The University of Venda (UNIVEN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Vhembe Biosphere Reserve (VBR). This is one of the MoUs that would not gather dust because it is a journey that will be of great benefit to the VBR, UNIVEN, local, national, and international communities. This signing of MoU ceremony took place at the University’s Council Chambers on Wednesday, 24 February 2021. 

L-R: Prof Jan Crafford and Dr Lutendo Mugwedi signing the MoU

The MOU was signed by the VBR’s Board Chairperson, Dr Lutendo Mugwedi representing VBR and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Prof. Jan Crafford on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni. The signing ceremony was attended by representatives from Thulamela Municipality, Thohoyandou Botanical Garden and members of Senior Management as well as some UNIVEN staff members. 

Dr Lutendo Mugwedi representing VBR

According to Dr Mugwedi, the main aim of this partnership is to bridge the science – management divide. Hence, this will be achieved through engaged scholarship, whereby co-creation and co-production of knowledge will be a vital element in this partnership. Dr Mugwedi indicated some of the expected outcomes of this partnership that are but not limited to cutting edge conservation and sustainable development solutions, knowledge, and socio-economic benefits. He also highlighted some of the projects that have started or about to start and these are: Human – elephant conflict management using chillies, Tshumisano Women’s group (Bende Mutale) planting chillies for conflict management and sale – funded by United Nations Development programme and Global Environment Finance; climate risk and adaptive capacity building in South Africa’s Biosphere reserves (sustainable water and ecosystems management. This project is led by the UNESCO’s Office in Harare – funded by Government of Flanders; Assessment of governance models implemented in Biosphere Reserves: move towards sustainable social – ecological systems – funded by the National Research Foundation. 

Dr Mugwedi further indicated that working together in this relationship will enhance the lives of our people. The Vhembe Biosphere Reserve (VBR) is the sixth South African Biosphere Reserve and the third in Limpopo Province. The VBR aims to conserve the area’s uniquely bio-diverse environment, while simultaneously supporting and promoting much needed sustainable development. 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Prof. Jan Crafford

On behalf of UNIVEN, Prof Jan Crafford shared with the delegates a long journey travelled as far back from 1990s. He told the delegates that VBR was proclaimed a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2009. The NRF Research Chair in Biodiversity Value and Change was awarded to the University in 2013. The status of Biosphere is all about stakeholder engagement and he is sincerely hopeful that the status of the Vhembe Biosphere will be extended for another ten years. Prof Crafford said UNIVEN must be an anchor institution not only in Vhembe region but nation-wide. 

The research function of the VBR is managed by the Research Chair in Biodiversity Value and Change held by the then Professor Peter Taylor at the University of Venda and now by Professor Stefan Foord who is the interim Chair. 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Corporate Services, Dr Robert Martin

In welcoming the guests, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Corporate Services, Dr Robert Martin indicated the level of excitement as UNIVEN was about to sign this MoU. He said the University is looking forward to strengthening the relationship between the two institutions. He further indicated that this is the second MoU that the University is signing since the implementation of the new Strategic Plan 2021-2025. 

University Registrar, Adv Edward Lambani

The University Registrar, Adv Edward Lambani proposed a vote of thanks. He thanked everyone for making this event successful. In closing, he proudly said that the whole Biosphere has put UNIVEN and Vhembe region in the international mark. Adv Lambani urged all the relevant parties to ensure that the MoU should exist and not gather dust. 

Acting Director Legal Services, Adv Eric Nemukula

The signing ceremony between UNIVEN and VBR was facilitated by the Acting Director Legal Services, Adv Eric Nemukula. 

L-R: Prof Jan Crafford and Dr Lutendo Mugwedi exchanging the signed MoU

Issued by: 

Department of Communications & Marketing 

University of Venda 

Tel: (015) 962 8525 

Date: 26 February 2021