From left: Emeritus Professor and a Vice-President
of the SA Science Academy Council Patricia
Berjak; Professor Louise O. Fresco; the
Academy’s Executive Officer, Professor
Roseanne Diab, and UKZN’s Professor Gerald

Professor Louise O. Fresco of the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands spoke on “Food and Agriculture: The Next Decades”, at a Public Lecture at UKZN.

The visit by Fresco, who also met key staff in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences(SAEES), formed part of a lecture tour facilitated by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), which each year hosts a distinguished visiting scholar from abroad to present lectures at various institutions around South Africa.

Fresco is an internationally recognised scholar who currently works extensively in the field of sustainable development in an international context in her capacity as Professor at the University of Amsterdam, a position tailored especially for her expertise.

She was recently appointed President of the Executive Board of Wageningen University in The Netherlands, a position equivalent to that of UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor. It is the same University where she obtained her PhD in Tropical Crop Science and then served as Professor of Plant Production Systems and Chair of the Department of Agronomy.

Her Public Lecture at UKZN focused on megatrends in the field of agriculture and food production which must be addressed in order to increase production and do so efficiently in a world facing climate change and population growth. Her presentation was informative and well-delivered, resulting in a thought-provoking discussion time with the audience of more than 80 academics, students and outside visitors.

Fresco said she had enjoyed her tour to South Africa, a country she has visited before, and was impressed with Pietermaritzburg. ‘It’s so interesting seeing how different all the universities are here. I love teaching, so I always enjoy presenting these talks.’

Fresco has an impressive CV, being member of a number of academic and non-academic international and national advisory and supervisory boards, councils, and committees, including the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Académie d’agriculture de France in Paris, the Strategy Experts Panel of the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the Corporate Responsibility and Reputation Committee at Unilever.

However, during her Public Lecture she stated that one of the most important experiences of her career was living in Africa for over 10 years, working in the Central African Republic (then still Zaire) and Zambia. She was passionate about getting to see Africa’s commitment to agriculture and food production increase.

Fresco has taught in Stanford, Stockholm, Leuven and Uppsala and has written extensively, both for academic journals and for the popular media. Her writings include three novels and a fortnightly newspaper column. She presented a TED talk in the United States in 2009 titled: “We need to feed the whole world”.

Professor Albert Modi, Dean and Head of SAEES, said: ‘Her visit to our School and University was a great honour. Her talk will be used as a lesson for academics and students from different disciplines at our School. Our University hopes to take advantage of knowing her to create linkages between UKZN and her University in future. We also thank ASSAf for selecting UKZN as one of few universities in South Africa to host Fresco during her visit to our country.’