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The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Department of Technology, Transfer and Innovation (TTI) and Midlands Entrepreneurship Centre and Student Desk in collaboration with the University of Venda, Ksaselihle Fresh Vegetables and Dlokovu Poultry Farm held an international webinar themed: Sustainable and Future Agriculture on the African Continent via Microsoft Teams on Wednesday, 2 June 2021.

The session, attended by 144 guests was part of the Food, Nutrition, Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) Stakeholder Engagement Week from 31 May to 4 June 2021. The event, encouraged cross-sectoral participation from government, universities, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), development agencies, research institutes, agribusiness and farmer organisations.

Facilitating the session was DUT’s Director of Technology, Transfer and Innovation, Prof Keolebogile Motaung who also delivered the welcome and introduction on behalf of Prof Sibusiso Moyo, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement at DUT. Prof Motaung thanked all the esteemed guests from across the globe for attending and making the webinar a success.

Speaking on the theme of the event: Sustainable and Future Agriculture on the African Continent, Prof Motaung said it is aligned with DUT’s focus on nutrition and security. According to Prof Motaung, the FNSSA Stakeholder Engagement aims to foster dynamic engagement of stakeholders such as funders, SMEs, farmers, researchers, government organizations, private sector organizations and strategic decision-makers. She said they also want to highlight the results and outcomes of the investments made towards the FNSSA Partnership and encourage clustering around the FNSSA Roadmap. Furthermore, Prof Motaung said they want to gather information and ideas on the experiences, challenges, feedback and recommendations to further develop the Research and Innovation Partnership on FNSSA.

Delivering the keynote address on Agriculture Sustainability in Africa: The Need for Green Technologies was Prof Felix Dakora, President for African Academy of Science, SA Research Chair in Agrochermurgy and Plant Symbioses at Tshwane University of Technology(TUT).

“There are five biological of enhancers of Africa’s underdevelopment, all these include; the fastest growing population in the world, current sitting at 1,5 billion, food security due to inherently low nutrient soils, climate change caused by frequent droughts, cyclones and flooding. Disease burden is another factor caused by HIV/AIDS, the COVID-19 pandemic, Ebola, Malaria, etc. and extremely high level of corruption. Looking at the population of Africa from 2015 to 2100 compared to Asia, you can see Asia starts to flatten while you see a steep rise in Africa. Soil infertility is a major problem confronting the continent. The key to tackling hunger in Africa is enriching its soil, the big debate is about how to do it. We can use fertilisers to improve the soil but fertilisers are very expensive, without subsidy from government it makes it impossible for small scale farmers to be able to use fertilisers,” said Prof Dakora.

He added that Nitrogen fertilisers are expensive since they are synthesized industrially from fossil fuels and the other negatives of fertilisers is that frequent use pollutes the environment and also the oxide of Nitrogen fertilisers are responsible for global warming. Prof Dakora highlighted the importance of investing in Green Technologies to produce nutritious foods that will open market for access to small scale farmers and increased agri-business.

Discussing the Inclusive Market System Development and Sustainable Agriculture, Prof Gift Mugano who is the Adjunct Associate Professor under the Faculty of Management Sciences at DUT said government alone cannot provide enough resources to address food security.

“You need a market system development approach to address issues of food security. Sub-Sahara Africa, prior to the COVID-19 faced serious food security. In 2018, 239 million people went to bed hungry, and 65 million people suffered from acute food security. COVID-19 came at a time where African agricultural sector was under attack from climate change, vulnerability, economic meltdown which affect the viability of farming and capacity of farmers, natural disasters. Locusts alone in Africa have destroyed crops worth 4.5 million US dollars which is a lot of money and affecting food security in Africa. We need now to be more innovative in attending to strategies in addressing food security,” said Prof Mugano.

Mr Simphiwe Khoza, Chair of the Agriculture Business Forum within the Durban Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the Role of the Business Chambers and Ecosystems in Promoting the Agri-business Sector. His discussion focused on how the business chambers can promote the agri-business sector across the world. He challenged each chamber to assess what role it plays in terms of the local sphere of the agri-business in that particular to local markets.

Meanwhile Dr Ndiadivha Tempia, Senior Manager Markets and Economic Research at the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) addressed the issue of market access focusing on smallholder farmers. She highlighted that based on the research they conducted between 2014 and 2019, vegetables (with potatoes topping the list) had double the revenue than fruits, stating this could be due to large volume of fruits often channelled towards the export markets.

Facilitating the second session of the webinar was Mr Duke Ngcobo, who introduced Ms Nontokozo Ngcobo, Manager: Midlands Entrepreneurial Desk who delivered her address on Modern Day Agriculture. Ngcobo spoke about DUT’s newly established Agri-Hub. She discussed the advantages of modern agriculture such as using technology to drive agricultural solutions. Ngcobo also stated the hub, reduces stress on land and maintenance, less wastage on water and fertilisation and can be located closer to the market. However, she said the disadvantages are high start-up cost and high maintenance cost of equipment.

The Vice-Dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of Venda, Dr Lindelani Fhumudzani Mushapi highlighted how indigenous can contribute to food security. She raised concerns that the availability and use of indigenous foods has declined as they are being replaced by high yielding commercial fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, she highlighted that indigenous foods play an important role in income generation and subsistence, offering a significant opportunity for poor people to earn a living.

Her colleague, Prof Jude Odhiambo from the School of Agriculture at the University of Venda spoke briefly towards sustainable agriculture to ensure Food and Nutrition Security in the African Continent. He said interventions needed to ensure transformation of Africa’s food systems include improved and innovative production technologies, education and training of agriculturalists, marketing strategies and resource mobilisation.

The last two presenters were DUT Alumni, Mr Ntokozo Msimanga, CEO of Dlokovu Farming who spoke about Breaking Poverty Through Agriculture and Ms Mbali Bengu, CEO of Ikusasa Lethu who discussed Emerging Women in Farming. Both are products of the DUT Midlands Entrepreneurship Centre and Student Desk and are doing well in the agricultural sector.

Delivering the vote of thanks was DUT’s Prof Keolebogile Motaung and Mr Duke Ngcobo who thanked all the speakers for availing themselves and for their insightful contribution in the session.

Pictured: DUT TTI Director, Prof Keolebogile Motaung.

Simangele Zuma

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