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Newsletter October 2015
Friends of UKZN Agriculture | October 2015
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24 November 2015

Hello friends and alumni

October was an interesting month across campuses in South Africa, with many mobilising to champion education, making it an eventful time in higher education in the country.

Things haven't slowed down at UKZN; lots of research and trips and meetings have been on the go, as well as planning for an exciting 2016. Exams are underway so a studious atmosphere prevails on Agric. We hope that you enjoy reading about what's being on the go and keeping up with our various disciplines as they charge ahead with excellent research and training.


Featured Discipline

Dietetics & Human Nutrition
To coincide with October's World Food Day, we are showcasing one of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Science's most popular disciplines, that of Dietetics and Human Nutrition.

“Let food be your medicine and medicine your food. Whosoever gives these things no consideration and is ignorant of them, how can he understand the diseases of man?” 

~ Hippocrates
Class of 1975

History

The Department of Home Economics and Dietetics (known after 1976 as  Dietetics and Home Economics) was founded at the then-University of Natal in 1971 thanks to demand from quarters such as the Federation of Womens’ Institutes of Natal and East Griqualand, and the efforts of then-Head of Biochemistry, George Quicke. Due to its community focus and similarities in academic foundations such as Biochemistry, the discipline was housed with Agriculture instead of Medicine.

The first head of the department was Eva Ricketts, with the first students admitted in 1973. Later notable staff members included Elma Nel (also the first chairperson of the Professional Board for Dietetics in South Africa), Eleni Maunder, Marie Paterson and Sheryl Hendricks.

The department was the first in South Africa to offer the qualification in English and quickly progressed to offer not only a Bachelors degree, but also Honours, Masters and Doctoral degrees. It also graduated its first group of black dietitians as early as 1977.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics was first offered in 1987, enabling graduates from the three-year Bachelors degree to register as professional dietitians at the institution instead of having to leave Natal to achieve this.

An important link to the department was the Community Resource Management programme, which evolved from and eventually split from the discipline of Dietetics and Home Economics. In 1992, Dietetics and Home Economics underwent a name change to Dietetics and Community Resources, but from as early as 1973, with the appointment of Maryann Green, students from Dietetics and Home Economics were lectured in the discipline. Maryann Green and Sheryl Hendricks Masters graduates in Community Resource Management in the late '70s and '90s respectively.

Maryann Green obtained her PhD in the United States in the 1980s and returned to lend her new expertise to the training of postgraduate students in Community Resource Management. Dr Green was later joined by Ann Haselau (Food Science) and Sue Hodgkiss (Clothing and Textiles), and Sheryl Hendriks (Household Resource Management and Small Enterprise Development).

In 1992 Home Economics transformed into Community Resource Management (CRM), as part of a Bachelor of Social Science degree. This discipline covered a range of themes, including consumer behaviour, project management, household resource management, housing with a development focus, process and theories. Students had the opportunity to work with NGOs, governmental departments and other community-based organisations to facilitate hands-on learning and community-focused expertise. This successful programme produced valuable graduates that have been able to communicate meaningfully to various sectors of society in the economic development of the informal sector.

After the split of Community Resource from Dietetics and Human Nutrition, several changes saw the programme being phased out, especially following the retirement of Maryann Green (who still gives valuable input as an Honourary staff member). Elements of the discipline still play an important role in the teaching, research and training in Dietetics and Human Nutrition, and Food Security. Current staff members in Food Security, Dr Joyce Chitja and Dr Unathi Kolanisi began their academic careers at UKZN in the discipline of CRM, with Dr Chitja the first female PhD graduate in Food Security in 2008.

Significant research historically undertaken by the discipline included Penny Love's (the first PhD graduate from the discipline) work on the development of Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for South Africans older than seven years of age. This research marked the first time that there were standard nutrition guidelines based on the country’s cultural diversity that aimed to address problems faced by healthcare professionals.

The department has been situated in the basement of the Rabie Saunders Building since 1979.

The Discipline at a Glance

Training and research in Dietetics and Human Nutrition is built on the pillars of the Clinical, Community and Food Service arenas, giving it the necessary breadth and coordinated approach to meet the needs of the population that it serves. In addition, this gives graduates a number of options in terms of career trajectories.

Demographics have changed somewhat over the years, although non-white students have been able to enrol in the discipline for many years. The classes are still largely female, however a few male students do take on the challenge and go on to enjoy successful careers as dietitians and nutritionists or researchers and academics.

Dietitians and nutritionists graduating from UKZN have professional qualifications that are accredited with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

Roughly 40 students every year make up the graduating class of Dietetics and Human Nutrition students; most students usually go on to complete their postgraduate diploma year. A handful will go on to pursue a Masters of Science in Dietetics or in Human Nutrition, depending on their undergraduate stream, with a select few going on to doctoral studies.

A highlight for the students is the community work they are able to participate in during their postgraduate diploma year, the scope of which is always a surprise to them, say staff members. Graduates are placed in various healthcare facilities and hospitals during their postgraduate diploma year, in addition to attending intensive lectures at the beginning of the year and writing exams. Seeing what an impact they can make in healthcare in South Africa is reportedly an extremely rewarding experience for the completing students, who go on to engage in community service after qualifying as professional dietitians or nutritionists.

