Edgar Vhera Agriculture Specialist Writer
GOVERNMENT’S call for higher and tertiary institutions to transform from the traditional tripartite way of doing business – teaching, research and community service and migrate towards problem-solving and value creation is starting to bear fruits if colleges’ exhibitions at the on-going Zimbabwe Agricultural Show are anything to go by.
Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, under education 5, 0 has called upon higher learning institutions to be innovative and industrialise Zimbabwe.
Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), Seke Teachers College (STC) and Harare Polytechnic College are among institutions that have displayed some products from their innovations.
Harare Polytechnic and Seke Teachers Collages are value-adding raw agriculture commodities such as sweet potato, pumpkins, banana into sweet potato bites, pumpkin and banana bread among others.
Other value-added products are avocado, okra, bean, derere and baobab powders.
Seke Teachers College, Food Technology and Design lecturer Mrs Plaxedes Chimhande pointed out that their value addition venture was informed by the observation that most people were no longer interested in boiled sweet potatoeds but preferred cookies, biscuits and bites.
“As most people in both urban and rural areas are into sweet potato production, there comes a time when the market will be flooded resulting in low prices. This coupled with the change in consumption patterns, the need for a high produce price as well as the need to preserve sweet potatoes for future use, was pivotal in the consummation of this project.
“Currently we are getting sweet potatoes from Murehwa. The other raw materials used in production of the different products are coming from the local market. As an institution we have plans to grow sweet potatoes on our own land,” said Mrs Chimhande.
Not to be left behind is the Catholic University of Zimbabwe (CUT) that is producing a variety of products in fulfilment of the Government’s Education 5, 0.
Agriculture Technology and Science lecturer at CUT Mrs Tatenda Tsiko said: “Apart from fulfilling the education 5, 0 mantra we have established an innovation hub, block leak and feed factories as well as state of the art milking palour.”
CUT was given the opportunity to participate in the national cattle breeding project through a grant from the Research Development and Commercialisation of Innovations Fund (RDCIF) that was offered by the Ministry of Higher Education Science and Technology Development and the project fund of CUT.
“We acquired 12 breeds of cattle with different characteristics and are giving farmers throughout the whole country an opportunity to get these breeds ex situ. Collection of semen, freezing and screening for reproductive diseases are dominant activities of CUT, continued Mrs Tsiko.
CUT does artificial insemination of the cows and offer farmers short courses to capacitate them for a nominal fee of $125 (local currency).
The project is meant to create a platform that provides farmers with good breeds in order to beef up our national herd and meat production in Zimbabwe.
Among some of the benefits of the project are access to superior bulls at low cost, reduced inbreeding of cattle, reduced need to buy bulls and employment creation.
“Currently we have frozen semen in nitrogen tanks ready to sell to farmers. Apart from cattle projects, CUT is producing block licks for cattle, which are rich in vitamins A, D and E as well as minerals,” pointed out Mrs Tsiko.
CUT has both summer and winter blocks that have been enriched with phosphorous and protein respectively. During the rainy season phosphorous will be leached requiring supplements while in winter grazing pastures will be poor in proteins again needing protein supplements. The blocks are for cattle, small ruminants and for game.
CUT has also embarked on the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) meal production project that is meant to produce protein reach feed for fish, rabbit, poultry and pig using larvae from BSF. This is an alternative to soya bean feed mixes.
CUT also have projects that are yet to be patented for various herbal based solutions in cattle.