The Research Council of Zimbabwe, (RCZ) hosted its Malawian counterpart, the National Commission on Science and Technology, (NCST) at a local hotel recently. The meeting was part of a bilateral arrangement between Zimbabwe and Malawi to enhance research and development in Agriculture and Biotechnology.

The two research councils held joint meetings focused on the strengthening of ties and the implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding between RCZ and NCST, under the umbrella body of the Science Granting Councils Initiative, (SGCI), which supports 15 nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Both Zimbabwe and Malawi are party to the SGCI.

The MoU between RCZ and NCST is based on collaborative research efforts, in line with the thrust to enhance agricultural productivity for the two nations whose economies are largely agro-based. An expected outcome of the meeting are joint collaborative research projects between the two nations, in the areas of agriculture and biotechnology with potential for funding from the SGCI.

In her welcome remarks, Research Council of Zimbabwe Executive Director, Mrs Susan Muzite described the meeting as a historical achievement and was optimistic of engagement and positive outcomes. The representative of the NCST Director General and Head of Delegation, Mr Manda, hailed the strong historical ties between Zimbabwe and Malawi, and the need to implement collaborative research projects aimed at national development and improved quality of life. The joint collaborative research programmes will be funded under the Science Granting Councils Initiatives.

Mrs Muzite gave an illuminating presentation on the Research Council of Zimbabwe mandate, which is to promote, direct, supervise and coordinate research in Zimbabwe for national interest. She further explained RCZ programmes and activities, funding mechanisms, as well as achievements since inception.

During the visit, the Malawian delegation toured the University of Zimbabwe Faculty of Agriculture to get an appreciation of current research efforts in the field of agriculture.

Following the RCZ and NCST meeting, RCZ hosted a Researchers Interface with researchers from Malawi and Zimbabwe, with a view to share experiences on research being carried out in their respective institutions, and to seek out areas of potential collaboration. Over a one and a half-day session, researchers from  Lupane State University, University of Zimbabwe , the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre, (SIRDC), the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe, (NBA) and Malawian counterparts from the Chancellor College of the University of Malawi, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and  the department of Agricultural Research Services, Malawi exchanged notes and ideas on the potentialities of collaboration.

SGCI representative, Dr Gussai Sheikheldin also facilitated a session on general research funding opportunities and tips in writing a grant-winning proposal.

The Zimbabwe and Malawi researchers identified several areas of common interest which include molecular breeding, nutrition research, capacity building, climate change adaptation and soil health research.

Vice Chairperson of the RCZ Board of Directors, Professor Idah Sithole Niang emphasised the need for transformative and mutually beneficial research, which solved real life problems.