Another highlight of the course is the lunches organised by the third-year Bachelor of Science Dietetics students, who are tasked with compiling a menu, in groups, and organising a balanced, cost-effective catered lunch for guests. This includes the decorating of the basement's Spring Room to a theme, cooking and waiting tables. These events are greatly anticipated by staff, students' family and friends and students alike, and could be open to a limited number of interested members of the public on request.

Staff in the discipline work closely with colleagues in a number of disciplines, most especially Food Security and Bioresources Engineering (Professor Tilahun Seyoum shares laboratory space for work on food processing). Their work on nutrients also has application in disciplines like Crop Science and Plant Breeding, with relevance to other agricultural and Health Science disciplines as well.

Their research covers a wide range of topics, from nutritional quality of different foods to eating practices of various groups to obesity to guidelines for HIV, TB and AIDS patients and more.

Dietetics enjoys good relationships with the industry it relates to, receiving support from the HPCSA, as well as companies like Nestlé, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), the Valley Trust, Fedics and Unilever, to name a few.

Staff

Prof Veldman
Professor Frederick Veldman is professor in the discipline of Dietetics and a registered Practicing Nutritionist as well as a Medical Research Scientist with the HPCSA. He completed his BSc in Chemistry and Human Physiology, as well as his Honours, Masters and PhD through North-West University. He also holds a Master of Science in Epidemiology from Columbia University and a Masters in Problem-Based Learning in
Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education from the University of Denmark.

In addition to his lecturing and supervising responsibilities, Prof Veldman has been involved in a number of initiatives to improve health, nutrition and education in South Africa and in numerous other countries. He has trained health professionals for the South African government and South African HIV Clinicians' Society in the roll-out of antiretroviral treatment 

He travelled to Somalia in 2011 and Syria in 2013 as part of relief teams aiming to help stem the tide of humanitarian crises taking place in those nations. He has helped the University of Kinshasa in the development of the GROWNUT Masters and PhD programme in nutritional epidemiology.

Prof Veldman also engages in a number of other professional activities, including participation in the Nestle Nutrition Institute of Africa, the National Research Foundation, the SA Advertising Complaints Board and UNICEF, to name a few. His areas of expertise include Public Health Nutrition, Malnutrition, Ready-to-use-foods, Food and Nutrition in Humanitarian Aid and Emergency Situations, and Teaching Methods for the Sciences (Problem-Based Learning).
Dr Suna Kassier completed her BSc in Dietetics with Honours, and her Postgraduate Diploma in Hospital Dietetics, at Stellenbosch University, her Masters at UKZN and her PhD through the University of Cape Town.

Dr Kassier joined UKZN in 2007; she has been a registered dietitian since 1988 and her career has included work in Clinical Dietetics, Food Service Management, Community Nutrition and Consulting. She has been lecturing since 1993 and also fills the role of academic coordinator for the discipline's Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics and Postgraduate Diploma in Community Nutrition. In 2002 Suna released her first book entitled "Don't Do It All To Get It All".
Her research interests cover a spectrum of topics related to aspects of diet and nutrition. Her recently-completed PhD research is entitled ''Association between conventional (dietary, physical activity and behavioural) treatment outcome (weight loss) in overweight overweight/obese Zulu adults and genotype: An exploratory study".
Chara
Ms Chara Biggs is a lecturer in Therapeutic Nutrition in the discipline of Dietetics. She is also responsible for supervising Post Graduate Diploma students completing their research module. Her PhD is in progress and is entitled "The effect of probiotic supplementation on disease progression and anthropometric status of HIV positive ARV naïve adults attending a wellness program in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa."

Ms Biggs has particular expertise in probiotics in cystic fibrosis, carbohydrate and
fluid intake of adolescent soccer players, and was involved in the implementation of the WHO F75 and F100 formula in KwaZulu Natal Hospitals. She is also experienced in food-based community interventions and has researched barriers to obtaining social grants. In addition, she has done research on the the hydration status and fluid requirements of forestry workers, as well as the nutritional intake of rural South African forestry workers. Again on the sport scene, she has researched the nutritional supplement use of adolescent rugby and soccer players.
Kirthee
Dr Kirthee Pillay is a lecturer in the discipline who quallified as a dietitian in 1997, going on to work as a clinical dietician at Grey's Hospital, where she was head dietitian before coming to the then-University of Natal in 1998. She has been a permanent member of staff since 2008. She  teaches Human Nutrition to first and second year students. Her areas of research include clinical nutrition and the potential of provitamin A-biofortified maize in alleviating vitamin A deficiency.

Her published research includes work on the acceptance of a supplementary food by HIV- and tuberculosis-infected patients, as well as work on the effect of biofortification on maize quality, and diet-related work concerning children with diabetes mellitus.
Muthulisi
Dr Muthulisi Siwela is a qualified food scientist, with particular expertise on agricultural value chains. He has more than ten years experience in academia and works closely with the African Centre for Food Security at UKZN.

He currently lectures Food Science; Postharvest Technologies, Storage and Preservation of Food for Food Security. He has supervised more than 15 Masters students, and 3 PhD students.
Dr Siwela has authored and co-authored more than 40 scientific reports, including more than 20 papers in peer reviewed journals and a book chapter. He is a member of the South African Association for Food Science and Technology (SAAFoST) and is registered as a Professional Natural Scientist with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP).

