Newsletter March - April 2016
Friends of UKZN Agriculture | March - April 2016
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06 May 2016
Hello friends and alumni

The past couple of months have been jam-packed at Agric, especially with graduations taking place.

We've had visits from alumni who've made their mark, and trips to see farmers and alumni that have been great for students. There have been film screenings, awards ceremonies, public lectures, and lots more.

The most exciting items on our calendar are the upcoming Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium and our sixth annual Friends of UKZN Agriculture Networking Function, which will coincide with this event this month. We look forward to seeing many of you at these events.

Friends of UKZN Agriculture Networking Function

With the generous support of the Howard Davis Farm Trust in Jersey, we are excited to bring you the sixth installment of our annual Networking Function, where alumni, agribusiness and friends of UKZN gather to catch up, reminisce, discuss issues pertinent to the agricultural sector, and review the strides made by our association over the past year. This event has been linked to the Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium, taking place at the Ukulinga Research Farm on the 24th and 25th of May.
Richard Eckard
This year, we look forward to welcoming alumnus Professor Richard Eckard, Director of the Primary Industries Challenges Centre in Melbourne, Australia, to our event. Richard completed his PhD at the then-University of Natal in 1994, and his specialities are in greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, nitrogen cycling in intensive pasture systems, and whole farm systems modelling of livestock production systems. Richard has been at the University of Melbourne in Australia since the late 90's.
Richard will present a keynote address at the Function, and will be joined by Professor Emeritus Roland Schulze, one of the country's leading experts on climate change, who will provide a local perspective on the broad topic of climate and agriculture.

Schulze has in recent years been voted South Africa's top water researcher, and has spent the past 40 years of his life dedicated to water research at UKZN.
This event will be held at the Imperial Hotel, 224 Jabu Ndlovu St, Pietermaritzburg, on Tuesday the 24th of May, at 18:30 for 19:00. Dress code is smart casual, and there will be a cash bar available. The cost of the dinner event is R200pp. Table bookings may be made at R1800 a table.

Please RSVP to Christine on by the 13th of May.
Howard Davis Farm Trust


University of Natal Alumna Delivers Seminar at SAEES

Dr Smith visit
From left: Dr Nasreldin Basha, Prof Michael Chimonyo, Prof Ignatius Nsahlai and Dr Alexandra Smith

The discipline of Animal and Poultry Science recently hosted Dr Alexandra H. Smith from Agro BioSciences Inc., a research company based in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, United States of America. Dr Smith graduated with a MSc cum laude (Microbiology) at the former University of Natal in 1995, and went on to obtain a PhD (Intestinal Microbiology) in the USA. Her passion lies in exploring the use of microbes to enhance production of livestock.

Dr Smith held a seminar at SAEES on Thursday 25th February 2016. Her theme was: 'Microbial Ecology and its important role in promoting gut health in animals'. Major highlights of her presentation included fascinating results of how live (viable) microbial species such as Lactobacillus plantarum enhance immune development and function, play a role in microbial homeostasis and nutrient processing in the guts of broiler chickens. In an era where use of antibiotics in meat production is being discouraged, use of naturally occurring gut microbiota may have a viable application in the livestock production industry, especially in South Africa.

In an effort to be part of the good cause of maintaining a 'green environment', researchers at AgroBioSciences Inc. have developed products made of live microbes (probiotics) that contain Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis and enzymes for the decomposition of stored dairy waste to enhance crust, solids and unpleasant odour reduction.

Her presentation opened new avenues for research to prospective postgraduate sudents in animal science. The seminar was attended by Prof M Chimonyo, Prof I Nsahlai, Mrs A Botha (Ukulinga Farm), postdoc, postgraduate students and final year Animal & Poultry Science students. After the presentation, the group toured Ukulinga Research Farm to explore possibilities of establishing collaboration between UKZN and AgroBiosciences. Their main focus is to test their products under the South African dietary and climate conditions.

