Newsletter June 2015
Friends of UKZN Agriculture | June 2015
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30 June 2015

Hello Friends and Alumni

We're looking forward to seeing you at our annual Networking Function and catching you up on all that has happened within Friends of UKZN Agriculture in the past year. The format is a little different this time around and promises to be really unique.

We hope that you enjoy seeing what's been on the go lately and trust that you will be in touch with any queries about getting involved or ideas for our association of alumni and friends.

Annual Networking Function

We're pleased to announce the details of our annual Networking Function, an event intended to bring alumni, agribusiness and other friends and stakeholders of SAEES together. The event will take place on the 6th of August 2015 at 18h30 for 19h00 in the Colin Webb Hall on Main Campus in ‪Pietermaritzburg.

This year's theme is "A is for Agriculture; Education Meets Agriculture in KZN". Our keynote speaker is the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of‪ UKZN‬, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld. We also anticipate the attendance of the provincial MEC for Agriculture, Mr Cyril Xaba.

We foresee this as being our biggest Networking Function yet, and look forward to welcoming many of our valued friends and alumni‬ to the event. Dinner will be provided and the cost of the event is R250pp, or R2250 for a table of ten. Spaces are limited and are already filling up so please book early.

Featured Discipline

The discipline of Geography & Environmental Sciences was not one which was historically grouped with the agricultural disciplines that featured in the inaugural sciences that made up the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Natal before its merger with the University of Durban-Westville, where the discipline of Geography also enjoyed a high profile. 

The discipline at a glance

The discipline of Geography and Environmental Sciences at UKZN is spread across all three campuses and is divided into the Human and Physical Geography aspects. The Howard College campus staff are focused on Human Geography, the Westville campus is devoted to Physical Geography and the Pietermaritzburg campus contains a mix of the two aspects of the discipline. There are also specialists in the area of GIS and Remote Sensing in the discipline.

Geography is one of the most popular disciplines in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and it is a popular place to work as well, with many staff members making note of the pleasantness of the environment. Classes are extremely large, with well over 1000 students at first year level across the three campuses. The discipline produces approximately 300 undergraduate graduates annually, and about 50 or 60 Honours students and 20 or 30 Masters students.

While the sheer numbers in this discipline attest to its popularity and academic excellence, these rapidly increasing numbers also pose various logistical challenges. One is the lack of both lecturing and computer lan space to conduct classes, especially where software unique to Geography is required. This is a challenge on all 3 campuses. Additionally, it has become almost impossible to conduct undergraduate field trips with such large numbers of students, and there is the risk of flooding the market with qualified UKZN graduates, who are being encouraged to diversify in their fields. Many graduates go on to work for local government and environmental companies.

The size of this discipline makes it necessary for it to be well-staffed in order to provide students with sufficient options as far as modules go. There are, however, a few positions unfilled on the Westville and Howard College campuses, leaving room for expansion in the discipline as leaders in Geography and the School aim to get more experts in to relieve the load on current staff. The discipline also relies on being able to have contract staff come in to assist with teaching parts of its curriculum. Welcoming two new staff members in the month of June was a big highlight for Geography.

In terms of research, there is lots of exciting work going in in the discipline, for example in the environmental change research group. The group is looking at sea-level change along the eastern seaboard, long-term natural variability and environmental processes in Lake St Lucia, and ecosystem dynamics and climate change at Mapungubwe. For example, they are using geochemical analysis of baobab tree rings to build a 1000-year rainfall record for the Mapungubwe area. Such understanding of long term climate, which cannot be obtained from limited instrumental rainfall records, helps increase understanding the causes of climate variability in this region. There is a similar project in the Karkloof area of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, where the group is looking at yellowwood tree rings as a means of understanding climate variability in the area.

The discipline enjoys close relationships with its industry partners, and there is always room for increased participation in the form of awards, internships, and funding, particularly for postgraduate students and in contributing to solving some of Geography's logistical concerns.

Geography staff have been particularly committed to blurring the boundary between the human and physical aspects of the discipline, decreasing the separation between staff who specialise in each area to a large extent.

While the discipline does not have a student society, the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIASA) has a student branch in KZN, which a number of Geography students are actively involved in. The students organise events such as career evenings, with one recent event drawing a crowd of 200 when only 40 were expected.


Trevor Hill
Professor Trevor Hill has been a part of the Geography discipline at UKZN (formerly at the University of Natal) for the past 15 years. Hill has been filling the position of Academic Leader of Geography since August 2014, having previously been the Deputy Head of the School of Environmental Science before its reorganisation and inclusion in SAEES in 2010.

