Three environmental education student researchers, Tichaona Pesanayi, Chisala Lupele and Phindile Sithole were recently awarded the 2016 Rhodes University Community Engagement student researchers of the year. The three shared the award for their combined work under the Amanzi for Food research programme. The students have worked with agricultural communities in implementing rainwater harvesting and conservation practices into various agricultural activities that the community members are involved in.

Tichaona has worked closely with agricultural college and university lecturers in curriculum development and innovation to include rainwater harvesting and conservation agricultural practices and seed saving techniques into the curricula. His PhD research focuses on the collective learning between the different partners under the Imvothu Bubomi Learning Network, in the Nkonkobe Municipality. In an interview with the team, Pesanayi said, “I felt it was a recognition of the importance of community co-engagement, and hence the importance of collective learning by universities from and together of sustainable alternatives with farmers, agricultural colleges, extension services and local municipalities”

Chisala has worked on the sharing of rainwater knowledge to the agricultural community through the use of different media platforms such as Facebook, a website and community radio. Her MEd work focuses on the development of a radio programme on rainwater harvesting by the Imvotho Bubomi Learning Network in light of its expansion and enhanced social learning. “It was a humbling feeling. It was great to know that the Rhodes University management took notice of our work that we have been doing as a team. It was also honoring to be nominated alongside other contenders who are doing extraordinary work with various communities they are working in. In my eyes they are winners too,” said Lupele.

Phindile’s MEd research explores the active and important role that agricultural extension services play in the agricultural sector. “It was an honour to know that the work we are doing is being recognised and important. It also motivating and exciting that no matter who you are you can make a different out there and can contribute to communities. This would have not been possible without the stakeholder and communities we were working with and really excited to know the value of our work”, said Sithole.

The three researchers are working together with agricultural college lectures, farmers, NGOs, Nkonkobe Economic Development Agency and Agricultural Extension Officers under the Amanzi for Food research programme. Recognition goes to their supervisors and the rest of the Amanzi fo Food research and field team!

By Patience Shawarira

If you want yo read more about why they were awarded the 2016 Rhodes University Community Engagement student researchers of the year, then follow the link below