Dr Smith also enjoyed mingling with final year students and sharing with them their seminar topics and their ideas on future research. On the way to Ukulinga, the group was confronted by protesting students. After passing through them, she remarked 'The students are still active and interested in more than just their own potential, but are concerned about the greater social context.'

Royal Society Lecturer Addresses the Management of Beaches

Dr Luciana Esteves of the University of Bournemouth in the United Kingdom recently visited the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a guest of the Royal Society of South Africa to present a guest lecture entitled ‘No beaches for our children? – How to adapt to the future’.

Esteves is principal academic in physical geography at her institution, and is a leading expert in coastal management, particularly coastal erosion and flood risk management. Her recent work concerns the long-term sustainability of managed realignment and other adaptation alternatives to reduce flooding and erosion risk to people, property and the economy.

According to Esteves, increased development of coastal areas to support a burgeoning population’s recreational and socio-economic activities, coupled with extreme weather events and climate change projections, present greater risks to people living in coastal areas as flooding and erosion events are on the rise.

Her visit to KwaZulu-Natal was hosted by the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) and the Royal Society of South Africa (RSSA), and Professor Trevor Hill of the discipline of Geography facilitated the Royal Society Lecture at UKZN. The lecture was well-attended by staff and students, who responded enthusiastically to the presentation. Her visit to South Africa was funded through the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) UK / South Africa Researcher Links Grant.

Her advice to those in attendance was for custodians of coastlines to avoid taking decisions that increase vulnerabilities of these areas rather than promoting resilience.

‘Conservation or restoration of natural assets is the best management option,’ said Esteves, ‘to not do so is to incur huge risk, not just in the future, but now.’

Esteve’s visit included meeting with officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in Durban, discussing the state of Durban’s beaches and how to ensure their sustainability. She was also a passenger on a light aircraft flight up the KwaZulu-Natal coast to observe the coastline and its conservation and development.

Agricultural Extension student elected ambassador of REJEUFEA network

Mr Nkosinathi Nkosi, who graduated this year from the Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management (AERRM) discipline in UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) was selected to be an ambassador of the Benin-based Youth and Women in Agricultural Entrepreneurship Network (RÉJEUFEA). Nkosi is the only South African of the nineteen ambassadors.

RÉJEUFEA promotes entrepreneurship in agriculture, empowering youth and women to ensure financial independence, achieve food security, develop rural areas, and strengthen the agricultural sector. It aims to increase the number of female agripreneurs and farms operating in rural communities, promote youth leadership, and raise awareness of opportunities.

Nkosi applied on invitation from the Centre for Coordination of Agriculture Research and Development and Extension of Southern Africa (CCARDESA) when volunteering at the CCARDESA Youth in Agriculture summit in 2015.

As ambassador, Nkosi will recruit South African members and establish local agripreneurs, produce a monthly video discussing agricultural development and news in South Africa, and run a virtual event once a quarter encouraging young people and women to opt for agribusiness. He will blog regularly for RÉJEUFEA, help organise RÉJEUFEA’s annual conference, host regional activities, participate in international events, and engage young Africans in discussions on agriculture.

Nkosi is passionate about seeing young people’s lives transformed through participation in the sector. He is CEO of the Agri-Groomers group, a platform to equip youth for careers in agriculture run by UKZN and Cedara College of Agriculture students. He also runs the Ebukhosini Agritourism company, and the Rural Wealth Creators advisory service.

Nkosi credited his family, particularly his grandfather, for his success, and acknowledged the vital support of staff at Cedara, his pastor, and his Agri-Groomers colleagues.

Should funds allow, Nkosi plans to pursue his Honours at UKZN, or enrol in an online Masters programme in Global Management through the University of Salford in the United Kingdom.

Dietetics Professor Contributes to Capacity-Building for Nutrition in DRC

DRC Visit
Professor Frederick Veldman of Dietetics and Human Nutrition in UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) recently travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the five-year GROWNUT project with the University of Bergen’s Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development (NORHED) and the University of Kinshasa (UniKin).

