Fort Cox Agriculture and Forestry Training Institute was established in 1930 and is one of the twelve training institutions of agriculture in the country but the only such institute offering specialization in forestry. It is set amid beautiful surroundings of bush – clad hills and mountains, and endows a diversified socio-economic and biological heritage. It is a place of great historic significant.
It is the same environs that many of the famous warriors; like Rharhabe – Xhosa chiefs of the old time built their kraals. The chronology of historical events gives a summary of major social and academic events that highlight the development of the institute since its inception.
Chronological historical events
1834-1835: Fort Cox was established as military post during the sixth Frontier War by Major William Cox of the British Army under orders from the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Benjamin D’Urban.
1850: Around Christmas, when the Sir Harry Smith was the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Cape Colony, he was actually besieged at Fort Cox with a party of Cape Mounted Rifles at the start of the Eight Frontier War. After the war, the Ngqika lands were sold to farmers and white magistrates who then had total administrative powers over the land and its people, thus replacing chiefs. The chiefs were given land by magistrates for their personal use and indeed, until recently, a grandson of Chief Sandile (Ngika’s son and successor) lived at Cwaru village adjoining Fort Cox. Fort Cox featured prominently in the turbulent period of frontier wars, but the building itself has not survived. Most of the stones from the fort which once housed colonial troops have been removed for other buildings and some are in fact embedded in the concrete foundations of what has today become one of the most important centers of agricultural and forestry training for predominantly black students in Southern Africa – Fort Cox Institute.
1926: Under the influence and guidance of great leaders such as Professor D. D. T. Jabavu and Mr. M. Peteni, the Magistrate of Keiskammahoek, Mr. E. Beal recommended that Fort Cox and a portion of land around it be purchased, with a view to establish what was then termed the “Native Agricultural” School, and this was agreed to.
1927: The property of 650 ha was eventually purchased from Mr. Timlett. Shortly thereafter the contract for building the school was given to Lovedale College at Alice.
1930: The school was officially opened in September by then Minister of Native Affairs, Hon. E. G. Jansen.
1934: Further 704ha was purchased from Chief Sandile, bringing the total area of the Institute grounds to 1 354ha. In these early years the Institute provided training in agriculture only up to 1969.
1970: In January the forestry students and staff of Swartkops College near Pietermaritzburg were transferred to Fort Cox and diploma course in Forestry was instituted.
1974: The construction of the “New College” campus began on the land bought from Chief Sandile in 1934. This phase of the additional development of Fort Cox was completed in 1976.
1977: Opened officially on 9th February by the then Chief Minister of Ciskei. Mr L. L. W. Sebe, the New College campus comprised the administration block, classrooms, student residences, staff residences and workshop.
1982: When the Institute was first opened as an agricultural school in 1930, the entrance requirement was Standard 6. This was raised to Standard 8 in 1950. In 1982 it was further raised to Standard 10; the equivalent of Grade 12 or National Senior Certificate and the duration of the training was increased from two and a half to three years.
1983: Phase 2 of the New College campus saw the construction of the sports stadium and the assembly hall. The latter was named the Mgolombane Hall in memory great Xhosa Chief Sandile.
1985: A Ciskei Special Committee chaired by Professor T. J. Bemridge was appointed by the then President of Ciskei, Chief L. L. W. Sebe, to investigate and recommend measures that might improve the standard of training of all levels of manpower engaged in agricultural and rural development. The existing agricultural training programme at Fort Cox was scrutinized closely and the Institute authorities unanimously accepted modifications recommended by the committee.
1986: Institute introduced a three-year diploma in Nature Conservation. This was inaugurated in July.
1990: In April, the Decree No. 5 of 1991 of former Ciskei granted Fort Cox an autonomy, thus making it to be the only Institute of Agriculture of its own kind in South Africa.
1991: The Institute became affiliated to the University of Fort Hare. A memorandum of agreement by and between the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development of Ciskei on the one hand, and the University of Fort Hare on the other, was signed at Fort Cox on 11 June.
1993: Phase 3 of building programme started in June with the construction of new classrooms, laboratories and residences, a new library, a diagnostic center and a boardroom as well as new livestock handling facilities and a new field irrigation system.
1994: Phase 3 was completed and Fort Cox open doors to new intakes with one of the best facilities and amenities for agricultural training in the country.
2000: Fort Cox, like other Institutes decided to remain under Higher Education and offer training under quality assurance criteria set by the accrediting CHE (Council on Higher Education).
2002: Fort Cox academic programmes received full accreditation from CHE.
2004: The accreditation status of the academic programmes of Fort Cox was re-affirmed by CHE.
2010: The curriculum of Fort Cox was reviewed and implemented in line with the industry and socio economic needs of the country.
2010: Fort Cox hosted the South African Agricultural Institutes Rugby tournament for the first time in its history.
2012: Fort Cox academic programmes were re-accredited by CHE.
2012: On the 1st February, Fort Cox through its Rural Development Centre (RDC) launched the Narysec project with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR).
2012: A fully-fledged Institute Board of Governors was appointed and approved by the MEC (Hon Z. Capa) for DRDAR.
2013: Fort Cox Agriculture and Forestry Training Institute adopted the CBL principles as expounded through the TACATI project lead by DAFF.
2015: On the 4th of December, Fort Cox Institute Interim-Provisional Bill was promulgated in the Eastern Cape Legislature.
2016: The Institution undertakes the second curriculum review process for both Diplomas in Agriculture and Forestry. The Forestry Diploma drops a six-month Workplace Learnership in favour of an annual one.
2017: Fort Cox successfully hosts the South African Agricultural Institutes Rugby and NASCANO (Soccer and Netball) tournaments within the same season for the first time in its history.