A bright future for researchers improving Botswana’s agriculture and economy

Dr. Force Thema (left) at the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources

In Botswana, Seeding Labs equipment is supporting new research helping local farmers

Google “Botswana” and you’ll undoubtedly find images of large, striking animals crossing the Okavango Delta. Elephants, giraffes, zebras, and others flock to this region during annual floods, making it a region noted for its unique flora, fauna, and biodiversity.

As breathtaking as they are, though, this wildlife often overshadows Botswana’s other large animals: domesticated livestock, which are handled by small farms and industrial operations throughout the country.

There are more cows in Botswana than people, and they are essential to the survival of many farmers across the semi-arid country. While cattle farming is important to Botswana’s cultural identity, intensifying seasonal droughts threaten its future. 

The lives of cattle—and the livelihoods of their farmers—are in real danger.

Climate change is threatening the health of cattle in Botswana—and the farmers who rely on them for income—by making access to healthy feed more difficult.

Dr. Force Thema is giving these farmers and animals a boost with climate-resilient innovations.

Looking to the future

For Botswana to move into a more sustainable and secure future, farmers there need to ensure that their animals have healthy feed, something that is in short supply as climate change makes accessing nutritious grains more difficult. 

Force Thema, PhD at the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, says change begins with something as simple as animal feed.

“Livestock is our livelihood,” he explains, noting the nation-wide benefits that come from having a healthy cattle population. “We need to know how to take care of them so that we can make sure people here have better health, food security, and education.”

It’s a bold claim to make, but Dr. Thema is certain that his work can deliver the kind of future that Botswana demands, where the country’s population enjoys a more secure way of life.

For the many rural subsistence farmers who rely on milk and beef production especially, animal nutrition translates directly to economic stability. When farmers can reliably produce milk and beef, they can count on selling those products consistently and making a dependable wage. 

Tools to see solutions through

Dr. Thema now has the tools to see these ideas through. Previously, he lacked the equipment to run complex analyses to even assess animal nutrition, let alone address the problem itself.

Using equipment from Instrumental Access, Dr. Thema is developing a proprietary prebiotic for livestock, one that can allow animals to absorb more nutrients from their feed and produce more and better-quality beef and milk.

By analyzing current nutritional levels in the animals’ feed and comparing it with animal waste after feeding, he can understand how the cattle absorb their feed and what nutrients they need to support better digestion. With the right nutrition, livestock can be healthier and more productive. 

From there, he says, it is a matter of developing the right supplement to ensure the health and productivity of livestock throughout  Botswana.

“We are an agricultural university, and we focus on applied research, like these prebiotics,” he says. “These will result in more milk and beef production, and they will allow the feed to be fully digested.”

For a country looking to build a healthier economic future, Dr. Thema’s work is a much-needed push towards more security, potentially establishing stronger ties between university research and the agricultural sector. 

Force Thema Headshot
"Livestock is our livelihood. We need to know how to take care of them so that we can make sure people here have better health, food security, and education."

Dr. Force Thema
Botswana University of Science and Natural Resources

Hope for a brighter, healthier future

Equipping Dr. Thema with modern scientific instruments is the first step to ensure that Botswana can move into a future with healthier livestock and more prosperous local farmers. It is a future he is excited to help make reality.

“I hope that this work will give us the information we need to improve the lives of farmers across our country,” he says. “So many people depend on livestock for their wellbeing, and we need to make sure that they are maximizing their profits so they can support their families.”

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Paul Hohenberger

Paul Hohenberger

Director of Individual Giving

Paul is responsible for individual outreach to increase philanthropic support for Seeding Labs. He is an experienced fundraising professional with broad knowledge and understanding of resource development and advancement in major research universities and public trusts. 

In previous roles at The University of Massachusetts, MIT, Harvard University, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, Paul cultivated relationships within the philanthropic community, garnering support for programs and priorities spanning nuclear engineering, global health, climate science/energy, and demographic and survey research.

Paul’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is active in his alma mater, serving on the Department of Political Science Advisory Board, and was a former board member of the UMass Alumni Association. 

Additionally, he has completed professional certificate programs at the T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health and MIT, enhancing his expertise in policy, politics, and innovation.

Alyssa Tran headshot

Alyssa Tran
Logistics Intern

Alyssa Tran started working for Seeding Labs in Summer 2024 in the Instrumental Access Program. She is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Clark University (Class of 2026).

Being a Biology major has allowed her to develop skills within research labs and understand various types of laboratory equipment, which gives support to the program.

Jennifer Raymond

Jennifer Raymond
Director of Corporate Relations

Jennifer builds and stewards Seeding Labs’ partnerships with corporations and other life science institutions. Our partners’ financial and lab equipment contributions help support universities and research institutions in under-resourced settings.

When these talented scientists, researchers, and educators have the resources they need to create and maintain strong scientific institutions, new solutions are created for both local development needs and global challenges.

Before joining Seeding Labs, Jennifer raised funds and engaged constituents for

the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Brandeis University. She graduated from Wellesley College with a BA in French studies.

