Rural communities in Umbumbulu are benefitting
from an outreach programme co-ordinated by
Professor Albert Modi.

The rural community of Umbumbulu in KwaZulu-Natal was recently given the opportunity to participate in a hands-on research project led by Professor Albert Modi, Dean of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

This outreach initiative forms part of a mission to encourage rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal to explore agricultural biodiversity as an innovative way to achieve food security and improve their general quality of life, while also managing the negative impacts of alien invasive plant species in the region.

‘In the context of the current debate about land redistribution, food insecurity and poverty in South Africa, it is critical for communities to be educated and empowered to make sustainable decisions regarding their livelihoods,’ explained Modi.

The approach is in line with the government’s National Development Strategy and National Development Plan Vision for 2030, which mandates the overall improvement of the quality of life of South Africans.

A focus on rural people is regarded vital as those communities maintain access to land that can be used to ensure food security and the generation of livelihoods without relying solely on government.

The National Integrated Food Security Strategy (IFSS) calls for an increase in the number of households which can productively undertake sustainable agricultural practices for themselves and for trade purposes. Rural land, however, faces the threat of encroachment by alien plants, reducing food security for marginalised communities. 

‘Under the mentorship of Professor Modi, we have been able to remove unwanted, alien plants and replace them with useful vegetables, indigenous trees and medicinal plants, creating a food source for our community and the possibility of jobs as we begin to harvest for commercial use,’ said Mrs Babongile Mkhize.

Modi, a GreenMatter Senior Fellow, believes that encouraging rural communities to better understand the link between indigenous knowledge and science allows practical strategies to be swiftly implemented in areas such as organic vegetable production and integrated pest management systems.

This approach requires commitment towards educating and sharing knowledge with these communities.