The present department of Agricultural Research and Specialists Services (DARSS) was initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1959, with establishment of the central research station at Malkerns, and sub-stations and Big bend and Nhlangano. Research plots were also located at Luve, Vuvulane and Mangcongco at this time. A fifth plot was added at Hebron in 1969 and the Vuvulane plot was repossessed by the Swaziland Irrigation Schemes at the end of the 1974/75 season. The extensive coverage was necessitated by the widely divergent topographical zones within the country.The responsibility of the then Agricultural Research Division was transferred, in 1971, to the then University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland to strengthen the University’s presence in the country and formalize ties between the Faculty of Agriculture and research. The association continued until 1977, when the government announced the intention to reattach the Research Division to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The 1977/78 season was dominated by this transfer, and heavy staff losses at all levels were devastating to the various research programmes. Serious research activities resumed in 1981/82 season, with the recruitment of an agronomist and the beginning of the Cropping Systemes Research and Extension Training Project.
Responsible for the development and identification of applied and adaptive agricultural production technologies that ensure household and national food security, sustainable growth of the agro-business sector and national economy. The department is also responsible for phytosanitary services, safe-guarding food safety measures and conservation of national plant genetic resources heritage.
The major responsibilities for the Department are as follows:
Identification of adaptable crop varieties that can be grown successfully in the different agro-ecological zones of the country.
Identification of the most efficient crop production methods.
Screening and identification of cost effective fertilizer/manure material and their best application practices across the country.
Development and identification of cost effective, user and environmentally friendly crop protection technologies.
Development of appropriate water management practices in crop production to minimize the adverse effects of drought.
Implementation of phytosanitary, quarantine and food safety measures.
Collection, conservation and characterization of cultivated crops and their indigenous relatives.