Hill studied at Rhodes University, where he received hi BSc in Geography and Botany and where he went on to do his PhD. Hill is currently studying towards a Masters in Environmental Law. He has recently also been elected Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society, joining luminaries such as Kingsley Holgate on that list.

Hill's research activities are concentrated in the areas of contemporary pollen analysis, palaeo-climatic reconstruction, natural resource management, GIS and biogeography. A member of the Society for South African Geographers, he serves as co-editor of the South African Geographical Journal, along with Prof Brij Maharaj.
Brij Maharaj
Professor Brij Maharaj is Professor of Geography on the Howard College campus He was previously Head of Geography, University of Durban-Westville. He has received widespread recognition for his research on urban politics, segregation, local economic development, migration and diasporas, and has published over 100
scholarly papers in renowned journals such as Urban Studies, International Journal of Urban and Regional Studies, Political Geography, Urban Geography, Antipode, Polity and Space, and GeoJournal, as well as edited book collections. In October 1998 he was elected Fellow of the Society of South African Geographers “in recognition of outstanding scholarship in the field of Geography”. He was elected President of the Society of South African Geographers for the period 2005-2007. Professor Maharaj serves on the Public Policy (Vice-chair since 2004) and Human Mobility Commissions of the International Geography Union. He is life member of the National Association of Geographers of India (NAGI).

He was awarded visiting professorships in UK and France, and was Faculty Fellow at the University of Illinois. In 2005 he was awarded the Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor Award by The University of Iowa in the US. He presently serves on the editorial board of Geoforum, Antipode and Indian Ocean Survey. He is Consulting Editor of the Journal of Immigration and Refugee Studies. He is vice-chairperson of SANPAD (South African Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development). He is also vice-chairperson of the Social Science Network of South Africa.

Maharaj frequently contributes to community projects and you will often find his writings in The Mercury newspaper.
Professor Serban Proches is an associate professor in Geography on the Westville campus who is interested in mapping the distribution of lineages and traits across continents, habitats, and time. A biogeographer and naturalist originally from Romania, he completed his undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Bucharest before joining the then University of Durban-Westville in 1999 as a PhD
candidate, completing his thesis in 2002, and later becoming a staff member and also completing postdoctoral projects at the University of Port Elizabeth, the University of Stellbosch and UKZN. His research is mainly into the patterns of species distribution, new species descriptions and ecological interactions. He has also done research into the quantification of food plant diversity and species name representation online and in scientific literature.

Proches has supervised a long list of postgraduate and postdoctoral students in his time and is extensively involved in Biogeography research in Durban.
Oni Mutanga
Professor Onisimo Mutanga is a Professor of Geography on the Pietermaritzburg campus and Academic Leader of Research in SAEES at UKZN. His expertise lies in Ecological Remote Sensing, with particular emphasis on vegetation pattern analysis and monitoring, agricultural landuse mapping as well as wildlife habitat evaluation. 
His focus in recent years has been on the development of remote sensing techniques for mapping tropical vegetation quality and quantity to understand wildlife feeding patterns and distribution.  His emerging niche areas include mapping vegetation species, disease infestation on plantation forests and agricultural crops as well as quantification of forest degradation and its impact on biodiversity and ecosystem condition.
Since joining UKZN in 2005, Mutanga has graduated 5 PhDs and 14 Masters Students and is currently supervising more than 15 post graduate students. He has published more than 50 articles in DoE approved/ISI journals and has several conference proceedings and book chapters. He holds a C1 NRF rating and serves in several national and international research committees. He is currently an Associate Editor of the ISPRS Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing journal. He also acts as a reviewer in several scientific journals, including Remote Sensing of Environment, International Journal of Remote Sensing, Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformationand other Ecological journals as well as reviewing applications for several funding organisations. He has collaborated on several projects which include, Landcover/use in Rural and Urban Environments (ACCESS), Cattle keeping in a changing rural landscape, Indigenous Forest Fragmentation and Ethekwini Biodiversity Management. He is a member of the African Association of the Remote Sensing of Environment (AARSE), IES- AFRICA, among other organisations.

Professor Heinz Beckedahl is based on the Pietermaritzburg campus and is a specialist in the remediation of soil erosion, process geomorphology, environmental science, physical geography, environmental impact assessments related to landform-process interdependencies.

He obtained his Masters and Higher Diploma of Education from the University of the Witwatersrand and his PhD from UKZN. Beckedahl has published his work in both English and German.

Dr John Odindi is a lecturer based on the Westville campus whose research interests lie in the fields of land use land cover mapping, vegetation remote sensing, remote sensing of urban landscapes and climate change, and environmental management.

