By Priscilla Kumbambe
Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) has been unveiled as part of a consortium with Land O’Lakes Venture37 (formerly Land O’Lakes International Development), the University of Minnesota and Stellenbosch University to establish the Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT) programme to help small scale farmers diversify their livelihoods.
Funding for the CAT is from the nonprofit Foundation for a Smoke Free World.
MUST’s role in the project will focus on curriculum development in food science and technology and also the improvement of human capital in agricultural innovations.
And on August 21, 2019, officials from the CAT, including executive director Macleod Nkhoma, and Titiane Donde, director of business incubation and commercialisation, visited MUST and met with vice chancellor Professor Address Malata and her senior team for a ceremony in which the sub-award was handed over.
The project is expected to run for five years, starting from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2023.
In his remarks, Nkhoma said the main aim of this project for MUST is to support capacity building by providing scholarships to university employees to further their studies.
For example, this will include provision of PhD, MSc and short course opportunities at Stellenbosch University and the Minnesota University.
In addition, the project will support the establishment of Food Science and Technology and Renewable Energy Launch Labs.
To drive its strategic pillars, the programme will also support the establishment of the University Technology and Innovation Garage that will advance science, technology and innovation through quality research, capacity development, application and commercialisation of outputs.
Professor Malata said the project will improve the quality of existing agricultural products through processing, and the renewable energy laboratory will help Malawi have adequate power supply, leading to the creation of job opportunities.
“The programme will allow our young university to meet some of the aspirations of contributing to both national and global development goals through STI, and it will directly contribute to the creation of the Industrial Park that is being championed with support from the Government of Malawi,” she said.
During the sub-award signing ceremony, Robert Mkandawire, a senior research fellow from MUST’s Centre for Innovation and Industrial Research (CIIR), said the Innovation Garage will follow four stages of ideation space, mentoring space (prototype), product development space (commercial product) and commercialization space (product selling).
This Innovation Garage will boost students and staff members’ capabilities in development of innovative ideas, bringing those ideas to the market, nurturing new talents and improving the development of local innovations.
MUST employees and stakeholders will be better equipped with more advanced skills, which will improve other people’s lives too.
In his remarks, the head of the CIIR and programme manager, Dr David Mkwambisi, said the grant will allow the university to address challenges affecting Malawi through STI, and that it is directly contributing to several government programmes, especially those that are exploring alternative agricultural commodities to tobacco.