Dr Siwela is actively involved in research-led community engagement, with a focus on small-scale farmer value chains to improve Food Security. His expertise is mainly in Cereal Science and Technology, however he uses his Food Science expertise to conduct broad research on the food value chain. His focus areas include new food product development using locally-available plant materials, particularly less common cereal grains like sorghum and millets, to contribute to food security.
Nicola Wiles
Dr Nicola Wiles has been a full-time lecturer in the discipline since 2009. She completed her PhD on the topic of tuck shop purchasing practices of Grade 4 learners at selected primary schools in Pietermaritzburg, including looking at the variety, popularity and nutritional quality of tuck shop items available, demonstrating her research interest in public health nutrition. She lectures third year Dietetic and Human Nutrition students and supervises postgraduate diploma in Dietetics students, and Masters students in both Dietetics and Human Nutrition.
She has been working as a Registered Dietitian since 2002 and has just over two years of food service experience within various sectors of the Food Service Industry. She also has two years of clinical experience working for the Department of Health at both Northdale and Grey’s Hospitals in Pietermaritzburg.

Dr Wiles is the liaison person for prospective students looking to enrol in the discipline, and is also the liaison person for students wishing to register with international health professions councils. She is a member of both the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and the Association of Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA).
Annette
Dr Annette van Onselen received her Food Service Management Diploma in 1990 at Technikon Pretoria and completed her BSc in Dietetics at the University of the Free State (UFS) in 1994.  She went on to complete her Masters in Dietetics in 2002 and received her PhD in Dietetics  in 2014, both from UFS. She has been part of Dietetics and Human 
Nutrition at UKZN for four and a half years, and has specific interest in Community Nutrition, working frequently with the African Centre for Food Security. 

In addition to teaching Community Nutrition modules to second and third year students, Dr van Onselen also supervises postgraduate diploma students and Masters students.  In 2012, she won the ADSA award for best poster presentation at the Nutrition Congress Africa 2012 and in 2013 completed the African Nutrition Leadership Programme offered by North-West University for Africa delegates.

Her research has been centred on topics related to Geophagia, Malnutrition and maternity, infant and child nutrition. She is also registered with the HPCSA, as well as a member of the Nutrition Society and of the ADSA.

The discipline of Dietetics is supported by a number of contract staff who complement the full-time staff members and assist with lecturing and supervising students. One of these staff is Sue Ogilvie, who graduated from the discipline in 1975 and continues to plough her expertise back into her alma mater while also working in private practice.

Technical Staff

Dietetics Technical Staff
Mrs Thabisile Memela, Mrs Nontuthuko Zimu and Mrs Elsie Correia
Keeping things running on the technical front is a big job considering the large cohorts of students and the practical elements of the training done in Dietetics & Human Nutrition.

Taking responsibility for the laboratory work and facilities is Mrs Elsie Correia, who has been at the University in this discipline since 1994, having studied at North-West University where she completed her BSc in Home Economics and her Masters.

Looking after the technical side of Dietetics and Human Nutrition involves assisting students with the technicalities of preparing for their lunches, arranging and assisting with daily practical sessions in the food labs, and setting up and showing videos that were developed during Ann Haselau's time to explain certain food preparation techniques and skills. Required expertise on the technical side involves knowledge about small scale technical work (Food Science), large scale (Food Service Management) food preparation, Anthropometry and Food Safety.

Working alongside Elsie are Mrs Nontuthuko Zimu, who joined the Discipline as a permanent member of staff in September 2010, and Mrs Thabisile Memela, who has been working in the discipline since 2000, having previously worked at Ukulinga Research Farm. Mrs Zimu holds a national diploma in Food and Beverage Management, and Mrs Memela is responsible for the maintenance of the Food Science and Food Service laboratories.
Lab 1
Lab 2
Lab 3
Lab 4

News


Professor Mike Savage Awarded First SASAS Medal

Savage UTLO
Professor Mike Savage of the discipline of Agrometeorology in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) and a recipient of UKZN’s Distinguished Teacher Award for 2014 was recently announced as the first recipient of the South African Society for Atmospheric Science (SASAS) medal.

This medal was awarded to Savage in recognition of his research and educational and technical achievements in a field related to atmospheric science.

Savage has been a member of the SASAS for over 10 years, although the medal may be awarded to a non-member, with the award to become an annual accolade presented at the SASAS annual conference. Upon the bestowment of this award to Savage, the SASAS also announced that he will be made an honorary member of the Society, and is invited to deliver a keynote address to the Society at its 2016 conference.

Upon receiving the news of this award, Savage paid tribute to the many undergraduate and postgraduate students and colleagues that he says have assisted in shaping his career over 39 years. Savage spoke of his pleasure in the fact that the discipline of Agrometeorology, a scarce-skill discipline that spans the agricultural, atmospheric and environmental sciences, has been nationally recognised in this manner by the Society and its council.

Savage has also recently been announced as the recipient of a Council of Higher Education (CHE)/Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa (HELTASA) National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award. These honours and recognition by his peers demonstrate Savage’s commitment to the transfer of knowledge for the improvement of society in the area he works in.

