Newsletter May 2016
Friends of UKZN Agriculture | May 2016
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15th June 2016

May was one of our best months ever as Friends of UKZN Agriculture, with the Ukulinga Howard Davis Symposium becoming a milestone in our history and shining a light on the excellent research facility that is Ukulinga. We also hosted our 5th annual Networking Function, testament to the progress we are making as an association. To all who took part in these events, thank you for your much-appreciated support.


Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium

Albert van Jaarsveld
Rod Stevens

On the 24th and 25th of May, the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) hosted the inaugural Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium at the institution’s Ukulinga Research Farm in Pietermaritzburg.

The multi-level research and information-sharing Symposium focused on highlighting agriculture for our life and future, and was aimed at planning for sustainability through research, agribusiness and community outreach.

The event came about as an initiative of the Howard Davis Farm Trust and the UKZN Foundation to continue a legacy of relationship between the Howard Davis Farm Trust in Jersey and the University. The Trust was founded by TB Davis, a wealthy Durban-based stevedoring businessman in the early 20th century whose son Howard was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Over time, the Davis family has generously supported the University, most notably with the building of Howard College in Durban in 1931.

To honour the memory of Howard Davis on the centennial occasion of his death, the Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium took place, linking the Ukulinga Research Farm to the Howard Davis Farm in Jersey, which was purchased by TB Davis in 1927.

At the Symposium, Mr Roderick Stevens, representing the Howard Davis Farm Trust, said that then as now, agriculture was under stress in a post-war environment where agricultural land had been decimated. The Trust was created to benefit those who need it most, and those who are the custodians of the world’s food security. The Trust, he said, has created a family succession and lasting legacy for the Davises, and as part of the continuation of that legacy, he said the Trust was confident that hosting this Symposium was the right decision, and thanked the team who put it together.

In his opening of the Symposium, UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld said that the Symposium set out to explore, at all levels, the way science engages with society. He noted UKZN’s position as a University that is considerably transformed in many respects, not simply demographics, and that is ideally positioned as a top research institution on the continent.

‘There's nothing better in science than someone discovering something astonishing, and I hope something astonishing will come of this event,’ said van Jaarsveld.
Richard Eckard
A major emerging theme was that of climate and agriculture, with keynote speakers including eminent hydrologist and climate expert, Professor Emeritus Roland Schulze of UKZN, and Professor Richard Eckard, Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre in Australia (also an alumnus of the University).
US Consul General
US Consul General Ms Frances Chisholm was also in attendance, and in her keynote presentation, she focused on the development of the relationship in agriculture (which she called her favourite subject) between the USA and South Africa.

‘South Africa has a wonderful future, and has access to considerable support from the US,’ she said. ‘I am very optimistic about this country’s future.’
Roland Schulze
Presentations at the event ranged in their background, findings and applications. Keynote presenters Professor Roland Schulze and Professor Richard Eckard both shared perspectives on how to respond to climate change in the agricultural sector, based on extensive and detailed research in their careers.
Rob Gous
Emeritus professors Rob Gous and Nigel Wolstenholme shared their experience on the prolific and world-class Animal Science and Horticultural Science research carried out at Ukulinga, and Professor Rob Melis of the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) spoke about his 35-year journey of bean breeding on the farm.

Nigel Wolstenholme
Rob Melis

Kevin Kirkman
There was also a presentation from Professor Kevin Kirkman of Grassland Science at UKZN about the farm’s long-term mowing, burning and veld fertilisation trials, which have been running uninterrupted since 1950 and are set to continue indefinitely, providing important data to ecologists, farmers, conservationists and more.
Other staff presentations included exploration of work on biofuel crops, maize breeding projects, sustainable agriculture and community-based catchment management.
Postgraduate students were also able to present their work, with presentations ranging from irrigation project findings, mulching and fertilisation trials, and participatory evaluation of potato production in bags.
Sandy la Marque
Partners in the agricultural industry were also in attendance, and the event saw presentations from representatives from a number of important organisations, including Kwazulu-Natal agricultural union Kwanalu’s CEO Ms Sandy la Marque, general manager of the KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute (KZNPI) Ms Janet Lee, and Biowatch South Africa managers Ms Rose Williams and Mr Lawrence Mkhaliphi.

Janet Lee
Rose Williams

The event gave the opportunity for demonstrations in the field, and on the first day guests were treated to a show from UKZN’s Animal Science Steer Project, and on the second day to a demonstration of a tiller from Stihl.

