A life changing experience
Written by: Sesethu Nyeleka, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
The fifth biennial RUFORUM conference held from the 17th to the 21st of October was the first of its kind on the South African Soil. The conference took place at Century City Conference Center in Cape Town, co-organized with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), Centre for Coordinating Agricultural Research in Southern Africa (CCARDESA), and six RUFORUM member universities in South Africa namely Stellenbosch University, University of Free State, University of Fort Hare, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Pretoria and University of Venda. This year’s theme was Linking Agricultural Universities with Civil society, the Private Sector, Governments and other stake holders in support of Agricultural Development in Africa.
The event brings African Universities together to share knowledge and expertise in various agricultural fields. It also presents a great opportunity for one to socialize and build a network across Africa. The conference was graced by a number of Heads of State both from Africa and abroad, chairperson of the African Union H.E Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, University Vice Chancellors from Across Africa, industry experts and students.
This year was my first appearance at the RUFORUM Conference and I had no idea what to expect. I only could relate with the conference particularly through its relevancy to my academic work. However, all my expectations were exceeded. I was blown away by the excellence and the quality of work that was delivered at the conference both by university researchers and industry experts.
I could not have anticipated the light bulb moments I had from listening, leaning and interacting with the different personalities. I particularly enjoyed the session titled “Integrating video-mediated rural learning in University curricula”. That session for me was my “aha” moment as it demonstrated the possibilities of how I too can make a contribution towards improving agricultural services to those who need them the most. From the session, I learnt how the lives of smallholder farmers can be positively impacted through video learning.
Having African Universities share their African experiences and knowledge was inspirational and left me challenged to do my part to contribute towards the Africa that the rest of the Africans and I envisage.
Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and indeed RUFORUM Conference made me realise that we can influence the world through African eyes and that is possible.
Attending the conference was an eye-opening experience for me because the knowledge imparted on me, particularly knowledge about African Extension Services has changed my perception about the future of Small-holder farmers in Africa. Through this conference, I have realized that the future of Africa is in the hands of those who are passionate about influencing positive change to the continent.
Kwame Nkrumah put it this way “I am not an Africans because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me” which makes me believe that Africans young and old are more than capable of building their continent.