Savage’s research focus over the last six years has been on topics such adverse weather, biometeorology, energy balance of various surfaces, micrometeorology and open water evaporation. He has also won renown for the development of an Agrometeorological Instrumentation Mast (AIM) web-based data and information teaching, learning and research system for the agro-environmental sciences. The AIM system, used by many undergraduates and postgraduates, formed the basis for research that was recognised by two national awards from the South African Society for Crop Production. The site contains real-time data on a number of agrometeorological measurements, provided by a number of instruments set up around campus, which can be viewed and downloaded for use in research and as a visual teaching aid.

Savage has also pioneered the creation of an isiZulu-English glossary of terms for Agrometeorology, given the language barrier to learning encountered by many second language English speakers entering university in South Africa. Savage emphasises the use of live data, visual literacy, technology and glossaries to stimulate growth in the isiZulu language’s capacity for scientific understanding. He believes that technology can play an important role in the learning of students, and mentions the importance of visual literacy or ‘iconic’ learning to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers.

Looking to the future of his teaching and research, Savage said ‘The (AIM) system we have needs to be expanded and developed further and requires support in many logistical areas that are challenges. We will however persevere, and awards such as the SASAS award makes us strive even harder. The UKZN Teaching and Learning Office now also have our work as a flagship project and this is starting to pay dividends in terms of IT support and support within the School.’

Savage’s work reflects the integration of teaching and research and community engagement in a uniquely engaging, student-focused way through linking undergraduate projects to postgraduate/staff research and vice versa.

He has also been actively involved in making science relevant and comprehensible to the general public, participating in a project with The Witness newspaper in Pietermaritzburg to investigate the temperature and human comfort conditions inside locked cars. This is in response to multiple incidents of pets and small children being found unattended in locked cars in potentially dangerous weather conditions.

Geology Student Wins Young Groundwater Scientist Best Presentation Award

Mr Jannie Weitz, a PhD candidate in the discipline of Geological Sciences in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) at UKZN was recently named the recipient of the prestigious Young Groundwater Scientist Best Student Paper award at the 14th biennial Groundwater Conference and Exhibition held in Gauteng.
 
The conference was themed ‘Groundwater: From Theory to Action’, and Weitz’s presentation was entitled ‘Comparative analyses between the LAK3 package and the high conductivity techniques used for numerical simulation of lake-aquifer interaction in the Lake Sibayi catchment, north-eastern South Africa’.
 
The presentation, based on Weitz’s PhD research, related to the comparison of two different groundwater modelling techniques, namely the use of the LAK3 package and the high conductivity technique. His research is aimed at developing a model to investigate the lake-groundwater interactions in the catchment for Lake Sibayi in order to providing a tool to inform the development development and implementation of sustainable water resource practices.
 
This research is particularly relevant in the context of the worst drought the province has experienced in over three decades, compounded by an ever-increasing demand for water in the northern areas of KwaZulu-Natal that places severe stress on the already limited water resources in the region. Lake Sibayi, a vital source of water for both the neighbouring communities and environment, has experienced a significant reduction in lake levels over the last decade, dropping from approximately 20 m above mean sea level (amsl) to its current 16 m amsl.
 
Weitz also received an award for the Best Student Paper presentation that he gave at the 13th Groundwater Conference and Exhibition in 2013, making this his second award in a row. His interest in Geological Sciences, he said, began as an early interest in paleontology fuelled by the Jurassic Park movies, which grew into an interest in Hydrology/Hydrogeology as time progressed. He hopes to continue in a research-based career once he has completed his PhD.

Prof Mike Lyne spends Sabbatical at Agric

Mike Lyne
Professor Michael Lyne, Head of the Department of Agribusiness and Markets, and Associate Professor of International Rural Development at Lincoln University in New Zealand, is pleased to be back at UKZN for a three-month sabbatical.

Prof Lyne’s association with UKZN goes back to the 1970s when he completed a BSc(Agric) degree at the institution majoring in Agricultural Economics. He also completed his Masters and Doctoral degrees at UKZN and was promoted to Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics in 1998. He has maintained close ties with colleagues past and present since moving to New Zealand in 2007, and hosted Professor Gerald Ortmann of UKZN as Visiting Professor in 2014.
 
Prof Lyne is passionate about agriculture and agribusiness as engines of economic growth, and was a founding director of Lima Rural Development Foundation. He remains connected with this NGO and with the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA), returning to South Africa on a regular basis to participate in the Association’s annual conferences, further his research with colleagues and students at UKZN, work with Lima on development projects, and to enjoy the company of friends, family and colleagues in a warm and welcoming country.
 
The main objective of his current sabbatical is to publish the results of recently completed research, including the work of UKZN Masters student, Nomonde Jonas, who evaluated the extension service delivered by Lima to small farmers in the Umzimkhulu district. Dr Lyne co-supervised this research and presented it at AEASA’s 2015 conference. A second objective involves ‘action’ research on a local farmworker equity-share scheme. The aim of this research is to address liquidity problems that constrain the entry and exit of employees after these schemes have been established. Prof Lyne will also be assisting the review of a new food security policy tool developed by Michigan State University and the International Food Policy Research Institute in partnership with Professor Sheryl Hendriks at the University of Pretoria. We wish him an enjoyable stay and success in all his endeavours.

Agricultural Economics Excels at AEASA Conference

AEASA Conference
Academic staff and postgraduate students in Agricultural Economics at UKZN received a number of awards at the 53rd annual Conference of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA) held in Parys recently.
 
Mr John Flanagan, who graduated in April 2015 with an MScAgric (Agribusiness) degree cum laude, won the 2014/15 AEASA Best Masters Thesis Award for his dissertation entitled ‘Spatial prioritisation of conservation areas on the fringes of KwaZulu-Natal protected areas: application of the characteristics framework using tourism competitiveness.’ He was supervised by Prof Edilegnaw Wale and co-supervised by Mr Mark Darroch.
 
Mr Patrick Hitayezu, Prof Edilegnaw Wale and Prof Gerald Ortmann received the 2014/15 prize for the best article published by a member of AEASA in a scientific journal, other than Agrekon (the official, accredited journal of AEASA), for their paper entitled ‘Assessing agricultural land-use change in the Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: application of mixed multinomial logit.’ This paper was published in June 2015 in the international journal Environment, Development and Sustainability. Mr Patrick Hitayezu was a PhD student at UKZN supervised by Prof Wale and co-supervised by Prof Ortmann.
 
Ms Michelle Browne, Prof Ortmann and Prof Sheryl Hendriks (University of Pretoria) were awarded second prize in the 2014/15 Agrekon best paper prize category for their paper entitled ‘Developing a resilience indicator for food security monitoring and evaluation: Index construction and household classification for six African countries.’ Ms Browne, a former postgraduate student who graduated in April 2012 with an MScAgric (Agricultural Economics) degree cum laude, was supervised by Prof Ortmann and co-supervised by Prof Hendriks.
 
Ms Portia Gasa, who graduated in April 2015 with a BScAgric (Agricultural Economics) degree, received an AEASA Certificate for the best final-year student in Agricultural Economics at UKZN in 2014.
 
Contributed papers were also presented at the AEASA Conference by PhD student Mr Muhammad Hassan (supervised by Dr Lloyd Baiyegunhi and co-supervised by Prof Ortmann), Masters student Ms Lerato Phali (supervised by Dr Maxwell Mudhara and Dr Baiyegunhi), Prof Mike Lyne (visiting Professor from Lincoln University, New Zealand, and Honorary Professor at UKZN), and Dr Binganidzo Muchara (former PhD student at UKZN, who was supervised by Prof Ortmann, Prof Wale and Dr Mudhara).

CAES Love Birds Get Married

Two postgraduate students in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) recently tied the knot to become husband and wife on the 12 September, 2015. The duo met one another through a mutual friend and colleague, Nana Dladla, in 2013 and share similar passion for scientific studies in their respective fields.

Ms Olufunke Fajinmi, a postgraduate student in the School of Life Sciences, met Mr Olaoluwa Omoniyi Olarewaju, a postgraduate student in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) in the prestigious University building called Rabie Saunders while trying to provide solutions to experimental challenges. Olufunke had shared some of the challenges she was facing with her neighbour, Nana, who then suggested that Olufunke meet a colleague of hers in SAEES who was doing similar research.

‘At first, I was sceptical because I had determined to avoid mingling with the young men around!’ said Olufunke. Her friend persevered and set a time to introduce Olufunke to Olaoluwa, and Olufunke eventually agreed to the meeting, to discover that Olaoluwa has, in her words, a jovial and humorous disposition.

The two, who are both originally from Nigeria, hit it off immediately, with their common interest in the fields of Horticultural Sciences and Botany allowing for a special aspect to their bond to form as they supported one another through their research and the challenges of being international students.

‘He was my source of encouragement while I was waiting for the outcome of the extension of my study permit I had applied for, which was taking longer than expected,’ said Olufunke of her husband.

Olaoluwa proposed on the eve of Olufunke’s birthday in 2014, and described their relationship as magical, and an unexpected chapter that opened up in his pursuit of postgraduate studies.

The couple, who currently reside in Pietermaritzburg and are both still completing their studies, said they are excited about their new journey together, and still share with one another the highs and lows of academic life.

‘Thanks to her, during the time I was wrapping up a thesis for the award of my Masters degree, I didn’t go hungry, even though I had no time to spend in the kitchen to keep myself properly nourished!’ said Olarewaju.

The two display concern for one another as they go about life and Olufunke says they have brought out the best in one another, with their individual relationships with friends, family and with God, who has been their major life compass, being enhanced by their union.

‘Olufunke is unlike any other person I have ever met,’ said Olaoluwa. ‘She's so loving, caring, humble, gorgeous, beautiful, kind, smart, and intelligent; in fact, she's out of this world.’

Symbolic of the role that UKZN played in their union, the couple held their reception at the Colin Webb Hall on Pietermaritzburg’s main campus. Members of their bridal party also included friends and classmates who have played a role in both their academic and personal journeys.

Food Security PhD Student Presents at Peace Summit

Mbali_Korea
Development Lecturer and PhD candidate in the discipline of Food Security in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), Ms Mbalenhle Gwacela, recently travelled to Seoul, South Korea, for the First Annual Commemoration of the World Alliance of Religions Peace (WARP) Summit. She was invited by the International Peace Youth Group to present her research on the relationship between student food insecurity, academic potential and its impact on a country’s growth and development.