Gogo Thusini
One of the most important aspects of the Symposium was its inclusion of attendees from all levels of society, from students to farmers to industry. On the second day of the Symposium, more than 90 small-scale farmers working with UKZN’s Farmer Support Group in areas like Bergville, Msinga and Swayimane were able to attend and engage with academics, students and industry.

Farmers EYako Bags
Farmers bean trials

Discussion panel
During the panel discussions, a postgraduate presenter, Ms Nomali Ngobese, said she felt honoured to be included in the Symposium, and said it was a privilege to present to farmers and not simply to other academic peers as students usually do, emphasising that this was science reaching those it was meant to.
Salim Karim
In his closing address on the first day of the event, Acting Vice-Chancellor of Research Professor Salim Karim said that for science and research to advance, new knowledge needs to be generated in the kinds of forums that this Symposium offered.

5th Annual Networking Function

Networking Function Group
As an ancillary event to the Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium, the Friends of UKZN Agriculture association held its fifth annual Networking Function at the Imperial Hotel in Pietermaritzburg, and it was a resounding success, and a wonderful evening of reconnecting with classmates, staff from UKZN, government representatives, and the industry at large.

We had Professor Roland Schulze and Professor Richard Eckard, keynote presenters at the Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium, join us to speak about climate and agriculture, and their experiences in their luminous careers.

Eckard described the firm grounding that his studies at the former University of Natal gave him for his career, saying that his education here was of a very competitive standard, both in terms of depth of coverage and breadth of education.
Eckard called it an honour to join fellow alumni, past colleagues and staff who had been key in shaping his career. He went on to use highlights from his research career as a narrative to show the journey from his education at UKZN to his position now as Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre in Melbourne, and to describe the pathway to his research on climate change, and to highlight the accountability agricultural scientists have to always consider their research in the farm systems context.
Schulze's presentation was entitled 'Whither the Weather or Whether We Wither', and gave thought-provoking insight on what we are observing in the climate scientifically and anecdotally, addressing projected impacts of climate change over South Africa in terms of the science behind it all.

The event was well-attended by UKZN staff members, alumni, government and agribusiness representatives.

UKZN Royal Show Stand Wins Gold and the Trophy for Best Customer Service

Royal Show

UKZN once again pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat at the annual Pietermaritzburg Royal Agricultural Show.  Its stand, which highlightsed research done within the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the School of Life Sciences at the Ukulinga Research Farm, not only won a Gold medal but also the Trophy for Best Customer Care. 

‘This was without doubt due to the enthusiasm and impressive knowledge of our postgraduate students who manned the stand and went out their way to share their expertise with the general public,’ said Public Relations Manager for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Dr Sally Frost.  

Run in conjunction with the Ukulinga Howard Davis Symposium, the stand showcased research done at Ukulinga in the fields of animal, crop, food, grassland and soil science, as well as related disciplines such as plant pathology, hydrology, agrometeorology, agricultural engineering and food security.  Attractions included specially designed ‘khukhu khayas’ (chick homes), some fish, baby tendrecs (similar to hedgehogs), tarantulas, hissing cockroaches and mealworms that feed on polystyrene, as well as work done by UKZN’s Farmer Support Group with small-scale farmers.

Each year, the stand is located directly opposite the main entrance to the show, and with UKZN Science Centre’s ‘Dr T’ on hand with her magical science show, there is always a fascinated crowd to show the way.

College Awards

Group photo
CGA Award
Lima Award
Campbell Scientific
Kwanalu Award
In April, the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science held its annual Awards ceremony to recognise the achievements of students in the 5 Schools within the College, of which SAEES is one.

The School had tremendous support from its alumni, who represented a number of organisations who gave back to their alma mater through the presentation of awards to honour top students. It was great to have representatives from the Citrus Growers' Association, Lima Rural Development, Jeffares and Green, Standard Bank, Kwanalu, The Valley Trust, Fedics, and more present to give over their generously-sponsored awards. Especial thanks go to Mr Johan Visagie for coming all the way from Paarl to present an award from Campbell Scientific to the top Agrometeorolgy student. Other organisations who sponsored prizes included Pannar, the KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute, the South African Sugar Association, the South African Society for Animal Science, the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa, and more. A number of individuals also sponsor prizes, including one from Professor Roland Schulze, and one in memory of Professor HI Behrmann.

Thank you so much to those who lend this much-valued support, and who make the effort to be with us at this ceremony each year. We hope to see many more awards added to our programme in forthcoming years as students are encouraged to strive to achieve their best.

