The South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Agronomy and Rural Development at UKZN, Professor Paramu Mafongoya, has been inducted as an elected Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) in Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences.
The induction took place at the AAS General Assembly during the Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) in December last year.
According to the AAS, fellows are elected from active African scientists in Africa or elsewhere and have attained the highest international standards and/or made significant contributions to the development and application of science, technology and innovation in Africa.
Mafongoya described this honour as a landmark in his life and career, saying it marked continental recognition for his contributions to science in Africa. During the General Assembly, Mafongoya and others delivered presentations, with Mafongoya speaking on the topic: Science Alone Cannot Manage Climate Crisis – Managing Climate Risks in Africa.
Nomination for a fellowship takes into consideration contributions to policy and development of science in Africa, significant innovations and research, leadership roles and publication record. As a Fellow, Mafongoya will work with AAS affiliates, review the proposals of young researchers, contribute to courses and training, assist in the development of AAS programmes and advocate for the role of science and technology in solving problems in Africa.
Mafongoya’s research interests cover a broad range of areas including integrated soil fertility management, natural resource management, agronomy, agroforestry, integrated soils management, biofuels and renewable energy, sustainable livelihoods and food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, indigenous knowledge systems and agricultural development.
He was awarded his PhD in Agroforestry from the University of Florida in the United States in 1995 after completing two Master of Science degrees at the University of London’s Wye College in 1988 and 1990. He completed his BSc Honours Agriculture degree in Crop Science at the University of Zimbabwe.
Mafongoya has published two books, more than 260 papers, book chapters, proceeding publications and other articles.
Before taking up the SARChI position in 2014, Mafongoya worked as Senior Proctor at the University of Zimbabwe, where he had become a Professor in the Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering. He also worked as a part-time lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the Africa University in Zimbabwe.
Prior to working at these universities, Mafongoya served as Senior Soil Scientist and Country Representative for the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) in Zambia, which involved collaboration with universities in the north and south to build capacity in Africa. Prior to this, he was a researcher for the Zimbabwean Tobacco Research Board and then the Department of Research and Specialist Services Agronomy Institute in the Ministry of Agriculture in Zimbabwe where he was Principal Research Agronomist.
In 2013, he was elected a Fellow with the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences (ZAS). He is a member of the American Trio Societies of Agronomy, Crop and Soil Science, Crop Science Society of Zimbabwe; African Crop Science Society; the Soil Science Society of Zimbabwe and was President of the University of Zimbabwe Crop Science Alumni from 2009 to 2012.
His work has involved work on policy issues, particularly to make agroforestry more appealing to farmers in Africa.
Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod