College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Agronomic Potential of Maize for KZN Smallholders Focus of PhD Research

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Dr Mthokozisi Kwazi Zuma received a PhD in Crop Science for his research on farmer perceptions and the agronomic potential of Provitamin A-biofortified maize (PVABM) for smallholder farming systems in KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma explored the potential of PVABM for smallholder farming systems, looking specifically at smallholder farmers’ perceptions of maize production and the factors that might have positive or negative impacts on the acceptability of PVABM. He also explored the agronomic potential of PVABM, from seed quality to yield potential of the orange-yellow maize. Finally, he assessed the acceptability of and willingness to adopt PVABM for household consumption through sensory evaluation.

Zuma said that the study was motivated by the poor food security status of low-income communities in South Africa, with women and children particularly vulnerable.

‘I was concerned that, while smallholder farmers produce various crops, maize being one of them, the main challenge was people’s consumption of white maize and the use of yellow maize for animal feed,’ he said. ‘Looking at the nutritional content of yellow maize, it has a better carotenoid content compared to white maize, and could therefore be used as an alternative supply of vitamin A, which would benefit children in these communities at risk of vitamin A deficiency.’

Zuma, who completed his Bachelor of Agriculture with Honours and his Master of Agriculture degrees at UKZN, said he chose to study at the Institution because of its strength in agriculture, and its offerings in terms of capacity building, especially for students from disadvantaged areas.

Zuma is now the operations manager for uMkhuzane Projects, based in Richmond. He hopes to enrol in a post-doctoral programme to enhance his research skills and competencies.

Zuma acknowledged the smallholder farmers of Bulwer and KwaDlangezwa who contributed to his research, and thanked his supervisors, Professors Albert Modi and Unathi Kolanisi, for dedicating their time to guide and improve his research. He also thanked his family, friends and his partner for their support.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan