Wits Rural Facility, WRF serves as a base for rural-focused research, student training, and community outreach in the Bushbuckridge region of Limpopo, South Africa.
Background and Location
The Wits Rural Facility (WRF) is a unique rural campus of the University of the Witwatersrand, established in 1989 with a grant from the Anglo-DeBeers Chairman’s Fund. The purpose was to create a base from which Wits could bring academic resources to bear on development challenges created by the Apartheid homeland system. The facility continues to support a wide range of research, student training and community engagement in a rural setting. WRF is situated in the far north-east of South Africa, in the central lowveld of Limpopo Province, close to the Kruger National Park and the border with Mpumalanga Province. Infrastructure includes a variety of visitor accommodation, seminar and conference facilities, a restaurant, staff housing, offices, and laboratory space. These facilities are situated on a 350 hectare bushveld estate owned by Wits University. It is flanked by commercial private game reserves and the rural communities of Bushbuckridge local municipality (a former Apartheid homeland region) of Ehlanzeni District.
WRF strives to provide world-class infrastructure and services to enable high quality, multi-disciplinary, problem-based research, student learning, and civic engagement, to meet the development challenges faced by South Africa and the rest of the sub-continent. To this end, the WRF serves as a rural campus that is used by a range of Wits schools, research programmes and projects for applied research and experiential student learning in the central lowveld region of South Africa. The facility enables and stimulates a holistic and more integrated approach to research and student training, which is in keeping with international trends.
In 2013, the Wits Knowledge Hub for Rural Development was established at the WRF to encourage, produce, and disseminate innovative, research-based knowledge about the rural development sphere. The first overall aim is to improve “the critical, conceptual and strategic analysis of [rural development] issues” in a manner that will prove useful to policy development at all levels. Secondly, Hub aims to develop the visibility of Wits’ rural-research endeavour and Wits Rural Facility as a world-class laboratory of interdisciplinary ideas about rural issues.
The Importance of having a Rural Based Campus
WRF is an integral part of Wits, and the activities which it supports in a rural environment compliment the urban-focussed activities of the University. Because of its unique political and social history, South Africa’s urban and rural areas are inextricably linked through phenomena such as migrant labour and rapid urbanisation from rural areas. Therefore, urban systems can only be adequately understood with a concomitant understanding of the features and dynamics of rural areas. WRF thus puts Wits, as an urban university, in the unique position of being able to conduct research, train students (with an emphasis on postgraduates), and serve communities along the urban-rural continuum in South Africa. Wits is also recognized as a world leader in savanna ecology and conservation research, and the WRF is thus an importance base ecological research on the facility and in surrounding communal rangelands, and private and state conservation areas. WRF thus provides Wits with a wider scope for academic enterprise, thus giving Wits the edge, both nationally and internationally.
What Wits Rural Facility has to offer:
- Range of accommodation for individuals and groups
- Award winning seminar and conference facilities
- Restaurant and catering
- Office space
- Computer laboratory
- Wet and dry laboratory
- Staff housing
- Two swimming pools
- Natural environment with a network of roads for walking and jogging
- Services offered: Telephone, fax, photocopying, wifi, and transfers to and from Hoedspruit and Aconrhoek
- Things to do and places of interest in the surrounding areas