Scientist’s top scholarship


UNIVERSITY of Zululand (Unizulu) BSc Agriculture Animal Science undergraduate, Lisa Chella has been awarded the 2013 Mandela Rhodes Scholarship.

Chella (21) from Mandini in northern KwaZulu-Natal will use the prestigious scholarship to complete her postgraduate studies in animal science. Her current research is focused on genetics of Zulu Nguni sheep, a breed that is indigenous to Africa.

“The species had become endangered over time due to cross breeding and commercialised farming. This has resulted in the decrease in pedigree Nguni sheep and unsustainable use of them as a food resource.

“The public has taken the species for granted and it has as a result become endangered; people are not aware that they are unique and there exists great need to conserve the remaining population.

“Nguni sheep possess remarkable characteristics; they have resilient immune systems and are environmentally adaptable. In addition, they are known to flourish in KwaZulu-Natal despite the province’s warm sub-tropical temperature,” said Chella.

An aspect of Chella’s research is also aimed at establishing the purity of the Nguni sheep gene. The study also touches on population figures, sustainability and recommendations on conservation strategies.

Chella’s blood analyses of the species are based on samples extracted from Nguni sheep from agricultural towns in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Msinga and Pietermaritzburg.

She added: “Agriculture is an exciting field to be in at the moment.

“There exists ample opportunity to focus research on sustainable use of resources, conservation, effect of cross-breeding experimentation, creating awareness and sharing knowledge with local communities to enhance subsistence farming.

“South Africa has a very diverse fauna and it is critical that their role in the ecosystem is highlighted.

“As researchers, we have resources at our disposal to make a significant positive impact on … the conservation of endangered species.”

As part of promoting research in indigenous fauna and developing sustainable methods of using indigenous resources, Chella is attending the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Turin, Italy from October 25 to 29.

The international biennial conference will be attended by delegates from 170 countries and will focus on food, agriculture, sustainable development, gastronomy, globalisation and economics. — Witness Reporter.

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