Stellenbosch University (SU) was the meeting place for a host of current and future leaders in agricultural higher education and research in Africa – from deans and vice-chancellors to undergraduate and PhD students. They visited campus on Monday as part of the 5th African Higher Agricultural Education Week and the Biennial Conference of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM).
Stellenbosch University is one of six South African RUFORUM member universities to co-organise the week long event, which is being held in Cape Town. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the Centre for Coordinating Agricultural Research in Southern Africa (CCARDESA) are also co-organisers. This year’s theme is “Linking Agricultural Universities with Civil Society, Private Sector, Governments and other Stakeholders in support of Agricultural Development in Africa”. The conference will among others be addressed by the chair of the African Union, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the president of the Republic of Mauritius, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, South African cabinet ministers and the vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University, Prof Wim de Villiers.
The week’s activities started on Monday with a series of meetings and talk across campus.
According to RUFORUM executive secretary Prof Adipala Ekwamu, academic leaders of more than 40 institutions on the continent gathered at STIAS to discuss policy matters relating to higher education on the continent. About 80 deans and academic leaders from various agricultural and related faculties met at the Faculty of Theology for a full day’s talks. The afternoon’s session was hosted by Prof Danie Brink, acting dean of the SU Faculty of AgriScience, and incoming chair of the RUFORUM Dean’s Forum.
Motivating staff to obtain higher academic qualifications such as PhDs through graduate teaching assistance programmes was discussed. Representatives from African Higher Education Centres of Excellence working on agricultural matters and petroleum gas also made presentations on the work to be done through these World Bank funded endeavours.
“Another issues addressed was how to integrate aspects around entrepreneurial development into academic programmes,” said Prof Ekwamu.
According to Prof Brink, opportunities such as RUFORUM create a platform which allows for discussions about the mutual challenged being faced throughout Africa, and how to go about addressing these. “It is also a wonderful opportunity to create networks throughout the continent by which such issues can be collaboratively and adequately addressed,” Prof Brink added.
In his welcoming address to more than 300 visiting RUFORUM students earlier in the morning, Prof Brink highlighted of important role of the agricultural sector to ensure social stability and economic growth worldwide.
He noted that the students all have a role to play in ensuring that the agricultural sector at large is among others sustainably operated. “Agriscience in the modern world is a very complex being,” he noted.
Staff and students of the Faculty of AgriSciences were out in full force to welcome the visiting RUFORUM participants to its 11 departments, and to inform them about the sterling work being done in different transdisciplinary specialist areas.
At the Department of Food Science, for instance, lecturers provided the visitors with an overview of the research being done in terms of product development, food safety, wastewater treatment and the use of X-ray scanning facilities. At the Department of Forestry and Wood Science, the visitors were among others given a crash course in the different university websites so that back home they can find more information of relevance should they want to pursue future ties with Stellenbosch University.
A lively discussion ensued at the Department of Genetics about the use of biotechnology as an option to ensure food security. It gave an opportunity to the participants to learn from each other about how issues regarding among others genetically modified crops are handled across Africa – from Sudan in the north to the Venda region in the south. This article is available at http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4395
This press release was prepared by Engela Duvenage for the Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University
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