A project initiated by the University of Namibia Foundation in 2012 aims to extend crop farming in the Northern regions to commercial levels. The Rundu Agricultural Commercial Project was born from an identified need to train farmers from the water-rich Kavango Region in crop production as a means of alleviating the extreme poverty in the area and improving food security by strengthening employment opportunities and increasing farming knowledge, thereby improving the quality of life.
Potential crops identified are field crops such as maize, sorghum, rice, ground nuts and barley; horticultural crops such as cabbages, tomatoes, pumpkins, onions, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, cucurbits and melons; and fruit crops such as oranges, pineapples and mangos. Training will include soil preparation and plant nutrition, pest (weeds, insects, diseases) management, irrigation management, marketing, and farm management. It is further envisaged that secondary industry should be stimulated by training people living in the area to process the harvested crops in the form of jams, juices, etc.
The success of this project will depend on the level and intensity of expert intervention. The University of Namibia has provided for field attachments, internships and crop research as well as post-harvest technology. The first phase of the project has already been commenced, which has included the acquisition of an appropriate area of land (50ha), finalisation of the business plan, clearing the cultivation area of bushes, installation of irrigation and erection of fencing. Further aspects to be urgently completed include the acquisition of sufficient funding for the project, construction of farm structures (staff houses, offices and workshops) and planting of the first crops.
To date, funding for this project has been committed by the University of Namibia, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL), but more is needed and the University of Namibia will not be able to bring this project to full completion without the commitment of its partners in the public and private sector.
The UNAM Foundation was requested to explore the possibility of corporate sponsorship for new student residences since Government could not recognise the development of hostel facilities in urban areas as a priority and UNAM’s own modest capital budget cannot accommodate hostels development.
The first such initiative was concluded for the Main Campus of the University on a Public/Private Partnership basis with Hanganeni Emona. Accommodation for students at this campus has been increased by a further 1,152 beds.
The UNAM Foundation is currently busy with proposals on a similar arrangement for the University’s other campuses. However, funding remains a critical component to the success of these ventures.
The University of Namibia identified an urgent need for a Student Centre to accommodate the burgeoning student growth by providing suitable facilities in which to accommodate the Student Representative Council, the Office of the Dean of Students, student clinic and creating more retail facilities for the convenience of the university community.
In addition, UNAM urgently requires a conference centre big enough to host its graduation ceremonies and for hosting conferences, workshops, etc. The centre should be designed in such a way that it can be subdivided into smaller conference rooms when so needed.
To date, the biggest challenge remains funding for this project, which is estimated to cost in the region of N$300m. Although the Namibian National Planning Commission has allocated financial assistance to this project, the actual amounts received have fallen far short of the target. There is thus a need to seek assistance from the private sector in respect of funding for the project as well as management of the facilities.
Since its inception, the University of Namibia has made every effort to fulfil the needs of the communities in which it operates. The rapid growth in student numbers over the years – from a humble 2,800 students in 1992 to more than 17,000 in 2013 - bears testimony to the relevance of UNAM’s programmes and its impact on the Namibian society. Notwithstanding limited resources and a host of constraints, UNAM has developed capacity and delivered what many experts agree should have taken many decades. However, high national post-independence expectations and a burning desire to see Namibia take its place in all facets of international community life as soon as possible after Independence has inspired early delivery by UNAM.
In terms of access, UNAM has established Centres providing auxiliary training and upgrading courses to non-full-time students, such as the Justice Training Centre which serves legal practitioners. Other support structures include a dedicated Centre for External Studies, a network of outreach centres stretching from Lüderitz to Katima Mulilo, video conferencing and on-line computer communication facilities and resources.
The most recent additions to its academic portfolio have been the Faculty of Engineering and IT in Ongwediva in 2009 and the School of Medicine a year later.
Another significant development has been the Government of Namibia’s decision to merge the Colleges of Education with the University, thereby bringing these colleges under the auspices of the Education Faculty.
In July 2013, the Sam Nujoma Marine and Coastal Resources Research Centre (SANUMARC) became a fully-fledged campus and accommodates the Department of Aquatic Sciences.
The Southern Campus in Keetmanshoop opened its doors for the first time this year, 2014. Quality higher education is now within the reach of Namibians in virtually every corner of the country. In October 2012, the Foundation organised a fundraising gala event for the Southern Campus Fund. Almost N$4 million was raised in cash donations with in-kind donations adding another N$14 million to this amount. This level of support truly underlines the value placed by the private sector on the University of Namibia.
It is evident that, as part of its comprehensive contribution to Vision 2030, the nation’s long-term development agenda, the University of Namibia is stepping up its capacity to produce the highly qualified engineering and medical professionals, scientists and technologists Namibia needs to realise the national social and economic growth objectives of Vision 2030. It is equally evident that the University cannot achieve its objectives without the continued support of the Namibian private sector and multinational corporations operating in Namibia; parastatal enterprises; civil society (churches, professional bodies such as the Engineering Council of Namibia, the Rotary and Lions Clubs); municipalities; and the general public.