The BioFISA II Steering Committee conducted a site visit on 17 January 2017 to familiarise themselves with two funded projects. The purpose of the visit was to gain more insight on the "story behind the numbers" with regard to progress made and to develop a sense of joint responsibility and collaboration among the key stakeholders of the programme.
Malnutrition is a significant problem in the SADC region. According to a recent SADC regional vulnerability assessment analysis, about 30 per cent of the region's population is malnourished. The consequences of malnutrition include arrested physical and mental development of individuals and the detrimental impact on social and economic development. Children and women of child bearing age are most affected by malnutrition because of their physiological conditions.
The Nutri-drink project, a collaboration between CSIR (South Africa), NFTRC (Botswana), and Elvema Nutrition (Pty) Ltd (South Africa), addresses micronutrient deficiencies linked to malnutrition via the commercialisation of a nutritious instant and ready-to-mix product made from indigenous climate smart crops and locally grown vegetables. The market for the Nutri-drink includes children, pregnant women, the elderly and energy compromised people. The goal of the project is provide a nutritious dense alternative food product and increase its accessibility to the other communities across South Africa, Botswana and other SADC countries.
The second project, a collaboration between University of the Western Cape (South Africa), Inqaba Biotec (South Africa), National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe) and Forensic & Allied Services (Pty) Ltd (Botswana), addresses the significant prevalence of sexual assault in Africa; sexual assault and rape cases in the entire SADC region are estimated at a minimum of 55 000 cases per year. The project involves the international testing of a forensic genotyping kit, UniQ-TyperY-STR, a novel PCR tool that targets male DNA. The kit will not only facilitate better examination of rape and sexual assault cases, but also the revision of cold cases, and it can also be used to analyse paternal familial relationships and conduct other genealogical studies (e.g. identification of surname, clan or geographic region-related profiles).
Projects funded under the BioFISA II Programme are not only addressing actual problems but they also have the potential to create jobs, support government initiatives, foster collaboration in the region and build and strengthen relationships with other regional, continental and international organisations.