Odindi is involved in the teaching of environmental systems, remote sensing, GIS and research methods. He has presented papers at a variety of conferences and was previously at the University of Fort Hare before coming to UKZN.
Dr Fatima Ahmed, based at the Westville campus, studied at the former University of Durban-Westville during her undergraduate studies and completed her Honours, Masters and PhD at UKZN. She joined the discipline of Geography in 2006

She is a Human Geographer and her research is focused on Central and East 
Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Her interests lie in the human dimensions of environmental change and include sustainable development, coastal and marine tourism, gender & livelihoods, environmental conflicts, environmental security and political ecology In line with her research on environmental conflicts, she developed an Honours module entitled Managing Environmental Conflicts, which ran for the first time in 2013.
She encourages guest speakers, particularly for the level three Environmental Management module, and frequently gets practitioners from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and environmental consultancies to guest lecture. She finds the field experiences and information they provide to young people who want to pursue the field extremely useful.

Ahmed is committed to developing a critical institutional environment and ethos that embraces diversity, unity, empowerment and development.

Dr Michael Gebreslasie obtained a Bachelor of Arts Geography degree in space and health specialisation from the University of Asmara, Eritrea. This was followed by a Masters in Applied Environmental Science with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing specialisation from UKZN. Gebreslasie obtained his PhD Geography degree from UKZN. His PhD research focused on testing, improving tools and methods for prediction of biophysical, biochemical and

canopy structural characteristics such as leaf area index (LAI), tree height, basal area, tree density, and Biomass using multi-spectral and multi-angle optical and active remote sensing. Better prediction of these characteristics is a key to sustainable management of forest ecosystem.

He teaches Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing subjects at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Gebreslasie is a member of the Forestry Society of South Africa and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

Notably, he is also project leader for the European-funded MALAREO which is focused on investigating potential application of Earth Observation for malaria surveillance to combat malaria epidemics. He is also principal investigator for EO application in Health (Malaria), a project which aims to develop an early warning system for malaria using remote sensing data. He is involved in community outreach through GIS and database development training (human capacity building) in malaria control programmes taking place in KwaZulu-Natal, the Limpopo province and Mpumalanga.

Gebreslasie's research is centred on spatio-temporal remote sensing for environmental change detection and monitoring and bio-geosciences, which includes Forestry, species diversity and spatial epidemiology (modelling the Spatio-temporal patterns of malaria transmission and forecasting malaria outbreak).

Mr Romano Lottering is a lecturer  in Geography on the Pietermaritzburg campus whose interests lie in Remote Sensing of forest health under changing climatic conditions. He is involved in the teaching of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing
Adrian Nel
Dr Adrian Nel was appointed to the discipline of Geography in Pietermaritzburg in June 2015, where he is a senior lecturer and will lecture in modules such as Geographies of Urban and Rural Change on topics relating to people, place and power. Nel is a member of the South African Geographical Society and completed his Bachelor of Economics and Honours in Political Economics at Rhodes 
University and his PhD at Otago University in New Zealand.

Nel, who is originally from Zimbabwe, is focused on the area of political ecology, in which he hopes to develop new, relevant course material at UKZN. He is busy with ongoing research in the areas of land reform and livelihoods, crises conservation, the Green Economy, human-environment relations, development and conservation in Eastern and Southern Africa (particularly where they intersect with issues of social and environmental justice), migration, identity, indigenaity and belonging.
Dr Jemma Finch is a lecturer in the discipline of Geography where she has been since 2011. A biogeographer, she trained at the former University of Natal and went on to do a PhD in Environmental Science at the University of York in the UK. Her passion for the diverse local environment brought her back to KwaZulu-Natal where she did a postdoctoral fellowship through the University of Cape Town focused on the Drakensberg Mountains, leading her back to UKZN.

Finch's interests lie in species distribution patterns and how they change in space and time. Her specialisation is in palaeoecology, where she studies ecosystem dynamics in response to climate and environmental
changes. Her focus is in striving for research excellence for the environmental change research group, high level postgraduate training and developing these candidates through overseas exchange programmes and training courses, as well as local and international research collaboration.
Orli Bass
Dr Orli Bass joined the discipline of Geography on the Howard College campus at the beginning of June 2015 as a Senior Lecturer after spending several years working at UKZN's Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity as a Senior Project Officer. Having completed her BSc undergraduate studies in Environmental & Geographical Science and English at the University of Cape Town, Bass undertook her Honours year at UND and went on to complete her PhD through UCT. She was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council before going on to work at the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity.
A human geographer, Bass is interested in topics related to cities, identities & culture, as well as mega-events. Beginning in the
second semester of 2015, Bass will be lecturing on second year module Geographies of Urban and Rural Change. Bass is also a co-editor of the book Development and Dreams: the urban legacy of the 2010 football World Cup. Bass is excited about taking this next step in her academic career and being based in the diverse discipline of Geography, while still maintaining her interdisciplinary research links. She is also excited at the prospect of being back in the classroom, having taught previously at UKZN before and after completing her PhD
Dr Srinivasan (Seane) Pillay is a lecturer on the Westville campus of UKZN and specialises in environmental geology and geochemistry of fluvial systems, wetlands, estuarine systems and coastal lakes, as well as material transport in aquatic systems. Pillay is a journal reviewer for several international journals and has supervised a number of masters and doctoral students.