Featured in the organisation’s Plan of Action was the aim of creating ‘A peaceful and stable environment in every country’. The three-day summit was arranged and hosted by the Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL)

Gwacela’s presentation gave opportunity for the exploration and discussion of food security and its relation to peace. Gwacela was one of many students and academics who participated in the summit, with youth leader representatives from England, Nigeria and the United States and other countries in attendance.

Her presentation was centred on work she is doing towards her PhD, entitled ‘Achieving Food Security for University Students through Stakeholder Joint Participation: A Food Bank Model’.

Gwacela was also selected to act as a session chair for one of the presentation clusters, an exciting experience she described as an honour.  According to Gwacela, topics discussed during the summit included peace and conflicts between countries, and hidden hunger, a relatively new term to many people, and one which Gwacela noted seemed taboo to some. Since armed conflicts are enemies of food security, these were also discussed, and Gwacela described endless discussions had on the topic of how the global youth community can join forces to address such challenges that threaten the global community’s future and livelihoods.

This trip did not only allow Gwacela to transfer some of the knowledge she has gained during the course of her academic career, but also contributed to her research project, as she said it sparked ideas as to how to restructure one of her study objectives.

‘I realised that there is so much that the world can benefit from research; the fact that one is able to solve a question and contribute towards the knowledge economy in an innovative way is what I look forward to,’ said Gwacela.

‘Food security is an extremely broad subject, and there are many more other sectors that can benefit from the knowledge and the links that are within food security,’ she added. ‘When I learned that developed countries actually don’t know much about food insecurity and hidden hunger, I realised that there is a lot of work that needs to be done, and a lot of it lies in publishing and making your work known.’

Gwacela was inspired by the work being done around the world that she was exposed to, and described the enthusiasm she felt to actively link her discipline at UKZN to others around the world as she made connections with those doing similar work.

She gratefully acknowledged the support of her supervisor, Dr Unathi Kolanisi, who assisted her with arrangements for the trip, as well as the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science for its support through a travel grant which enabled Gwacela to travel to Seoul.

SAEES Staff Represent South Africa at the Network of African Science Academies Workshop in Kenya

Kenya
Professor Albert Modi and Emeritus Professor Roland Schulze of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) were among the five South Africans who participated in the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) workshop on the topic of ‘Improving the Management of Water Resources for Sustainable Development in Africa and the Americas’.

The workshop was held from the 12th to the 15th October in Nairobi, Kenya, and was attended by more than 50 water scientists, hydrologists, engineers, academics and policy-makers working on water-related research around the world, who shared their views on different topics.

Schulze, an eminent hydrologist, presented a paper on ‘Challenges from municipal to catchment to national scales in adapting to climate change in South Africa’s water sector’. Modi presented a paper on ‘Potential role of indigenous knowledge in crop production – looking back into the future’, and both academics participated in panel discussions.

Professors Modi and Schulze were identified by the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) to represent the country, together with representatives from ASSAf and the Water Research Commission (WRC).

The workshop was also used to launch a NASAC Water Policymakers’ Booklet, entitled ‘The Grand Challenge of Water Security in Africa: Recommendations to Policymakers’, at a cocktail dinner.

Modi said the workshop was a very good learning experience, and he was encouraged by the interest of water specialists and engineers in issues of water and food security. One of the most exciting moments for him was the trip to the major dam for Nairobi’s water supply in Ndakani, where he had the opportunity to learn about harvesting tea leaves from a farm woman labourer.

Record-Setting Animal Science Academic Lives Beyond Average

Marion Young
Animal Science's Dr Marion Young has continued to display a winning streak in her canoeing exploits, recently earning herself two gold medals in the K1 and K2 categories in the Women's Masters at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Gyor, Hungary.

Young's exploits at the ICF competition have set her on a good course to triumph at next year's World Championships in Germany. If she wins there, she will defend her World Champion title on home waters, as the 2017 World Championships are being held at Camp's Drift, hosted by the Natal Canoe Club.

Following her wins in Hungary, Young jetted back home to the South African Society for Animal Science's 48th annual Congress, held in Zululand and organised by Young's KZN branch. The theme of the Congress was 'Animal Science in Practice'. In addition to playing a role in the organising of the Congress, Young presented a paper on using discriminant analysis in epidemiology of African Horse Sickness.

After the very successful Congress had wrapped up, Young headed to the Eastern Cape to compete in the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon in the K2 category, where she and race partner Kim Peek completed the demanding race first in the veteran women's category in a time of 6:01:59.88, breaking the record time for that category by 15 minutes.

The tireless lecturer made sure to keep her students up to her pace in between all of her venture, using innovative means of communicating with them to keep their learning and research on track.

Young's drive to be the best at all she does is clearly evident in her canoeing and academic achievements. When asked what motivates her to keep up the pace, she said that it is her goal to 'live beyond average'.

Plant Breeding PhD Student Presents Poster at International Wheat Conference

Learnmore Mwadzingeni
Mr Learnmore Mwadzingeni, a PhD student in the discipline of Plant Breeding, recently presented some of his research as a poster at the 9th International Wheat Conference, held in Sydney, Australia.

