IMCDA hosts Second Joint Partners Meeting
The Improved Masters in Cultivar Development for Africa (IMCDA) programme held its fourth Joint Partners Meeting in Durban from 11-13 July.
It trains plant breeders using modern breeding technologies, with a significant portion of the training delivered through e-learning materials developed by Iowa State University’s Plant Breeding E-Learning for Africa Project (PBEA) in collaboration with the African Partner Universities.
The IMCDA is being implemented in three universities; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, Makerere University in Uganda, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa, which hosted this visit.
The Programme Manager for UKZN, Dr Julia Sibiya, welcomed delegates to Durban, noting representation from Mexico, the USA, Italy, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Niger and the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM). She welcomed the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UKZN, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, and Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) Professor Albert Modi, saying that the programme was honoured to have their support. The meeting took place over two days at the Southern Sun Elangeni-Maharani, with a working session on the final day at UKZN’s Howard College campus.
AGRA Programme Officer Dr Rufaro Madakadze delivered greetings from AGRA on behalf of its Vice-President, Dr Joe DeVries. Dr Gary Atlin, Programme Manager from the BMGF, joined via video conference during the event.
‘We are training a new breed of scientists/plant breeders with a product development mind-set that can work in the public or private sector,’ said Madakadze.
‘The footprint of UKZN throughout the continent is enormous,’ added Madakadze. ‘Thank you for being one of our first key partners in capacity building and demonstrating how this can transform lives in Africa.’
The programme has admitted 91 MSc students, graduated 21, and seen good progress on breeding programmes and academic staff skill upgrades. Seven of UKZN’s 2015 cohort graduated in April 2017, three cum laude.
The meeting involved reviewing the programme, learning, improving, sustaining and scaling it out.
Modi emphasised UKZN’s appreciation of the partnership with AGRA, which makes significant contributions to the mission of the university to inspire greatness in academia and in the lives of ordinary people.
Van Jaarsveld thanked organisers for the opportunity to welcome international partners and colleagues from the African continent to Durban and UKZN. He gave an overview of UKZN, noting especially the fact that half of the Institution’s PhD graduates are from the rest of the African continent, making the IMCDA programme exemplary of what the university works to achieve.
‘I hope that in your few days here, you will take hands with colleagues from UKZN to collectively inspire greatness through everything that you do,’ said van Jaarsveld.
Words by: Christine Cuénod
Photograph by: Corrette De Jager