International Sustainable Agriculture Experts Visit SAEES

GIZ Visit
Three representatives of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH recently visited the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) at UKZN to deliver training on sustainable agriculture to staff and postgraduate students.
GIZ is a German-based company specialising in international development, and provides global services in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. Ms Friederike Kraemer, Dr Alberto Camacho and Ms Sarah Beerhalter visited UKZN to deliver GIZ’s Modules on Sustainable Agriculture (MOSA) course, which promotes farming systems that benefit producers, consumers and the environment.
According to Kraemer, the training builds regional capacity and enables the exponential spread of knowledge of sustainable agriculture techniques. Content covered in the training ranged from sustainable agricultural development, to maintenance of soil fertility, biodiversity, labour, sanitation, plant protection, rural livelihoods, water management, animal husbandry, energy, climatic change and more.
The 15 participants worked in groups to exchange experiences and ideas and develop collaborative training material through participatory techniques. The groups presented work to each other and the GIZ trainers, utilising the material they were given to formulate training modules.
The ideal outcome of this kind of training is that GIZ trainers will work alongside trainees until they can work independently of GIZ to deliver the MOSA.
The visit included field trips to Ixopo and Umzimkulu, where the team had the opportunity to transfer the knowledge gained, viewing the farms they visited through the lenses of sustainable agriculture.
The interaction between GIZ and UKZN was initiated through Professor Heinz Beckedahl of the discipline of Geography, and Kraemer expressed GIZ’s appreciation towards him for his facilitation of the visit. The organisation has been linked with Beckedahl’s work through the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT).
The networks of both the GIZ team and the trainees were also expanded as a result of the workshop, paving the way for future partnerships and research collaborations.

Visiting Alumna Gives a Glimpse into the Politics of Climate Change Negotiations

Kiara Worth
Ms Kiara Worth, a writer, photographer, sustainable development consultant and world traveller, recently visited her alma mater to deliver lectures on project management and design to Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management (AERRM) and Food Security students, also delivering a public lecture on the topic of ‘A Photographic Glimpse into the Politics of International Climate Negotiations’.

Worth completed her Bachelor of Social Sciences, Honours, and Master of Agriculture at UKZN, studying Drama, Politics and Rural Resource Management. After graduating she worked as a consultant for sustainable development for a global sustainability company, and lived and worked in Papua New Guinea for almost six years. Worth simultaneously worked with the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

Now based in Hout Bay, Worth is undertaking her PhD in Political Sciences at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on the topic of the politics of sustainability planning in deeply divided harbour communities.

Worth works for the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISB) on its Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) team, and travelled to the Paris COP21 conference to photograph and document the negotiations taking place. Her public lecture, which was attended by staff, students, emeritus professors and the public, utilised her photographs to chronicle the politics at play in the process of negotiating an international climate resolution. Many of these photographs were featured in The New York Times, The Guardian and more.

Representative of the South African Youth Climate Coalition (SAYCC) Mr Phiwankosi Mungwe, who was also at COP21, thanked Worth for her presentation and said it gave a comprehensive overview of what the event involved.

Professor Emeritus Roland Schulze, a leading climate expert who has attended four COP conferences as part of the South African delegation, responded that, from a scientific perspective, reality checks and an emphasis to be responsible are needed to balance these negotiations.

Lima Hosts Agricultural Economics Field Trip

Lima field trip

At the end of the first semester, as they do every year, Lima Rural Development hosted a third-year class of Agricultural Economics (AGEC380 - Agricultural Development) students. Facilitators lent their time to take the group around to three of the many small-holder farmers they work with in the Umzimkulu region, who are working with broiler and layer poultry, vegetables, and more, and the group was able to see how these producers are being assisted to make a success of their enterprises.

This trip gave a practical perspective to what students learn in the classroom, and was a great opportunity to see how organisations like Lima are working towards rural development.

Thanks for a great field visit Lima, and for the amazing lunch.


The Citrus Academy seeks to address the challenges of scarce and critical skills supply, employment equity and transformation in the Southern African citrus industry. One way they achieve this is through creating and maintaining a steady flow of educated and qualified young people into the industry.

Through the offering of Tertiary Education Support, the Fund awards 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 and Agricultural Management.

The Citrus Academy Bursary Fund was established in 2006 and is one of the largest private bursary funds in the primary sector, and the largest in primary agriculture.

More than 95% of its students have successfully completed their courses, and many have been productively integrated into the citrus industry at various levels. Beneficiaries are also provided with vocational learning opportunities to give them a sound understanding of the industry. 

Many UKZN staff and students have benefited from this fund and we hope this trend will continue.

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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