Agriculture is not a career usually associated with glamorous young women but in the case of Ms Fortunate Yenziwe Hlongwana it is! She was awarded her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Animal and Poultry Science) degree cum laude.
Hlongwana said she initially planned to study Veterinary Science but a late application caused her to register for Animal Science with plans to switch later. ‘But I fell in love with Animal Science and the University offered a great curriculum for my majors. I found a home away from home, which has seen me continue with my Animal Science Honours degree this year.’
Hlongwana got useful practical experience during her undergraduate studies, including ample exposure to livestock farms, dairy factories, veterinary laboratories, abattoirs, animal nutrition and feed mill companies. She participated in the annual Steers Project, which involved weighing animals on a weekly basis, recording their feed intake, monitoring daily gain and food conversion efficiency.
‘My participation in this project made me realise just how passionate I am about working with animals,’ said Hlongwana. ‘I was overjoyed when the steer I was training was awarded first prize during the UKZN mini show competition held during the Royal Agricultural Show.’
During her final year of studies Hlongwana also participated in the Novus International Inc. Student Programme, run in partnership with the Ikusasa Le-Africa Foundation (ILAF). ‘I was lucky enough to be one of the students selected to attend this programme and it equipped me with practical experience and exposure to work hands-on with animals on a weekly basis,’ she said.
‘Just like a tree without its root, I would not be where I am without my support system,’ said Hlongwana. ‘To make it in life, you need moral support. My family, friends, lecturers and high school teachers all played an important role in getting me to where I am.’
Professor Ignatius Nsahlai of the Discipline of Animal Science said: ‘Fortunate is a quiet, humble and intelligent person who has strong group leadership skills and has performed exceptionally in the curriculum.’
Hlongwana, who enjoys listening to music, cooking and reading in her spare time, is currently registered for a Master’s degree in Animal Science in which she will investigate nitrogen and amino acid digestibility and colon fermentation in South African Windsnyer pigs fed Amarula oil cake. She believes the results of her study will offer an economic opportunity to rural smallholder farmers from marginalised areas where Amarula is found. She also believes her study will provide an innovative low-cost pig diet and promote sustainable development of local pork markets.
Words: Sabeliwe Langa
Photograph: Supplied and Gugu Mqadi