Mwadzingeni, who completed his Masters at the University of Zimbabwe, displayed his poster entitled “Screening of bread wheat genotypes for drought tolerance using phenotypic and proline analyses” at the Conference. Mwadzingeni, who is supervised by Professor Hussein Shimelis, aims to have this research published in a relevant journal.

His attendance at the Conference included attendance at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) Technical Workshop, which aimed to address key issues concerning the genetic improvement of wheat resistance to key stresses using a range of techniques from conventional breeding to genomics-based tools.

According to Mwadzingeni, participating in the workshop and conference provided experience based on cutting edge scientific wheat research, comprising a variety of approaches to enhancing wheat adaptation through trans-disciplinary and integrative approaches. He made the most of the opportunity to interact with leading scientists participating in the conference, a group including wheat breeders, molecular biologists, physiologists and pathologists working on genetic improvement of wheat for stress tolerance. These interactions will, Mwadzingeni hopes, spur on fruitful future collaborations with international research partners.

Mwadzingeni said that breeders and physiologists alike were excited by the research presented on his poster, which correlated actual yield with the proline that physiologists link to drought tolerance. His work involves examining abiotic stress resistance and breeding for quantitative traits, particularly drought and heat stress tolerance in wheat.

The Conference and workshop also furnished Mwadzingeni with ideas to move his research forward, making the experience that much more valuable.

Mwadzingeni hopes his career in Plant Breeding will help him to achieve his goals of demonstrating expertise in research, management and training in agricultural systems, and implementing life sustaining projects.
 

Professor Mike Savage Honoured With National Teaching Award

Mike Savage
A recipient of one of UKZN’s 2014 Distinguished Teacher Awards, Professor Michael Savage has been recognised for his contributions to higher education in South Africa by being awarded a National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award by the Council of Higher Education (CHE) and the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa (HELTASA).

‘Excellence in teaching means connecting and connecting very quickly with students,’ said Savage of his empathic approach to his teaching.

Savage’s career at UKZN started in 1975 in the discipline of Agrometeorology in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), and he has been recognised for his innovative approach to teaching that has seen students in his discipline flourish academically.

Savage’s research focus is on topics such adverse weather, biometeorology, energy balance of various surfaces, micrometeorology and open water evaporation. He developed a unique Agrometeorological Instrumentation Mast (AIM) web-based data and information teaching, learning and research system for the agro-environmental sciences. The AIM system is used by many undergraduates and postgraduates and features real-time data for a number of agrometeorological measurements, provided by a number of instruments set up around campus, which can be viewed and downloaded for use in research and as a visual teaching aid.

Savage has also initiated the creation of an isiZulu-English glossary of terms for Agrometeorology, to attempt to counter the language barrier to learning encountered by many second language English speakers entering university in South Africa. Savage emphasises the use of live data, visual literacy, technology and glossaries to stimulate growth in the isiZulu language’s capacity for scientific understanding. He believes that technology can play an important role in the learning of students, and mentions the importance of visual literacy or ‘iconic’ learning to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers.

‘Teaching is about imparting more than just knowledge; it is also about life skills,’ said Savage.

Savage’s work reflects the integration of teaching and research and community engagement in a uniquely engaging, student-focused way through linking undergraduate projects to postgraduate and staff research and vice versa.

‘Teaching is an essential part of the fabric of academic life,’ said Savage. ‘The young minds of today are the researchers of tomorrow; without good teaching, the future of research is not sustainable.’

He has also been actively involved in making science relevant and comprehensible to the general public, participating in a project with The Witness newspaper in Pietermaritzburg to investigate the temperature and human comfort conditions inside locked cars.

Five National Teaching Excellence Awards and Six National Teaching Excellence Commendations were given in total, and are aimed at showing support at a national level for excellence in teaching and learning in higher education, and creating a conversation and awareness around the topic of what constitutes teaching excellence. Additionally, CHE and HELTASA hope that the academics recognised through these accolades will become identifiable examples of teaching excellence, and who can in turn inspire the development of motivated educators in their disciplines, institutions and regions.

As part of the award, Savage was invited to participate in the compilation of a special feature for The Conversation Africa publication with the other awardees, and will receive his award officially in November at the annual HELTASA Conference.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Albert van Jaarsveld warmly congratulated Savage and expressed UKZN’s pride in his achievement, and thanked him for the valuable contributions he has made and continues to make in his field.

Agricultural Economics Graduate Presents at International Conferences

Patrick_Italy
Dr Patrick Hitayezu, who recently completed his PhD degree in Agricultural Economics in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), presented two papers from his PhD research at two high-profile international conferences during the course of 2015.
 
He presented one of his papers at a conference themed ‘Our Common Future under Climate Change (OCFCC)’ held at UNESCO and Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France in July. The conference built on recent climate studies to deliver scientific messages for the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP21) to be held in Paris in December 2015, which seeks to assess the implementation of political responses to climate change globally.
 
During a session on perceptions of climate change, Hitayezu presented the findings of his study on factors shaping climate risk perceptions among small-scale farmers in the Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal. The study applied a behavioural approach to help understand why farmers living in the same region would perceive local climatic changes in different ways. His findings indicated that perceptions tend to differ based on farmers’ underlying learning processes, with major implications for the climate change information communication policy in South Africa.
 
Keynote speakers at the OCFCC included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and France’s Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Ségolène Royal.
 
