Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)
New online academy seeks to offer farmers and farmworkers greater opportunities
Ellis Mnyandu reports on the launch of a new online academy that seeks to upskill farmers and farmworkers in animal health and agricultural sciences.
Efforts to upskill farmers, their staff, as well as those looking to become agri entrepreneurs, have received a major boost, with the recent launch of an online animal health academy supported by global animal health technology and industry leader MSD Animal Health South Africa.
The launch of the MSD Animal Health Academy took place in Johannesburg last month, and organisers said it signified a major milestone in that the provision of cutting-edge training and tutoring would be available beyond borders, to anyone with an Internet connection.
The academy’s offering would be presented wholly online, making it possible for a limitless number of students and farmers across Africa to access the academy’s curriculum, Jacques van Rensburg, national training manager for MSD Animal Health in South Africa, said at the launch.
He said the academy would underpin efforts to foster sustainable development across Africa by providing training that would help farmers and other students gain expertise to boost production values, optimise their businesses and advance their careers.
“Access to animal health services should be an essential part of our culture,” said Van Rensburg, adding that “economic development, proper research and biosecurity measures are essential for the advancement of our production values.”
The academic content would be delivered by professional facilitators, MSD veterinarians and MSD technical staff in an offering that would include tutoring and hands-on or practical learning to students and farmers. “The demand for animal health education in Africa is huge,” Alan Kloeck, MSD South Africa’s general manager, told Farmer’s Weekly. “This initiative is in recognition of that opportunity. Africa is hungry for animal health education.”
Kloeck said training in modern ways of animal health would ensure that Africa had a food-secure future.
“Africa is getting better at producing food. Much of this is helped by the advancement in technology and improvements in animal health. It used to be the case that farmers worked with the animals just for subsistence, but now farmers are looking after the animals to make money. This is also why we are seeing a lot of emerging, young farmers across Africa,” he said.
Asked how the academy would help MSD’s value chain, he said: “Expertise in MSD products will lead to more customers, who are also intent on optimising their production, farm and animal health and biosecurity.”
Van Rensburg said the initial short course offerings of the
MSD academy would focus on ruminants (specifically sheep and cattle) and would thereafter be expanded to include poultry, horses, game, and other animals.
Johan Stassen, co-partner of the MSD Academy, said the academy would ultimately be accredited to award bachelor’s of science degrees.
He added that work was currently underway to get accreditation in Namibia and Botswana.
Stassen was also the founder and managing director of the International Agricultural Academy for Africa (i3A), which would provide the administrative backbone of the new MSD Academy.
OFFERINGS AND JOB OPPORTUNITIES
Stassen added that the new online academy would open doors for many who sought to acquire specialised knowledge in agriculture.
The initial offering of the qualifications that the MSD academy planned to offer, starting with its first cohort of students, comprised of a National Certificate in Animal Production with a specialisation in Animal Health, National Diploma in Animal Production with specialisation in Animal Health, and a National Certificate in Agri Sales and Services, which focused on managing co-operatives and agri-trade businesses.
All these qualifications were accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority
(SAQA), and were supported by practical hands-on modules.
Van Rensburg said students would engage with other students across the region using ‘Agri Social’, a social media-based tool for engagement and interaction.
“They will acquire skills and develop critical understanding of animal health and the MSD product range, which could open many future job opportunities ,” he added.
Applications for the first intake closed on 29 January, but a fresh student intake was planned for every six months. – Ellis Mnyandu
For more information, visit msdanimalhealth.com.