MUT agricultural expert contributes to empowering small scale farmers

Making a presentation at the Farmer Skills and Enterprise Development workshop held at Elangeni TVET College in Pinetown on 24 August 2023, the Head of the Department of Community Extension at the MUT, Dr Eric Mthembu informed the farmers that MUT would focus on conducting agricultural research activities that were informed by farmers’ problems and challenges. “The research activities will be conducted together with the farmers themselves. Such types of research are called ‘On Farm Trials’”, Dr Mthembu said that to the members of the South African Mini Industry Development (SAMID), which are MUT, Elangeni TVET College, Agricultural Research Council, Nedbank, and Agribusiness Development of eThekwini District Municipality. SAMID sought to outline to the Farmers’ Leaders, the agricultural training activities they would provide in supporting farmers of eThekwini District Municipality to acquire knowledge and skills in order for the farmers to move from being subsistence farmers to being commercial farmers. Dr Mthembu further stated that ‘On Farm Trials’ assist to develop Agricultural Technology Adaptation, which is crucial for the farmers to use agricultural practices that are practicable under their local climatic and environmental conditions.

In acknowledging Dr Mthembu’s Presentation, the CEO of SAMID, Bonga Gumede said: “We would like to extend our deepest appreciation for MUT insightful contributions, research presentations and engagement with attendees. Dr Mthembu’s PhD focused on soil fertility and agro-forestry systems. He obtained his PhD from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Dr Mthembu’s presentation helped to enrich discussions and shared light.” The event was attended by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Science and Innovation, Nedbank, Microsoft, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

MUT has recently signed an MOU with SAMID for the purposes of collaboration in the broader areas of research, agro-processing, community engagement, teaching and learning, technology development and agribusiness development. The MOU will further allow MUT to incorporate knowledge and developed technologies from research projects in its curriculum; to provide practical agribusiness training to students in order for them to acquire agricultural business skills and eventually become Agri-Entrepreneurs/Agribusiness persons; to involve MUT students in SAMID projects for practical training as part of work integrated learning (WIL) and Experiential Training; to enable SAMID to facilitate engagements with farm-enterprises to give consent for MUT staff; and MUT Post-Graduate students to conduct research in production farms where SAMID is involved. Dr Mthembu said that was meant for exchanging research findings with farmers, and for staff and student development, and for acquiring higher qualifications.

Dr Mthembu said the Senior Director of the University’s Department of Marketing and Communications, Mbali Mkhize, “had been very helpful during the process of developing the MOU which was signed by the Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Marcus Ramogale, on 8 August 2023.