This marks what one would call one-year Anniversary of the IUPAC NextGen Programme and my engagement with the programme as one of the five N-GAGE Champions. The journey has been quite exhilarating and empowering. This also marks the month at which the very first symposium known as The 4IR Farmers MEET-UP 1.0 was to be hosted, also an opportunity to unveil the TEMO-THUO MONANA to a host of farmers, youth, government stakeholder and private partners.
However, these aspirations have been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances which affected not only the project but the world, as COVID-19 seriously affected many businesses and projects. The impacts of COVID-19 presented double-barrelled impacts to the project.
First, was that the project had built its core on integrating technology into crop protection, partnerships and drawing young people into agriculture through the power of uniting through the symposium. These efforts fell flat as now we are living in a time where social distancing is the new norm and gatherings in symposiums are restricted. Furthermore, there is a move away from potential partners, exhibitors, and attendees to where now all efforts are towards COVID-19 relief activities.
Despite these challenges, this has magnified a window of opportunity for the project post-COVID-19. Now it is giving a huge voice in appealing to partners, farmers, young people, and governments to see the importance of technology in maximizing yields in food production. This is especially relevant during this time when food production and food security are essential. So, although the project has been delayed for now, beyond this, it is better positioning itself as more relevant in supporting drone technology in Botswana’s agricultural sector. In essence, drawing lessons from this time, from the mentorship the program has provided, and in addition to financial planning and project management, I have learnt something very important. Namely that when executing a project of this nature, it is important to have a risk/crisis management and mitigation plan so that the project can be adapted and show resilience. To this end, I am engaged with devising mitigation and adaptation measures to ensure that although delayed, the vision is achieved. So stay tuned, perhaps this might be a spin-off of a spin-off turn of events needed to achieve my project’s objectives.
Antonette Ncube, N-GAGE Champion