Nine students from the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) took part in the UKZN leg of a competition organised by Old Mutual and Plaas Media to identify top agricultural students at South African universities.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES), Professor Albert Modi, said the one purpose of the competition was to enthuse students and encourage knowledge sharing. He encouraged interaction between staff, students and industry representatives present at the event.
Third-year student participants were from the Disciplines of Animal Science, Agricultural Economics, Crop Science, Horticultural Sciences and Soil Science. They presented on three set topics related to beef production, land expropriation without compensation (EWC) and sustainable agriculture.
The three winners selected, one in each category, were Mr Keshveer Singh of Animal Science for his presentation on beef production, Ms Jessica Lubisi of Soil Science for her presentation on sustainable agriculture and Mr Lungani Mvelase of Agricultural Economics for a presentation on EWC.
The three winners from UKZN received prize money from Old Mutual and will participate in the final round of the competition in Parys later in the year; competing against finalists from the University of Pretoria, the University of the Free State and Stellenbosch University. Participation in the final event will provide the opportunity to interact with the broader agricultural industry.
Mr Albert Loubser from Plaas Media congratulated students on being selected and encouraged them to use the event as a learning experience, saying they were pioneers thanks to their participation in this inaugural edition of the competition, which is planned to become an annual event.
Each student gave a 10-minute presentation based on their allocated topic, then fielded questions from the judges and audience.
‘This is your chance to take a subject and make a stand,’ said Loubser, who highlighted the value of participation for a student’s experience, setting them apart as they enter the industry.
He thanked Modi and his team for facilitating the UKZN round and thanked Old Mutual for being willing to invest in the future by supporting this event.
Modi thanked Old Mutual and Plaas Media for their partnership with UKZN, and also SAEES academics who assisted in the selection and assessment of participants.
‘You are future agricultural leaders and Old Mutual is proud to invest in the future,’ said Advocate Koos Nel from Old Mutual. ‘Time is a commodity and what will make a difference is how you use it. The strategic importance of agriculture is growing daily in line with the growth of the population. Agriculture is the place to be. Indeed, Professor Modi is right in saying that this is a new partnership with UKZN,’ said Nel.
Words: Christine Cuénod
Photograph: Ntokozo Dladla