SA students to get agri skills in China

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pretoria - Fifteen postgraduate students have been awarded the opportunity of a two-year scholarship programme to further their studies in agriculture, forestry and fisheries in China.

The postgraduate scholarship, which is a partnership between the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and China, is part of an existing Cooperation Agreement between the two countries.

The department's Director-General, Langa Zitha said this clearly shows that South Africa is enjoying magnificent relations with China.

"I have also been made aware that all these successful candidates are going to enrol for postgraduate studies at Masters and PhD levels.

"This is good because this will enrich South Africa's research knowledge in the area of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. It is common knowledge that without a strong research base, there cannot be innovation and without innovation, we cannot talk about agriculture, forestry and fisheries development," Zitha said.

Zitha said there is a lot South Africa can learn from the country with the fastest growing economy in the world. "As a developmental state, we can learn from them in areas of agriculture, forestry and fisheries."

He further described China as a country walking with many feet at once because it has the most advanced technologies in the world.

"It is our view that those postgraduates will return home with new technical skills and new ways of doing things in the agricultural field," he said.

A pre-gala dinner, in honour of the 15 students, was held in Pretoria on Wednesday before they depart to China at the end of this month.

One of the students, Phendukani Hlatshwayo from Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal, who will be based at the China Agricultural University in Beijing, said: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I want to assure South Africans that upon my return, they will see me implementing what I've learn in China."

Sello Mokhothu, from Welkom in the Free State, said since he will be studying Masters in Science Agronomy at the China Agricultural University. His key focus will be on food security and sustainable agriculture.

"I consider myself dynamite which will explode in two years' time when I return home with more knowledge, which will certainly take the agricultural sector to another level," Mokhothu said.

Southinah Matlala, from Jane Furse in Limpopo, said having grown up in a village, her area of focus will be to acquire skills on the challenges currently facing the country.

"Yes, I will be maintaining the ties between the two countries, but I will be interested in gaining skills on rural development, food security, poverty alleviation," she said.

Last September, the department sent a technical team to China to visit a number of universities and to negotiate with them to place South African students.

The technical team was further advised to discuss the possibilities of scholarships with the universities for the South African students.

In February this year, after obtaining some full scholarship, the department invited interested young people with requisite credentials to apply for these study opportunities in China.

A total of 30 applicants were received, but only 15 were considered successful and according to Zitha, this is a good start and the number will keep on increasing since they have an ambitious programme of students between 500 - 1 000.

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