Newsletter June 2017
Friends of UKZN Agriculture | Newsletter 2 2017
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15 June 2017

Hello Friends and Alumni

It's been a busy couple of months, with a few notable events taking place, including the 2nd Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium and our annual Networking Function.

We hope you enjoy reading about these events and about other news in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Have a lovely long weekend.

Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium

Food Security at UKZN

Watch the video introducing you to Food Security at UKZN above

Ukulinga Symposium banner
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) recently hosted the second annual Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium at its Ukulinga Research Farm in Pietermaritzburg. The event is a joint initiative between the institution and the Howard Davis Farm Trust
based in Jersey, with whom the university has a relationship stretching back to the 1930’s with the construction of Howard College. The multi-level Symposium was designed to honour the educational legacy of the late Howard Davis, killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916; this year the theme focused on Food Security and related issues.

The Symposium was first held in 2016, and is intended to bring together stakeholders from across the agricultural industry in KwaZulu-Natal, and the wider South African agricultural community, to showcase research carried out at Ukulinga to the scientific community, agribusiness sector, farming community and school children. The event also facilitates networking to explore mutually rewarding relationships between the university and the agribusiness sector, and essential practical skills and knowledge transfer to benefit emerging and current small-scale community-based farmers.
Ukulinga VIPs
From left: Professor Steve Worth, Dr Dickson Despommier, Mr Dirk Esterhuizen, Mr Emerson Wohlenberg, Dr Francisco Aragao, US Consul General Frances Chisholm, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath and Mr Rod Stevens (Howard Davis Farm Trust) at the Symposium.
Ukulinga delegates
Delegates visiting the McDonald's Seeds exhibit on the second day of the Symposium.
The more than 200 attendees included students, academics, scientists, small-scale farmers, commercial farmers, NGO representatives and more. Incorporating presenters and participants from across the university, it proved to be a multidisciplinary information-sharing gathering, with representation from the Schools of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) and Engineering, as well as from industry and NGOs.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, who noted UKZN’s considerable reputation for being a research-driven institution, opened the two-day event.
Keynote speakers at the event were Dr Dickson Despommier, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University, and Professor Ben Cousins, South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape.
Dickson Despommier
Ben cousins
Despommier is renowned for his contributions to urban agriculture and the concept of the vertical farm to combat food insecurity issues becoming more prevalent due to urbanisation, population growth and climate change. At the Symposium, he indicated that by 2030, Africa is expected to see urban growth of 590%, emphasizing that humanity needs to learn to live in harmony with nature as cities grow. He advocated for the creation of sustainable eco-cities to provide food security, restore degraded ecosystems, and make use of space effectively, recommending that agricultural universities, colleges and training centres incorporate an urban agriculture aspect to their instruction and research.

Cousins, with his experience in land reform research, spoke about commercialising from below in terms of smallholder farmers and land reform in South Africa, covering a brief history of land reform in the country. He detailed the challenges faced by smallholder farmers operating in a nation accustomed to industrial-scale agriculture, and offered a definition of a smallholder farmer as those who ‘use farm produce for home consumption to significant degree, and use family labour within farming operation to significant degree’. He gave examples of their challenges based on his extensive work in KwaZulu-Natal, and gave recommendations on how Agrarian reform for ‘accumulation from below’ could be applied.
The US Department of State’s Economic Bureau gave support to the event by bringing in two guest speakers from Brazil, Dr Francisco Aragão from Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, and Mr Emerson Wohlenberg from SLC Agricola, in support of the USA’s global efforts to advance biotechnology Their presentations gave insight into agricultural and biotechnology industries in Brazil.

Aragão and Wohlenberg were also able to meet with academics from UKZN’s discipline of Agricultural Economics and African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) to discuss common experiences and explore opportunities for further contact.
US Consul General
The US Consul General, Frances Chisholm, spoke warmly at the event of the strong and growing partnership between the USA and South Africa in strengthening the skills and productivity of rural farmers. She detailed partnerships and programmes like the Cochran Fellowship and the Fulbright Specialist Programme that have contributed
to the poultry industry in KwaZulu-Natal. Chisholm advocated for the use of innovation in the search for solutions to food insecurity, specifically through the adoption of biotechnology.
Roland Schulze
Anne Stark
Other notable speakers at the event included Professor Roland Schulze, speaking about the Food-Water-Energy nexus under present and projected future climatic conditions, and SMRI Sugarcane Biorefinery Research Chair Professor Anne Stark speaking about making fuels, chemicals and materials from biomass as an opportunity for the agricultural sector.

