Circular Agricultural Innovations (DIVAGRI). The launch was held at Impala Research Station in Francistown on the 30th March 2023 and it was officiated by the Minister of Agriculture-Honour-able Fidelis Molao.
DIVAGRI project aims to improve resilience, productivity, crop diversity, income, and economic activities of small holder farmers in arid and semi-arid regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, by adopting integrated bio-based and circular innovations. The technologies launched were Self Regulating, Low Energy Claybased Irrigation (SLECI), Multi-functional Constructed Wetlands, Solar Supported Bio-gas Digester, Low-Tech Mobile Kilns for production of Biochar from biowaste and waste heat utilization, Valorization of farming residues through biorefinery processes (mushroom production, insect farming, distillation and extraction of biological compounds from agricultural residue and selected plants).
When delivering the keynote address, Honorable Molao said that he finds the project more interesting because the adoption of these technologies comes with a strong business development component, which should transform our farmers from the traditional subsistence farmers to agripreneurs. He added that, “successful technology transfer does not only mean availability of crop varieties, animal breeds, machines, and equipment, but also incorporates the skills, abilities, knowledge, systems and processes necessary to make the agricultural sector develop and change for the better”. Honourable Molao summed up by immensely thanking the European Union, on behalf of the Government of Botswana, for sponsoring this project through the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.
When giving an overview of NARDI, NARDI Chief Executive Officer Professor Julius Atlhopheng stated that NARDI is mandated to generate innovative solutions for the agricultural sector, and it cannot do so alone, hence seeking strategic partners in the area of research to improve the country’s food security and farmers’ livelihoods
BUAN Project Principal Investigator Professor Khumoetsile Mmolawa gave the overview of DIVAGRI. He said that DIVAGRI is implemented by a consortium of twenty(20) African and European institutions and European Commission sponsored the en- tire project to the tune of 122 million and NARDI and BUAN have been awarded 12.8 million and 7.2 million respectively.
Impala in the Northeast district and Mmamanaka in Bobirwa subdistrict are two NARDI stations where the identified technologies will be piloted, then demonstrated in selected farmers’ fields around the pilot sites. A total of seven (7) demonstration sites consisting of farms used for production of dryland field crops and horticulture produce have been selected at Molalatau, Ntshimanyana and Maiswe in Bobirwa subdistrict, Ditladi and Nlapkhwane in the Northeast district, and Dibongwana in Tonota district. Four of these are linked to the Impala pilot site while three will work with the Mmamanaka station.
NARDI Project Principal Investigator Dr Pharoah Mosupi summed up that the demonstrated bio-based technologies will be further co-developed with smallholder farmers through the Communities of Practice (CoPs), Learning Practice Alliances (LPAs), and Knowledge Sharing Centres (KSC). These technologies will be coupled with business solutions targeting farming inputs, farming practices, processing, and access to markets. The demonstration sites will be operated by the owner farmers and will benefit farmers’ clusters around them (Communities of Practice).
When giving the farmers perspective, Mr Stephen Pillar from Dibongwana stated that while agricultural production is a source of revenue creation, job creation, and food security, farmers are still faced with various challenges that force them to continuously to re-use and re-create. He said that as farmers, they appreciate the government and its parastatals for bringing innovative, cost-effective solutions to the sector. He summarized that farmers continue to seek additional involvement from all stakeholders on issues such as climate change, skills development, machinery and equipment, markets, farmer group empowerment, farm labour, land, and so on.
The Area Member of Parliament and also Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Honourable Dr Douglas Letsholathebe thanked all stakeholders for choosing to launch the initiative at Impala Research Station and urged the local farmers to take advantage of such opportunities to boost the agricultural productivity.
Amongst other dignitaries the launch was also graced by Kgosi Oganne Polsen of Matshelagabedi, the North-East District Commissioner Mr Gobe Macha, North-East District Council Chairman, North-East District Council Secretary, NARDI Acting Board Chairperson Dr Mbatshi Mazwiduma, North-East District Agricultural Coordinator Mr. Gwilizani Maposa, Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit- Director of Strategic Projects Mr. Maiba Samunzala, Dikgosi, Village Development representatives and Councilors from the various community of practices involved.
BUAN Project Principal Investigator Professor Khumoetsile Mmolawa and NARDI Project Principal Investigator Dr Pharoah Mosupi giving overview of DIVAGRI
THIS PROJECT HAS RECEIVED FUNDING FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION’S HORIZON 2020 RESEARCH AND INNOVATION PROGRAMME UNDER GRANT AGREEMENT NO 101000348.FYI