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South Africa: Western Cape could get Centre of Excellence

It is generally known that in South Africa the average age of farmers is 60. This poses a great need to encourage and train young people to enter into the agricultural sector. A group of institutions and privates companies are seeking to contribute in addressing this challenge by discussing the possibility to establish a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in the Western Cape Province, South Africa. This discussion started on 11 October 2017 at Groot Drakenstein in Cape Town.

The discussion was coordinated by Ms Majella van de Arend, a consultant working for Delphy, with the support of the Agricultural Counselor, Mr. Jack Vera, at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Pretoria. In attendance were representatives from organizations and companies operating in various parts of South Africa. They included: Western Cape Department of Agriculture, Stellenbosch University, Woolworths Supermarket, Ludvig Svenson, Renlyn, Undercover farming, Cherry Irrigation, Delphy, ASNAPP, Aeres, HAS Den Bosch, and the Embassy and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Considerations for the success of the CoE
The participants recognized the importance of learning from other countries which have already made strides in developing training models involving the private sector, government and institutes of higher learning. Of specific mention was the borderless network in the Netherlands which operates from the principles of facilitating collaborations between the three pillars (private sector, education/research and government). This Dutch approach is called “Triple Helix”. The participants noted that training tools need to be developed to bring young people, into primary production, not only at the level of labor work, but also at the level of farm management. Tools could also involve training of trainers as a strategy to spread knowledge and skills to those who may not have time and resources to attend the courses at the CoE.

Commitment by all partners was emphasized as one of the key factors for the success of the CoE. Past initiatives seeking to bring Hortibusinesses from South Africa and the Netherlands together, established through the support the Embassy of the Netherlands in Pretoria, have shown that good ideas by the partners do not easily lead to tangible actions. Mr. Vera emphasized that, if the proposed CoE is to be successful, such tendencies should be avoided.

Adding to the need to reinforce commitment of the partners the participants noted that proper institutional systems for the CoE need to be developed. This should seek to clarify goals, programme structure, roles and responsibilities, and coordination mechanisms of the CoE. Specific consultations with the Western Cape government needs to be made before the CoE establishment activities kick off. This is in recognizing that the Western Cape Government is a key partner for the operations and sustainability of the CoE.

The involvement of the University of Stellenbosch was seen to be a good opportunity. The University has, together with Elsenburg college, facilities and tools for training young people seeking to enter into primary production. Limited resources have, at times, resulted in the inability by the University to use the facilities to the maximum. Hence collaboration with the private sector is seen as an opportunity to close this gap. It was also observed that the University of Stellenbosch will play a big role in facilitating research for the CoE.

Next steps
The participants agreed that the first step to pursue the establishment of the CoE is to develop a proposal for seed funding. Apart from other sources, funding may be sought through the support of the Embassy of the Netherlands. Each participant was encouraged to consult other possible role players in their network so as to mobilize support for the establishment of the CoE. The leaders also encouraged each other to reflect on how they, themselves, will contribute in the establishment and running of the proposed CoE. They agreed to meet again before the beginning of November.

Source: Agroberichten Buitenland
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