The University of Witwatersrand has carved out clear objectives for its 2022 vision: to strengthen the research capability and research outputs of academic staff; to increase postgraduate intake and improve post-graduate success rate; to champion intellectual renewal within Schools and Faculties; and to further research directions and enhance curricula thus widening partnerships and engagement.
Selected as the lead partner together with four other academic institutions – CESTAS, EMUNI, UNAM and LUANAR – the Wits Siyakhana Initiative at the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences (GAES) has been awarded a grant as part of the the Edulink II ACP-EU funding programme to develop masters courses in food security and social development. What’s unique about Wits’ involvement in this project is that it provides an innovative platform for the Wits 2022 vision to be achieved in a project which serves a fundamental social need.
The overall objective of the Edulink II project is to strengthen the capacity of African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) higher education institutions at academic level, fostering capacity building and regional integration. Specific attention will be given to improving access to quality information and labour market opportunities for women focusing on agriculture and food security interventions and policies.
In South Africa where 54% of the population are food insecure, both urban and rural populations are affected. Transformations in our food system are necessary, requiring leadership capable of collaborating towards healing this health and social crisis. The Edulink II Food Security Programme, which aims to build leadership capacity and networks promoting sustainable agriculture, food processing and markets based on agro-ecological principles, is a positive step towards this goal.
Wits recently hosted the first two day ’kick off’ workshop, which laid out the foundational model of and strategic plan for the project. Representatives from all five institutions included Nada Karaivanova and Mario Bacchiocchi from CESTAS, Danny Simatele (GAES), Michael Rudolph, Florian Kroll, Nikki Richard (Wits Siyakhana Initiative) and Barbara Herweg from Wits Enterprise (WE) , Martha Nambabi from the University of Namibia, Daimon Kambewa from Luanar University and Dejan Hribar from EMUNI University.
The meeting also established the ‘Central Management Committee’, comprised of all meeting representatives. The committee will be responsible for the development of the programme, the updating of curricula and promoting strategies and interventions that improve access to higher education, with particular emphasis on women.
Adopting a trans-disciplinary approach to research and project implementation is a method with which WSI and GAES are familiar, and we intend to draw on current and new linkages, partnerships and relationships within the Wits community to ensure that the Edulink II project is a success for all stakeholders.
When the first phase of the programme is concluded, 24 lecturers from the three partner universities will have been trained to deliver this trans-disciplinary course on food security using an innovative web-based learning platform. The course is expected to equip a growing number of young leaders rising to tackle the tricky issues of food insecurity and sustainable food systems.
 Centre for Health Education and Appropriate Health Technologies (Bologna)
 Euro-Mediterranean University (Slovenia)
 University of Namibia
 Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Malawi)