Hitayezu presented another paper at the 29th triennial conference of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) held in Milan, Italy, in August. The conference was themed ‘Agriculture in an Interconnected World’. His presentation, given during the land-use session, showcased the application of a mixed-multinomial logit model to the assessment of attitudes and constraints governing small-scale farmers’ land use change decision-making in the Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal.
 
This study revealed that social motives, such as food security, dominate income generation and ecological incentives, the common foci in agricultural land use policy in South Africa. The study also showed that decision-making regarding agricultural land use change is governed by economic factors, social influences and agro-ecological characteristics, with implications for sustainable land use policy in South Africa.
 
Hitayezu was supervised by Professors Edilegnaw Wale and Gerald Ortmann of Agricultural Economics in SAEES.

Agricultural Extension Student Receives Wells Mountain Foundation Scholarship

Bhekisisa
Mr Bhekisisa Nxumalo, a student in the discipline of Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management (AERRM) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) recently became the first South African student to receive a Wells Mountain Foundation (WMF) Empowerment through Education Scholarship.

The WMF, which awarded scholarships to only 30 scholars from 25 developing countries around the world, received 900 applications this year. The WMF, by contributing financially to students’ tuition, aims to assist recipients in improving their future through education, so that awardees may in turn assist their communities. For this reason, one of the conditions of the scholarship is that recipients volunteer 100 hours of their time per year to serving community projects.

Nxumalo chose to study Agricultural Extension because of his eagerness to see increased rural development and applied for the WMF scholarship because will prepare him for a future in this field. He added that the volunteering aspect of the scholarship was also a contributing factor to its suitability for his work, as he sees his mandate as being to uplift rural communities through agriculture, through being an agent of change.

He spoke of his growing passion for Agricultural Extension, saying that it is an important, diverse field where critical problems facing the country’s agricultural sector can be systematically approached to find solutions.

‘Agricultural Extension also simplifies life and equips you with a formula to solve problems that hinder the success of an individual, group or state, as it was specifically developed to address the changing agricultural landscape in South Africa,’ added Nxumalo.

Nxumalo’s studies fall under the unique partnership between UKZN and the Cedara College of Agriculture, which Nxumalo said has been particularly beneficial for him in exposing him to the practical side of his work, and providing necessary facilities for all aspects of study, from accommodation to transport to farm networks. He said that his training through this partnership has equipped him with a powerful combination of knowledge and skills in Agricultural Extension, rural development, project management, agricultural production and farm management.

‘To be chosen as a WMF scholar is a great privilege and honour, considering the fact that there were so many qualified applicants from different developing countries around the world, and that I am the first student from South Africa to be selected,’ said Nxumalo.

Nxumalo claimed that what enables him to strive for these opportunities is what others might deem a disadvantage; namely a lack of expertise. Nxumalo described his longing for the acquisition of new information as a hunger, which drives him to succeed and uplift others in the process.

He has been an integral part of the Agri-Groomers group, through which he plans to do much of his volunteering. The Agri-Groomers, a student-led group of motivated Cedara and UKZN students, aim to create opportunities for learning, networking and participating in various aspects of the agricultural sector, where individuals gain a global understanding of agriculture.

Agri-Groomers participants have recently been able to participate in events such as the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) Youth in Agriculture Summit and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) World Forestry Congress.

Nxumalo gave his advice to fellow students who want to engage in their fields but face challenges, financial or otherwise, to accessing intellectual resources. This was particularly in response to the WMF’s comment to him that very few applications come from South Africa.

‘One should never stop applying for bursaries and scholarships,’ said Nxumalo. ‘It should become a habit.’

Staff Changes

Margie Bowen
Mrs Margie Bowen, who has been personal assistant to Professor Mark Laing in Plant Pathology for two years, retired at the end of October after 22 years at the University. She is a familiar face in the School, having worked in Animal Science for a number of years as PA to Professor Rob Gous, before going on to work as a PA to the Assistant Dean at Commerce and later to Professor Graham Jewitt, and then also working at the University's Estates department before coming to Plant Pathology.

Margie spoke fondly of her time at UKZN, describing it as a nice environment to work in, with a highlight being a visit from Carte
Blanche to interview Prof Laing in early 2014. She said that she has enjoyed seeing students progress in their studies, having been at the University when staff members like Dr Mariana Ciacciariello anbd Dr Nicky Tyler were students.

Margie has lived in Pietermaritzburg since 1969 and, having worked for over 50 years, is looking forward to spending time with her grandchildren in her retirement. We wish her well in her retirement and are sure we'll still see her face around campus from time to time, since her daughter still works for the University.
Ziyanda
Ms Ziyanda Ndlovu has joined SAEES to take over from Margie. She is a Pietermaritzburg local, having grown up in the Edendale area and studied in Pietermaritzburg. She has worked at various departments of UKZN since 2009, and believes firmly in bettering herself through the gaining of knowledge.

Kind regards,

Christine Cuénod

Networking Facilitator

cuenod@ukzn.ac.za

033 260 6557

083 314 3317
 

on behalf of
 

Duncan Stewart

Committee Chairman

duncan@lima.org.za

082 491 1912

Copyright © 2015 Friends of UKZN Agriculture, All rights reserved.


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