Ms Amanda Ruzive’s Masters in Crop Science earned her a cum laude result after she explored how an underutilised crop species native to Africa, the Bambara groundnut, could contribute to enhanced food and nutrition security and sustainable agricultural systems.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Ruzive gained experience in assessing the morphological traits of crops during her honours project on sugarcane at Bindura University of Science Education, examining the qualitative morphological traits of an in-situ sugarcane gene bank containing more than 100 varieties of the commercial crop collected from different countries.
Her honours degree was also awarded cum laude, motivating Ruzive to continue in this line of research but focusing on a less well-researched crop species in the hopes of contributing to the knowledge of new sources of essential nutrients and promoting dietary diversity, a key tactic to combat malnutrition.
Ruzive chose to further her studies at UKZN thanks to its status as one of South Africa’s top-ranked universities and reputation for academic excellence, high-quality education and outstanding research output. Its research focus was a particular drawcard as Ruzive found that UKZN offered students many opportunities to engage in innovative research projects.
With the expert supervision of Honorary Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi and Drs Laurencia Govender and Admire Shayanowako, Ruzive assessed the variability of agro-morphological traits, cooking quality and nutritional composition among Bambara groundnut recombinant inbred lines.
She aimed to gain an understanding of the characteristics and potential uses of these lines, as the Bambara groundnut is resistant to high temperatures and nitrogen-fixing, can be grown in marginal soils, and is valuable to smallholder farmers who can grow the crop sustainably even in challenging climatic conditions, reducing their vulnerability to drought events and building their resilience to the impacts of climate change.
The nutrient-dense, protein-rich seeds provide an important and healthy food source, making it important to understand the nutritional profile of Bambara groundnuts.
By identifying genotypes that exhibit desirable agro-morphological traits and cooking qualities, Ruzive aimed to contribute to research on which varieties of Bambara groundnut would have higher market value and be preferred by consumers. Her findings contribute to the development of improved varieties and promote the utilisation of the Bambara groundnut as a sustainable crop with nutritional and economic benefits.
Ruzive presented her research as a poster at the South African Association for Food Science and Technology (SAAFoST) Biennial Congress in 2023. Achieving a cum laude result has provided a strong sense of accomplishment and fulfilment and accelerated her drive to deepen her understanding of this subject through continued engagement with experts in her field. She plans to pursue a PhD on utilising molecular plant breeding tools to enhance the breeding process of the Bambara groundnut.
Completing a master’s degree was not without its challenges as Ruzive navigated the responsibilities of being a wife, daughter-in-law and mother to a toddler. She said that setting priorities, careful planning, good time management, adaptability, flexibility and discipline were essential to balancing her studies with family life and excelling academically.
‘Being a mother was also the greatest motivation, as I wanted to show my daughter that women can do anything in this world and the sky is the limit,’ said Ruzive.
She thanked her supervisors for sharing their expertise and insights and for always encouraging her. Leading her beyond her comfort zone, their guidance allowed her to explore new areas of knowledge and challenge her intellectual boundaries. Ruzive also thanked her husband Mr Peace Sibanda and her family for their unwavering belief in her abilities, which boosted her confidence to pursue and expand the horizons of her academic pursuits.
Words: Christine Cuenod
Photograph: Sethu Dlamini