The Symposium explored more than just food in the theme of Food Security. This was achieved through the inclusion of presentations on a wide range of topics, including water use of indigenous crops, vulnerability assessments of households to food insecurity, an assessment of aquaponics system usage in South Africa, biocontrol, the development of low-cost technologies for small-scale farmers, agripreneurship, food safety considerations for market access, gender equality in land access and more.
Panel 1
Panel 2
The event included discussion panels at the end of each day, giving delegates the opportunity to engage with presenters and opening the event up to robust discussion and the sharing of ideas.
Steer Project
McDonalds Seeds
Delegates were exposed to practical elements of the farm, with a demonstration from the Animal Science steer project students on the first day and a visit to a site planted with crops by McDonald’s Seeds on the second day, as well as the opportunity to view Agricultural Engineering design projects.
Biowatch Exhibit
Exhibitors included Biowatch South Africa, the KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute, and the African Rural Wealth Creators Organisation (ARWCO), with the Future Farmers Foundation, Agri-Groomers and SciCorp Laboratories also presenting at the event.
Networking 5
Networking 1
Networking 2
Networking 3
Networking 4
The Friends of UKZN Agriculture annual Networking Function was also held as an ancillary event on the first night of the Symposium, giving agricultural alumni, Symposium delegates, UKZN staff and other friends of the institution the chance to meet over dinner.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal has again won Gold and the trophy for the best individual stand at the 2017 Royal Show South Africa.

Run in conjunction with the second Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium, the stand showcased research done within the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences in the fields of climate change and food security; as well as animal research in the School of Life Sciences.

Attractions included an innovative project being undertaken by UKZN Enactus students involving vertical farming and food security for university students; an interactive climate change model showing drought and flooding scenarios; work done by UKZN’s Farmer Support Group with small-scale farmers; specially designed ‘khukhu khayas’ (chicken homes); and an array of fascinating animals from the UKZN animal houses. Dr Tanja Reinhardt from the UKZN Science Centre was also on hand to wow the crowds with her interactive science shows.

Thanks is owed to all staff and students involved in this success.

News from the last few months

SAEES Lecturer Receives SSAG Centenary Award

Adrian Nel
Dr Adrian Nel in the discipline of Geography in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) has been awarded the Society of South African Geographers (SSAG) Centenary Award, designed to recognise and invest in emerging academics.
According to the SSAG, applications were of a very high standard, making the selection even more of an achievement. SSAG stated that the quality of applications bodes well for the future of the discipline of Geography in South Africa.
Nel, who has been at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) since June 2015, teaches courses on topics including human environments, urban and rural change, political ecology, research methods in Geography, and managing environmental conflict. He is also currently supervising three PhD, five Masters and three honours students in fields related to conservation, climate change governance, water and waste geographies. In addition, he runs the discipline’s social media and a seminar series called ‘Research Practice’ for colleagues and postgraduate students.
Before coming to UKZN, Nel completed his PhD in 2014, based on climate change mitigation initiatives in Uganda, through the University of Otago in New Zealand, receiving his degree with distinction as one of eight ‘exceptional’ theses conferred that year. He also held a Visiting Scholar position with the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, and a research associate position with the Institute for Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, while conducting post-doctoral research on the topic of rural livelihoods after the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP) in Matobo district of Matabeleland South.
His application for the Centenary Award centred on his work on a collaborative project entitled ‘Amandla neMvelo (Power and Nature): Natural resource governance and power in Kwazulu-Natal’. This research agenda involves the exploration of connections between Power and Nature, including power over nature and the nature of power. His major objective is exploring the changing roles and interrelationships of diverse authorities and actors in environmental governance across varying socio-ecological contexts in Kwazulu-Natal.
Nel has set up three initial case studies to launch this research agenda. The first investigates the involvement of the private sector, land claimants, traditional authorities and forest-adjacent communities in land reform on forestry areas around Richmond, and the second explores diverse water governance roles in the catchment management of the uMngeni River (as part of the uMngeni School of Water Governance). The third is a study of conservation governance and funding in the prospective Greater uMfolozi Biodiversity Economy Node (BEN); which includes private game reserves, community conservation areas, the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi National Park and the eMakhosini-Ophathe Heritage Park. The limited funding attached to the Centenary award has been designated to the fieldwork of the first and third components of this research.

UKZN Researchers Well Represented at World Water Day Celebrations in Durban

UKZN researchers were in action during World Water Day events held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban.

Featured was the launch of the 2017 World Water Development Report, making this year an international occasion.

The theme for the day was: “Wastewater: The Untapped Resource, with issues discussed including the rising population and resulting demand for water resources, causing accelerated degradation of water resources”.

Other highlights included the unveiling of the initiative of the United Nations/World Bank High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) on Access to Water and Sanitation for 10 Billion People, to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the adoption of the South African political declaration on World Water Day 2017.

UKZN has highly respected expertise in the area of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) - it boasts the dedicated research units of the Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR) and the Pollution Research Group (PRG). Additionally, numerous academics within the Schools of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental SciencesEngineering, and Built Environment and Development Studiescontribute knowledge and experience on topics including climate change, water quality monitoring, waste management, water governance, and hydrologic modelling.

Academics and researchers working in this field at UKZN maintain strong connections with groups including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Water Research Commission (WRC), and government and municipal officials.

UKZN academics did a variety of presentations. Professor Chris Buckley, Dr Rebecca Sindall, Dr Konstantina Velkushanova and Ms Preyan Arumugam-Nanoolal of the Pollution Research Group spoke in a session about Wastewater and Education, while Dr Joyce Chitja and Professor Edilegnaw Wale of SAEES addressed topics involving water and land use security for improved livelihoods and household food security for female farmers, and rural development challenges for irrigation.

Buckley also spoke on being at the forefront of municipal wastewater management, and Research Fellow Emeritus Professor Roland Schulze spoke on the topic of extreme events.

There was also a dedicated UKZN session on Water and Agriculture for Rural Livelihoods chaired by Professor Graham Jewitt. It included presentations by Chitja, Wale, Mr Richard Kunz, Dr Tafadzwa Mabhaudi, Dr Aidan Senzanje, Dr Alfred Odindo and Dr Terry Everson. UKZN also provided several student rapporteurs.

According to Jewitt, the sessions were well attended - not only by the usual audience of academics but also by government and municipal officials.

UKZN experts received positive feedback and many requests for more information, including from Members of Parliament on the Water and Sanitation Portfolio committee, officials from DWS and DAFF and other delegates.

UKZN Academic Wins Best Poster Award at Conference in India

A presentation by Professor Hussein Shimelis of the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) at UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), won the best poster award at an international drought conference in India.

The InterDrought [ID-V] Conference - the fifth in the series - was held in Hyderabad with the aim being to discuss and debate current issues for improving drought tolerance in crops.

Shimelis’s poster outlined his group’s research work on breeding wheat for drought tolerance. The project is being sponsored by the National Research Foundation through a competitive research grant.

His winning poster - one of 450 presented at the Conference - was titled: “Population Structure and Genome-Wide Marker-Trait Association of Key Agronomic Traits in Wheat Under Drought-Stressed and Non-Stressed Conditions”.

‘The event allowed me to interact with global scientists working on drought tolerance breeding,’ said Shimelis.

Drought associated with inadequate and poorly distributed rainfall remains the major constraint to agriculture impacting on food production and water supply.  The severity and frequent occurrence of drought have become global challenges requiring concerted research and policy to design, develop and deploy technologies to enhance agricultural productivity under drought stress conditions.

The Conference was co-ordinated by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India and the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA) in France.

The Conference featured 55 presentations in eight parallel workshops and 450 poster presentations on Abiotic Stress Tolerance in Cereals; Abiotic Stress Tolerance in Legumes; Tolerance to Heat Stress for Crop Improvement; Genetic Engineering for Abiotic Stress; Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) and Genomic Selection (GS) for Crop Improvement; Drought Stress and Aflatoxin Contamination in Crops; Precision Phenotyping for Improved Stress Tolerance, and Next Generation Genomics and Molecular Breeding Platforms.

Distinguished President and CEO of the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa, Dr Shadrack Moephuli, was one of the panelists in the Climate Smart Agriculture session.

Chief Scientist at the Bureau of Food Security US Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr Rob Bertram, delivered the inaugural address on Science to Reduce Risk in the Quest to End Hunger. He highlighted the initiatives of the Feed the Future Project to combat global hunger and poverty through lessons and technologies from America.

The main Conference ran for four days and included 23 invited and 26 contributory presentations by eminent scientists.  It was the largest Conference in the series of ID conferences attended by 942 participants from 55 countries. Thirty six countries from Africa were at the event.

The next conference ID-VI is scheduled to be held in 2021 in the United States.

