Engineering Master’s Graduate Passionate about Sustainable Resources Management
Ms Nosipho Dlamini is celebrating graduating with her Masters in Agricultural (Bioresources) Engineering after developing integrated climate change adaptation strategies using the Water-Energy-Food nexus approach in the Buffalo River Catchment, situated in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
Originally from KwaSanti close to Pinetown, Dlamini enrolled for Engineering at UKZN as her first-choice programme and institution. She initially completed a one-year certificate course through UKZN’s University Intensive Tuition for Engineering (UNITE) Programme, which solidified her intention to study Engineering. Having always enjoyed science and geography at school, she wanted to pursue studies in science and design, and the inclusion of elements of sustainability drew her to the Discipline of Agricultural Engineering.
Encouraged by her family, in which she will be the first engineer and the first master’s graduate, she took her academic pursuits beyond an undergraduate degree, setting out to specialise in the transdisciplinary field of water engineering.
‘I love the technicality and challenge of engineering, and seeing the science hold in practical applications,’ she said.
Encountering ideas about the application of engineering to develop policy and implementation plans through the Hydrology 324 module during her studies, Dlamini spent time after graduating with her undergraduate degree conceptualising the work she would undertake for her master’s. This fell within the most intense year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020, so Dlamini was able to commence with her studies in 2021 after conferring with her supervisor, Dr Aidan Senzanje on a suitable topic.
Senzanje led Dlamini to her topic by introducing the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus, an approach that appealed to her for its integration of and sustainable management of all these resources.
Dlamini’s research formed part of a Water Research Commission (WRC) project titled: Water-Energy-Food Nexus as a Sustainable Approach for Advancing Food and Nutrition Security and Achieving SDGs 2, 6 and 7 with Specific Attention to Efficient Energy Use in Food Production, and it tapped into relevant topics including climate change and sustainability.
The catchment she focused on, which is situated in northern KwaZulu-Natal, receives considerable amounts of water, but water security issues persist owing to inadequate infrastructure, distribution and management. Dlamini’s work involved integrating different models to assess climate change impacts on surface water availability, which involved the arduous task of transferring data between different models.
Dlamini triumphed, however, developing confidence in her research and publishing a chapter of her thesis, contributing to the growing knowledge on this topic. She presented her research at several conferences, with her main highlights being presenting at the 24th International Congress on Irrigation and Drainage in Australia, and at the Kenya Society of Environmental, Biological and Agricultural Engineers Conference in 2021. She also received second prize for her oral presentation in the School of Engineering at UKZN’s Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium in 2022.
Dlamini received support through the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Nurturing Emerging Scholars Programme, which will enable her to commence a one-year internship now that her master’s is complete, after which she plans to return to academia to pursue a PhD and then build a career working in a research institute or non-governmental organisation where she can implement her research.
Dlamini thanked Senzanje and her co-supervisor Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi who motivated her to complete and publish her research. She also thanked her uncle and her mother who encouraged her to undertake postgraduate studies, and friends and other family members who provided moral support.
Words: Christine Cuénod
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan