Growing women in agriculture, science and technology

ADVERTISING FEATURE SPECIAL PROJECTS SALES REPRESENTATIVE: MARCELLE OLIPHANT & GREG STOCK WRITER: ALF JAMES Published in The Star, Pretoria News, The Mercury & Cape Times National Women’s Month A LNR Growing women in agriculture, science and technology The Agricultural Research Council ARC is a premier science institution that conducts research with partners, develops human capital and fosters innovation in support of the agricultural sector. The ARC provides diagnostic, laboratory, analytical, agricultural engineering services, post harvest technology development, agrochemical evaluation, consultation and advisory services, food processing technology services as well as various surveys and training interventions. As part of celebrating Women’s Month, the ARC honours women in agricultural science who continue to make efforts to mitigate against food insecurity and feeding the world’s ever growing population through scientific solutions including climate smart agriculture. As the nation celebrates the centenary of the struggle stalwart and humanitarian Albertina Sisulu, who was also a nurse by profession, it is an opportune time to reflect on what the ARC is doing to develop women in agriculture, science and technology It is therefore befitting that the ARC has pro grammes and policies that for developing women scientists to address the economic challenges. The ARC creates and provides opportunities to suitable candidates from various disadvantaged backgrounds to de velop and promote skills, potential and talent to the ultimate as well as the ARC, agricultural sector, science and technology for economic growth of South Africa. This way the ARC also mitigates against the scarcity of scientists through mentorship by ARC senior researchers and continuous evaluation during the programme. The following individuals are examples of the fruit of ARC growing women in agriculture, science and technology: Dr Joyce Chitja of the African Centre for Food Security ACES in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences SAEES at University of KwaZulu Natal UKZN , has been appointed deputy chairperson of the board of the Agricultural Re search Council ARC for a three year term. Chitja has been an ARC board member for two terms. This is her third term where she will serve in this new role. She said she is honoured to be appointed to this new role. She sees her position as a serious responsibility as the ARC is a state owned entity responsible for agricultural research and for upholding food security in the country in every sphere of agriculture. Chitja’s responsibilities will involve supporting the strategic goals of the ARC, while also filling a second role as chair of the ARC’s Research, Development and Evaluation Committee. UKZN Vice Chancellor, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, issued a statement to the university community congratulating Chitja on her appointment. He said: “The Agricultural Research Council plays a vital role in supporting the agricultural sector and con ducts research with partners, develops human capital and fosters innovation in support of the sector. Dr Chitja’s experience as an agricultural scientist and food security expert with a rich under stating of agriculture in South Africa especially the challenges facing the small scale farming sector, will no doubt be of great value to the ARC Board.” Ms Joyce Mashiteng is a highly motivated, responsible, hardworking and conscientious environmental and project manager and environmental subject matter specialist with over nine years’ experience in middle management level. Throughout her career she has gained the ability to work under pressure ad be able to pro duce the desired outcome. Being a team leader requires her to be able to communicate at all levels and thus work well with a team or an individual. Mashiteng is known for displaying her analytical, reporting, planning, strategic, project management policy making, leader ship and mentoring skills. Her eagerness to use her knowledge is only surpassed by her will and drive to succeed over the past 20 years. Her experience in project management has afforded her the opportunity to gain an excellent track record of negotiation and contract management skills that led to capital build projects being constructed on time and enable the company to gain shareholder savings. This task required her to develop the ability to make decisions and accept responsibility In the last five years she has also learned and gained an in tense understanding of corporate governance, having served on the Ministerial National Water Advisory Council as well as her current role with the ARC Board. Dr Ivy Tshilwane is a senior researcher in the Vaccines and Diagnostics Development Pro gramme at Agricultural Research Council Onderstepoort Veterinary Research ARC OVR . She holds a PhD in veterinary tropical dis eases from the University of Pre toria. Her PhD studies focused on developing new generation vac cines for the control of heartwater, which is a tick borne disease of livestock. During her time at the ARC OVR, she continued research on development of new generation vaccines for livestock diseases, which are required to replace expensive impractical vaccines that are not easily accessible to poor farming communities because of their need for cold chain storage and high cost of production. Tshilwane is an aspiring veterinary immunologist who ap plies innovative technologies like nanotechnology, biotechnology, transcriptome sequencing to solve socio economic problems encountered by poor farming communities. Through this, she contributed significantly to research towards the development of an improved vaccine for heartwater, which resulted in an effect ive prototype DNA vaccine provisional patent pending that can protect sheep against heartwater infection. The prototype DNA vaccine developed for heartwater was designed in such a way that it will be cheap to produce and will not require cold chain storage, making it suitable for use by poor small scale farmers as well. Tshilwane has recently been awarded research funds from the National Research Foundation and the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to further her research. She is also passionate about teaching and continues to invest in knowledge through mentorship of postdoctoral fellows and co supervision of postgraduate students. She aspires to continue conducting multidisciplinary research that will not only create new knowledge and technologies but also contribute to improve ment of the livelihoods of communities and food security Lerato Matsaunyane D.Phil is a plant molecular biologist turned molecular breeder in the Plant Breeding Division of the ARC at the Vegetable and Ornamental Plants ARC VOP campus. She holds a D.Phil in Biochemistry from the University of Johannesburg and an MSc in Plant Science from the University of Pretoria. Her doctoral study investigated transformation in duced unintended effects following genetic modification of a potato crop with an antifungal gene for enhanced resistance against Verticillium wilt. Considering the challenges related with the production and registration of a genetically modified GM crop, Dr Matsaunyane sought to investigate alternative crop protection methods with the aim of assisting household, resource poor and smallholder farmers mitigate crop loss. She collaborated with Gauteng De partment of Agriculture and Rural Development GDARD and investigated the benefit of botanical extracts as alternative crop protection agents. In addition, she is currently investigating the incorporation of molecular techniques into the current ARC VOP potato breeding programme. The aim of which is to use marker assisted selection to breed for climate resilient potato crops with special focus on drought tolerance and late blight resistance in collaboration with partners from the Sweden University of Agri cultural Sciences SLU . Since her entrance into the agricultural sector was through the ARC professional development programme ARC PDP , she is paying it forward by mentoring students, which ranges from experiential, internship as well postgraduates. Dr Ashira Roopnarain is pres ently a researcher in the Micro biology and Environmental Biotechnology Research Group MEBRG , at the ARC Soil, Cli mate and Water. She obtained her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of the Witwatersrand Wits in 2014, focusing on Microbiology and Bio technology For her PhD research, she contributed to knowledge on using microalgal derived lipids as a feedstock for biodiesel production, as an environmentally friendly, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. This work has sparked her interest in environmental preservation by means of biofuel generation. Roopnarain continued working in the field of bioenergy gen eration during her postdoc at the ARC1 under the mentorship of Prof Rasheed Adeleke. She has gained expertise in various research areas including soil beneficial microbes, waste to energy research and biofertilizer research. She has contributed significantly to the establishment of the first biogas research laboratory at ARC Soil, Climate and Water. Roopnarain is currently involved in the management and upkeep of the laboratory She is the project leader for a Water Research Commission funded project K5 2543: ‘The utilization of water hyacinth Eicchornia crassipes from Hartbeespoort dam in biogas and bio fertilizer production, as a solution to water weed challenges’. Roopnarain aspires to excel in her career as a researcher and to conduct research that will result in environmental remediation, upliftment of communities as well as food and energy security Dr Linky Makgahlela is currently employed as a research team manager for animal breeding and genetics at ARC Animal Production Campus. She graduated her BSc Agric and MSc Agric from the University of Limpopo. She holds a PhD in Animal Breeding and Genetics from the A versity of Helsinki in Finland. Prof Makgahlela is rated by the National Research Foundation Y2 sub category Her current research aims to establish a research programme in livestock genomics with the view of implementing genomic selection in the National Livestock Improvement programmes. This includes examining issues associated with running an efficient processing pipeline from on farm sampling, imputation as cost effective genotyping strategies to genomic evaluation in South African livestock. Makgahlela is also investigating harmful and recessive genes impairing fertility in beef cattle, genes associated with adaptation and disease resistance in livestock. She supervises several post graduate students participating in these projects as part of developing genomics research capacity In future, she aims to develop bioinformatics pipelines for inclusion of sequence data in livestock genetic improvement. Makgahlela provides advisory services to the beef and dairy industry, where she is the convener of the Dairy Genomic Programme, Research Committee, panel member in the National Research Foundation applications moderation process, and serves as a reviewer of manuscripts for local and international journals. She is the current convener of the public relations committee of the South African Society of Animal Science. Agricultural Research Council 1134 Park Street, Hatfield PretorialP0 Box 8783, Pretoria, 0001 Tel: +27 0 12 427 97001 Fax: +27 0 12 430 5814 Website: www.arc.agric.za Email: enquirygarc.agric.za I:I You Tube THANK YOU FOR BEING A PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN WOMAN HKLM SI 0510

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