GROWNUT began in 2013 to build capacity in UniKin’s School of Public Health through Masters and PhD programmes in nutritional epidemiology, train staff members, and conduct research. Veldman helps develop curricula and teaching materials, and teaches and supervises students.

Veldman, Professor Anne Hatløy of NORHED, Professor Mala Mapatano of UniKin, and research assistant Mr Andre du Toit visited to lend moral support, supervise interns, lecture, and introduce FoodFinder3 dietary intake analysis software sponsored by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). The visit included meeting with the DRC’s Director of the National Institute of Nutrition (PRONANUT), Professor J.P. Banea.

Veldman visited UniKin and students (all medical doctors specialising in public health) doing their 3-month internship in the 12 000-strong, impoverished rural town of Popokabaka 450 kilometres outside Kinshasa. Assessments are focused on vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women. Malnutrition is widespread; almost half those observed suffer from growth stunting and almost 1 in 10 show signs of wasting. Obesity is rare.

‘There is a shortage of health data for Popokabaka, which will hopefully be improved through GROWNUT,’ said Veldman.

Living quarters have no running water or electricity, with limited solar power. Subsistence farming and fishing yield a diet dominated by green leaves, starches cassava, amadumbe-like sweet potatoes and maize staple fufu, and little meat. Food choices remain conservative; Veldman noted the potential of the tropical area for more diverse cultivation.

Alumnus Hosts Field Trip

Virginia Farm group photo
Lecturer & farmer
sugar cane

This month, the Plant Pathology Honours class paid a visit to Virginia Farm in Eston thanks to the very generous offer from alumnus Mr Pete Stainbank to host us for the first time.

The group was shown a really interesting video giving an overview of the cane industry, produced by the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI), and discussed some of the realities, challenges and rewards of farming with Pete, before proceeding to the field to check out the sugar cane, looking specifically at pests and diseases. The group met up in the field with the farm's pest and disease team, who identified some Eldana borer for the group to see (fortunately the pest isn't causing too much of a problem there at this stage).

Pete also spoke about the farm maintaining its natural surrounds, the introduction of Nguni cattle, and branching out into agritourism to diversify its operations.

The students thoroughly enjoyed the chance to get out into the field, and benefited enormously from the experience of putting their studies into practice.

(Incidentally, if any other alumni on farms out there have pests/diseases they'd like this group to look at, they come with the incentive that every time they go on a field trip it tends to rain; we can't promise anything, but the night after this trip, 120mm of rain fell).

Thanks for having us Pete and for laying on tea, coffee, banana bread (yum!) and drinks. You're a legend!

Graduation Stories

Harmful Effects of Polluted Air on Young Children Assessed in Doctoral Thesis

A PhD degree in Environmental Science was awarded to Dr Siphiwe Gumede for his research on the potentially harmful effects suffered by young children who breathe in polluted air. 

Gumede’s study is the first to focus on the effects on the respiratory health of children

aged between six and 12 who live within a 2km radius of Durban’s Bisasar Road landfill site, which is one of the biggest in Africa. 

‘I was interested in hearing the voices of the community which experiences the impact of the landfill site on a daily basis; voices of the sufferers which are often unheard,’ said Gumede. 

His interest in promoting social justice led him to do research among the most vulnerable in this community, the children who are susceptible to suffering as a result of particulate matter from the landfill. 

Gumede’s research revealed that in homes where fine particle concentration was high, most children reported respiratory health symptoms. Proximity to the landfill site placed children at greater risk of respiratory health conditions from wheezing and asthma to more serious conditions. 

This research re-emphasises the importance of establishing landfill sites away from communities to avoid negative repercussions. 

Gumede, who is Deputy Director and Senior Researcher of the Teaching and Learning Development Centre (TLDC) of the Mangosuthu University of Technology in Durban, completed his PhD part-time. 

