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16 October 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Dr Jan Swanepoel believes that the agricultural sector must be assisted in every possible way to shift its focus from mere subsistence farming, as is still the case in many parts of the world, to sustaining the lives of millions of people on the planet.

17 October is marked as International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by the United Nations (UN). 

The University of the Free State (UFS) is involved in several initiatives aimed at empowering communities to create a sustainable livelihood for themselves in the long run.

One of these initiatives includes a project to build competitiveness for communal farmers by developing the wool value chain in the Free State. 

The UFS Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension (CENSARDE) submitted a proposal to the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM); their proposal was selected, and they were awarded a grant of US$300 000. 

Dr Jan Swanepoel, Senior Lecturer and Researcher at CENSARDE, says the world is moving from local and national markets towards a global system of trading. This means that neighbouring farmers working on small plots of land may be competing with large industrial farmers from another country in a single marketplace.

A drive to commercialise

He adds that in developing countries, there is increasing pressure on farmers to commercialise their operations. “In order to meet the drive for greater commercialisation, new skills must be developed to support farmers in becoming better entrepreneurs. Assistance towards infrastructure must be provided; and the needs of farmers, such as market access, must be identified and catered for.”

Dr Swanepoel points out that the agricultural sector must be assisted in every possible way to shift its focus from mere subsistence farming, as is still the case in many parts of the world, to sustaining the livelihoods of millions of people on the planet. 

“As the agricultural sector starts to realise this more fundamental role and responsibilities with regard to production, new strategies can be conceived towards the enhancement of the socio-economic status of all role players in the agricultural sector,” he says.

One of the industries that agriculture in South Africa can expand on, is the wool industry. 

“China is the biggest buyer of South African wool. During lockdown, no wool from South Africa was exported to China, causing the price of wool to drop significantly. Fortunately, the markets have opened up, the excess wool from Australia has been absorbed, and China is buying wool at full capacity now. Even though the price of wool is 30% below the price of last year, the markets are reacting positively, showing a steady increase. Wool buyers believe that this trend will continue due to international market demand exceeding the supply,” says Dr Swanepoel.

He also believes the creation of niche products from the wool will add to the existing value chain, creating more jobs and an opportunity for enlarging the export market.

Profitable and sustainable venture

CENCARDE is involved in an attempt to transform communal woolgrowers’ production from an underachieving enterprise to a profitable, sustainable, and renewable venture to enhance the livelihoods of communal wool producers. 

“In addition, with the extension of the value chain directly to consumers, job creation and development plays a vital role in supporting the South African National Treasury’s strategy,” adds Dr Swanepoel.

This project is thus built around the commercialisation of wool production in the communal areas of the Free State, by developing strategies to be implemented concurrently in order to attempt to manage the various challenges faced by these growers. 

As part of this project, a centralised infrastructure hub will be established on the UFS experimental farm to support wool production and processing. Woolgrowers, sheepshearers, and men and women from the community will also be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to operate in the wool industry. Adding to these skills, members of the community will be taught entrepreneurial skills in different aspects of wool processing, such as knitting, making felt products, spinning, and weaving. 

Another helpful aspect of this project is linking the communal woolgrowers to markets, and in so doing, giving them a collaborative advantage.

Educational benefits

However, not only communal woolgrowers will benefit from this programme. It also has educational benefits, as the project is designed to incorporate research. According to Dr Swanepoel, CENSARDE is very committed and are using this project as a pilot to demonstrate the potential for a more multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to education, research, and development. Fifteen students will directly benefit from this project, including two PhD and three master’s students.

Also adding value to the project is the development of private partnerships in the form of the Dohne Merino Breed Society, commercial farmers, and other key wool marketing agencies – which will assist with technical matters and knowledge – as well as the Free State Department of Agriculture.

All participants strive for more profitable and competitive communal woolgrowers in a changing global wool market. The project is not another educational exercise but will equip woolgrowers to change their circumstances for the better.

News Archive

UFS Communication and Brand Management Department once again honoured for ground-breaking communication work
2016-04-29

Description: Martie en Leonie award Tags: Martie en Leonie award

The UFS was announced as winner in the internal communication category of the African Excellence Award after entering the B Safe Take Action campaign. The university also received a Gold Award at the 2016 PRISM Awards. Here are Martie Nortjé, Assistant Director: Communication and Brand Management, and Leonie Bolleurs, Assistant Director: Internal Communication, from the University of the Free State.
Photo: Hannes Pieterse

Within a week, the Department of Communication and Brand Management at the University of the Free State brought home two gold awards. In April this year, the department was announced as winner in the Internal Communication Category of the African Excellence Awards for the B Safe Take Action campaign. They also received Gold at the 2016 PRISM Awards for the KovsieGear entry.
 
PRISM Award for the UFS KovsieGear shop
 
Martie Nortjé, Assistant Director: Branding and Merchandise, attended the PRISM Award function in Johannesburg where she received the Gold award for the UFS KovsieGear shop for the best entry in the corporate communication category. This is the second consecutive year that the department received Gold at the PRISM Awards. Last year, the department received Gold for the B Safe Take Action campaign.
 
The idea for a university-owned shop was initiated in 2013. Launched in January 2014, KovsieGear is used to strengthen the brand and creating a sense of ownership among all stakeholders. The KovsieGear team is grateful for the continuous support of staff and students, as well as alumni.
 
The PRISM awards of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) are Africa’s most sought-after award in the public relations industry, and are presented to public relations and communication professionals who have incorporated strategy, creativity, and professionalism successfully into public relations and communication programmes and strategies, showcasing a successful public relations campaign.
 
African Excellence Award for B Safe Take Action Campaign
 
The B Safe Take Action campaign also received an award recently at a gala event hosted by the African Excellence Awards in Cape Town. Leonie Bolleurs, Project Manager of the B Safe Take Action campaign, received the award on behalf of the university.
 
It is of cardinal importance for the university that its students, staff, and assets are safe. Once again, this award demonstrates that the university is serious about the safety of its staff and students. This is especially so, since it is the objective of the campaign to develop a culture of safety awareness in students and staff alike.
 
The hosts of the African Excellence Awards are The Communication Director, the magazine for Corporate Communications and Public Relations (PR) in Europe, which enjoys worldwide distribution. According to Rudolf Hetzel, Chairman of the jury and publisher of The Communication Director, the African Excellence Awards are an opportunity for all those working in the field of PR and communications throughout Africa to come together, and honour ground-breaking communication campaigns and projects.
 
Quality work
 
“I am extremely proud of the Communication and Brand Management team for performing excellently once again in national and continental awards programmes. The awards are a good benchmark for the quality and standard of the work we produce,” said Lacea Loader, Director of the Department of Communication and Brand Management.  
 
In the past two years, the department also received other awards for their work. This include:
-    UFS #FaceOfFacebook campaign received a Gold Quill Excellence Award from the International Association for Business Communicators (IABC), both internationally and in the Africa region.
-    B Safe Take Action campaign received a Gold Quill Merit Award from the IABC, both internationally and in the Africa region.
-    UFS #FaceOfFacebook campaign received a Bronze Stevie Award from the International Business Awards (IBA).
-    B Safe Take Action campaign received a Bronze Stevie Award from the IBA.
-    #UFStoday Facebook campaign received a Merit Award from Marketing Advancement Communication in Education (MACE).
-    The NSFAS awareness campaign received a Merit Award from MACE.
 

 

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