Monday, May 5, 2014

Agric Engineering Backbone To Africa’s Food Sovereignty – Prof. Kranjac-Berisavljevic

Prof. Gordana
A Senior Lecturer of the Department of Agricultural Engineering and Irrigation Technology at the University for Development Studies (UDS), Nyankpala, Professor Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic, has recommended agric engineering as the backbone to Africa’s quest for food sovereignty and economic expansion.

According to her, engineering today is more important than ever in all aspects of the food supply chain such as production, transport, logistics, processing, manufacturing, storage, packaging, retail, consumption and waste disposal. 

Delivering the second inaugural lecture of the UDS in Tamale on the theme: “Revolution of Food Production: Agricultural Engineering Options for Ghana’s Inclusive Growth”, Prof. Kranjac-Berisavljevic observed that, Africa’s economic growth is occurring simultaneously with a declining per capita food production, which remains the continent’s structural paradox.

She suggested engineering as a critical component for helping to meet the challenges facing increased food production, citing for instance in the early years of the Green Revolution where engineering made many technical contributions to reduce drudgery and help increase productivity, and thus should never be underestimated.

Self-reliance on food and nutritional security, she said, is a great continental challenge; with imports for crops having increased from about 12 percent in 2000 to about 18 percent in 2010 and meat from about 4 percent to 8 percent in the same period. Quoting from the Engineering News report of 2013, she added that, Africa spends between US$40 billion and US$50 billion yearly on imported agricultural products, resulting in a loss of foreign exchange and jobs. This, she attributed to the continents low patronage in agricultural engineering tools to help enhance both commercial and smallholder farming to enable farmers match their counterparts in Europe and America.

Prof. Kranjac-Berisavljevic who is also the Director of UDS International further observed that, agricultural engineering programmes in Ghana’s tertiary institutions have agricultural machinery, soil and water resources engineering, and food engineering as the core areas in the curriculum.

“They need to place more emphasis on the areas like bioprocess engineering that can make the graduates more marketable. We need to accept constant changes and developments in science and engineering in the modern world, even though it is increasingly becoming multidisciplinary”, she urged.

Besides these public awareness efforts, she however, advocated that significant focus should also be given to realise engineering role in sustainable rural development as ‘engineers of agriculture’.  

Prof. Kranjac-Berisavljevic also charged Ghana to unequivocally state and promote the idea of sustainable food production, which can only be achieved by country-led (designed and implemented) programmes reinforcing innovations in science, engineering and technology.

“…..agriculture, both in Africa and in Ghana requires structural and technological changes to improve productivity of both labour and inputs, as well as to enhance the resilience and adaptive capacity of the farmer. 

“To achieve these changes, agriculture requires continuous and targeted investments in education, research and development, and extension services to promote and facilitate development of new knowledge, adaptation and refinement of existing knowledge, and adoption and dissemination of new and improved technologies in agricultural science and engineering, food science and technology”, she adviced.

Inaugural lectures have been an essential feature of university life for centuries. It is a significant event in an academic staff member’s career at the university to mark his/her promotion or appointment to full professorship. For the university, it is an occasion to celebrate and showcase the academic achievements of its staff. It therefore provides newly promoted/appointed professors with the opportunity to inform colleagues, the campus community and the general public of their work to date.

Thus, the second inaugural lecture of the UDS was intended to celebrate the elevation of Prof. Kranjac-Berisavljevic of the Department of Agricultural Engineering and Irrigation Technology of the Faculty of Agriculture of the UDS to full professorship in 2013.

Born in May 1960, Prof. Kranjac-Berisavljevic had her early education in the Belgrade High School, Yugoslavia. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering in 1983 from the University of Belgrade, and obtained a Master of Science degree in Irrigation from the ‘Instituto Agronomico Mediterraneo’, Bari, Italy in 1987. She also has a Post-Graduate Certificate in Computer Application/Data Analysis in Biological Research from the Nuclear Research Institute, Belgrade 1987. In addition to this, is a Certificate in ICT from the United States Graduate School in 2002.

A distinguished researcher and lecturer, outstanding team leader, seasoned academic investigator and promoter of positive image, Prof. Kranjac-Berisavljevic in 2005 obtained a Doctor of Philosophy in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Ghana. Between 1985 and 1988, she served as Research Assistant in the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Belgrade, and between 1988 and 1989, she became a Research Officer at the International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement at Wageningen, The Netherlands.

From 1991 to 1995, Prof. Kranjac-Berisavljevic was a Research Officer at the Agricultural Research Station and Lecturer at the Soil Science Department, Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Ghana. From 1996 to 2006, she was appointed lecturer in, and Head of Department of the Agricultural Mechanisation and Irrigation Technology, UDS. In 2007, she became Associate Professor and from 2007 to 2009 was appointed Dean of Students, UDS.

Prof. Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic who has since her stay in Ghana renounced her Yugoslavia citizenship and became a Ghanaian citizen, was in 2010 appointed Director of UDS International and held that position till date. She is an active member of the Ghana Institution of Engineers, Ghana Association of Consultants and the Soil Science Society of Ghana.    

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