Friends of UKZN Agriculture | October 2014
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31st October 2014

Hi Friends and Alumni

We hope that the month of October has been a bright one for you all. We've had some very interesting meetings with some of you and it's been great to see what's happening in various parts of the agricultural industry.

Here are a few snapshots of activity at the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences over the last month.

Plant Pathology Day

Plant Pathology
Plant Pathology Honours students
On the 15th of October, the discipline of Plant Pathology held its first Plant Pathology Day, where the 15 students busy completing their BSc Honours research had the opportunity to present their work for assessment by Dr Mike Morris of Plant Health Products and Dr Pat Caldwell. Dr Morris also presented a very interesting keynote address on his work that emphasised the predator/prey relationship in biocontrol of invasive species as well as plant diseases.

This marks the first event of this nature for the discipline; thanks to the numbers of Honours students and funding from Inqaba Biotec, Incotec, the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP) and UKZN, the discipline was able to break away from similar events which incorporated Microbiology and Plant Pathology students from various universities, and have their own, focused day of presentations under the auspices of the SASSP. Dr 
Kwasi Yobo took on the arrangements of the day and was pleased with how the day went, hoping to make it an annual event.

Four students received prizes for their presentations. Dr Gus Gubba said that he found the standard of all the presentations extremely high, and added that the students do better and better each year. Dr Caldwell and Dr Morris also expressed their satisfaction with the high standard of work the students produced.

Prof Charles Breen Wins National Wetlands Award

Charles Breen
Professor Charles Breen together with his former UKZN doctoral student and now head of WWF Zambia, Dr Nyambe Nyambe

Emeritus Professor Charles Breen has been awarded the National Wetlands Award in the Research and Science Category. The award was made at the National Wetlands Indaba on the 23rd of October 2014. Breen was recognised for his input into the increased focus on wetland research, conservation and protection in South Africa over the last three decades.

Breen pioneered trans-disciplinary research in the 1980s on the dynamics of the Pongolo floodplain wetland. This research yielded excellent ecological insights and addressed key management issues, including the importance of the wetland to the livelihoods of local people and the challenge of maintaining ecological flows which sustain the ecosystem.  Breen showed great foresight in the mid-1980s of taking wetlands into the policy and planning domain at a provincial level.

Breen was also 
a critical member of the research team producing the WRC Wetland Management Series, published in 2009 and in a WRC Wetland and Livelihoods project completed in 2014.  He also led the Kruger Park Rivers Research Programme and was instrumental in the development of the Consortium for Estuarine Research and Management.

During his academic career he has been devoted to the mentorship and supervision of young water researchers and practitioners, many from disadvantaged backgrounds. The majority of these students were or are involved in water resource and wetland research and management.

Well into his 70’s, Breen continues to engage with passion, intellect and empathy in his research area and has achieved well-deserved recognition from the wetland fraternity.

Farmer Support Group Starts Garden at Scottsville Gardens

FSG Scottsville
Nonhlanhla Mthembu of the FSG teaches children how to plant a seedling

On Tuesday the 28th of October our Farmer Support Group team visited Scottsville Gardens Pre-Primary School to assist them with planting a vegetable, herb and flower garden on their grounds. 

Following a request from Scottsville to Friends of UKZN Agriculture for assistance, the FSG put together a creative plan featuring 6 raised beds spelling out the word "garden", each of which will be cared for by one of the 6 groups/classes in the school. The idea is to get children involved in the process of growing food and teaching them about agriculture from a young age so that they understand where their food comes from. The Crop Science discipline was also extremely helpful in assisting with the provision of implements and compost for the project; some of their students also gave input into the planning of the garden.

The FSG, who offered to donate their time and resources to this project, gave a short presentation to the children on how to care for their plants. The school expressed gratitude to the group for their efforts and were impressed with the FSG's ability to interact with and present to the pupils.

SAEES Staff Contribute to Poultry Knowledge

Poultry Knowledge
SAEES Staff and students at the Poultry Knowledge Sharing Session

Prof Michael Chimonyo, Prof Ignatius Nsahlai, Dr Joyce Chitja and Dr Unathi Kolanisi of SAEES recently attended and facilitated a 3-day Poultry Knowledge Sharing Session where they presented their research and perspectives on various aspects of “Capacity Building for Farmers and Professionals in the Field of Agriculture”.

The group of academics, from the disciplines of Animal Science and Food Security, were joined at the three-day event by their postgraduate students. The four academics were also responsible for some of the facilitation of sessions during the event, which focused on poultry production and utilised the interdisciplinary perspectives of the academics in attendance to encourage discussion around solutions to food insecurity.

Organised by Further Education and Training (FET) College in Cedara, the event included participants from UKZN, FET Colleges, the governmental Departments of Agriculture and Education, research institutions and non-governmental organisations, as well as local farmers.

Chimonyo facilitated a discussion on “Poultry Production Systems and their Contribution to Socio-economic Livelihoods” and Chitja spoke to the attendees about market access. Kolanisi presented a research-based paper she co-authored with Dr Muthulisi Siwela entitled “Indigenous Chickens (ICs) - An Underutilised Resource for Food, Nutrition Security and Sustainable Livelihoods”.

The Food Security students also had the opportunity to contribute by sharing their knowledge with those at the session. They presented on one of the proposed interventions to maximise the utilisation of indigenous chickens, which they are currently working on. Another aspect the group chose to focus on was the nutritional issue of vitamin A deficiency (VAD). The students demonstrated solutions to multifaceted food security challenges through their diverse presentations.


Alumnus Luncheons

The University will be holding Alumnus Luncheons in Richard's Bay on Saturday the 8th of November 2014 and in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday the 22nd of November 2014 respectively.

The Richard's Bay event will be held at the Protea Hotel Waterfront, Richard's Bay and the Pietermaritzburg event will be held at Redlands Hotel. Costs for both events are R150pp and RSVPs are essential by the 31st of October and the 14th of November respectively.

The guest speakers at both events will be Mr Lesiba Seshoka (
Executive Director: Corporate Relations) and Mr Fanele Sibisi (President and Chair of Convocation).  Seating is limited so early bookings are advised.

RSVPs may be directed to Ms 
Nomcebo Msweli.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Kind Regards,

Christine Cuénod
Networking Facilitator
033 260 6557
083 314 3317

on behalf of

Duncan Stewart
082 491 1912
Copyright © 2014 Friends of UKZN Agriculture, All rights reserved.

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