Dr Sumaiya Desai is a human geographer and lecturer based on the Pietermaritzburg campus who obtained her PhD in 2010 through UKZN and has research interests in the area of ecotourism.

Ms Dayle Trotter is a lecturer based on the Pietermaritzburg campus whose interests lie in Physical Geography, environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental management, environmental governance, policy and legislation, local economic development. Currently reading for her PhD, Trotter has been a part of the discipline's staff since 2007. She also plays a vital role in mentoring and guiding students in career decisions and assistance with internship placements and work experience (IAIAsa KZN Student Branch).

Ms Suveshnee Munien is a PhD candidate and lecturer based on the Westville campus who has been a staff member in the discipline since  2013 after beginning her PhD in 2011. Her interest lies in Human Geography.

Mr Tim Foggin is a pro poor tourism development specialist for the southern and east African region his core competencies have been in poverty reduction strategies related to community based and coastal based tourism. Prior to academia he was a UNWTO pro poor tourism consultant to East and Southern Africa and thereafter the Regional Tourism Advisor for the UNDP large marine ecosystems programme. Focal areas have been where tourism delivers sustainable net benefits to local economies in amidst sustainable conservation practices. Foggin has gained invaluable livelihood experience from managing tourism development projects across east and southern Africa and has worked with the public, private and international development sector.  Other areas of interest are social impact assessments and sustainable livelihoods.  Foggin has worked in a research and advisory capacity in the following countries Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.

Mr Musa Khanyile is a lecturer based at the Howard College campus whose field is Human Geography.

Mr Victor Bangamwabo is a GIS technician and staff member based on the Pietermaritzburg campus who obtained his Masters degree in 2009 from UKZN after doing research on land degradation in communal landscapes in South Africa.

Dr Njoya Ngetar is a lecturer based on the Howard College campus whose expertise lies in Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics (GIS). Ngetar obtained his PhD from UKZN in 2011.

Technical Staff

Mr Brice Gijsbertsen, Mr Isaac Abboy, Mr Donovin De Vos and Mr Innocent Shezi have been keeping the disicpline going on a technical front for many a year and play a vital role in the practical aspect of the work the discipline does with its students and in its research.


UKZN Offered Unique Research Facility by Oppenheimer Family

Oppenheimer-Umgenipoort Facility
From left: Farm manager Mr Thulani Mnguni, Mr Nicky Oppenheimer, Professor Kevin Kirkman and Mr Duncan McFadyan at the Umgenipoort Research Facility.

The Oppenheimer family, owners of the farms Wakefield and Umgenipoort, recently entered into an agreement with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) to make their properties available for research and teaching activities.
The properties are close to Nottingham Road in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, and are about a one-hour drive from Pietermaritzburg.
The properties comprise mainly grassland over a varied topography, from steep upland slopes down to flat riverine areas along the Umgeni River, with access to indigenous forests. These farms are currently grazed by Nguni cattle, and managed on the principle of focused, intensive grazing for relatively short periods with long periods of recovery after grazing.
Umgenipoort contains a collection of buildings comprising an old nunnery, and these have been made available to UKZN as a Research Centre, with accommodation for researchers and students. The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science has welcomed the opportunity to develop and use this facility for the purpose of research by staff and postgraduate students, as well as for field-based teaching of undergraduate students.
The ideal location of these properties and their varied habitats create opportunities for research in a range of ecological and environmental fields, including grassland ecology, forest ecology, applied behavioral ecology, animal behaviour, entomology, water related ecological research, veld management, environmental research and human/nature interactions.
The Centre is also ideally placed for undergraduate field based learning, with the accommodation on site allowing cost effective options for field trips for students in the School of Life Sciences, the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the School of Engineering.
These will form important components of the curricula for ecological, environmental and agricultural students, with opportunities to get involved in ecological surveys of vegetation, animals and soils, which are requirements for several degree programmes. These, in turn, can form the basis of future research projects.
‘Experience has shown that undergraduate students on field trips frequently develop a passion for research and it is likely that many undergraduate students who visit the site as part of their undergraduate degrees, will get involved with postgraduate research at the site,’ said grassland scientist Professor Kevin Kirkman, who is also Director of Professional Services for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.
The vision for effective utilisation of the facility is to ensure that it is equipped with the basic requirements for accommodating researchers and students, with facilities conducive to fieldwork and undergraduate field trips.
To date, several undergraduate (third year) field trips have been held successfully, and all students and staff participating have been very enthusiastic about the facilities and the opportunities for research.
PhD student, Sindiso Chamane, has set up grazing enclosures to measure the impact of cattle grazing and trampling on the forb component of grasslands. While grasses contribute the majority of the biomass in grassland, non-grass species, or forbs, typically outnumber the grasses by about six to one and thus contribute significantly to biodiversity. This study is the first in South Africa to investigate these impacts in detail, and the results are expected to contribute to our knowledge of the impacts of livestock farming on biodiversity and consequently contribute to veld management guidelines.
- Kevin Kirkman