He began his academic career with a National Diploma in Environmental Health, then later did a BTech, continuing to his master’s degree and PhD studies, which he believes are imperative for anyone considering work in academia. 

With his PhD complete, Gumede plans to write further articles for scientific journals and to do conference presentations, while continuing to promote justice. 

His supervisor, Professor Mike Savage of UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, commended Gumede for the enormous effort he put into gathering and analysing as much information as possible to assess air quality and human health. 

Gumede thanked his family and Professor Savage for their support.

UKZN Geologist Skips Straight to PhD

Dr Lauren Hoyer graduated with her PhD in Geology after her Master’s degree research was upgraded.

Her thesis was titled: “Rock Fabric of Karoo Dolerite Sills along the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, South Africa: Implications for the Magma Source”.

Hoyer currently teaches Structural Geology at UKZN, where she completed her undergraduate and honours studies.

She described the institution as being the ideal environment for her academic growth, thanks to its proximity to her research field area. Having started her master’s studies in 2010, her project grew to a much larger study than originally envisioned, allowing Hoyer to expand her work to a doctoral study with better-defined constraints.

For her PhD, Hoyer investigated the origin of basaltic melts in the form of horizontal intrusions (sills) that intrude into rocks along the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast. By analysing these structures, Hoyer concluded that there were two distinct generations of sills that formed by different intrusive mechanisms, with the intruding magmas possibly originating from separate mantle-melting geological events.

Hoyer’s fascination with earth sciences began in the stars, her early love of astronomy leading her to look for a more tangible science closer to home. This led her to Geology, which has taught her how the solar system formed, the dynamics of the planets and the constant geological processes occurring on Earth.

A passion for academia has been instilled in Hoyer, who hopes to attain a full-time position at a South African university. Interaction with eager students, who she advises to work hard and cultivate a hunger for knowledge, is one of the highlights of working in tertiary education for Hoyer.

Hoyer credited her husband, also a Geologist, for his invaluable support and understanding in the pursuit of her PhD.

A Distinguished Teacher and a Dean

Dean and Head of the School of the Agricultural, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Professor Albert Thembinkosi Modi, received a Distinguished Teachers' Award for 2015 – only the second UKZN Dean to have received the honour!

Nominated by students, Modi is able to balance the responsibilities of his role with his passion for teaching. The award is

conferred for outstanding teaching demonstrating effective learning outcomes, community engagement, curriculum development, and the translation of practice into scholarship. 

Modi is a Crop Scientist, championing sustainable agriculture and the value of indigenous knowledge in informing scientific research. A graduate of the University of Fort Hare, he received his Master’s from the then University of Natal and was a Fulbright Scholar at Ohio State University in the United States for his PhD. Before joining the University of Natal in 1996, he was provincial agronomist for PHI-Hibred International. 

Modi said receiving the award was encouragement to continue leading by example. He makes time for students during and outside of lectures, guiding them graciously without patronising them as they encounter challenging concepts. 

‘I encourage student participation,’ said Modi, ‘and spend extra time preparing and updating material every year.’ 

He takes an interest in the lives of struggling students to give them special academic advice and direct them to counselling. 

His positive approach is informed by his belief that people have the unique ability to take command of and shape their destinies, a philosophy that helps him place confidence in his students’ capabilities. 

He has led numerous research projects, and helped establish the Ezemvelo Farmers Organisation and the Moses Kotane Institute for Science and Technology. He is a Senior Fellow of GreenMatter, Honorary Fellow of the Mangosuthu University of Technology, and Chairman of the South African Agricultural and Life Sciences Deans Association (SAALSDA). 

He is also a member of the South African National Seed Organisation (SANSOR), and sat on the Academy of Science of South Africa’s (ASSAf) Agricultural Education and Training Consensus Study panel in 2014. He is Fellow and past President of the South African Society of Crop Production (SASCP). 

Modi has published more than 70 peer-reviewed journal publications, conference proceedings and book chapters, as well as popular science articles. He has supervised 10 PhDs and more than 30 Master’s graduates. 

