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CSIR Biosciences empowers communities

CSIR Biosciences in conjunction with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) held a five-day Technology Transfer Workshop from 5 to 9 December 2011 at the CSIR Pretoria campus.

The workshop was attended by delegates from various community organisations in Limpopo, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The main objective of the event was to transfer and share knowledge and technology on product development knowledge; processes and technologies with communities; and traditional health practitioners to help improve their planting and production processes. Another important objective of this workshop was to facilitate wider interaction between the research community and industry.

Two delegates were selected from each of the organisations that are currently producing products for the local market. These organisations expressed a need to improve production and processing of their products to ensure that they meet the basic industry required standards so that they can take their products to the market.

Tshidi Moroka, Contract R&D Outcomes Manager said, “The workshop was hands-on and delegates made their own products using the standard procedures and processes that were taught to them. This is an initiative funded by the DST wherein the ARC was focusing on production technologies and the CSIR on processing and product development.”

Moroka added, “The workshop was a pilot study and together with the DST, we will be developing a technology transfer programme. Based on feedback from the delegates this could be an annual event.”

For the CSIR, the term “technology transfer” refers to the process through which intellectual property (IP) is turned into a viable product or process, which generates commercial returns, or is available for use to the benefit of the public.

Ephraim Mabena, a traditional health practitioner attending the workshop said, “The workshop was a great learning curve for us. The knowledge of processing food and medicine through technology and using modern ways that are unknown to the communities we come from was the main highlight of the workshop. I’ll definitely share this knowledge with the people in my community.”

Phephisile Maseko, another traditional health practitioner attending the workshop, added, “As traditional healers and communities we are always open to learning about new technologies and more formal ways that can help us perform our jobs much better. However, I would like to see a more consultative approach between the CSIR, DST and ARC with us as custodians of indigenous knowledge before the workshops and learning materials are developed.”

The CSIR plans to have follow-up visits to the delegates’ respective places of operation to see how the learning is being implemented. Following this, the CSIR will put together a report and recommendations which will be presented to the DST.

Ernest Tshavhuyo, another community member that attended the workshop had this to say about his experience: “There were a lot of things that we learned from the workshop that we can take back to our communities and implement as well as teach others.”

“Also, it will be great if we can attend an advanced workshop again sometime in 2012 so that we can learn more things and also brush up on some of the things we learnt at this workshop,” added Tshavhuyo.

Mavis Mathabatha, Project Manager for Lammangata Moringa said, “The group learned a lot from the workshop. They learned how Moringa products can be processed and developed to be taken to the market. They are now highly motivated that they can also produce capsules and tea bags from the leaves and stems of the Moringa trees.”

A group of traditional doctors and members of community groups seen here with the CSIR Biosciences staff on the last day of the Technology Transfer Workshop.

News contributed by Sibusiso Ralarala, Marketing & Communications Manager, CSIR Biosciences

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