Government is to merge the National Food Technology Resource Centre (NFTRC) by the end of the current financial year in a bid to reduce parastatals with overlapping mandates.
Government says it is optimistic the process to introduce sustainable solutions to most challenges faced by agricultural entrepreneurs and start-ups will be completed.
Under the National Agricultural Research and Development Institute (NARDI) the services previously offered by the NFTRC, the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR) and the Botswana National Veterinary Laboratory (BNVL)will be effectively decentralised across the country.
“This is to support stakeholders from the vantage point of cluster-focussed, community based regional research centres. As well as specialist agricultural research and development innovation centres, testing and diagnostic laboratories and agri-business incubation centres around the country,” Agriculture Minister Edwin Dikoloti said.
Furthermore, the Minister said NARDI is set to consolidate the existing high value public investment in the infrastructure, equipment and facilities at NFTRC, DAR and BNVL to engage in high quality, innovation intensive and needs driven research and development.
The entity will also promote the beneficiation of Intellectual Property and related intangible assets such as Botswana`s indigenous knowledge systems and agro-based geographical indications to enhance agriculture related knowledge creation, knowledge management and knowledge dissemination. Besides research and development, the entity comes with a whole division dedicated to commercialisation and technology transfer activities across the agricultural value chain, to benefit consumers, farmers, industry government and science in transformational way.
NARDI is expected to operate along key research thematic areas focussed on horticulture, field crops, floriculture, industrial crops, ornamental plants, fodder, livestock production, animal health and Biosystems engineering. As well as food science and technology, Agricultural Economics, innovation, intellectual asset beneficiation, technology transfer and commercialisation.
“I believe this intervention by my Ministry will provide a holistic transformation and sustainable solution to most of the challenges faced by agricultural entrepreneurs and start-ups across the value chain in both food and non-food enterprises,” he said.
The Minister was answering a question from Member of Parliament for Kanye North Thapelo Letsholo who asked, among other things, the efficacy of the NFTRC and if it’s delivering on its mandate sufficiently.
The Minister explained it is not possible to state how many people benefited from training NFTRC as it offers training of trainers and for every individual trained there is potential for several others to benefit.
“Since its incorporation NFTRC has been training an average of 120 individuals per year in various aspects of food processing and food safety. In the five years between 2013 and 2018, a total of 763 individuals from all over Botswana benefitted from NFTRC`s training of trainers food processing courses including dairy processing, food packaging, Nut and oil processing and food safety,” Dikoloti said.