Prof John Derera Departs UKZN for Seedco

Prof John Derera
Professor John Derera spent his last day at UKZN on the 26th of June 2015 as he prepared to make the move back to his home country of Zimbabwe to join Seedco Limitedin the prestigious position of Head of Research and Development.

Derera, who was the first student to complete his PhD in Plant Breeding through the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI), has made his mark on the School, having been selected to run the newly-inaugurated Plant Breeding Masters Programme for Africa, which will now be taken over by Dr Julia Sibiya.

Derera, who will remain an Associate Professor at UKZN, will be based in Zimbabwe but will oversee various Seedco international concerns as far as research and development goes and will continue to fly the UKZN flag high. We wish him the best of luck.

College of AES Names Dr Gus Gubba a Distinguished Teacher

Dr Augustine (Gus) Gubba in the discipline of Plant Pathology has been named a recipient of a College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Distinguished Teacher Award.

The Distinguished Teacher Award recognises outstanding contributions made to Teaching and Learning specifically in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (as opposed to the annual University Distinguished Teacher Award that covers the whole of UKZN). In all, 5 members of staff, one from each School in the College, will be receiving one of these awards in early July.

Gubba is known for his expertise in Plant Protection and Animal Health.

Animal Science Students Set Records at the Royal Show

RAS Steer Champion
Animal and Poultry Science students from the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) shone in various categories of the cattle competition at the Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg this year, with particular achievement in the carcass auction, where one of their entries set a new South African record. This is the first time that UKZN students have won in this category since 1999.

Ms Liberty Nkuna was awarded 1st place in the Future Farmers Steers class, with Mr Rhys Boast winning 3rd place in the Future Farmers Best Handler class, where competitors in all classes are watched for their handling. UKZN was also awarded a 1stand 4th place in the un-haltered class competition. At the carcass auction, Nkuna’s steer carcass was named champion, and was auctioned for a record price of R150/kg, with the winning bid going to the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, Durban.

Each year, students from the discipline participate in the steer project that takes them to the Royal Show where they take part in various competitions to show their animals. This aspect of the students' learning is extracurricular, with students who are interested in taking part given the opportunity to do so thanks to the work of Dr Nicky Tyler and Dr Marion Young in the discipline, who undertook the management of this project voluntarily. Young and Tyler feel that the presence of UKZN students in the Show is important as they represent some of the institution's agricultural studies, and also see it as an opportunity for the students to benefit from exposure to industry and experiential learning.

Thanks to the support of industry, the Animal and Poultry Science staff has been able to afford students the chance to be a part of competition at the Show. The ten animals taken to the Show this year were secured through Andrew Adams of Virbac with the assistance of Bryan Mills from De Heus, with Adams and Mills supplying sponsorship for medication, feed and other associated costs. Tyler arranged for the acquisition of training halters, brushes/curry combs and shirts, and SAEES provided funds for show halters and hay. The students involved were also able to raise funds for some of the running costs incurred by their participation in the Show, making the experience all the more valuable for them.

The experience allows students to gain experience in handling animals and learn about feeding and finishing cattle. The students also have the chance to show other cattle at the Show. Preparation for the event involved the students weighing their animals weekly and recording their feed intake, allowing them to calculate average daily gain and food conversion efficiency. According to Tyler, through the project they also get to know their fellow students better and learn to work effectively as a team. The 21 students taking part this year were mostly 3rd years.

Tyler expressed the group's gratitude to staff members at the Ukulinga Research Farm who were instrumental in the care of the animals at the farm.

(If you'd like a look back into some of the history of this steer project at the University, have a look at our album of photos of aspects of the project in 1985).

