The growing world population of more than seven billion people – of which some 47 million live in South Africa – places agriculture and forestry under increasing pressure. Each one of these people have to eat and breathe every day, but without food and oxygen this naturally would not be possible.
Agricultural output would probably have to double during the next 40 years; in fact, yields per hectare will have to triple and this will have to be achieved on less surface area with less water, given challenges such as climate change, fluctuating economies, job creation and the provision of high-quality food by financially competitive means. The demand for wood products is consistently increasing and exceeds supply from the building, furniture, paper and packaging industries. Timber harvests must therefore increase and also be carefully regulated in order not to exhaust supply.
South Africa is pre-eminently an agricultural country. Agriculture contributes substantially to the country's gross domestic product, is a significant earner of foreign currency, an important supplier of job opportunities and provides for people's basic food and fibre needs. Moreover agri-tourism is gaining in popularity. For each R1 million increase in the final demand for agricultural products, 83 new job opportunities are created. The corresponding job creation figure for the rest of the economy is a meagre 29. Thus agriculture is in all respects also viewed as a key role player in poverty alleviation.
Impressive indigenous forests and bushveld are also found in South Africa. Some tree types supply timber of exceptional high quality which are able to compete with the most attractive and effective tree types other parts of the world have to offer. As of now South Africa is self sufficient in certain products but with regard to other this is not the case; thus South Africa is an importer as well as an exporter of timber products.
The Faculty of AgriSciences
The Faculty plays a major role in constantly advancing and improving agricultural and forestry productivity in South Africa while natural resources are sustainably utilised and protected. It strives to furnish the agricultural and forestry sectors with excellent research, top tuition and world class ervice. Consequently the Faculty is one of the most important environments which addresses the growing challenges to agriculture and forestry in its fields of study and research, and endeavours to find solutions.
South Africa has an exceptional variety of fauna and flora which is respected, protected and conserved in all forestry practises. Therefore it is also the Faculty's purpose to ethically and scientifically align the application and management of living organisms by means of training, research and community involvement – in doing so the quality of life of all in the country is improved.
Agriculture and forestry are faced with umteen challenges to supply the increasing world population with sufficient quality, safe food and fibre and to manage the foretry industry in a meaningful way. The Faculty of AgriSciences is fully aware of this responsibilty and enthusiastically accepts the aforementioned challenges. Accordingly it aspires to render excellent research in each of its departments to ensure the agricultural industry's progress and success.
The Faculty's research profile is looking up as it now has four government-funded SARChI chairs (the purpose of which is to boost research and innovation capacity of universities) – in post harvest technology, plant biotechnology, meat science and wine biotechnology. In addition the accelerated outputs achieved in conservation ecology, food science, animal sciences and plant pathology are testimony to the Faculty's advances in both traditional and emerging fields of study.
AgriSciences is committed to the burning questions and development challenges of the present time and pays much attention to community interaction initiatives. These relate to poverty alleviation, food security, biodiversity, sustainability, the rural economy, postharvest technology, pests and diseases, water management, food processing, rural development and agribusiness.
The Faculty has extended its global network of collaboration to more universities and research institutes in various African countries and the East, where its academic interests continue to grow.