Manisha Patel

Manisha Patel
Scientific Director

Manisha uses her scientific expertise to implement the equipment-related aspects of Seeding Labs’ programs and plays a key role in Instrumental Access.

She provides support to Instrumental Access awardees, helping them choose the instruments that best meet their research and teaching goals. She also advises the Corporate Relations team on equipment that would be useful in our awardees’ labs.

Manisha has extensive experience in managing academic research labs with knowledge spanning lab setup, compliance, and equipment training. Most recently, she oversaw labs at Harvard University.

For the past decade, Manisha directed an undergraduate internship program focused on one of her passions:  diversity and inclusion in STEM. She holds a BS in ecology from Rutgers University and an MS in ecology from the University of Vermont.

Micaela Leaska

Micalea Leaska
Programs Specialist,
Metrics & Evaluation

Micalea works with the Programs team to develop and implement metrics and evaluation tools, and to monitor the worldwide impact of Instrumental Access. She compiles and analyzes quantitative data and qualitative stories that exemplify our mantra, “talent is everywhere.”

Her prior work experience includes consulting for the World Bank, working on Water Security Assessments for Peru and Central America, and improving access to safe water in rural Ecuadorian communities with the nonprofit WaterStep.

Micalea holds a BA from Saint Michael’s College and completed her Master’s degree in Climate Change and Global Sustainability from SIT Graduate Institute, where she studied global science issues alongside scientists, stakeholders, and community members in Iceland, Tanzania, and Ecuador.

Chiudo Ehirim

Chiudo Ehirim
Instrumental Access

After completing an Atlas Corps Fellowship with Seeding Labs, Chiudo now provides support to our Instrumental Access partners from his Rumines Ltd. office in Lagos, Nigeria. Chiudo is CEO of Rumines, an environmental technology and management consulting company.

Prior to his fellowship, Chiudo was a country manager for Nigeria with Climate Scorecard, a US-based organization that monitors how the top 25 greenhouse gas-emitting countries implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Chiudo earned a BS in pure and industrial chemistry from the University of Nigeria and a Master’s of Science in environmental technology and management from the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

David Borman

David Borman, PhD

David works to highlight the innovation and scientific successes of Instrumental Access awardees. In telling these scientists’ stories, he helps to show the global impact of the Seeding Labs mission.

Prior to joining Seeding Labs, David worked as the alumni affairs director for Brevard College in North Carolina and managed communications for Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies, a nonprofit in Louisville, Kentucky, that provides services to children with special needs.

David earned his PhD in English from the University of Miami. He holds an MA in English from the University of Louisville and a BA in English from Bellarmine University.

Christine Srivastava

Christina Viola Srivastava

Vice President of Programs

Christina is responsible for program development, planning, and implementation at Seeding Labs. 

Christina has experience as a research program evaluator and science policy analyst. She’s held roles with the consulting firm Abt Associates, Inc. and the Science and Technology Policy Institute.

Prior to entering the consulting world, Christina worked for the Boston-area nonprofits Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and Urban Ecology Institute. She holds an undergraduate degree in biology from Swarthmore College

Rick Sherman

Rick Sherman

Vice President of Philanthropy

Rick is responsible for the fundraising activities at Seeding Labs, engaging with corporations, foundations, and individuals to increase their financial and equipment donations to the organization.

Prior to joining Seeding Labs, Rick spent 17 years working in a similar capacity at a number of science-focused organizations, including Keystone Symposia, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation (now the Science History Institute).

Rick earned an MS in Finance from Drexel University, and a BS in Paper Science and Engineering from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

David Qualter

Vice President of Operations

David is responsible for global logistics at Seeding Labs, overseeing the efficient movement of lab equipment worldwide.

He joined Seeding Labs from Image Arts, a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, where he provided logistics direction for the company with $110 million in annual sales.

He brings 20 years of supply chain management experience with in-depth knowledge of international logistics, warehouse execution, and distribution center operations.

Originally an art student at Southeastern Massachusetts University, David now uses his creative talents to develop logistics strategies that produce operational efficiencies and quality customer service.

Melissa P. Wu, PhD

Melissa P. Wu, PhD

Chief Executive Officer

Please direct speaking requests to media@seedinglabs.org

Melissa is the CEO and a co-founder of Seeding Labs. She began as a volunteer leader of the Harvard Medical School student group; later, as a founding board member, she supported its transition to a nonprofit organization. In 2014, she joined the staff of Seeding Labs, leading the USAID-sponsored $3M scale-up of the Instrumental Access program. In 2019, Melissa became CEO, committed to increasing capacity for developing countries to use science. 

Operating with a deep belief in the power of science to transform lives, Melissa has dedicated her career to creating scientific research opportunities for historically underrepresented and excluded communities. In addition to roles at Harvard and the BioBuilder Educational Foundation, Melissa has mentored many students in the sciences through programs at the Journal of Emerging Investigators, Harvard University, Boston Children’s Hospital, and MIT.

Melissa earned a PhD in Cellular and Developmental Biology from Harvard University and holds an SB in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.