Cutting edge biotechnology lab at LSU Lupane State University chief technician Lucky Musarandega explains to Minister of Skills Audit and Development, Professor Paul Mavima how they extract and test DNA from plants and animals at the institution’s laboratory yesterday

LUPANE State University (LSU) has equipped its biotechnology laboratory with modern equipment, which will see the university improve genetics of plants and animals while also introducing  deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) tests to determine paternity.

This comes as the university has introduced new Master of Science Degree programmes within the biotechnological fields.

The laboratory is equipped with equipment including PCR machines and genetic sequencing machinery.

LSU management yesterday took the Minister of Skills Audit and Development, Professor Paul Mavima and permanent secretary, Ambassador Rudo Chitiga, through the well-equipped laboratory, describing it as one of the best in the country. This was on the sidelines of the ongoing ministry’s consultation meetings.

The National University of Science and Technology (Nust) is one of the local universities with a similar laboratory and is involved in DNA testing. Officials stated that genetic research that will be conducted in the laboratory would see the country improving the genetics of traditional seeds to improve yields.

LSU Vice Chancellor, Prof Pardon Kuipa, said the biotechnology laboratory is expected to provide largely farming solutions in the semi-arid regions of Matabeleland in line with the university’s mandate.

“We are in the field of agriculture in a semi-arid region as a university and this is our main mandate to provide solutions affecting the region,” he said.

“We have introduced some masters programmes in Applied Biotechnology, which includes biotechnology in plants, biotechnology that involves animals in terms of plant breeding and animal breeding. This laboratory is a vital cog in the training of specialists with skills in breeding animals and breeding plants,” said Prof Kuipa.

“These skills are very essential for the country if we are to come up with home grown solutions for crop varieties and animals that do well in Matabeleland provinces.”

He described the biotechnology laboratory as one of the best in the country. Prof Kuipa said those interested in plant and animal breeding should partner the university to improve the genetics. He said the laboratory was equipped at a cost of US$45 000 through support from the Government.

“In future we would be doing genetic screening and sequencing and we would be extensively using the facilities that we have to identify species and identify origin of certain animals and even solving disputes between farmers in terms of animals that might have strayed into one’s boundary and are claimed by the other farmer,” said Prof Kuipa.

“It costs us about US$45 000 and we are grateful to the Government for the support.”

Prof Mavima said equipping the laboratory with cutting edge equipment was in line with the Government’s desire to have local institutions leading in research and innovation to address national challenges.

“It is very critical to have such laboratories because if we are going to find solutions for the problems that we have, if we are going to lead the innovations that will take Zimbabwe to the next level, our scientists, our innovators should have tools of trade that would allow them to give us the best results,” he said.

“What I’m also happy about is that this lab has machines from our own resources as Zimbabweans and we have been able to have cutting edge technology in biotechnology using our own resources.”

Prof Kuipa said the equipped laboratory will motivate researchers to be more exploratory in addressing national challenges. Prof Mavima said a scientist from Zimbabwe or coming from outside should feel that they are not restricted in their self-actualisation journey when working in Zimbabwe.

Prof Mavima also commended the highly skilled academics who have remained in the country to impart  knowledge and skills to others.

“The lady working here was trained here, initially at Nust and went on to get Masters of Science Degree in Dubai but felt the need to come back and contribute to the development of this field. We are very appreciative of that spirit,” said Prof Mavima.

He said the country needs to do more to address skills flight amid revelations that both academic and non-academic staff were leaving higher and tertiary institutions for other countries.

“That is an area that my ministry is going to look at to see what we need to do to retain these skills in Zimbabwe and also attract back some of the Zimbabweans working in other countries,” said  Minister Mavima.

The ministry is conducting nationwide skills gap consultations to establish the necessary skills that need to be developed. — @nqotshili


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