Professor Modi Addresses Habitable Planet Workshop

Planet Health Workshop
Professor Albert Modi, Dean and Head of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), had the exciting opportunity to address a multidisciplinary group of students from all over South Africa at the 17th Habitable Planet Workshop at the Westville campus of UKZN on 29 June 2015.
The Applied Centre for Climate and Earth System Science (ACCESS) hosted the workshop from the 29th June – 8th July 2015, in partnership with UKZN and the University of Zululand.
The focus of the workshop was the evolution of Earth’s diversity of flora and fauna and the conditions required to maintain these favourable environments, including environmental interactions that need to be taken into consideration. The course also emphasised past and present relationships between humans and the environment to assess the impact that future global warming and climate change could have.
Using a range of exercises, lectures and excursions, the workshop explored what makes Earth habitable and exposed students to the range of master’s degree courses and career choices available in the field of Earth System Science.
The title of Modi’s lecture was ‘Tracing our path back into a sustainable future – an agricultural science perspective’. He says that although he was nervous about his capability to convey a good message to such a varied group, his lecture received very positive feedback from the workshop organiser, Dr Carl Palmer, a member of ACCESS from the University of Cape Town (UCT).
Palmer commented that the lecture was a very good introduction, covering all the basic, applied and social science aspects of the course in one hour. Modi’s presentation was used as a reference for the students participating in the week-long workshop. Many students indicated that they found the lecture very informative and they enquired about pursuing postgraduate studies in the SAEES Disciplines and/or collaborating with Prof Modi in community outreach projects.
One of these was a student based on UKZN’s Westville campus, Ms Refilwe Mofokeng, who has just started a food garden project for primary schools in KwaZulu-Natal and thanked Modi for what she described as a very informative, dynamic and inspiring presentation. Her project, #GetInvolved, aims to plant food gardens in schools to educate learners about nutrition and the importance of their own health, as well as teach them about recycling, science and assist with donations of school jerseys for winter. The project emphasises the use of skills and knowledge to contribute to the upliftment of these schools.
This workshop was the first of the 17 Habitable Planet workshops held over the past eight years to have been hosted in KwaZulu-Natal. The workshops have been held successfully in Southern/Eastern Africa, with over 700 students having participated. Attendees were 3rd and 4th year students from a range of fields, from mathematics to sociology and law.

Research Symposium

Research Symposium image
The Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR), in proud association with IUFRO, announces that registration has opened for our Research Symposium: Underpinning sustainable tree plantations in Southern Africa.
This event will take place on Friday 4 September 2015 at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban South Africa, and is a pre-congress meeting linked to the World Forestry Congress held the following week (7-11 September) at the same venue.  The World Congress theme is “Forests and People – Investing in a Sustainable Future” and aims to address some of the key developing issues facing forestry globally, as well as promoting the value of forestry as an investment and development sector of the future.
The Forestry Research Symposium offers the opportunity to focus specifically on research issues and will present a position paper at the Congress highlighting the current and future importance and impact of forestry research in the region.
The Symposium programme comprises a list of invited speakers; leaders and research specialists, who will showcase the depth and breadth of forestry research across South Africa.
The keynote speaker is South Africa’s National Minister for Science and Technology, Minister Naledi Pandor, and other invited speakers include IUFRO President, Prof Mike Wingfield,FORNESSA’s Dr Joe Cobbinah and a number of top South African research scientists and leaders. 
Presentation topics include the following:
  • Linking research to policy: The international forestry agenda
  • IUFRO Strategy: 2015-2019
  • Forestry in South Africa: The role of government
  • The Southern African Forestry Research and Development Landscape
  • Research in support of a changing forest sector
  • Forests of the Future - Role of classical tree breeding research
  • Forests of the Future - Role of molecular breeding and  its application in plantation forestry
  • Site specific application of tree growing practices in South Africa
  • Biologically sustainable production from industrial wood plantations - the challenges
  • Forests at Risk: Pest and Pathogen threats
  • Forests at Risk: A changing climate
  • How can the forestry sector make best use of the water it is allocated?
  • Assessing the contribution of industrial plantations to carbon stocks (TBC)
  • Sustainability, certification and license to operate;  the research needs
  • Obtaining more value from the supply chain; research opportunities (TBC)
  • Application of remote sensing to management of industrial wood plantations
  • Information and technology needs of smaller scale tree growers
  • Role of forest research networks in Africa
  • Forestry education and training to support a changing forest sector
  • Public-private partnerships for building a research foundation
The event will also provide a valuable information sharing and networking forum and an excellent opportunity for international and national participants to engage in dialogue in support of growing collaboration and partnerships.
DATE: Friday, 4 September 2015
VENUE: International Convention Centre, Durban
All are welcome, and delegates can register and find further details online.
Please assist the ICFR by passing this information on to any contacts or colleagues around the world who may be interested in attending.
For any queries or comments please contact Sally Upfold.

