In celebration of Women’s Month 2018, we are featuring female researchers who receive funding from the NRF. We thank the ladies for volunteering to share their stories with us.
Petunia Msuthwana is currently pursuing an MTech in Agriculture: Animal Production at Tshwane University of Technology.
I was born and raised in North West Province, Mahikeng, in a small village called Lomanyaneng. I am from a big family. I don’t have siblings but consider my cousins as such. I was raised by a single parent (my mother) together with the help of my aunt and grandmother.
I would like to describe myself as a hardworking, dedicated and determined individual. I aspire to inspire young ladies from my village and give hope to the hopeless as I acquire more knowledge and grow in capacity.
What made you decide to choose your field of study?
When I was growing up, there were a lot of people suffering, many poor and unable to even get food for themselves. Food insecurity has always been a problem in our country. I remember in Grade 11-12 Geography, we were taught about how fast the population is ever increasing and how, when men are poor and unemployed, they are more likely to become involved in criminal activities. I didn’t like it, so I thought when I grew up, I wanted to become a farmer, then a professional Oenologist.
Well, I became more knowledgeable about agriculture when I was doing my Matric as we were taken to different universities for career exhibitions. I decided to go for Animal Science, as I thought it was more relevant and would fulfil my dreams of becoming a farmer and helping the poor, eradicating food insecurity and unemployment.
What does you current research focus on?
My research focuses on conservation of livestock animals, as well as improving their genetic materials. I am currently volunteering at the Agricultural Research Council’s Animal Production Institute (ARC, API) and doing my project in their laboratories. I have been with ARC for two years now and I have been involved in Farmers’ Day presentations, freezing of livestock semen, performing artificial insemination and a farm technology transfer project. The project was aimed at teaching farmers how to perform artificial insemination on pigs in the Gauteng province.
How do you think your work/research can benefit/impact South Africans and/or the world?
My research will benefit the Department of Agriculture in particular, whereby we will be able to conserve our indigenous livestock by preserving their semen. However, semen preservation techniques should be mastered first so that we can successfully preserve the semen for future uses. This research will also help in reducing food insecurity, as well as the level of unemployment in our country.
The more we are invited to Farmers’ Days and career exhibitions, the more farmers know that they’re not alone. We are trying to come up with ways to conserve their superior bulls, boars etc. and helping our animals survive in harsh conditions. We inspire young people to take agriculture science and become farmers. Our noble research work that we present at different conferences and publish in different journals, becomes helpful to other countries worldwide, putting our STEM in a competitive and recognisable position.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?
Coming from a disadvantaged background and not having funds to go to university to further my studies because my parents couldn’t afford tuition fees. However, NSFAS and the NRF made it all possible for me to further both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. For this reason I am grateful for such an opportunity granted me.
Who has been your greatest inspiration? Who saw your potential/encouraged you when the going got tough?
God, my parents and my supervisors: Professor T.L. Nedambale and Mr M.L. Mphaphathi. I grew up in a God-fearing family, which made me realise that nothing is impossible with God, and if you put your trust in Him and His word, nothing will successfully defeat you. Furthermore, my supervisors always inspire me to work hard and smart, to aspire for greatness.
What is your vision for the future – what do you hope to achieve in the next ten years?
I see myself having my own farm that will contribute to world exports and strengthen our country’s economy. I want my farm to help in eradicating poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment as the population increases. Furthermore, I want to be a professor in Agriculture, become a lecturer and inspire many young ladies.
What other interests do you have outside of your chosen career?
Music, I love singing very much.