Ranked among the few Agrometeorology graduates in the country, Ms Mulalo Thavhana has obtained a Master of Science in Agriculture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
She is the first in her family to attain a postgraduate degree. ‘It is a proud moment for my mother and an inspiration to my younger brother,’ said Thavhana.
Thavhana, who studied for her Bachelor of Science in Hydrology and Soil Science at UKZN before completing her Honours in Geohydrology at the University of the Free State, was inspired to pursue Agrometeorology by her supervisors, Professor Michael Savage and Dr Mokhele Moeletsi of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).
‘In my second year of study, Prof Savage made the modules very interesting and intriguing for a young mind, and seeing all that instrumentation was exciting,’ said Thavhana.
Dr Moeletsi and Dr Mitsuru Tsubo also introduced Thavhana, a professional development programme student at the ARC, to the field through the ARC Soil, Climate and Water’s Agrometeorology division. They encouraged Thavhana to become one of the country’s very few agrometeorologists and thereby make a difference in South Africa through this field.
‘Agrometeorology is multifaceted and cuts through different disciplines. My counterparts are studying very different and interesting things and yet we fall under the same division,’ said Thavhana.
‘There are so many layers to be peeled back and so much to be learned in this field,’ she added.
Thavhana’s master’s research was on the topic of runoff simulation using the soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) model for flood frequency analysis and design flood estimations in the Luvuvhu River catchment area in Limpopo.
Focusing on the Luvuvhu River catchment, Thavhana used a hydrological model to estimate flooding in the area. The model helped her evaluate the extent of the floods that would be occurring in the catchment and the rate in which they would be occurring in the future.
Thavhana said previous flood disasters caught the Luvuvhu community unaware and unprepared. ‘The effects of the flooding could have been minimised through proper planning and management strategies.’
Her study is aimed at informing relevant bodies such as disaster management agencies, extension officers and farmers about what to expect in the future, so that proper plans may be put in place for better preparedness. She hopes her work will provide a reference point for decision-making and planning about development and flood adaptation during the flooding season in the area.
‘I also hope this influences the improvement of transfer of knowledge to the community and farmers in terms of weather forecasts and flood warnings so that people may be better prepared,’ said Thavhana.
A paper based on her work has been accepted for publication in the Physics and Chemistry of the Earthjournal.
Thavhana, who thanked God for the possibilities provided to her, is planning to pursue a PhD in her field. She thanked her mother and aunt for their prayers and encouragement, and her brother, friends and cousins for inspiring her to persevere and go as far as she can.
Words: Christine Cuénod