Alumnus Events - Australia & New Zealand

Perth Alumnus Event
For the many alumni of the University of Natal and the later University of KwaZulu-Natal who have immigrated to Australia, the Alumni Relations office at UKZN is offering the chance for Australian alumni and friends to gather to meet the University's new Vice-Chancellor & Principal, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, and reminisce about times at the University.

There will be two alumnus events held, one in Perth and one in Sydney, on the 10th and 12th of August 2015 respectively. Drinks and canapes will be served at both events.

Event details are as follows:

Perth Alumnus & Friend Event
Monday 10th August 2015
18h00 for 18h30
Mantra on Murray, 305 Murray Street, Perth

Sydney Alumnus & Friend Event
Wednesday 12th August 2015
18h00 for 18h30
The Terrace Room, The Oaks Hotel, 118 Military Road, Neutral Bay, Sydney

Seating is limited, early booking is advised. Cost of each event is $20 per person. RSVP to Ruth Thornton before Monday the 3rd of August.
There will be an alumnus event held in Auckland, New Zealand, on the 14th of August 2015. Drinks and canapes will be served at the event.

Event details are as follows:

Auckland Alumnus & Friend Event
Friday 14th August 2015
18h00 for 18h30
The Spencer on Byron Hotel, Takapuna Beach

Seating is limited, early booking is advised. Cost of the event is $20 per person. RSVP to Ruth Thornton before Monday the 3rd of August.

In memoriam - Dr Dieter Reusch

Dieter Reusch was born to Pastor Willie Reusch and his wife Agnes nee Dieterich in Glencoe, Northern Natal on the 14th of September 1929. He had 2 older brothers, Werner and Martin. He was christened and confirmed by his father at the Lutheran church in Uelzen.

As a young child he was already helpful delivering church notices, sometimes by bicycle, to the farmers.

From being a mischievous young boy at Uelzen Primary, he matriculated at Dundee High School.

He then studied at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, where he qualified Cum Laudewith a BSc Degree in Genetics and Plant Breeding.

In 1953 he was awarded a Scholarship to study at Aberystwyth University in Wales. He travelled there by ship. In Wales he attained his Doctorate in Plant Breeding in 1956.

After working in Cedara for a few years, he spent five years as a maize breeder in Lichtenburg in the Northern Transvaal.

He was then appointed as Senior Lecturer and Researcher in Agricultural Genetics at the then University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg. He was a popular Lecturer, though also known for his strict discipline. Barefooted and noisy students would be sent out. He was ambidextrous - he would use his left hand to write on the left side of the blackboard, and then continue the notes on the right with his right hand. He could spin around and accurately target a disruptive student with a piece of chalk.

Following his retirement in 1990, he consulted at Cedara, and became involved in the breeding and development of new varieties of foraging grasses, some of which were named after his grandchildren. At Cedara he also mentored and inspired young researchers. These proved to be some of his happiest working years.

Dieter married his childhood sweetheart, Rosemarie Schroeder in 1957. The marriage was blessed with three daughters, Karin, Ingrid and Gisela. He was a devoted husband and father. He was also particularly proud of his four grandsons Gareth, Matthew, Daniel and Luke, and also of his two granddaughters Alex and Jenna.

Even beyond work, Dieter was a man of the earth. He loved gardening and planting. He nurtured his children with the vegetables and fruits from his garden in Scottsville. In place of insects fertilizing the delicious pawpaws, he personally brushed on the pollen at night.

When Dieter and Rosemarie moved to Montrose, he planted up a semiforest of indigenous trees in front of the complex, creating a beautiful park, for which he was recognised with a conservancy award.

Every week he physically mowed the grass of the steep hectare-sized park, until he had a stroke at the age of 82.

He loved the birds, which his plants attracted. The undulating flight of the Drongo birds, which he’d trained to catch morsels of cheese in midflight, was a delight to watch.

Woodwork was his passion and the homes of his children were filled with the beautiful furniture and mirrors he made. He generously loved to give these to friends and family. He made painting easels and miniature ovens for his grandchildren.

Dieter had a great sense of humour, and was full of fun. He enjoyed his beers and braais. The fresh fish he caught and fried for breakfasts were delicious. Family music evenings became more festive when he accompanied songs on his mouth organ – a favourite beingMuss i denn muss i denn zum Staedele hinaus ….. He was a friend to those in need.

Dieter loved the congregation and community at large and found much joy in helping others who were in need and was a committed man of God. He served the Kirchdorf and Pietermaritzburg Church communities as an Elder for many years. He and Rosemary regularly visited the sick and needy. His daughters were sometimes amused and impressed about how heartily he would sing the hymns. With pride and joy he helped design and build a Church Altar, and planted the white roses along the path in the gardens.

