An ARC team from Soil, Climate and Water - Agricultural Engineering (SCW-AE) and Strategic Information Management (SIM) is part of a consortium of 21 European and African R&D organisations that has been awarded an EU grant for an envisaged four year project in Africa and Europe. The project forms part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme. The ARC team was instrumental in preparing the proposal and sourcing written support from policy makers, public and private stakeholders. The SIM manager is the appointed leader for Work Package One of the project, dealing with participative end user research and the ARC team is the appointed country lead. The six-member team will work with farmers across five African countries (Ghana, Namibia, Botswana, SA and Mozambique) in assessing livelihoods of participating communities, in terms of natural and other resources, and how these livelihoods are affected by the introduction of innovations aimed at improving sustainable agricultural production.

The DIVAGRI project (Revenue Diversification in Africa through bio-based and circular Agricultural Innovations), addresses limitations of smallholder agricultural systems, where farmers lack the means to invest in improving productivity. Low productivity and lack of diversification makes farmers vulnerable to food insecurity, migration and unsustainable practices that impact negatively on the environment and aggravates vulnerability. The project will test seven bio-based technologies and business solutions targeting farming inputs, farming practices, processing and access to markets, adapted to rural African contexts. Simple, robust technologies are integrated in existing agri-food systems, and will be assessed in terms of agronomic, environmental, social and economic sustainability. Results will contribute to improving livelihoods, enhancing food security, increasing community resilience, and reduced migration. The project will use a participatory approach, involving rural end-users in the participating countries, in co-development of solutions and business models. Pilot test sites and farmer field demos in the five African countries are involved. The project addresses transition to a circular bio-economy as having the highest potential for socio-economic and environmental sustainability of rural communities in the long term.


Senior Manager

Aart-Jan Verschoor has 30 years of experience in the sector. He holds a PhD in agricultural economics & rural development. Responsibilities include guidance of post graduate students and a team of biometricians. He authored 18 scientific and many popular publications. His work is focused on participatory action research as well as monitoring and evaluation of R&D. His interest in the developing agricultural sector extends to analysis of global and local development trends and trans-disciplinary, inter-institutional research, integrating smallholders into commercial agriculture.

Research Team Manager
Water Science

Althea Grundling holds a PhD in wetland research and water management and has has 25 years of experience in agricultural R&D, specifically water related research, natural resource monitoring and rehabilitation, remote sensing, environmental management and training. She has published six peer-reviewed scientific articles, two book chapters and seven articles in international proceedings. She supervises six post graduate students and has had 14 radio and 7 TV interviews.

Irrigation & Drainage Engineer

Stephanus Vorster holds a B Eng. (Agriculture) degree and is registered as a professional Engineer. He is also a member of the South African Irrigation Institute (SABI) and focuses on irrigation system design and performance testing. He is interested in soil conservation and rehabilitation; water harvesting, conservation, organic/ sustainable farming and renewable energy. He has a decade of experience as an irrigation and drainage engineer preceded by 14 years of farming experience. He has written four manuals and 15 popular publications and had five radio interviews.

Senior Researcher

Harold Weepener holds an MSc (Cum Laude) in Computer Information Systems and is working in Geographic Information Systems modelling for food security and crop suitability studies, soil mapping and flood damage modelling. He has done consultation work for the FAO for five years and has been with the ARC for roughly two decades.

Researcher: Soil Science

Corrie Swanepoel holds a PhD in Soil Science and her research focusses on carbon and nitrogen dynamics, soil fertility and nutrient cycling as influenced by soil management systems. She has managed, coordinated and conducted research and field trials, and has published 11 peer reviewed papers, and presented many conference papers. She has worked as a University lecturer for three years before taking a break and travelling the world, before starting her work at the ARC as a researcher 14 years ago.

Research Team Manager
Crop Science

Ian du Plooy holds a DSc in Horticulture and Agronomy with more than 30 years’ experience in supporting the implementation of Agricultural R&D projects as well as more than 15 years of commercial farming experience. He is currently co-ordinating more than 30 research projects with vast experience in agronomy, soil fertility, intercropping, farming systems, irrigation, farm assessment and enterprise development.  He is supervising several postgraduate students and author/co-author of more than 80 scientific publications, while also served on the advisory boards of Tompi Seleka College and the Agriculture Programme of UNISA.