Leena Rajpal

Dedication and Passion Pays Off for AES Teachers

Five academics from the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (AES), have been recognised for their passion and dedication towards educating and inspiring greatness in their students.

The academics, one from each School within the College, walked away winners at the Distinguished Teacher Awards Ceremony held at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus. The awards recognise excellence in teaching and learning.

Welcoming guests to the ceremony, Acting Dean of Teaching and Learning within the College, Professor Naven Chetty emphasised that teaching was just as important as research in the College.

Dr Lloyd Baiyegunhi from Agricultural Economics in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences was presented with his award by Professor Oni Mutanga.  He commended Baiyegunhi for his intense dedication to student learning and achievement, saying his ‘effect on students tends to be one of galvanisation.’

‘He is helpful, he always has an open door policy and an open mind for conversation. He befriends all of his students and is aware of their passion, concerns and problems. He genuinely cares about students as individuals and serves as a teacher, life mentor, inspiration as well as a friend,’ said Mutanga.

Agricultural Economics Students Society Hosts First Seminar

The Agricultural Economics Students Society (AESS) has hosted its first seminar which was themed: “Raising Graduates for the Job Market”.

UKZN alumnus Ms Zodwa Mazibuko, who is the Deputy Director of Agricultural Economics and Marketing at the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (KZNDARD), presented at the seminar.

Mazibuko completed her Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics at UKZN in 2006 and has since furthered her studies at various institutions, including UKZN.

Agricultural economics staff and undergraduate and postgraduate students heard Mazibuko give an overview of the agricultural sector from a public sector perspective as well as discuss the role of agricultural economists in KZNDARD and opportunities for agricultural graduates.

After the presentation, staff and students interacted with Mazibuko in discussions about future collaboration between UKZN’s Agricultural Economics discipline and the Agricultural Economists Forum (AEF) - a forum consisting of agricultural economists in KZNDARD and chaired by Mazibuko.

A postgraduate student suggested that a relationship be initiated between AESS and AEF, aimed at exposing students to work with agricultural economists do on a daily basis and the challenges they face - essentially a job shadowing programme.

Reacting, AESS Founder Mr Lungelo Cele, said: ‘This experience would help students focus their research projects on challenges faced by a majority of smallholder farmers in KwaZulu-Natal, enabling them to better align themselves to workplace standards.’

Mazibuko welcomed the proposal and suggested the partnership should be formalised, which is now expected to happen before the end of the year.

The Head of the Agricultural Economics discipline at UKZN, Professor Gerald Ortmann, congratulated the AESS executive committee for organising the seminar and thanked Mazibuko for sharing her knowledge with the students.

‘The seminar was a learning curve for me and I know that the information provided has helped me to be better prepared to work for the public sector in future,’ said student, Ms Kate Mashikinya.

* AESS aims to link students with workplace opportunities and to equip them with skills to start their own businesses. The initiative was started to help get a better understanding of students’ goals and aspirations in the agricultural sector, particularly in agricultural economics. AESS shares scholarships and job opportunities on its Facebook page, and organises seminars and annual competitions for students


Lungelo Cele

Cum Laude Masters Graduate Encourages Students to Persevere through Disadvantage

Mr Sabelo Shezi of the Discipline of Bioresources Engineering has received his Master’s Degree cum laude in Bioresources Systems - an achievement made all the more significant because of the challenges he had to overcome.

Shezi is originally from the rural KwaHlathi area near Ladysmith where subsistence farming is a widespread practice. With agriculture so dominant in his youth - his mother taught him to value what came out of the ground - he was inspired to study in the field of Agriculture.

Shezi did not meet the entry requirements for a BSc degree in Crop and Horticultural Sciences when he applied at UKZN so he did a BSc4 Foundation programme with the Centre for Science Access (CSA) with financial aid provided by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Shezi found that being from a background with very limited resources, the BSc4 Foundation helped him move from a situation of being disadvantaged to one he considered as privileged.

Shezi pushed hard to succeed, completing his undergraduate studies and going on to honours, during which time he received the Greytown Parish Lionel Ashfield Prize, awarded to the best and most practically oriented third or fourth year student in the Discipline of Horticultural Sciences.

His experience in Horticultural Sciences sparked an interest in post-harvest technology, leading him on to a master’s degree on the topic of the effects of the supply chain routes and pre-storage treatments on the post-harvest quality of stored Nemo-netta tomatoes. Supervised by Professor Tilahun Workneh, Shezi’s research was part of work on tomatoes linking ZZ2 to small-scale farmers in Limpopo. He said that the Bioresources Engineering staff and postgraduate Energy, Food and Water Engineering Research Groupprovided important constructive criticism for his study.

