The climate-smart option of growing produce in greenhouses should be scaled up to meet the challenge of food security in South Africa and Africa.
So said Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), at the launch of a state-of-the-art, water-smart greenhouse and tunnel at the Mashamba campus of the Vhembe Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College in the far north of the Limpopo Province.
The official handover, which took place on Thursday 17 February 2022, was celebrated with an abundant display of freshly grown cucumbers, green beans and cocktail tomatoes – the produce of a number of horticulture piloting activities in the greenhouse over the past few months.
The greenhouse is part of an ongoing collaboration between Stellenbosch University (SU) and the Maastricht School of Management (MSM) to strengthen the skills of TVET staff and students for optimising water usage and climate-smart agriculture in South Africa. The project forms part of the Orange Knowledge programme and is funded by the Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Cooperation (NUFFIC), through the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Several TVET Colleges in South Africa form part of this project.
Ms Basani Rashley Hlekane, principal of Vhembe College, said the project will go a long way to empower college lecturers and boost the employability of their students.
Mr Manuel Jackson, project manager at Stellenbosch University, said a needs assessment study conducted from December 2019 to January 2020 highlighted a shortfall in the labour force of people with the necessary skills to work in water-smart agri-horticulture in the private horticulture sector.
The new greenhouse at the Mashambe campus forms part of a public-private partnership support structure in the region. This structure will, in turn, be supported by a South African-Dutch Triple Helix Platform, which includes stakeholders from the education, private and public sector, Mr Jackson explains.
The next step in this project is to align the activities in the greenhouse with the incubator centre at the Makwarela campus of Vhembe College. This includes a Centre of Incubation and Entrepreneurship, the 4IR Centre, the Centre for Disability and the HP Life Centre.
The technical handover was also attended by Mr Frans Ramonyatse, acting regional manager at Limpopo DHET, Ms Dithuso Monare, deputy chair of the Vhembe College Council, Dr Letsoalo Bertha, executive manager of AgriSETA, and the traditional leader Vhamusanda Vho Mashamba and representatives of the local Mashamba tribe.
During the launch, Mr Jackson and Dr Rykie van der Westhuizen, a crop production specialist, took the delegates on a technical tour through the facilities.
On the photos above, Ms Basani Rashley Hlekane, principal of Vhembe College, and Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training.