Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria (UP), recently visited Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands as part of a tour of several European universities.
WUR – which has consistently been rated as one of the top 10 universities in the world in the broad field of agriculture, food, environment and ecology – forged a partnership with UP in December 2018, having concluded an institutional agreement through a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
During his visit Prof Kupe delivered a public seminar titled Partnerships for Food Security in Africa, which was attended by several academics and students, including more than 40 postgraduates from various African countries. “Partnerships across geographic boundaries are pivotal to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and food system transformation in Africa,” Prof Kupe said. “Partnerships that are expansive, mutually beneficial and that go beyond the usual academic exchange agreements are at the core of our approach to establishing linkages that lead to impact.”
UP, Prof Kupe added, has four key transdisciplinary innovations that have attracted leading local and global partners. One such is Innovation Africa, which draws “on a transdisciplinary approach to co-create knowledge and innovative technologies to develop systems of agricultural production that are resilient to climate change, environmentally friendly, promote sustainable agriculture and are easy for people to implement”.
Prof Kupe and Prof Louise Fresco, Executive Chair of WUR, agreed on specific modalities and activities for implementation under the auspices of the MoU. These include engagements in three ways, the first of which centres on student exchange: an agreement was finalised for implementation in 2021 whereby master’s and doctoral students will get the opportunity to spend a semester at either WUR or UP.
Collaborative institutional research is another way in which the universities will engage. This includes the submission of joint proposals by each institution for the funding of research and postgraduate education. UP will submit a joint proposal for funding from the Interdisciplinary Research and Education Fund in February next year, which will provide financial support to train up to 15 doctoral students from Africa.
The third level of engagement focuses on global positioning and influence. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has commissioned WUR to take the academic lead in developing the 2021 Rural Development Report (RDR), the fund’s flagship publication that is produced every two years. The 2021 report will focus on food systems transformation, and will inform the UN Food Systems Summit scheduled for the second half of 2021 in New York.
WUR has invited UP to participate in guiding the strand for sub-Saharan Africa in preparation for the RDR. Dr Lindiwe Sibanda, visiting fellow at UP’s Centre for Advancement and Scholarship, will direct the university’s leadership of the continental process.
For more information about the Interdisciplinary Research and Education Fund, visit www.wur.nl/en/Research-Results/Research-programmes/Cross-WUR-programmes-1/INREF-1.htm.