Dieter was ready to meet his Maker. Significantly, he died on the eve of his 58th wedding anniversary on the 28th of May 2015. All these years Dieter and Rosemary had supported each other in sickness and in health. On the previous Sunday, when the Carers at Amberfield Frail Care carried him to the front, to hear the uplifting songs of this Church’s Choir, Dieter asked Rosemarie in sincere belief, “Am I in Heaven?”

The family would like to sincerely thank the congregation, friends and the Amberfield carers for the all the care and support that Dieter and Rosemarie received.

Compiled by: Gisela Rushmere

In memoriam - Ms Ingrid F. Schlosser

Ingrid Schlosser worked as a technical assistant to Dr M.A. Loos in Microbiology at NARI (Natal Agricultural Research Institute) from 1967-1973, at the regional headquarters, located in the Rabie Saunders (Faculty of Agriculture) building at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg. She then left to complete her B.Sc studies and in 1974, passed all the 300 level, Plant Pathology major courses and graduated in 1975.

In July 1975, she rejoined the University staff in Microbiology, as a technician and also worked part-time preparing practical classes in Genetics for a short time. She later transferred to Plant Pathology and remained in this post until 1994 when she was promoted to Senior Technician, a position she held until her retirement in 2005.

Ingrid was an excellent technician and had a broad knowledge of biological disciplines so was therefore a highly-valued member of staff. She was meticulous in her approach to the preparation of practical classes and maintained the Departmental culture collections in an immaculate condition. She was ultra-reliable, very loyal and friendly towards colleagues and patient to a fault with students.

She was a long-time member of the Campus Women’s Group and served on the Committee for some time. She was very musical and enjoyed singing, where she was a valued member, first of the Pietermaritzburg Philharmonic Society choir and later of the Pietermaritzburg Amateur Music Society (PAMS) only leaving the latter in 2010 due to ill-health. She finally succumbed to cancer on 23 May 2015 after a brave fight.

Compiled by: Professor Mike Wallis

Citrus Academy Bursaries

Citrus Academy bursary applications opened on the 1st of June for students in Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Management, Plant Production, Plant Pathology, Entomology, Horticulture & Soil Science.

Bursaries are only provided for students after their first year of tertiary study, and students who have received Citrus Academy bursaries need to apply again each subsequent year. If you plan on doing postgraduate study, please remember that research funded by these bursaries has to be citrus-related and you have to have a research topic in mind before you apply.

Applications must be done online.

Applications for the 2016 academic year close on the 30th of September 2015.

DAFF Bursaries

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries intends to award comprehensive bursaries to qualifying applicants pursuing and/or intending to further their studies in critical scarce skills in agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors for the 2016 academic year. The bursary will cover tuition, accommodation, books, meals and monthly allowance. The bursary awards target the previously disadvantaged and impoverished persons from poverty-stricken and rural communities.

Applicants must be South African citizens.
Applicants must complete the relevant bursary application forms available from the website.
Successful candidates will be informed from 20 January 2016 after the National Bursary Committee has finalised the selection process. If you do not hear from them by the end of January 2016, consider your application as unsuccessful.
All completed bursary application forms together with certified copies of ID and certificates/performance results should be sent to the following address:
Directorate: Sector Education and Training
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Private Bag X250
Pretoria 0001

Applications close on the 30th of September 2015.

UKZN Extended Learning Short Courses

UKZN's Extended Learning Office has a number of management & business related short courses on offer currently. If you would like to see which courses would suit your interests, please visit their portfolio or contact them to get more information.

Women & Agricultural Biodiversity - Photo Contest

Bioversity International and partners invite you to participate in a photo contest to celebrate women feeding the world through agricultural biodiversity. The prize is a digital SLR camera.

To enter, take a photo of a woman farming, your mother proudly displaying her latest dish, or an inspiring woman that is doing agricultural research in the field.

Tell us her story: is she cooking a traditional dish? Is she bringing products to the market and feeding her family with the income she earns from there? How is she contributing to the community and the landscape she is a part of? How is she dealing with climate change or what have you learned from her that you are going to pass on to your children and community?

The contest is open to everyone. Submissions must follow the guidelines stipulated on Bioversity International's website.

Submissions close on the 22nd of July 2015.

We look forward to seeing you at our Networking Function.

Kind regards,

Christine Cuénod
Networking Facilitator
033 260 6557
083 314 3317

on behalf of

Duncan Stewart
Committee Chairman
082 491 1912
Copyright © 2015 Friends of UKZN Agriculture, All rights reserved. 

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