McDonald Nundwe has graduated with his Master’s in Plant Breeding which involved characterizing sweet sorghum germplasm for biofuel production.
Accomplished through the UKZN Improved Master’s in Cultivar Development in Africa (IMCDA) which is funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the research examined traits that can be directly or indirectly selected for breeding for biofuel production. The research also explored genetic diversity of sweet sorghum germplasm using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP).
This research will, says Nundwe, enable him to contribute effectively towards the development of superior cultivars that address food insecurity and nutrition issues.
Nundwe studied towards a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy at the University of Malawi. Since he had an interest in crop improvement, he chose to apply for a scholarship in Plant Breeding through AGRA which landed him at UKZN; ‘one of the best decisions thanks to UKZN’s proven reputation for research excellence’.
‘The programme is unique in that it combines research and internships,’ explained Project Manager Dr Julia Sibiya.
Students spend between six and 12 months as interns at a seed company, national breeding programmes or Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres where they also carry out their research projects. This produces graduates who do not struggle to find employment or PhD funding.
Nundwe was based at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) in Potchefstroom during his Master’s and has subsequently been employed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Malawi. He plans to one day pursue a PhD.
He found the experience of completing his Master’s an exciting one and thanked Sibiya, Dr Nemera Shargie, Professor Rob Melis and Professor Hussein Shimelis for their support and guidance.
Words: Christine Cuénod
Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal