The establishment of a faculty of agriculture in Pietermaritzburg, 1934-1949.
The limited but expanding literature on the history of scientific research and the conquest of livestock and crop diseases in South Africa has hitherto been characterised by a pronounced emphasis on developments in the Cape. Notable exceptions have been some studies focusing on aspects of agricultural activity in the Transvaal, including veterinary training and research undertaken at Onderstepoort. Relatively little attention has been given to what is today the KwaZulu-Natal region, apart from a longstanding interest in the fortunes of the sugar industry, the expansion of wattle production and the conservation of indigenous game. The establishment of faculties of agriculture was an important further step towards the institutionalisation and sophistication of scientific research in that sector of the national economy. The first three of South Africa’s university faculties of agriculture experienced long gestation periods. The oldest, at Stellenbosch, had its origins in the Agriculture Department which started in 1887 with five students at the Victoria College. It was removed in 1898 to Elsenburg and formally established in 1918 as a full faculty at the new University of Stellenbosch. The second, in Pretoria, began with the agricultural science courses taught from 1907/08 at the Frankenwald estate north of Johannesburg as part of the Transvaal University College. It began to take shape from 1916 at what, in 1930, formally became the University of Pretoria. The third agricultural faculty, established in 1949 in Pietermaritzburg, was the outcome of a prolonged campaign on the part of educational and other public figures in the Natal-Zululand region.