Youth Month 2023: Thilivhali Eugene Rasimphi

Youth Month 2023: Thilivhali Eugene Rasimphi

June is Youth Month, and this year the NRF is celebrating the Youth of the NRF who are advancing knowledge, transforming lives, and inspiring a nation. We thank all participants for sharing their stories with us.

Mr Thilivhali Eugene Rasimphi is a Doctoral candidate in Rural Development at the University of Venda (Univen). He received funding from the NRF for his Master’s studies and is currently funded for his PhD.

How did your journey start?

I grew up in a rural village called Maebane, Ha-Kutama, in Limpopo – 13 km away from Louis Trichardt. I am the second born in a family of three sons.

After completing my Grade 12, I enrolled at the University of Venda for a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Management. Growing up in a rural area where trees were cut down for firewood, leading to the deterioration of the environment, inspired me to register for this degree with the aim of resolving the environmental issues that so affect rural areas and their livelihoods. I furthered my studies for a Master’s degree with the focus of providing solutions to the ever escalating challenges of energy provision in rural areas. It has led me to the career path I am focusing on now, which is providing clean energy in rural areas through waste recycling.

How has your affiliation with the NRF impacted your studies/career?

The NRF funding has made it possible for me to further my studies and to be able to engage with my peers in the field. This is a huge impact because NRF funding makes it possible to travel and publish your research with ease. Thus, many people are able to access your research.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles to be where you are today, and what did you learn from it?

There was a time when I had to submit my research for my Master’s degree and my laptop crashed. I, unfortunately, did not save all of my work on external sources, which could have kept my work safe. That was a difficult time for me because you have to start afresh and rewrite the work. At that time, I had to submit hard copy chapters instead of soft copies but I managed to gather all the work in time. From then on, I always have an external source where I can save my work.

After completing my Master’s degree, I had to take a gap year because I couldn’t find funding for my studies. It was about six years before I could finally register for my Doctoral degree. Those years were the hardest because you have to think of being admitted, and then if you get admitted, how are you going to fund your studies? So it was a bit challenging, and having to put on a smiling face. But because of passion and perseverance and support from my mentor, colleagues and family, I was eventually admitted and received funding.

What is your research focus on/what is your area of expertise?

My research focuses on waste-to-energy conversion through biogas technology. Biogas is a mixture of gas produced by microorganisms during the anaerobic fermentation of biodegradable materials. Thus, through biogas technology, clean energy can be achieved in rural areas and the desired rural revitalisation can be achieved.

How can your work/studies advance knowledge, transform lives, and inspire a nation?

Through waste-to-energy conversion, many rural areas can benefit from the technology. The technology requires the use of organic wastes which are mostly readily available in rural areas. Through biogas technology it can be converted to generate energy for cooking and heating. Most rural areas require energy for cooking and heating, especially with this current loadshedding problem. Biogas technology can provide the much-needed energy for cooking and heating, both at base and peak hours. A biogas plant, which converts waste anaerobically, can be installed at a household and can be used to generate the needed energy. The slurry generated after digestion can be used to water gardens or composted and applied in an agricultural field.

What are some of your proudest achievements?

Through the research work done at the University of Venda, we have managed to install more than 30 small-scale digesters in different rural areas which are used for cooking and heating. The recipients of the digesters have indicated the benefits of having digesters which includes saving money on electricity purchases and garden improvements as they are now able to provide vegetables for themselves through the use of the slurry. The change in livelihood when a family is able to cook at any time they wish and are able to save money – that is one of the proudest moments.

Some of my work can be found here:

  • Elsevier: Relevance of biogas technology to Vhembe district of the Limpopo province in South Africa. Click here.
  • Google Books: A Techno- Socio-economic Potential Assessment of Organic Waste-toenergy Coversion Through Biogas Technology for Rural Households in Vhembe District of Limpopo. Click here.

What are your career aspirations for the future?

It is a dream of any young researcher to be NRF-rated.

After completing my Doctoral degree, I would like to proceed with postdoctoral studies and continue writing and publishing articles. Furthering studies goes hand in hand with business development, thus the goal is to pursue the studies and further my business at the same time. I already have a piggery business which is up and running.

This work is licenced under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 South Africa (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 ZA) license. Please view the terms for republishing here.

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