School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Overcoming Challenges to Master Agriculture

Ms Simphiwe Hlatshwayo has harvested a Master’s degree in Agriculture (Food Security) after assessing local economic sustainability under smallholder subsistence farming as part of the Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS) project – an inter-institutional venture focused on the intersection of the environment, food systems and health.

Hlatshwayo, a research assistant at SHEFS, is from the rural area of Dundonald in Mpumalanga. She completed her undergraduate and honours studies at UKZN and as she was about to start her master’s work she was stunned by the death of her mother – her only parent. Despite the devastating loss, Hlatshwayo decided to continue with her studies leaning heavily on support from family and friends, and has now dedicated her degree to her late mom.

In her research, which included assessing production and harvesting consumption, she found smallholder farmers still do not produce their crops in a sustainable way as they are faced with a number of challenges and, in the area of traditional crops, they consume more than they sell.

Hlatswayo concluded that more interventions were needed under subsistence farming to improve productivity.

‘My research was interesting as it focused on what smallholder farmers are faced with on a daily basis during production, and how they cope with the challenges,’ she said. ‘The study made some recommendations that will hopefully help with strategies to overcome the issues.’

Hlatshwayo plans to do a PhD and then begin a career in academia.

‘I want to set an example to young children, especially those who do not have parents, and show them that anything is possible,’ she said.

Hlatshwayo thanked her supervisor, Professor Albert Modi, for encouraging her to pursue her dreams, and for his support and guidance, and the SHEFS team for providing support and funding for her studies.

Hlatshwayo paid tribute to her family, particularly her grandparents and uncle, for their unconditional love and support.

Words: Christine Cuénod 

Photograph: Gugu Mqadi