NUL wins M1 million jackpot

NUL wins M1 million jackpot

Own Correspondent

ROMA – The competition was fierce!
But when the dust settled, the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and its partners were still standing.

They immediately scooped a gigantic M1 million in Sanbio-BioFISA funding, part of which will see NUL introduce a Micro-Incubator for NUL Consumer Science graduates.
“The purpose is to create employment for our graduates,” says Dr Pulane Nkhabutlane, a leading member of the NUL side of the partnership.
The incubator will produce all kinds of NUL invented sorghum products, including sorghum biscuits, rusks and bread.

Because of this project, you will soon kiss gluten-laden wheat products goodbye. And then you will say, “Hello” to gluten free biscuits.
Last month, SADC universities merged into groups of three per partnership and formed 16 groups that wrestled for the Sanbio-BioFISA funding for their innovations in the area of nutrition.

As can be expected, the tussling was tough.
But, here is the truth: every time NUL meets its peers on a plane level playing field, it is proving to be no match lately.

The team by NUL and its partners which comprised of NUL, University of Pretoria (UP) and Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Sciences (BUAN) was no equal as it became one of the two winners of the competition in the area of nutrition, beating 14 others.
The judges were very strict and looked into a number of aspects before awarding the prize to NUL and its partners.

They demanded innovation — the idea had to be brilliant and had to sit on the edges of the ordinary.
They demanded business orientation — they did not just like good science, they wanted science that worked in the world of business.

They demanded the ability to get things done — for them, it was not only about how beautiful your idea was. No, it was like, were you already doing something about your “beautiful” idea before you applied?
Look, today’s world demands doers after all.
Apparently, it has had enough of the talkers already (oh boy! there is never a shortage of those)!

And that is the strength which NUL brought to the team. You see, for many years, Dr Nkhabutlane and her diligent students have been holed up within their labs, developing cutting edge tasty baked products from sorghum.
“In the past two NUL Innovation Expos held at the Pioneer Mall, Basotho women just loved our products,” she says.
It was not always the case.

Most Basotho used to look down on sorghum products in general. The products were often seen as lacking in taste, good texture and appearance.
“Our job is to drive out that enduring perception off the window,” Dr Nkhabutlane says.
So her team is working day and night to improve these parameters. The results are products that taste like nothing you have experienced in the market.

Think about the delicious sorghum bread that will play a game with your senses. Not to say a thing about the crispy mouth-watering sorghum biscuits with a tantalizing appearance.
If you are already salivating, then you know nothing of the hard, brown sorghum rusks that will leave you finger-licking.
This kind of good food, you may conclude, is not meant for those who eat to live. No! It is meant for those who live to eat.

With such a catalogue of exceedingly good food, the Sanbio-BioFISA had no option but to award the NUL and Co., the prestigious prize.
It certainly was a fair award. You wouldn’t have decided differently.
And here is a complete NUL side of the team, which is dedicated to making the incubator a reality.

“Our team is combination of lecturers from within and outside our Faculty of Agriculture (FOA),” Dr Nkhabutlane says.
“It includes partners from the Faculty of Science and Technology (FOST) and Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS).”

It includes Mr Victor Ntuli, Dr Makoala Marake, Dr Mpho Liphoto, Dr Mosotho George, Mr Henry Ababio and Dr Thimoty Thamae.
The FOA part of the NUL team is already planning the massive production of sorghum in Lesotho, the FOST is already chemically analysing the nutrition of the products and the FSS partner is looking into the business of it all.

And this last point is too good to be true. But it is true! The NUL Consumer Science graduates who will be lucky enough to be incubated, will walk away with most of the money they made during the incubation project, to start their own businesses. What more, can they ask for?

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