School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Finalists from left: Professors Fatima Suleman, Pragashnie Govender and Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi.

NSTF-South32 Finalists Celebrated for Outstanding Contributions

Academics and researchers from UKZN’s Colleges of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) and Health Sciences (CHS) are finalists for the prestigious National Science Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 awards for 2021-2022.

The awards honour and celebrate outstanding contributions to Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and innovation and are the largest and most prestigious public SET and innovation awards in South Africa.

The finalists include CAES Honorary Research Associate Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi who is a finalist for the NSTF-Water Research Commission (WRC) Award and Professor Fatima Suleman and Associate Professor Pragashnie Govender from the CHS who are finalists for the NSTF-South32 Management award in Basic Sciences for Innovation and the TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher, respectively.

Suleman is a Professor and Director for the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Pharmaceutical Policy and Evidence Based Practice in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences and has previously been recognised as a Distinguished Teacher by UKZN. The Prince Claus Chair of Development and Equity: Affordable (Bio)Therapeutics for Public Health at Utrecht University was also involved in the Medical Education Partnership Initiative grant and the African Forum for Research and Education in Health, leading the development of a regional learning management system for interprofessional training and networking.

Suleman’s areas of interest lies in pharmaceutical policy and systems strengthening. A strong advocate for equitable and affordable access to medicine, she has served on a number of WHO panels. Her most recent accomplishments include being co-winner of the 2021 Helen Clark-Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice (JoPPP) Award in Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice (https://joppp.biomedcentral.com/joppp-award) and the 5th Venus International Healthcare Award (VIHA 2022 Award) for Excellence in Pharmaceutical Sciences, from the Venus International Foundation in Chennai, India.

Govender is an Associate Professor in Occupational Therapy. A high flyer, she graduated top of her class and went on to work in the public and private health sectors in KwaZulu-Natal. She completed her PhD in 2016 and a SAFRI-FAIMER Fellowship in Health Professions Education in 2018. More recently, she completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Professions Education and Leadership.

As a first-generation graduate in her family, Govender is invested in contributing to the next generation of students and researchers and aims to increase research productivity and knowledge that can transform current health systems. Her broad understanding of communities has led her to focus her research on recipients of care (client-and family-centred research), providers of care (practitioner-related research), and in preparing graduates fit for practice (health professions education-related research).

Govender won the National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers in the female category in 2016; was the first runner up in the Department of Science and Innovation South African Women in Science Awards (distinguished young female) in 2018; was a previous finalist in the TW Kambule – Emerging Researcher category in the National Science and Technology (NSTF)-South-32 Awards in 2020, and won the NRF Research Excellence Award for Early Career Researchers in the female category in 2020 (presented in 2021). She is the only recipient in the country that has achieved awards in the two emerging/early career categories of the NRF Awards. She was also an awardee at the 2nd Venus International Healthcare Awards (VIHA 2019 Award) for Top Researcher in Occupational Therapy, from the Venus International Foundation in Chennai, India.

Mabhaudhi, who is co-director of the Centre for Transformative Agricultural and Food Systems and Senior Researcher at the International Water Management Institute, received UKZN’s prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award for 2020. He holds a Y-rating from South Africa’s NRF and specialises in crop ecophysiology and crop-climate modelling. A graduate in crop sciences from the University of Zimbabwe, his master’s and PhD at UKZN were supported within WRC projects. Mabhaudhi achieved the highest number of publications off a PhD thesis in WRC history.

Mabhaudhi focuses on research that is collaborative, dynamic, transformative, informs policy and has tangible impacts for poor and peri-urban communities. He is involved in multi- and transdisciplinary research covering food systems, global environmental change and the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus, working with international multidisciplinary teams conducting research and development relevant to global grand challenges like food and nutrition insecurity, climate change and sustainability, and the WEF nexus.

He serves on several national committees and expert panels to advise on climate change adaptation strategies and contribute to evidence-based policymaking. Mabhaudhi has led WRC projects on various topics and received a WRC Research Knowledge Tree award in recognition of his contributions to policy, decision-making and human capital development in the water sector, also earning recognition from the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries for championing climate change adaptation.

Words: MaryAnn Francis and Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied