UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Agriculture Sector Education Training Authority (AgriSETA), enabling collaboration in research within the authority’s focus areas and in training that will boost the agricultural sector in South Africa.

The agreement will help cultivate collaboration between UKZN, a leader in agricultural research and capacity development in the country, and AgriSETA, which is responsible for the skills development of the agricultural workforce.

The collaboration creates the opportunity for UKZN to submit proposals for funding for various projects to AgriSETA with an initial three-year funding cycle for research and training proposals for SAEES researchers and academics.

‘By developing sustainable thematic research focus areas, we aim to build long-term projects and research teams which are sustainable beyond individualistic research projects,’ said Dean and Head of SAEES Professor Fhatuwani Mudau.

AgriSETA is mandated to provide training and development in the agricultural sectors aligned to the objectives of the 2030 National Skills Development Plan, which places emphasis on the importance of research which is vital for the improvement of food security and economic growth, and fosters the generation of new skills and knowledge.

Academics and researchers within SAEES are developing proposals in line with research focus areas such as climate change, food and nutrition security, extension services, land and society, forestry, seed production, sugar, protein production, export crops, crop disease prediction and modelling, creating resilience among smallholder farmers, building human capacity throughout the food value chain, soil conservation, sustainable land management and water harvesting, integrated pest and disease management, biological control, market models and value chains, and promoting gender equity and participation of vulnerable groups in agricultural-food value chains.

Said AgriSETA’s CEO Mr Zenzele Myeza: ‘By establishing key partnerships with Higher Education Institutions, we ensure better quality research material for the agricultural sector and also advance our skills development focus areas.’

Research produced under this collaboration will have strong proactive and participatory training and development components, contribute to the development of researchers and postgraduate students, be trans- or multi-disciplinary, feature diverse teams, focus on scarce skill areas and include robust knowledge dissemination plans.

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod