‘I have supervised Nqobile from the time of her Postgraduate Diploma in Food Security and recognised key research skills, passion and commitment even at that stage,’ said Professor Joyce Chitja of her star student, Ms Nqobile Mthuli, who graduated with a Master of Agriculture in Food Security through UKZN.
With a Bachelor of Social Science background majoring in Geography and Environmental Science, Mthuli enrolled in the Introduction to Food Security class as an elective in her third year of undergraduate studies and fell in love with the discipline. ‘I went on to do my PG Diploma in Food Security and found that I had a knack for research, coming top of my class,’ she said. ‘Professor Chitja then provided me with the opportunity to pursue my MAgric in Food Security through UKZN in 2020, for which I will be forever grateful.’
Mthuli’s study focused on environmental management of urban farming and water quality, and its implications for food security.
‘My research aimed to understand the environmental impacts of farming practices and the environmental constraints that threaten crop production, which ultimately affect the fundamental pillars of food security as well as the sustainability of urban farming in three socio-economically marginalised study areas,’ said Mthuli.
‘Nqobile is a quiet but passionate, insightful and analytical, committed and respectful researcher,’ said Chitja. ‘Often working with older and less literate farmers in Sweetwaters and Sobantu township, she was great in engaging with the community with care and patience.’
Mthuli explained what motivated her interest in food security: ‘I was part of an ongoing project led by my supervisor in collaboration with the Water Research Commission. My area of knowledge and skills was in environmental management and food security, which led to the idea to address and/or highlight the interconnectedness of food security objectives with sustainability objectives such as agriculture and the environment. Hence my topic – Environmental Management of Urban Farming and Water Quality: Implications for Food Security.’
Mthuli said her research is significant as it promotes sustainable farming by identifying management practices that can reduce environmental issues in agriculture, thus aligning with the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ‘The overall findings can be key to the development of community-based interventions for smallholder urban farmers,’ she said.
Mthuli is currently actively looking for employment whilst keeping busy editing journal articles for publication. Her interest in food security also led her to co-found Greenery Women in Action, a non-profit organisation that focuses on alleviating food insecurity and poverty through crop farming in the rural area where she grew up.
‘I plan to use the knowledge and skills I have acquired to contribute to the growth and success of our ongoing projects,’ said Mthuli. ‘I hope that in the next five years we will achieve our goal of assisting more households to become self-sufficient in food production with the necessary resources to gain socio-economic resilience against environmental risks.’
Mthuli paid tribute to her parents, maternal aunt and siblings. ‘They provided me with a leg to stand on all my life. All of the good parts of me and my academic achievements are because of their love and support.’
She also thanked her friend and colleague Ms Sinethemba Ndwalane and her supervisor Chitja and co-supervisor Dr Ojo Temitope.
An avid reader in her spare time, Mthuli had the following to say about her achievement: ‘I believe each of our names define our destiny and I finally understand why I was named uNqobile (one who has conquered). I am not usually one to celebrate my achievements but the past couple of years have been truly humbling. Yet I soldiered on. I look forward to a new chapter in my life.’
Words: Sally Frost