University of South Africa: Unisa in strategic talks with the University of Edinburgh

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In addition to meeting and reviewing progress with graduate students, Djikeng visited Unisa’s research facilities with a view to initiating strategic alliances in the livestock development continuum.

CAES Executive Dean, Prof Ramagoai Magano, and Chair of the Department of Agriculture and Animal Health, Prof Ntanganedzeni Mapholi, were the hosts and also facilitated the first Unisa Student Research Symposium that focused on genomic technologies for agricultural development.

The highlight of the visit was a meeting with Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula, to discuss opportunities under the envisioned partnership with the University of Edinburgh. The Vice-Chancellor expressed her gratitude to Djikeng while emphasising the importance of ensuring that the collaboration focuses on translational research which responds to African challenges.

The Student Research Symposium – during which Prof Djikeng delivered a keynote address – was an opportunity to interact with over 30 doctoral students and academics. Unisa students displayed world-class research that is aimed at tackling global animal agricultural development and food system resilience challenges, including livestock genetic improvement in smallholder systems, harnessing biodiversity to improve agricultural productivity, and improved nutrition. Other presentations focused on mitigating greenhouse gases in South Africa, thus further positioning Unisa to develop and deliver innovations for smart animal agriculture.

Jointly with leading Unisa collaborators, Djikeng reviewed the progress of graduate students. Considerable progress was noted on topics that include landscape genomics of indigenous cattle, building genomics resources to support the development of solutions to address challenges posed by ticks and tick-borne diseases, and emerging infectious diseases of both humans and farmed animals.

A visit to Unisa’s Science Campus offered a unique opportunity to Dr Salerwe Mosebi (CAES Laboratories Facilities Manager) to join Magano and Djikeng to further discuss key elements of the strategic positioning of Unisa as a leading hub for innovation and excellence in teaching, research and community engagement.

To further pursue the establishment of platforms to foster scientific excellence and innovation partnerships between academia and industry, Unisa participated in a meeting with the South African Stud Book and Agricultural Research Council to confirm alignment of objectives and to set the stage for a strategic alliance for the transformation of Africa’s sustainable livestock development landscape.

In addition, Djikeng, Mapholi and Dr Lucky Nesengani visited the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources as part of strategic plan to strengthen the collaboration on livestock genomics research, master’s and doctoral student exchange and academic supervision.

A memorandum of understanding between Unisa and the University of Edinburgh has been drafted and will be signed later in the year.

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