Several community elders welcomed the French Ambassador in South Africa, Mrs Elisabeth Barbier, and her team to the rural area of Potshini near Winterton where UKZN is currently engaged in a number of research initiatives.

The visiting group included the Attaché for Science and Technology Dr Pierre Lemond; Cultural and Cooperation Councillor Director at Institut Francais South Africa, Mr Frank Marchetti, and UKZN academics and students.

Although not present during the field trip, scientists from the Institute of Research and Development (IRD) have been closely involved in the research activities in the area.

The group also consisted of outside partners who have engaged in research and funding initiatives in association with the University including Ms Sue van Rensburg of the South African Environmental Observation Network, Ms Michelle Dye of the African Conservation Trust and Mr Michael Malinga of the Farmer Support Group.

The visitors were given an informative tour of the area where research into soil erosion is taking place.

The area has been chosen as a research site for soil erosion for several reasons such as the area’s position in a high rainfall area and the general quality of the soil there, which together make the area especially susceptible to erosion. 

PhD students Mr Phesheya Dlamini and Mr Macdex Mutema gave the group an informative tour of their respective research sites explaining the nature and purpose of the research they are engaged in. Also present were PhD students Mr Alistar Clulowa, Ms Charmaine Mchunu, Mr Khatab Mohamed Abdalla and MSc students Ms Humbelani Thenga, and Ms Simangele Sithole.  

Dr Terry Everson and Ms Sue van Rensburg explained the University’s relationship with the community. ‘There has been on-going relationship building between UKZN and the people of Potshini over the years, building a system of trust, which has been vitally important in maintaining a good relationship between the University and the community,’ said Van Rensburg.

Dr Pauline Chivenge further explained that relations with the community have been valuable in a number of ways: ‘The relationship with Potshini has been pivotal in capacity building as the processes soil scientists and hydrologists have to engage in can’t always be done in the lab. Through engagement with the community at Potshini they are able to extend their experiences to the field.’

Mr Maduba, a community leader addressed the group of visitors and thanked the University for choosing to work with the community at Potshini. ‘Working with the University has uplifted the community greatly. We here at Potshini have been privileged enough to have international visitors such as the French Ambassador, because of our affiliation with the University, we are thankful for all that UKZN has done for us,’ he said.

The University is currently involved in a number of other soil and water studies related research at Potshini and other areas around the Drakensberg.

Barbier congratulated the UKZN team for the excellent work being done.

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