A C-rated NRF researcher, he has received several awards from organisations including the New York Academy of Sciences, the Third World Academy of Sciences, the NSTF-BHP Billiton Awards, the National Research Foundation (NRF), Agricultural Writers South Africa, and the Water Research Commission (WRC). 

Human Hair – the Next Fertiliser?

Ms Ntwanano Moirah Malepfane graduated cum laude with a masters in Soil Science degree from UKZN after conducting a study on the elemental composition and fertiliser value of different human hair types in South Africa.

Malepfane decided on the topic because of

the need for alternatives to expensivecommercial fertilisers and says human hair could act as a potential alternative source of nutrients, and its use could be an effective waste management strategy. 

Supervised by Professor Pardon Muchaonyerwa, Malepfane used samples of hair from African, Indian and White people. Malepfane analysed the hair types for the presence of micronutrients, heavy metals, and various macronutrients, including nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus and potassium. 

She also carried out an incubation experiment to determine the release patterns of various elements. 

A pot study was conducted, evaluating the effect of pre-incubation time and hair type on crop yield and nutrient uptake. This revealed that, with a minimum pre-incubation time of 28 days, human hair could swiftly release enough nitrogen for growing spinach. 

Effects of hair type were more evident at shorter pre-incubation times - hair from Africans resulted in greater dry-matter and nitrogen and sulphur uptake than hair from Whites. 

Results indicated that hair from Indians and Whites exhibited higher nitrogen levels than hair from Africans, with hair from Indians releasing more nitrogen in the incubation study. 

‘This research was inspired by a growing interest in recycling waste keratin materials high in nitrogen and sulphur,’ explained Malepfane. 

Despite the advantages of this research, funding for the project was not forthcoming. Malepfane also had to combat superstitions about her subject matter, with some people believing that giving away their hair could result in it being used in black magic. 

Malepfane, who enjoyed exploring and understanding suitability and management of soils in her studies, plans to continue with a PhD. 

She expressed gratitude to God and her family for the encouragement and support she received during her studies.

ACCI Graduates Build Capacity in Africa

UKZN’s African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) on the Pietermaritzburg campus produced a bumper crop of doctoral candidates with eleven receiving PhDs for their Plant Breeding research.

Each of the graduates, all from African countries, focused on developing new

varieties of the crops they had studied and, thanks to the ACCI’s doctoral training programme, were equipped with skills they needed to investigate crops and improve on their resilience in their home countries. 

This study direction of the ACCI allows students to improve crops for an African environment in order to contribute towards improved food security. 

The graduates all spoke highly of the ACCI training programme, describing how the initial coursework element, undertaken at UKZN before they began fieldwork in their home countries, enabled them to approach their research with the necessary tools to complete their degree successfully. 

Dr Fekadu Balcha received his PhD for research on the breeding of sweet potato for improvement of root dry matter and beta-carotene contents in Ethiopia. His work is aimed at combatting widespread Vitamin A deficiencies in Ethiopia and other countries by developing sweet potato clones with high vitamin and mineral levels, and increased proteins and soluble sugars. 

Dr Hirut Betaw’s research was focused on genetic analyses of drought tolerance and resistance to late blight among potato genotypes, in response to drought and blight affecting productivity of potato in Ethiopia. Promising experimental potato clones were developed in this study. 

Dr Ermias Desta’s work involved the pre-breeding of tef, the most widely-grown, gluten-free cereal crop in Ethiopia, for tolerance to aluminium toxicity, the first study of its kind. Desta developed a hydroponic facility to assess for aluminium tolerance.

South African Dr Alina Mofokeng conducted an extensive diversity analysis of South African sorghum genotypes using agronomic traits, sequence markers and protein content, and amino acid composition. Sorghum genetic resources in South Africa have not previously been fully characterised for breeding or strategic conservation. 