Shezi was inspired to undertake research that feeds directly into the industry and has practical implications. He is now registered for his PhD in Horticultural Sciences.

Shezi thanked Workneh for his invaluable support, and also lecturers Professor Isa Bertling and Dr Samson Tesfay for their belief in him and their support. He hopes that by sharing his experience, he will encourage students from similar backgrounds to persevere with their studies.

UKZN Academics Recognised as Top African Researchers on Africa Day

Professor Onisimo Mutanga, Acting Dean and Head of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) and Dr John Odindi, senior lecturer in Geography, were among the nominated best scientific contributors in Africa in a publication launched at a celebration of Africa Day by the Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor in Freedom Park in Pretoria.

Mutanga was recognised for his expertise in vegetation pattern and condition analysis in the face of global and land-use change using remote sensing. He integrates ecology, biodiversity conservation and remote sensing to model the impact of forest fragmentation, pests and diseases and invasive species on agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Odindi's general interest is in applied remote sensing with specific focus on vegetation and invasive plant species mapping, urban green and thermal ecology, climate change, and remote sensing applications in precision agriculture.

Matthews, Henry John Dawson BSc (Agric), 1951-1954
In memoriam: Oct 2016

John Matthews is seated in the front row, fourth from left, in this picture taken in 1952 during a Horticultural Science practical with the late Professor Peter Allan (seated on the far right as you look at the image)

John’s years at UKZN profoundly influenced his career as a prominent Eastern Cape farmer, organised agriculture leader and teacher.

He expressed deep fondness and pride of his alma mater; and his years there seemed to us to be supremely enjoyable and character defining. His stories of life at Oribi residence and the antics of student life punctuated our childhood storytelling. The friendships made from those years never faded.

The post-war years fuelled a faculty of innovative and inspiring academics who brought applied agricultural science into mainstream farming practice.

What struck us was how effortlessly he carried the extensive knowledge acquired as a student, throughout his working life.

His wisdom, humour and pragmatism were an inspiration to our community.

- Simon Matthews (son), (B.Ag.Mgt. 1983)

Take note of...


The 2017 Annual Conference of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA) will be hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal Branch from the 19th-21st September 2017 at the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani Hotel on Durban’s famous Golden Mile - the spectacular 6km long sandy beach and promenade that is amongst Durban’s main tourist attractions. The Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani is one of Durban’s landmark hotels and amongst its premier conferencing venues. Besides its extraordinary views of the Indian Ocean and fantastic beach access, it is also located in close proximity to other tourist attractions including Africa’s largest marine theme park, uShaka Marine World, as well the Suncoast Casino and the iconic Moses Mabida Stadium.

This theme of this year’s Conference is “ADDRESSING CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN AGRICULTURAL ECONOMY”. It invites us to explore the contributions of agricultural economists to addressing contemporary challenges in the sector. Sub-themes that will be addressed in plenary sessions of the Conference include;
 Land reform
 Employment in agriculture
 The future availability and use of water in agriculture
 Expansion of commercial agriculture and agribusiness

The Conference programme contains a stimulating mix of invited papers, contributed papers, panel discussions, mini-symposia, and a poster session. It is designed to appeal beyond academia to agricultural economists in the public and private sectors, farm managers and agribusiness practitioners. The social functions, including a cocktail party, a braai and a gala dinner, will provide ample opportunity for renewing old acquaintances, making new friends and networking.

Read more here for registration fees and details about how to submit papers.

Citrus Academy Bursary Fund

Citrus Academy

The Citrus Academy is tasked with addressing the challenges of – amongst others – scarce and critical skills supply, employment equity and transformation in the Southern African citrus industry. One of the ways in which we do this is by creating and maintaining a steady flow of educated and qualified young people into the industry; young people who are also excited about the industry and who are looking to forge long and happy careers in it.

Through the general section of the Bursary Fund – which we refer to as Tertiary Education Support – we award bursaries to students who are enrolled in post-school education at registered tertiary education institutions in South Africa, and who are studying in fields related to citrus production and research, such as Plant Production, Crop Production, Plant Pathology, Horticulture, Soil Science, Entomology, Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Management, Industrial Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Kind regards,
Christine Cuénod
Networking Facilitator
(w) +27 33 260 6557
(c) +27 83 314 3317
on behalf of
Duncan Stewart
Committee Chairman
(c) +27 82 491 1912


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