Agriculture expert says MUT departments can offer solutions to food scarcity

Dr Qinisani Qwabe

An expert in Agriculture advises communities to go back to old ways of ensuring that they do not suffer from food shortages. Dr Qinisani Qwabe, a graduate from the University, said in rural African communities, people use ancient wisdom to sustainably produce food. It means going back to our old indigenous practices. It also means being creative enough to use modern approaches, such as practicing urban farming. Dr Qwabe said that these are steps towards building resilient food systems. “This is where institutions of higher learning can come in, especially through their Engagement Offices. MUT is well positioned to do this around Umlazi Township. The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Community Extension have a lot to offer the community,” said Dr Qwabe, now a Lecturer at the Nelson Mandela University’s  Department of Agricultural Sciences.

Dr Qwabe was at MUT on 3 May 2024, where he made a presentation titled: ‘Strengthening African Food Systems – Unleashing Youth Potential for Agricultural Transformation’. He implored higher education institutions to modify their curricula such that the outcome of the curriculum influences the food scarcity problem. He said they should emphasize the practical part of Agriculture

Dr Qwabe also linked food scarcity to mental health. He said it was difficult for a student to learn while they were hungry and did not know where their next meal would come from. He encouraged MUT to create an Agricultural Society that would be run by its students. This would change the students’ attitude towards Agriculture. This is what they have at Nelson Mandela University, and he is driving it, he said.

Contextualising the problem, Dr Qwabe said that in the Africa food scarcity was because of several factors, such as the varying climatic conditions and lack of resources such as land, labour, and capital, and lack of innovative approaches to farming. “I think this is the reason why there is this strong push for agri-preneurship from government and non-government sectors.” But in the case of South Africa, Dr Qwabe said “we do not have a food scarcity problem in South Africa. Our country produces more than enough for its people and the external community. But due to the economic challenges that people face at an individual level, it is difficult for some to get access to food simply because they cannot afford it.”

Professor Xolile Mkhize of the Department of Community Extension supported Dr Qwabe. She said that there was a lot of waste, while people are hungry. Much of this is shops and restaurants; this affects the environment, Professor Mkhize said.