India to set up Ayurveda chairs at South African varsities

Updated: Sep 16, 2011, 13:47 PM IST

Johannesburg: India will set up Ayurveda chairs at two South African universities by early next year amid growing interest in the alternative form of medicine in the African country.

"The chair in Ayurveda at the Durban University of Technology and one in Unani at the University of the Western Cape will help institutionalise training in this very important field," Indian High Commissioner to South Africa Virendra Gupta said while inaugurating an Ayurveda Conference here.

The conference, organised jointly by the Indian High Commission and the Ayurveda Foundation of South Africa (TAFSA), was attended by delegates from both the countries.

Gupta said the priority that South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is placing on access to affordable healthcare, especially for rural communities, presented great opportunity for India`s alternative medicine, which was more than 5,000 years old.

South African minister of Communications Roy Padayachee, who is also the patron of TAFSA, said that his country was still struggling with rigid regulatory systems, resulting in traditional medicine still remaining outside the system.

"We don`t have the experience of India, which can help us in this regard," Padayachie said, adding "We are always on a learning curve and we can learn from India by not just absorbing their experience, but adapting it to our circumstances so that we can cut down on the costs of learning."

"We need to start establishing the infrastructure to support (Ayurveda), so this contribution of India to establish chairs is a very great contribution, because it signals the start of intellectual centres in our nation which will spiral and grow.

"Alongside that, we need to deal with the question of training and development, both in the academia and the professional services that we need to provide," the minister said as he urged South Africans to take up an offer of assistance from India.

Secretary Department of Ayush Anil Kumar earlier indicated that there were scholarships available for South Africans to train in Ayurveda in India, but very few were taken up.

Kumar said that the health issues which were common to India and South Africa could result in the two countries jointly undertaking research and development in Ayurveda.

"We need to open our minds and see what other people are doing that could assist us as well," said Monwabisi Goqwana, Chairman of the Health Portfolio Committee in the South African Parliament, as he indicated support for co-operative efforts in Ayurveda and African Traditional Medicine.

PTI