FABI welcomed ten new interns to the Institute on 1 February. Shonese Bloy, Siyabonga Magagula, Khukhwane Malatji, Kholosa Maqolo, Lawrence Mataha, Kholiwe Mbanyane, Sphumelele Mkize, Sithabile Mtungwa, Makhosazana Ngema, and Refiloe Sekalo start their 12 month FABI Internship in Phytosanitation and Biosecurity that will see them equipped with a highly sought-after skillset in disease management and be better prepared and more employable for the agricultural and forestry sector and bringing with them much needed capacity to improve South Africa’s response to pests and pathogens. The first week was spent familiarising the interns with FABI and spend one day each with the disease clinic, biocontrol centre, insect rearing facility, grain research programme and working with the Avocado Research Programme (ARP) and Macadamia Protection Programme (MPP).

Welcoming the interns, FABI Director Prof. Bernard Slippers expressed his excitement about the programme saying that the importance of biosecurity has been moved to the forefront of the public, government and industry’s mind with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has created opportunities for interns in the programme but they also contribute to FABI both in work and culture. “This is the start of a long road we will walk with the interns. In FABI it is a duty to teach, but also a pleasure to do so and the culture of service and mentorship in the Institute gives meaning to what we do”.

Prof. Martin Coetzee, who oversees the programme expressed his joy at the growth and success of this programme that is focussed on forestry and agricultural pests, diseases and pathogens since its inception four years ago with two interns. Programme leader Dr Katrin Fitza points out that the interns will learn many news skills as well as interacting with stakeholders.

The programme is run under the auspices of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Plant Health Biotechnology (CPHB) and co-funded by the South African Cultivar and Technology Agency (SACTA)South African National Seed Organization (SANSOR), the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) and Forestry South Africa (FSA). Two interns will also join the ARP and MPP in FABI.