Science and Technology Minister launches Centre of Excellence at UWC
The National Minister of Science and Technology, the Honorable Derek Hanekom, launched the Centre of Excellence (CoE) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on Tuesday 15 April as a means to create a competitive and food-secure state.
In South Africa, food security has been defined as the access by all people to enough food for an active and healthy life.
The Chief Executive Officer of the National Research Foundation, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, said: “The launch of the Department of Science and Technology – National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape, in collaboration with the University of Pretoria, will enable South Africa to tackle the challenge of food security and nutrition faced by a significant number of its inhabitants.
According to a study released in 2013 by the Human Sciences Research Council, more than half of South Africa’s population does not have regular access to enough food. National food security is estimated at 45,6%.
It is initiatives such as this centre that will build more skills and resources and result in more research to help confront the issues of poverty, hunger and malnutrition in our country.”
Studies show that in South Africa, where over 60% of the population is urbanised and food insecurity is widespread, approximately 45% of people live below the poverty line.
The joint partnership between the University of the Western Cape and the University of Pretoria is the first CoE to be hosted by a historically black university since the Centres of Excellence programme began 10 years ago. “I would like to thank the two universities for agreeing to this marriage, and well done to UWC for playing amongst the best universities in the world,” said Hanekom.
UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Brian O’Connell, said that UWC has been blessed with success, especially in being entrusted with the responsibility of hosting the Centre of Excellence.
“UWC is a metaphor for Africa, and we have accomplished great things at this institution and on this continent. I look forward to the coming engagement with the University of Pretoria, and I believe that we will see the two institutions come together and create magic,” he said.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Pretoria (UP), Stephanie Burton, said that reducing hunger requires a lot of work, and not just in specific areas, because while just over half of the population falls into the food-secure category, the rest do not.
Acting Director for Research Chairs and Centres of Excellence, Dr Romilla Maharaj, said: “We have launched five new CoEs this month. We also want to congratulate the two institutions and wish them success”.
In his keynote address, Minister Hanekom said: “UWC has advanced impressively over the years and is in the top tier of SA universities. Food insecurity in the country should worry South Africans, but we should also be pleased that it is being reduced. People in SA are underfed, overfed or just fed wrongly”.
“I want to see researchers become more than just researchers. They should be activists – an advocacy group for food security”, Hanekom concluded.