Agricultural economics students build on UFH’s conference legacy

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Seven Fort Hare students will continue the university’s proud tradition of presenting papers at the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA) conference in Durban next week.

What makes the recognition of their efforts even more significant is that the 60th edition is for the first time jointly hosted by the African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE), elevating its standing among the international community.

The young academics presenting in Durban from Monday to Thursday are pursuing their qualifications through the university’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension.

Since AEASA is the professional body for agricultural economists in SA, the acceptance of the students’ papers speaks to the high regard in which their work is held.

Fourteen UFH students were invited to present in Bloemfontein in 2019 while nine made the trip to Namibia last year.

Master’s student Nicole Chiwomba’s paper, “The effects of the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant on rural households’ food security in South Africa”, has been named among the top three conference contributions.

Categorised as “upgraded” in terms of acceptance criteria, she is therefore guaranteed prize money, whether finishing first, second or third.

Her UFH peers – Trevor Jembere, Siphe Zantsi, Mkhutshwa Simamkele, Tariro Mafirakurewa, Lesiba Pertunia Mailula and Siphokazi Ngcinela – will present on a variety of topics.

These range from the effects of climate change on maize price volatility in the country to the implementation and impact of the “One household-One hectare” land redistribution programme in Kokstad.

Mafirakurewa’s paper, “Determinants of smallholder farmers’ participation in contract farming in Zimbabwe”, will be of particular interest to delegates in greater southern Africa.

Furthermore, UFH, together with the Province of the Eastern Cape, have been selected to host the conference for a second time in 2024.

Professor Abbyssinia Mushunje, an AEASA national member and chairperson of the Eastern Cape local organising committee, will be in Durban to promote the event to be held in Gqeberha.

He said it was “a very big achievement” for UFH to present in KwaZulu-Natal next week.

“It’s exciting because it’s an international conference and one of our students is top three.

“This puts Fort Hare on the map, not only in South Africa but the rest of the continent. People from all over Africa will be there.”

Though the university was among SA’s smaller tertiary institutions, its agriculture-related programmes were the best in the land, he added.

The institution’s footprint is apparent in government departments as well as academic circles.

“You often see larger universities claiming our students when they do their postgraduate degrees there, but it’s us [Fort Hare] who take them from the village for their undergraduate studies.”

Also in attendance will be Professor Michael Aliber, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, who sits on the conference’s prize-giving committee.