The Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN), formerly Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) has been encouraged to resuscitate ties with the industry in order to grow the agricultural sector.
This was said by stakeholders recently at a conference held to present the college’s vision as its transformation to a university nears.
Chief executive officer of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), Dr Patrick Molutsi said the institution needed to prioritise research programmes, and ensure that its services were availed to farmers.
He said BCA/BUAN had abandoned its founding maxim. Therefore, its approval as a university had to highlight research and industry co-operation, as there is demand in these areas.
“The white agricultural demonstrators of the past spent time with farmers, they were very close to farmers.
“In contrast, graduates of this institution, have since been reduced to petty agriculture administrators and are administering the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD),” he said.
As the situation stands, these officers are not making an impact, according to Molutsi.
“You need to be closer to farmers, policy advisors, as well as to prioritise programmes for research,” he said.
He said of the 61,000 students in local tertiary education institutions, a whopping 70 percent are studying towards certificates and diploma programmes, while only three percent were enrolled in post graduate studies - Masters and PhD programmes. Molutsi said a situational analysis taken in 2012 had informed them.
“Research at a very high standard would ultimately contribute to the transformation agenda of the country,” he said.
Professor Othusitse Madibela, of the BUAN said stakeholders such as the Botswana Meat Commission, and others that depend on agriculture needed to play a major role in research funding.
“BMC has a duty to take the livestock industry to a high level, through supporting post graduate training and investing in studies would improve the quality of our beef,” he said.
He added that BMC should also be interested in diversifying its product portfolio through product development. A representative from Mosisedi Commercial Farmers Association, Johnson also reiterated the need for re-aligning research with the market needs, in order to achieve greater progress.
“To achieve greater progress we need to learn from what has worked and what has not worked in terms of farmer participatory research, and to mainstream involvement and give farmers, consumers and others more of a say in what research is undertaken,” he said.
He added that researchers need to ask themselves how they could be much more effective in working with farmers.
Moreover, he said unlocking the process of innovation for change was critical for the development of the sector. “Farmers and researchers are just two groups within a wider network of players that are required to bring innovation about,” Johnson said.
He stressed that as farmers they would like to see knowledge dialogue, because “unless we identify and address the different hierarchies of power, then we will just strengthen all the existing asymmetries or inequalities in the system”.
The conference, themed ‘Transforming the College; Redefining Botswana Agriculture’ attracted participants from government, academia, research, business community and the Civil Society in Botswana and internationally. The conference highlighted and deliberated on BUAN’s role in achieving key government development priorities in line with the proposed Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (2015-2020).
Presentations and discussions focused on strategies for increasing research impact, synergies among tertiary and research institutions, private sector participation, strengthening university outreach programmes, and infusing entrepreneurial skills into the curriculum.