Dr Quaqua Mulbah of Liberia examined integrating genetic resistance with biocontrol against rice blast and drought, having to overcome tremendous challenges in the achievement of his degree. He developed new, high yielding rice genotypes with durable resistance to rice blast and tolerance to drought. 

Dr Stephan Ngailo’s PhD was awarded for research on breeding sweet potato for improved yield and related traits, and resistance to disease in Eastern Tanzania. This staple crop is severely affected by the sweet potato virus disease, causing significant yield losses. 

Dr Placide Rukundo undertook his PhD study on the breeding of sweet potato for drought tolerance and high dry matter content in Rwanda, to contribute to combatting yield losses. The selected clones are novel genetic resources that could one day be released as new cultivars. 

Dr Rose Mongi received her PhD for breeding for resistance against angular leaf spot disease of common bean in the southern highlands of Tanzania, developing resistant and high-yielding common breeding populations. 

Dr Nathan Phiri conducted his PhD research on genetic analysis of common bean genotypes for tolerance to drought and heat stress in Zambia. He used participatory rural appraisal studies to identify farmers' preferences, and identified drought-and heat-tolerant agronomic phenotypes. 

Dr Ruth Musila analysed rice germplasm for drought tolerance and yield stability in Kenya, working on one of Kenya’s main staple crops. 

Dr Batiseba Tembo’s research involved breeding investigations and validation of molecular markers linked with spot blotch disease resistance in wheat germplasm for the rain-fed conditions of Zambia.

Research Technician Proves his Mettle

For the past eight years, Mr Nkosinathi Kaptein has worked as a Research Technician at the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus - this week he graduated with an MSc (Agric) degree in Agrometeorology

His thesis, titled: “Irrigation Control System with a Web-Based Interface for the Management of Eucalyptus Planting Stock”, investigated the effectiveness of an automated irrigation system in an air temperature controlled greenhouse. 

Kaptein was supervised by UKZN’s Professor Michael Savage and Dr Marnie Light (UKZN/ICFR).  

‘Nkosinathi is currently the only Research Technician at the ICFR to have obtained an MSc degree,’ said Light. 

‘Whilst working at the ICFR, Nkosinathi undertook a part-time BSc degree through UNISA,’ explained Light, ‘This was followed by a part-time BSc Honours in Agrometeorology at UKZN, which he was awarded in 2014. The aptitude he demonstrated while doing his Honours led him to undertake a master’s degree. 

‘For the duration of his study, he was a full-time employee and much of the preparation of his dissertation was carried out in his own time,’ said Light. 

As part of Kaptein’s master’s research, small dielectric soil water content sensors were laboratory calibrated against the gravimetric method using coir/pine-bark/vermiculite media mix.  The system was tested in containers used for Eucalyptus seedling production for plantation forestry. 

‘This study showed that the automated irrigation system, based on measurements of media water content, can be used with success in scheduling irrigation for Eucalyptus seedlings, leading to potential savings in water usage,’ explained Light.  

Kaptein was awarded first prize for a poster presentation on the research he presented at the UKZN College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s 2015 Postgraduate Research Day. He also presented the findings of his research to forestry stakeholders at ICFR field days and the ICFR Annual Research Meeting.  

Kaptein aims to continue his studies and pursue a PhD in Agrometeorology. 

Exiled Army General, Street Seller and Graduate

From exiled army general to street seller to BSc graduate at UKZN – it’s been quite a journey for Mr George Ilangila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

After completing his first degree in the DRC in 1988, he joined the army and served as a general in his home country before being forced to flee to South Africa as a refugee during a time of conflict.

Before the commencement of his studies at UKZN, Ilangila worked as a security officer for Enforce Security Services in Durban. He then became a street vendor in Durban, selling sweets and chips.  

Determination and strong will, however, ensured that he made numerous enquiries about funding opportunities that would enable him to resume his studies. 

Ilangila registered for a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus and finally, thanks to a bursary from the Gift of the Givers, he was able to complete his degree successfully. 

Ilangila believes that it was his perseverance and strong faith that brought Gift of the Givers to his rescue. 

