A group of female researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are using science and technology to solve societal problems faced by the country, especially in marginalised groups.

On Wednesday, CSIR’s leading female scientists displayed how technological innovation can help respond to health and nutritional challenges in Africa.

Acting Research Group Leader in the CSIR’s Food Safety Programme, Dr Nomusa Dlamini, shared how her work helps provide safe and nutritious food products.

Citing the 2018 report by the United States Agency for Development (USAID), Dlamini said 800 million people in the world go to bed on a hungry stomach,  which translates to one in nine people globally.

“Poverty is cited as one of the problems of hunger and I’m happy to say that some of the research that I do will alleviate poverty.”

Dlamini highlighted how food security is one of the key aspects of providing nutritious and safe food that people can afford.

She defined better nutrition as an improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems and safer pregnancy and childbirth.

The researcher said it also speaks to lowering the risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and longevity.

Through her work with communities and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), Dlamini has already developed nutritious food products using local resources and ingredients in the form of “nutri-drink”.

According to Dlamini, the product that was formulated using local and indigenous plants and contains vitamin A, iron and zinc, has already been tested on learners.

She told the media that this drink has had positive beneficial effects.

“It improved the school children’s iron deficiencies and [they] grew very well. Interestingly, they also got interested in school,” she said.

One of the products that the organisation has formulated working with an SMME that has already hit the shelves, includes Setšong Herbal Teas.

“It has been tested and validated. We know that there is no food security and nutrition if the food is not safe.”

Another one that is ready for the market is Imbali-Agri, a canned butternut business owned by a female entrepreneur.

She said their aim is also to commercialise products and transfer technologies to communities, which leads to job creation.  

“We reduce hunger and improve food intake. By developing nutritious food, we’re ensuring that we’re putting foods in the market that are nutritious, safe and tested.”

Meanwhile, CSIR Research Group Leader for Biophotonics, Dr Patience Mthunzi-Kufa, shared about a smartphone medical diagnostic tool, which tests for COVID-19, HIV and TB at point-of-care.

“This multi-screening technology converts a smartphone into a spectrometer to detect illnesses in bodily fluid samples such as urine, saliva and blood.”

The session formed part of celebrating the role of female scientists in using research innovations to improve the lives of ordinary people during Women’s Month.