UNISWA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the University of Swaziland, and a Swiss Consortium composed of ICVolunteers, EarthFocus Foundation and Stiftungszentrum are officially launching a new partnership. ICVolunteers has been entrusted to carry out the projects, facilitating the links between the Consortium and UNISWA. This will happen through ICVolunteers' CyberVolunteers Program.
Some call Swaziland the Switzerland of Africa... and not only because of the similar names of the two countries. Indeed, like Switzerland, Swaziland does not have direct access to the ocean. Situated between South Africa and Mozambique, is a beautiful land of diverse eco-systems that combines mountains, gorges and rolling savannah flatlands. However, it is its arable land that is of most value to Swazi people, an agrarian society with more than 70 percent of the labour force working on the land and the agricultural sector that contributes 16.4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Maybe yet another reason for the analogy is the small size of the two countries. Swaziland has about 1 million inhabitants, Switzerland just 7. But of course, there are also many differences between the two nations: like many African countries, Swaziland is facing a number of challenges. With 33.4% of adults aged 15 to 49 infected, the HIV/AIDS prevalence is amongst the highest in the world and the strong emigration is hampering the development of the country. Despite being classified as a lower middle-income developing country, 69 percent of Swaziland's population lives at or below the poverty line, surviving on less than US$ 1 a day.
Clearly, Swaziland has an economic imperative to ensure food security needs are met, and in a manner that is both efficient and sustainable. There is an urgent need for a skilled population of water and soil specialists, animal and human nutritionist, biologists, hydrologists, agronomists and agri-business entrepreneurs.
The education - through teaching, research, scholarship and community partnership interventions - and the creation of opportunities for young people are therefore crucial for the future of Swaziland. UNISWA, the University of Swaziland, is obviously the leading actor in this domain. Each year, it trains more than 5000 students in agriculture, commerce, education, health sciences, humanities, science and social science. UNISWA's vision is to provide "Leadership through Excellence in Education". Among its goals is the dissemination of innovation with particular reference to agriculture and food security.
Founded in recent years, the UNISWA Foundation aims to secure resources and mobilize philanthropic partners to address the changing needs not only of the University of Swaziland, but, more importantly, the communities served by the University, with knowledge, expertise and infrastructure.
The collaboration between the UNISWA Foundation and the Swiss Consortium started back in March of this year, when Milcho Damianov, CEO of the Foundation travelled to Geneva with the aim of developing a new partnership with Swiss organizations.
In early May, three leading members of the Foundation visited the new Consortium. Among them were Prof. Cisco M. Magagula, Vice Chancellor of UNISWA, Dr. Vincent M. Mhlanga, Chairperson of the UNISWA Foundation Board of Trusties and its CEO, Milcho Damianov.
In turn, Viola Krebs, Executive Director of ICVolunteers, travelled to Swaziland at the beginning of August 2007 and had the opportunity to meet the main actors of the UNISWA Foundation, visit projects and get together with the Advisory Council of the University.
She was particularly impressed by the Hub of African Modern Agriculture project (so called HAMA).
The HAMA project provides an enabling environment for carrying out scholarships, research, outreaches and in-service training. It also equips academics and researchers with the opportune skills to inform, develop and implement animal, land and water use management. This project provides the framework for an entrepreneurial incubator, a bank for knowledge exchange, the development of agri-business expertise and a centre for agricultural counselling. It acts as a catalyst for creating new revenue-generating streams for the institution and provides a bridge to community involvement and development through extension work, field training and advisory roles, in all agriculture-related disciplines.
Within an initial four-year phase HAMA is expected to achieve an Animal Production and Health Centre, a Crop Production Centre (a Mushroom Farming Laboratory, an Agronomy Field Laboratory, a Post-Harvest Physiology Laboratory, a Plant Culture and Plant Pathology Laboratory), an Agricultural Educational Centre, a Food and Technology Centre, a Land Use and Mechanization Centre, an Agri-Entrepreneurship and Business Management Centre.
More information about UNISWA Foundation: http://www.uniswa.sz/uniswafnd/