Stellenbosch University prides itself on an international network that includes more than 120 formal bilateral agreements, of which more than 25 are with African partners. SU is also part of 15 international consortia, with academic staff participating annually in about 600 independent collaborative projects. Over the past three decades, the University, through its international office, built and maintained networks to advance staff and student development.
In 2020, SU signed a memorandum of understanding with Mendel University in Brno the Czech Republic. Since then, several Mendel University colleagues have visited SU’s Department of Agricultural Economics to establish relationships and explore opportunities for collaboration. During May and June 2023, academic staff members, Drs Melissa van der Merwe and Willem Hoffman, and PhD student, Petri de Beer (Department of Agricultural Economics), visited Mendel University to further develop the relationship between the two institutions.
The following opportunities were identified for collaboration: (i) research on the competitiveness of the South African (SA) wine industry; (ii) capacity building to support research on the profitability of Czech wine farms; (iii) capacity building to upskill subsistence Czech wine farmers to conduct farm-level financial management and analysis; (iv) comparative studies between the SA and Czech wine industries; (v) co-development of an online wine course; and (vi) the exchange of postgraduate students.
The SU colleagues mentioned the following highlights when asked about their visit to Mendel University:
“Being invited to a village of traditional Plźe subsistence wine cellars to drink wine directly from the barrel as is traditional while sitting in front of the cellars.” – Petri de Beer
“Having the opportunity to taste some of the top 100 wines from the Czech Republic and discussing research opportunities in the wine industry with colleagues from the Institute of Regional and Business Economics.” – Dr Melissa van der Merwe
“Sharing my knowledge of budgeting and financial management with colleagues at Mendel University to use as a research tool or to build capacity among Czech farmers to support farm-level financial decision making.” – Dr Willem Hoffmann