NMMU Doctoral student selected for overseas agriculture fellowship

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

It was not love at first sight, but Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) Animal Production Lecturer and doctoral student Potego Phakwago’s love for Agriculture grew, and he has recently been selected for a Fellowship as one of 50 Young Scientists in Developing Countries to work in India for six months.

Potego, 26, will be jetting off to India on Thursday, 1 December 2016, to spend six months at ICAR-National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) in Karnal, Haryana, India, working with top-rated dairy scientists, where he will carry out his research study on “Efficiency of Dairy Farm Management Practices of Smallholder Producers in Eastern Cape, South Africa and Karnal, India”.

This, he says, will help with his PhD studies in dairy farming and enable him to publish articles with these scientists.

When he got an email informing him of his selection to the Fellowship, Potego said he saw that “indeed God opens doors”.

“This means a lot to me. Looking back at where I came from and seeing myself get this far makes me feel so blessed,” he said. “I am excited, motivated and inspired to do well in India.”

When he first applied to NMMU, Potego – who was born and raised in Sekhukhune, Limpopo, in a village called GaNchabeleng – wanted to study Geology, but a registration mix-up saw him land up in the Agriculture field. He has never looked back since.

“It was not love at first sight. I applied for Geology and there was some mix-up during registration, which led to Agriculture being the only other option left. I took it since I thought they go well together,” he quipped.

“So I continued with it and slowly started to enjoy it and saw many opportunities within Agriculture.  One of the opportunities that I saw was that the only place I could grow or expand my knowledge is in dairy farming since it is one sector in the industry that is not so popular, but that has great potential.”

Potego has spent the past nine years studying and lecturing in Agriculture – a field he firmly believes makes an enormous contribution to national economy.

“Agriculture is very important in every country. Besides the fact that every household uses agricultural products on a daily basis, it contributes a lot towards the country’s economy. It creates jobs and anybody can make a living from of agriculture,” he said.

“Look at the likes of China. They do not import most of their agricultural products and are one of the biggest economies in the world.”

The self-professed workaholic, who is always on the lookout for opportunities to grow his craft and thus excel, said his selection to India came about through hard work and exposing himself to the relevant people in his field

“Staying focused on my goals in life and working hard every day – there is no day off in agriculture – has led to my achievements,” he said.

“When you have a passion for what you do and you mix it with hard work, it will be hard for people around you not to notice. Networking and exposing myself to people of the same interests also helped because when opportunities come up, I am always available and up for new challenges that come my way.”

Potego said his studies and time at NMMU have contributed to his achievement and he appreciates the support he gets from his department and colleagues.

Besides his lecturing career at NMMU, Potego also volunteers his time and skills advising smallholder farmers in his home province as well as the Eastern Cape and partakes in career expos, encouraging young people to consider venturing into Agriculture.