DAFF misses mark with PhD awarded to agricultural economics student

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) released a media statement celebrating what it incorrectly believed to be the first PhD awarded in agricultural economics to a black South African woman.

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In fact, there are at least four other black SA women who have achieved this distinction before the most recent recipient, Dr Karabo Mabe. DAFF explained that it had read of Mabe’s achievement in the New Age newspaper of 15 May. Mabe is a lecturer, research supervisor and programme co-ordinator for the agricultural economics and extension programme at North-West University.

After applauding her academic success in the press release, DAFF said, “It is another sad indictment on how agriculture has not done enough to attract women, especially black women. This does not bode well for a country that needs to grow its agricultural output. The more Mabes we can produce, the better.”

Lindi Stroebel, economic intelligence manager at the Agricultural Business Chamber (ABC) said that while the ABC was glad and proud that Mabe had obtained her PhD, she was not the first black woman to do so. Stroebel pointed out that she knew of Dr Nomakhaya Monde, Dr Ntsikane Maine, Dr Juliana Rwelamira, and Dr Bongiswa Matoti, all of whom had gained PhDs in agricultural economics since 2000.

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Reportedly the University of Pretoria awards about six PhDs in agricultural economics annually, about half of which are awarded to black women. “Unfortunately DAFF’s lack of sufficient involvement in the AEASA (Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa) means it is uninformed,” Stroebel said. “It is rather surprising, as it has PhD graduates in agricultural economics working for it in Gauteng and the Western Cape.”

Stroebel added, “The field of agricultural economics in South Africa has progressed significantly with regard to transformation. Stroebel felt that the universities were actively promoting and encouraging black agricultural economists, especially women, but that the agriculture department should become more involved with the AEASA. The DAFF ministry’s special advisor, Rams Mabote, had not returned Farmer’s Weekly’s calls at the time of going to print. Farmers’ Weekly congratulates Mabe on her academic achievement.