College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

MAgric Teaches “Old Dog” New Tricks!

Seasoned irrigation technician, Mr Danie le Roux has rebooted his academic career using his considerable experience and skill to complete a Master of Agriculture (MAgric) degree in Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management (AERRM) at UKZN based on research that explored problems with collective irrigation schemes and developing farmers.

Le Roux completed his Diploma in Agriculture in the 1980s, going on to work as an irrigation technician at Lowveld Agricultural College, now part of the University of Mpumalanga (UMP) in Nelspruit, where he gained experience in Higher Education and agricultural development. A meeting with Professor Steve Worth – who would later supervise his research – while they worked on the development of agricultural qualification courses for the new UMP spurred le Roux into enrolling for a Bachelor of Agriculture (BAgric) honours degree at UKZN, and then his MAgric.

Worth said those involved in running UKZN’s AERRM Honours programme have been keen for some time to demonstrate its capacity to draw students from many spaces and enable them to meet the requirements of the BAgric Honours degree and thereafter the MAgric.

Le Roux is one of three experienced agricultural professionals who have thus far been granted admission to the BAgric Honours course through recognition of their prior learning combined with experience, and is the only one thus far to complete the master’s degree.

Despite the challenge of completing his MAgric while working, and re-entering student life many decades into his professional career, le Roux successfully navigated the challenges and acquired new experience while doing so, saying he found the journey transformative.

Le Roux says his academic perspective on the concepts and practicalities of agricultural development has changed completely from one that was focused on the technical infrastructure and production processes to where he recognises that agricultural development or agricultural extension is not primarily about the farm, but about the farmer.

He dedicated his research to farmers whose problems he observed, expressing hope that his work could be of value and benefit to them and to future research on the topic of developmental, collective irrigation schemes.

Buoyed with a renewed sense of vision, le Roux now plans to pursue PhD studies and is busy working on topics, with hopes of further advancing his academic career.

Among his acknowledgements is a tribute to his cat, which kept him company through the process of conducting and writing up his research!

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied