Not all in support of new proposed veterinary science faculty

Money intended to establish a Veterinary Science Faculty at The University of Fort Hare (UFH) in Alice in the Eastern Cape could be better spent on Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP), or the Faculty of Veterinary Science (Onderstepoort) at the University of Pretoria.

Not all in support of new proposed veterinary science faculty

This was according to Doug Stern, president of Agri Eastern Cape, speaking after the Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Senzeni Zokwana, announced that he supported a bid by UFH to establish South Africa’s second veterinary science faculty.

Stern told Farmer’s Weekly that OBP, which developed livestock vaccines, was currently being run inefficiently, and that if money were invested in the facility, it could service the livestock industry more sustainably than a second veterinary faculty.

“If the department of agriculture wants to establish a new veterinary faculty, they should rather do it at Elsenburg [in the Western Cape]. Why do they want to duplicate something that is already crippled?” Stern said.

He also questioned where the proposed faculty would source its expertise, as many professionals had already left OBP and Onderstepoort.

However, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu, vice-chancellor and principal of UFH, told Farmer’s Weekly that the university had been working with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) with regard to this project, and that despite that DHET was still investigating if a second veterinary faculty was needed, and where it would be located, the UFH already had a curriculum prepared.

“We haven’t been put off and are going ahead [with preparations]. We already have a Faculty of Agriculture that gives us a basis to build from and have a number subjects that will be part of the curriculum in place at [this faculty],” Buhlungu said.

According to Buhlungu, it did not make sense to have another veterinary faculty located in Gauteng, and as the Eastern Cape had the largest livestock herd in South Africa, smallholders, who did not readily have access to veterinary services, and commercial farmers in the area would benefit.

Meanwhile, a DAFF press release stated that the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, the Rharhabe Royal House, the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, and Clive Warwick, the president of the Veterinary Science Council, had all offered the UFH its full support.

The press release also said that the Fort Hare Alice Campus had an impeccable track record of producing agricultural scientists.

“Over the past decades, the province has struggled to get the required number of animal health practitioners and suitable veterinarians to look after the well-being of the provincial herd. The proposed veterinary science faculty will partner with medical schools in the Eastern Cape,” the press release said.