Readapting to study schedules and to new study methods and technologies, compounded by the language barrier (his previous studies had been in French), Ilangila found the first year of study torturous.   With the assistance and encouragement of the staff within the discipline of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, however, and with the support of Mr Aslam Safla of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, he managed to regain his confidence academically. 

Ilangila also drew his solace, strength and inspiration from members of the Carbis Road Jamat Khana.  

Ilangila is currently registered for a post-graduate Diploma in Community Nutrition.  ‘My undergraduate degree is not the end of the road,’ he said.  ‘I aspire to complete a PhD one day and perhaps remain in academia.’ 

Mastering Agriculture!

Two students received Master of Agriculture degrees in Agricultural Extension and Rural Resources Management at this week’s Graduation ceremonies, the first students since the Programme re-located to Cedara to complete five years of study without interruption.

The Programme, instituted in 2010, is run

jointly between Cedara College of Agriculture and UKZN, and is the first degree offered at Cedara alongside its diploma programmes. 

UKZN students are trained with diploma students through the Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management (AERRM) Discipline in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES). 

Mr Sithembiso Ndlela graduated cum laude for his Master’s case study on agricultural extension, sustainable livelihoods and self-reliance in Illovo’s small-scale sugarcane farmer development programme in Noodsberg. He was supervised by Professor Steve Worth. 

Ndlela described postgraduate studies as challenging but rewarding, saying determination, a passion for extension and a love of learning helped him achieve his cum laude distinction. He is a firm believer that he can determine his own destiny. 

‘I feel I am ready and confident enough to make a difference, with all the necessary skills and knowledge,’ said Ndlela.  ‘This programme has not only given me the capacity to be a good Extension Officer, but has changed how I view life and approach problems.’ 

Mr Nhlanganiso Sibisi received his Master’s degree for his case study of agricultural extension and post-settlement support of land reform beneficiaries in South Africa, focusing on Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal. He was supervised by Dr Karen Caister and Ms Simphiwe Mngomezulu-Dube. 

‘This programme sharpened and broadened my capabilities in agriculture. I found my lecturers professional and approachable,’ said Sibisi. ‘It is not difficult work to study, but requires sustained effort and commitment in order to complete it successfully.’ 

‘We are very proud of all of our graduates, but these two men have shown exceptional sacrifice and determination in achieving their goal,’ said Caister. 

MSc in Agriculture in Record Time

Nelson Mandela’s statement about education being the best weapon to use to change the world inspired MSc student Mr Lindah Hluyako to persevere with his postgraduate studies and complete his Master’s degree in Agriculture six months early. 

Hluyako, who grew up in a rural area in Mpumalanga, first completed a BTech at

Tshwane University of Technology. This made his pursuit of a Master’s degree in Agriculture all the more difficult as he was new to the research world and its methodologies.  

Getting accustomed to scientific writing as opposed to writing and presenting seminars, which is the main focus of a BTech, was very challenging for Hluyako. ‘Linking sentences and making them flow was a nightmare,’ he chuckled.

Being among accomplished researchers at UKZN, however, and with constant motivation from his supervisors, Dr Lembe Magwaza, Dr Alfred Odindo and Professor Paramu Mafongoya, Hluyako completed his degree within 18 months with an upper second class pass of more than 70%.

‘Lindah’s achievement is unusual and worthy of praise given that he did not come from a scientific background,' said Magwaza.

Hluyako received his Master’s degree in Agriculture (Crop Science) for his agronomic characterisation and evaluation of Pigeon pea landraces in KZN. 

‘My advice to young students is that they must push hard in their studies, no matter how difficult it is – stay focused and one day you will reap the rewards,’ said Hluyako.

We look forward to seeing you at our Networking Function later this month.

Kind regards,

Christine Cuénod
Networking Facilitator
033 260 6557
083 314 3317

on behalf of

Duncan Stewart
Committee Chairman
082 491 1912

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