Instrumental Access 2022
Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesDepartment of Physical and Biological and Chemical Sciences
Developing sustainable agriculture in Botswana
Meet our Awardee
Though it had previously existed as a college, the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) was established as a university in 2015. It is focused on teaching and research in sustainable development for the agriculture and natural resources sectors.
Currently, the Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in
biotechnology, material science, and analytical chemistry.
This is Seeding Labs’ first Instrumental Access shipment to Botswana.
Research AreasThe department’s research interests include antimicrobial resistance, energy, and water quality.
I teach practicals for both undergraduate and graduate students. Students at the Master’s and PhD levels are hindered in their research because of lack of appropriate equipment. Sometimes they experience delays in their projects. Instrumental Access equipment has brought much excitement to them.”
Building a sustainable bioeconomy: Force Thema, PhD
When you see pictures of Botswana, they might feature elephants, giraffes, or zebras crossing a wide expanse of water known as the Okavango Delta. It is the country’s most biodiverse region and is full of animal and plant life.
Yet over 70% of the country is covered by the Kalahari Desert, meaning most of this nation experiences unreliable rainfall and drought conditions. The situation is far from ideal for the country’s farmers.
Because of these factors, Botswana’s agricultural sector has embraced training new scientists to implement the most up-to-date research in sustainable development in the agriculture and natural resources sectors.
Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) takes on this responsibility with a mission to find innovative ways to increase agricultural productivity while remaining stewards of the environment.
Force Thema, PhD, a researcher in the Department of Physical and Biological and Chemical Sciences at BUAN, takes a holistic approach to these issues with his research into effective fertilization and energy use in Botswana’s bioeconomy.
Dr. Thema is researching two separate but related agricultural issues: the promotion of vegetable growth, and the use of plant matter as an energy source. Together, they represent Dr. Thema’s belief that better agricultural practices can address the food needs of Botswana while also providing long-term sustainability and environmental protection.
His first area of focus is on the use of zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO), which have shown early indications of promoting better quality and quantity in vegetable growth. In collaboration with Le Mans University in Le Mans, France, Dr. Thema is synthesizing these nanoparticles and testing them to see if they accelerate growth in some of Botswana’s staple crops.
On the other end of the bioeconomy, Dr. Thema is investigating how to extend the life of sugarcane after it has been processed for commercial sale. He is seeking more affordable and environmentally-friendly methods to produce fuel for the agriculture industry that are derived from biowaste of sugarcane. This research project is done in collaboration with the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil.
Dr. Thema’s decision to collaborate on both of these projects is, in part, due to the scarcity of lab equipment currently available at BUAN. While he and his colleagues are able to get their research off the ground, they often have to send samples to collaborators overseas for technical analysis.
"Instrumental Access equipment is coming at the right time, as it will help us to do cutting-edge research fast and productively here in Botswana without sending samples to other countries," says Dr. Thema. "Outsourcing is expensive and takes too much time going to other places for technical help because of lack of equipment at our disposal."
With Instrumental Access equipment, researchers at BUAN will be more equipped to analyze samples in their own lab, producing faster results, and potentially seeing more efficient implementation of their ideas. For Dr. Thema, it brings a greater potential for his ideas to make Botswana’s agriculture more sustainable.
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The department has been able to construct four new laboratories, which Instrumental Access equipment will help fill. The equipment will also be used for serving the community, particularly farmers, in the area of soil, water, and food analysis.”
About the Department
Location: Gaborone, Botswana
Year Established: 2019
Students Impacted Annually: 120 undergraduate, 30 graduate
Why Instrumental Access?
The Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences is a newer addition to the recently-established BUAN. It was part of the university’s transition from a college to a university, and as such, the department’s needs have shifted to accommodate teaching more students at more advanced levels.
The department is currently constructing four new laboratories. Instrumental Access equipment will be pivotal in stocking those labs with instruments that can provide hands-on educational opportunities to the increasing number of students at BUAN.
Shipment StatusIn transit to Botswana
About Instrumental Access
To begin, we identify a pipeline of scientific talent. Then we rigorously screen universities and select those with the most potential to advance education and research through Instrumental Access.